Saturday, March 14, 2015

On Exuberance and a Purpose for Every Place

Recently via the charming sewing/quilting blog Flossie Teacakes I discovered a new home decor blog called Apartment Apothecary that I've really been enjoying.

The writer, Katy Orme, has a winningly down-to-earth voice. And she certainly has mastered the decorating style I aspire to. (Which, after poring over photos of her apartment, I can now label as Scandinavian white minus the austere modernism, crossed with English car boot sale minus the cluttery kitsch. Halfway between London and Copenhagen, if you will -- hey come to think of it, that's Amsterdam.)

Katy also co-hosts (along with Charlotte of Lotts and Lots) "Styling the Seasons," a monthly invitation to "style any surface in your home to represent the change of month and what it means to you." This month I thought I would join in.

I've expressed some skepticism about the concept of "styling" in the past so I suppose I should explain myself. (First Instagram and now styling? What's going on here, has the world or at least Sarah gone mad? Don't worry -- I remain morally opposed to Twitter.)

I suppose what I'm not so keen on is styling for its own sake -- form without function or even form that interferes with function (that's a nice looking arrangement of objects on that bedside table, but where am I supposed to put my glass of water?).

But switching things up around the house to follow the changing seasons? I can get behind that. And the idea that the objects in our homes should reflect our hopes and intentions? Oh yes, count me in. (Meaning is function, in my world.)

I decided to work with a marble-topped sideboard that was given to me by my aunt. It's moved around a bit in the house but at the moment it resides on one side of our dining "nook." Since it's right near the dining table (meaning, about a foot and a half from the dining table, which is on the other side of the nook, which should give you some idea about the scale involved and why I can't call it anything other than a nook, cutesy as that may seem), the sideboard tends to become a dumping ground for items hurriedly cleared off the table before dinner-time.

If styling can save us from this fate, then I'm all for it.
Recently I had made a conscious decision not to "decorate" some of the surfaces in our house but instead to try to leave them clean and empty. Yet what I am noticing is that surfaces left completely blank tend to attract clutter. It's almost as if, when a surface doesn't have a specific purpose of its own, it is doomed to become a catchall. In my head I'm revising the oft-quoted "A place for everything and everything in its place" to read "A place for everything and a purpose for every place."

I can see now that's part of what's going on with the sideboard. We put it in this spot because that's where it fits, not to serve a particular purpose. No wonder it's become a clutter magnet.

So the first step was to clean up and take things back to a blank slate. Then I added tulips! I also hung a print of birch trees that I bought my husband for his birthday several years ago. (You guys, I am so good at buying prints by independent artists off Etsy and the like...and so bad at actually hanging them on the walls.) By happy accident, the yellow in the tulips matches the yellow in the birch forest print.

So for this week at least, the sideboard's purpose is to hold something beautiful. An indulgent purpose, but it counts for now. And I have resisted piling crap on that sideboard for a full four days -- success!

As for what this month means to me? You have probably guessed from my posting schedule of late, but February was quite a slog around these parts. From March, I'm hoping for a little exuberance. So, not one bunch of tulips but two; not one vase but half a dozen.

Exuberance justifies a liberal hand with the photos, don't you think? Here we go....


  1. Love this post :)

    Are the tulips from your garden?! (We're still about half snow-covered!)

    I'm completely with you on your objections to styling that interferes with function. While i'll always make room for a plant or flowers, I sometimes wonder at the clever styling seen on blogs or magazines. It may look fantastic in photos, but once you add real life to the mix?!

    Your sideboard, with its patterned upper piece, is gorgeous, and the last photo, with the dappled light coming in, is really lovely! And the birch print is beautiful as well - so cheerful with the yellow and the moss green! In fact, it's just the sort of thing I've been imagining for our living room, but since I tend to rely on "happening upon" decor items rather than "shopping" for it, it could take a while ;)

    And I got a laugh out of the fact that you're morally opposed to Twitter :) I'm very behind with all the social media stuff, but I recently opened a Facebook account, after years of saying no. I did it for the SOLE purpose of keeping in touch with a neighbour who moved away and who can't now keep up with emails because of a new baby, so I was a bit miffed and didn't quite know what to do when my current neighbour sent me a friend request! Definite Luddite tendencies here ;)

  2. Thanks, Marian! Glad you enjoyed the post. We've got flowers aplenty here but no, I didn't grow those tulips -- they're from a local tulip farm, however. I'm glad you noticed the dappled light -- when I set up that arrangement on the sideboard I didn't realize the light would have such a nice effect but I was really delighted with it!

    The birch print is from here:
    But her shop is closed at the moment so I can't tell if she still sells this particular print.

    I hope you enjoy your Facebook experiments! I've been on Facebook for a while and I can appreciate a good social network (it's been nice to catch up with some people I knew in high school and realize, hey, we have more in common than I would have expected) but Twitter -- I just can't. I hate the way the (arbitrary, IMO) 140-character limit forces people into Twit-speak. There's my Luddite rant for the day! :-)

  3. As I said on IG, this is such a wonderful post! I so enjoyed reading it (and blushed at your kind words about my blog and style) and the end result of your styled sideboard is just gorgeous! Xx

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Katy, both here and on IG! I'm already looking forward to doing this again in April.

  4. Catching up a bit here...(I have you in my Bloglovin' feed, but seem to keep missing your posts. Grrr...) Anyway, I'm totally with you on the whole styling/seasons thing. I will never be a Fall Mantel kind of person, but I like lightening things up in the warmer months and warming them up in the cool months. And function always has to come first. For me, flowers are totally functional because they make me feel good. Thanks to you, I think I'll get some today to bring into the house. :-) And maybe I'll start looking for some milk glass vases at the thrift stores. And thanks for pointing me to Apartment Apothecary. It's the first home blog is many, many, many months that I've found interesting at all. I really like her style, too.

    I tried Instagram about two years ago, and it just didn't grab me. That you are liking it has me intrigued...

    1. So glad to have spurred you to buy flowers! They really are such a pleasure, and tulips and daffodils are so cheap right now. Did you hear the story on NPR this morning about the Somali instagrammer?
      Of course I don't understand most of the cultural references she is making -- especially those of Canadian hip-hop youth culture -- but pretty interesting, I thought!