Google+ House Revivals: What Your Collections Say About Your Decorating Style

Thursday, May 21, 2015

What Your Collections Say About Your Decorating Style

I'm a collector. I'll bet you are too. We all collect different things, things that speak to us. We all collect for different reasons, reasons that say something about who we are.

You may collect scarves, or lipsticks, or china, or fibers, or rocks, or shells, or recipes, or quilts, or paintings, or crazy friends, or shoes, or books, or office supplies.
You may not consider yourself much of a collector, but I am sure if you examine your life carefully, you will find curated collections.

I recently attended the Snap Conference for bloggers (if you ever have a chance to go, do it). One evening, while waiting in line for the world's best mint julep, I met another blogger and graphic designer who asked me what my style was. I botched my answer. I could tell by her puzzled expression that I wasn't answering the question she asked. She asked me what my style was. I assumed she was asking about my interior design practice, and I began to explain that the job of a designer is to help clients find their own style, not to infuse their own style into their clients' homes. I quickly realized she was not asking about my client's style -- she was asking about me.

I often have to "talk myself down" from purchasing vintage and retro 
office equipment, like this vintage index card file.

After the conference, I thought about her question, and thought about how I would define "my style". I have always shied away from using words like "country" or "french provincial" or "industrial" or "farmhouse". In design school we were taught to stay away from those types of categories, as well. After all, who wants to be boxed in by someone else's definition of a style?

Last weekend, I realized I had an accidental collection of vintage religious plaques. When my aunt passed away last year, I asked for a scripture plaque from her home. While unpacking boxes for my attic studio, I ran across one I picked up in a thrift store years ago.

More recently, I've found a couple more vintage religious plaques. They remind me of visiting my grandmother when I was a little girl. She had a scripture plaque with John 3:16 written on it. I thought it was beautiful, with its scrolls and vines!

My grandmother would point to the plaque and say "Mandy Sue, that's the most important verse in the whole Bible."

When my grandmother had her stroke and my grandfather had to downsize, my mother asked if there was anything I wanted from her home. I replied that I wanted that plaque. She said "That old thing? I didn't think anyone would want that so we sold it at the auction." Heart. Breaking. I think I've spent the last twenty years mourning that plaque, because it spoke of my grandmother's sweet spirit.

I think I love religious plaques because I love family, and family history. There is even a small religious plaque on my heritage gallery wall, that I shared about here.

Basically, I love FAMILY.

I also love PRETTY. This flower pendant was made from an old earring and and orphan napkin ring that were just to pretty to throw away. Instead, I tossed them into a junk drawer with a collection of other pretty broken objects. Eventually, they found new life as the necklace I shared about here.

I've even collected old wool sweaters. I hate to waste things -- especially things that feel so nice to touch. When you look at a piece of old wool, the texture just looks warm and comfy, doesn't it? A few years ago, I cut apart my collection of old sweaters to make these grandchild ornaments for my mother-in-law.

My wool collection tells me I like COMFORT (for the soul and the body).

One of my favorite projects is this flower garland, made from my collections of vintage book pages, vintage crepe paper, and vintage textiles.  I think it would be fair to say, I love things with a STORY to tell.

My husband bought me these flower looms, that I shared about here. I also have a few more that I've picked up here and there. I like that they are QUIRKY AND PLAYFUL.

I shared a little of my vintage silverware collection in this post on making garden markers.  My love affair with vintage silver began early in our marriage, when vintage silver from the thrift store was the only silver I could afford. We loved having friends over for dinner and it was fun to set the table with special silverware. We still love entertaining. These days, we host house parties at our beach house (nobody minds that it's an "in progress" remodel) and picnics on our boat. The collection of vintage silverware reminds me how much we love to WELCOME others into our home.

Simply by examining collections of things I've gathered, I've learned a little about my style. I have the beginnings of a word list that describe the things I like:


This gives a great basis for how to choose furniture and finishes for my home. I can hold up my word list, and ask myself if the item I am considering fits any of those qualities.

You may collects vintage Asian paper fans, or chippy vintage hardware, or any of a million other items. Ask yourself what, specifically, draws you to those things. Is it the story told by layers and layers of colorful paint? Perhaps you are drawn toward items with very clean lines -- is it the simplicity and serenity of the items that attracts you? By examining your collections, and asking yourself what qualities you are specifically drawn to, you will begin to zero in on what your style is (or should be).

At the same time, if you find you have a collection of items that doesn't speak to you, you might ask yourself whether it deserves space in your home. Sometimes we get caught up in collecting items that are trendy in the moment (remember Beanie Babies?), but those collections are fleeting and have more to do with participating in a temporary cultural activity, than in who you are as a person.

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