As is typical after a presidential inauguration, there was a lot of chatter about the First Lady’s clothing for the day and her gown for the inaugural balls. The media attention on what famous women are wearing is usually followed by a dissenting conversation that laments the focus on “insubstantial” fashion issues in the age of post-feminism. But Michelle Obama seems to be able to live somewhere above the criticism and banter. She is a very popular First Lady and I think it’s due, in part, to her ability to effortlessly blur the line between style and substance. She seems to be interested in both feeling good by looking good, as well as pursuing her intellectual curiosities and passions. Her mix of “high” and “low” designs in her closet is further testament to her overall style: Michelle Obama thinks, buys, wears and uses what she loves, rather than what is dictated to her. Thus she has developed a recognizable “signature style.” And this is what got me thinking about the value of developing a signature style for our homes. Far from being a frivolous pursuit, it is both about style AND substance. And neither have to be dictated by elite interior design rules nor what’s off the shelf at Target or Home Goods. Rather, it is the vision you have collected over time and place, based on your visual attraction and emotional connection to things, that culminates in the style and substance of your aesthetic. Which is why I say “OWN” it! Don’t buy it unless you love it…but if you love it, it will reflect something at the core of who you are, no matter where it comes from or what it “goes” with.
One benefit of having a small home is that it forces me to carefully edit what I have on display. There isn’t much room for lots of extra stuff…and since one of my core beliefs is to love what you own (and only own what you LOVE), I get a lot of pleasure out of rotating my treasured objects according to the season. I’ve just recently put my antique black & white bowling pins to bed (I’ll show you in 6 months how they evoke the pop of summertime energy), and replaced them with a mix of new gold-dipped and old brass candlesticks, a dramatic spray of chocolate-brown grass in a creamy vintage vase and a favorite small work of art. Oh, and a little striped pumpkin too. The deep blue-gray color of the candlesticks picks up on the light gray walls and also ties in with the abstract oil painting of Morocco hanging above. I’m kind of giddy about the whole still life….and I’m now spending a lot of time working from my couch, under a cozy throw, occasionally glancing up at the candlelight as our afternoons grow dark.
I have always been interested in what makes a space feel like it has a sense of Place. For example, Strip Mall Along a Major Road = no sense of Place. String of Art Galleries Along Canyon Road in Santa Fe = definite, specific sense of Place that makes you feel like you are part of something. Photo by M. Bucka.
When I talk about design, I am using it as an umbrella term that encompasses everything that gives your home a sense of Place. This includes how you arrange and use anything that’s visible. To me, that place where you walk in and dump all of your mail and keys and receipts has just as much impact as those very expensive upholstered dining room chairs for which you spent hours debating the pattern and color. Photo by E. Reddington.