Busted Halo
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February 27th, 2004

Feathering the Nest

Scratching That Home-Improvement Itch

 
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What is it about falling leaves, the scent of smoke in the air, and pumpkins propped on the front porch that turn me into the Tasmanian Devil of decorating? I’m usually oblivious to the latest home fashions. Do the pillows need plumping? Does the armoire need waxing?

No. Well, maybe. But who cares?

Come every autumn, however, my interest in home and hearth experiences a drastic shift, and my long dormant nesting instinct suddenly kicks in, just in time for winter. Maybe it’s the glow of the harvest moon, the morning frost on the windows, or the crunch of fallen leaves underfoot that awaken my critical eye. Who knows? Before I can say Trading Spaces, my modest little townhouse seems to morph overnight from chic to shabby. What appeared to be a perfectly comfy abode just yesterday now pales in the midst of all this autumn splendor.

So I turn to decorating magazines and catalogues, devouring their advice, intrigued by the warm and inviting images that beckon me to step inside. I want my simple little home to look Just. Like. That. But it doesn’t.

And so my work begins.


Martha Gone Mad

I find myself analyzing my home the way an art collector studies the authenticity of a potential Matisse. Out of the blue, every faded throw rug, every nicked piece of furniture, and every stain on the carpet become glaringly apparent.

So I spackle, paint, polish, dust, clean, and vacuum every inch of the house, including parts not visible to the naked eye. This often includes contorting my frustrated, sweaty, tired self into position, armed with a mirror, Ajax and an old toothbrush.

Thank God I’m double-jointed.

But it doesn’t stop with a clean home: then the decorating phase kicks in. Forget “Friends”. Adios “American Idol”. Suddenly it’s the “Home & Garden” channel 24/7. I sit in a hypnotic trance, breaking the spell only to scribble notes. Hey, give me a pair of overalls and a glue gun and I can do that too, no problem.

I bypass department stores, zeroing in on hardware and home improvement shops, talking the merits of nylon carpets versus polyester, hardwood floors versus Pergo. I compare prices for window treatments, trying to decide which fabric best replicates that cozy autumn ambiance I admired in the magazines.

But nothing seems quite right.

A woman on a mission
So on I march, stocking up on seductive candles like Sandalwood, Patchouli and Lemongrass. I roam the Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings, returning with armfuls of sunflowers so tall they almost graze my chandelier when placed on the kitchen table.

Furniture is moved, wall art is shifted and throw rugs are rearranged throughout this nesting frenzy. When I’m finally done I step back to survey the results, sure I won’t be pleased. I never am. Despite my best efforts and emptied wallet, my home never quite seems to achieve that warm and cozy Pottery Barn
feeling. Sigh.

This year is different
But this year, suddenly, I see it. The family photos on the wall, the dancing light that glows from my fireplace and the overstuffed rocking chair where I’ve spent many hours reading, wrapped in the quilt my sister gave me. I hear my cockatiel, Danny-boy, twitter and talk, smell the inviting scent of chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven, and admire the way my potted plants have blossomed with care. The coffee cup on the table reminds me of the visit I had with my best friend, Pam, the previous evening, and my stacked collection of I Love Lucy
videos propped alongside the TV reminds me that my niece, Meggie, is spending the night this Friday.

And for the first time, I realize that my home doesn’t have to mimic a Pottery Barn photo or any other homogenous retail catalog. I step back and observe, wiser and this time content.

My home resembles me.

 
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The Author : Eileen Mitchell
Eileen Mitchell writes from Northern California.
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