February 1, 2011

Magazines Vs. Real Life

A couple years ago, about this time of year, I decided that my burgandy laundry room was just too 'country' for my current tastes.

It took a lot of long bubble baths spent perusing home decorating magazines and interior design books, but I eventually decided that white makes for a beautiful, sophisticated laundry room.  Well, not quite white....milk jug.

And so my dear sweet husband and I began repainting the laundry room.  Milk Jug.  Which probably would have looked sophisticated...except that it made our not-quite-white goat cheese trim look dirty.

So what could I do but repaint?  In a spontaneous paint store whim that is unfortunately not at all out of character for me, I chose a pretty terracotta color.  cayenne.  (Is this story making anybody else hungry?)

And so my dear sweet husband (who clearly doesn't say no to me as often as he should) and I went about repainting the laundry room.  Cayenne.

When we were starting the second coat, I made a disgusted pronouncement.

Me: It's Orange!
Him: *blank stares*
Me: I can't do laundry in an orange laundry room!

In retrospect I can imagine how ridiculous this may have sounded to the man who was pretty sure we'd left the hardware store with a couple cans of orange paint.  But my cayenne wasn't supposed to be orange, it was supposed to be exotic, comforting, and ....spicy.

Him: Well, we aren't painting it again.

We had already painted the laundry room twice in one week.  But all I wanted was to paint the room back to it's original burgandy.  Anything was better than orange. After a day and a half of trying to explain to my husband that orange walls were only acceptable for little boys rooms and hillbilly bait shops, he caved.....sort of.
"We can repaint the laundry room.  Burgandy.  But only if you box up all your decorating magazines and books and put them in the basement for a whole year."


And you can't buy any new magazines either.  For a whole year.

Double  Gulp.

But you know what?  I survived that year just fine.  And I found other things to read in my long bubble baths.

I tell you that story because I still think it's a little bit funny, but also because I've been looking at decorating magazines differently ever since that year we spent apart. 

Grab a recent issue of one of your favorite interior design mags and follow along as I share 5 things I've noticed in their pages.

1.Unless you're reading an article about hiding electrical cords, there are no cords.  Flip to a picture of a gorgeous kitchen. Is that stand mixer plugged in?  What about that awesome retro toaster?  Do they even seem to have cords?

2. Not every room in a house is awesome.  Even when they do a five page feature with an apparent tour of most of the house, there always seems to be something missing.  Did they choose not to show you the second floor bathroom because they didn't have space to run the picture?  Maybe.  Or maybe some rooms in the house are a work in progress, just like in my house and your house.

3. The right flowers make any room look amazing.  Find a picture of a glamorous dining room or a perfect kitchen.  Now put your thumb over that vase of sunflowers or roses or peonies.  The room just got a whole lot less spectacular, didn't it?

4. In the new year and springtime, most of us feel the need to clean, de-clutter and streamline, and every home decor magazine is publishing an article to help us.  And then in fall and as we prepare for Christmas we long for cozy, so the pages of the same magazines are filled with cluttered houses.  We are urged to run out and buy more stuff, acquire more collections, and paint our walls dark red. All so that in January, February and March they can encourage us to purge, de-clutter, plan a yard sale and paint our walls white. 

5. Last year every second house featured in the magazines I read had one of those phillippe starck ghost chairs.  It is possible that all those homeowners had those chairs.  It is also possible that the magazines were subtly advertising those chairs.  The point is this:  They don't just go in to a house and snap pictures, they stage it first with all the things they think you and I ought to buy.

Magazines aren't evil.  They aren't really even the problem.  I am.  My covetousness.  My discontentment.  My perfectionism! But I write this article today to encourage some of you (and myself too) who struggle with these things to  recognize that the magazines we read are trying to sell us things we don't need.  And things we already have... like a home where beautiful life happens.

I've decided to stop drooling over fake rooms on glossy pages.  I've decide to embrace the process as our house slowly becomes a better and better reflection of who we are and how we live.  I've decided  to be inspired by real life, with it's imperfections and it's constraining budgets and yes, even it's cords.  How about you?


  1. This is a great post, thank you! How we all struggle for the perfect looking home, and how we "chase the wind" as we follow fashions! Thank you so much :)

  2. This post gets an A+++++. It is too true! A few years ago I read a decorating blog that posted a story about a magazine that came to photograph her home. A small army descended for two days photographing her liv. room and dining room. ONLY those two rooms! A flower stylist took over the kitchen making bouquets and little pots of flowers and greenery for the two rooms. The blogger took a picture of her kitchen with all the trimmings laying around the counters and several vases sitting in the sink. She also took a picture of all the laundry baskets of "clutter" another stylist took out of her liv. and dining rooms, after the blogger spent a day cleaning and de-cluttering! And a humble housewife like me yells at her hubby and kids because our house doesn't look like a house from one of the 9 decorating mags I read each month! May heaven help us!

  3. Also, if I spent the time I've wasted drooling over decorating pictures on the internet, and actually cleaned MY OWN HOUSE, and de-cluttered, it would look so much better.

  4. Haha... I love this post. I have the same problem. My husband rolls his eyes everytime I come home from Home depot with paint swatches. It is a problem really.
    I also have noticed that the lighting is always perfect. My house never seems to have enough light to make it look that beautiful.

  5. If you haven't already, go check out catalog living!

  6. So sweet! a righteous battle... and a very loving reminder to not settle for the meaningless things! Thanks :)

  7. Loved this post, it made me laugh, but also it made me think. :)

  8. Okay - I need to know - WHAT is the lovely shade of blue that you finally settled on? I'd love to paint my tiny, dingy laundry room that color and my husband of 25 years is no longer patient enough to help me paint it 5 times ;)


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