Wide open space.Posted: August 7, 2011
I’m a girl who grew up on the prairie. I always breathe easier surrounded by the austere beauty of an unbroken horizon — above the skyline, a bright blue field with cumulus punctuation marks; below the skyline, a saturated green wave.
Now, 400 miles away in the relentless rolling hills and higher elevation of a heavily wooded state, I am drunk, dizzy, unsettled by the earth’s swooping terrain that is so unfamiliar to me. I can’t seem to get my sea legs and I’m more than a bit claustrophobic without an uninterrupted view.
But our new home has helped calm my psychological vertigo. If it’s possible to feel the expanse of the prairie indoors, I’m doing it here — inside four walls like none I’ve ever owned.
Our last home was a monument to craftsmanship. Built in 1921 in a small Oklahoma town booming on oil money, it boasted vast expanses of the most beautiful oak woodwork anywhere. With 10-12 foot ceilings, thick plaster walls, and four stories (which included a full basement and a walk-up attic), our last home was grand, a bit imposing, and wildly ambitious without being pretentious.
Our new home couldn’t be more different. It’s considerably smaller, confined to one level (except for a small, unfinished basement we use for storage), and new. Emphasis on the new. In addition to being built a mere decade ago, it has a decidedly contemporary sensibility.
For a girl who adores antique or vintage anything, moving into this home has been like moving to a foreign country. Me no speak contemporary.
Still, I’m muddling my way through and I’m even enjoying it. Here’s a view of our main living area (a combo family/dining room).
I know. Wow, right? The first time I toured this house, I was struck by how open and bright it is. It sucked me in, even though it was the farthest thing I could imagine from where I’d been comfortably nesting for the last five years.
Here’s a shot of the living space from behind the sofa.
One of my favorite elements in this room is this etagere. It adds a punch of color to what could otherwise be a boring expanse of white paint.
At first, I was overwhelmed by all the white paint. In 20 years of home owndership, I’ve never had white walls. Ever. I just can’t help myself. As soon as I move into a space, I start painting. Sometimes I have finished painting before I’ve finished unpacking, so unnerved am I by white paint.
Somehow, though, it works here. I’ve used accessories to add the color I so desperately crave.
I especially like the welcoming expanse of my entry, where I’ve refrained from adding too much color. There’s something about the clean palette that I think helps transition visitors from the outdoors to the living area.
While I’m itching to replace the light fixture with something richer, anything not fake brass, I love the details of this space.
When we first toured the house, I immediately cringed at the sight of white ceramic tile in the entry. Oh, yuck, I thought; it looks like a bad 1980s New Jersey condo. But my cowhide rug grounded it nicely, while my white owl umbrella holder played off the contemporary vibe.
And two other details signal to visitors I’m a woman who likes what I like, regardless if it matches. (I like to think my style can be described as Boho chic, when in reality it’s flea market mashup.)
Like this gilded mirror that adds a touch of Chinoiserie along with my favorite Buddha . . .
And this table with a lithe silhouette that echos the height of this space.
Interestingly, when a friend of mine visited recently, she remarked my home had a bit of a Scandinavian vibe. I couldn’t really see it, but when I expressed frustration with this sterile hallway, she cautioned me against too much decoration. I’ve been itching to put down a rug and fill the walls with art, but she found the minimalist approach calming.
You’ve probably noticed I like mirrors. In this case, it’s not a decorating trick to add light. I’ve just always enjoyed the way images are reflected. It adds visual interest to any room, I think.
Finally, here’s a shot of the dining area.
I’m not entirely satisfied with it yet. I despise the light fixture. (The previous owners had a pool table in this space; tragic, really.) But this room needs more than a new chandelier. It needs some softening and I don’t yet have a plan. I thought adding the silk drapes would do it, but they’re not enough. I have always resisted rugs under dining tables because the up-keep is difficult, so I’m just not sure.
I’ll keep contemplating.
And that’s the fun of interior decor, isn’t it? The constant interplay between new ideas and my particular canvas can keep me busy for years.
In the case of this new home, I’m just getting started.