Mom is NOT an Interior Decorator…

27 10 2011

Or, is She???

Judy and I took a little business trip (OK, she took the business part of it), a couple of weeks ago, and found ourselves in Amarillo, Texas on the return-home leg. The trip, to Amarillo, was planned because that is where this architect was born, raised, partially trained, and (most importantly) where my 82 year-old mother resides. Because we could only stay a couple of days, we spent the time visiting with Mom in her modest little apartment located within a senior living complex near downtown.

Late, during the first afternoon and while Mom took a little nap, Judy leaned over and said, “I really like the way Mom has decorated her apartment”. Of course my first reaction (because I’m such a good son), was to chuckle and say, “You’ve got to be joking”; but I could tell, by her expression, that she was very serious and it caused me to look around to reassess my perspective.

As I said, Mom’s apartment is modest but I still felt compelled (as the naysayer) to look deeper to understand the cause and effect of what Judy found to be so interesting. As a little background, Mom’s apartment is in an older, historic building that was constructed, as an apartment complex, in 1927. The once high-ceiling-ed  units now have suspended ceilings to conceal electrical and mechanical upgrades (as well as insulation) so it made it easy to determine that her apartment is approximately 800 sq. ft., a perfect area for a one-bedroom/ one-bath home. As with all of the rental units, the walls, floors, ceilings, etc. of Mom’s apartment home are of a neutral palette to provide a canvas for the occupant(s) to create “Home”. Another important feature is that the bedroom/bathroom/closet compose only one-third of the space while the living/ dining kitchen fill the balance in an open floor plan that creates a warm, inviting living and entertaining space.

But, that’s the tale-of-the-tape, the nuts & bolts, the blank canvas…what had Mom really done with the space to make it Home?

The first thing that you need to know about Mom is that she LOVES garage sales, she always has; I have early memories of early weekend rounds to see what others might be “getting rid of”. I laughed at this for years but was now compelled to look at the items that dotted the walls and filled her shelves. Mom had taken an eclectic, elegant approach to decoration but, not only was there restraint in quantity, there was also an eye toward combinations and juxtapositions of style; perhaps accidental, perhaps with a keen eye…hhhmmmmmmm…I examined family photo groupings (in various frame styles), classical wall sconces and brackets, and a tripartite mirror (adorned with artificial ivy) on the walls. I also took notice of nicely upholstered furniture, and mix of coffee and end tables, and and assortment of antique-style lamps. Mom had even strategically placed colorful, light-reflecting nick-knacks on the wonderful, deep window sills. The thing was, it was not over done but, tastefully “put together”.

OK, now I was in trouble…I liked it.

During this process of critique, Mom joined us for another round of visiting, reminiscing, etc. and I asked, “where did all of this ‘stuff’ come from”. Her reply (and to no surprise), “well, garage sales, of course”; she then proceeded to give me a quick rundown of many of the items and mentioned pricing that was a low a $0.50 but, seldom exceeding $20.00. She also pointed out a few cherished pieces of furniture that had been purchased when I was a child (made in the days of American made, high-quality).

Needless to say, I was impressed. I had often wondered about the roots of my design sensitivities and had always considered it a fluke of nature and even wondered if I had been mixed, at birth, having been taken from a family of artists, architects, and designers; again…..hmmmmmm. Of course, I know now, I came by my talents naturally and I have my Mom to thank. So……

THANK YOU MOM!!!

The other lesson…One does not have to gold-plate a space, there are many great finds in garage sales, second-hand stores, junk shops, etc. Another great place, for unique pieces, is Habitat for Humanity ReStores (of which I am personally involved). And, yet another lesson, take a chance and try different things…perhaps, you too, have an inner, artistic side and can simply, economically turn your living space into a warm and wonderful home…just like Mom!

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