We bask in the beauty of the mountains, unwind in the peacefulness of canoeing on a pond together, exclaim the glories of a sunset. Yet, when it comes to decorating our own homes, Christian couples may fail to see a need for beauty and tranquility in their everyday surroundings.
Making your home a place where marriage and family relationships can be nurtured may seem like a daunting task. Tight finances, clutter that won't go away, and the clashing of you and your spouse's decorating styles can inhibit you from ever picking up a paintbrush or putting up wallpaper. Figuring out how to make your home a reflection of your lives together requires patience, planning, and a good dose of compromise.
For more than twenty years, professional interior designer Terry Willits has helped married couples see the God-given need for making their homes attractive—and given them practical tips on how to accomplish it. The author of Simply SenseSational Decorating (Zondervan) believes it is important to stimulate the five senses—touch, smell, sight, sound, and taste—to create an atmosphere that reflects a married couple's personal style. She strikes a positive balance between the stuff we decorate with and the end result—a warm, welcoming place to live in and grow our marriages.
In this interview with Marriage Partnership, Willits shares why she believes marriages can be enhanced, and God glorified, by creating peaceful, beautiful homes.
Why should married couples be concerned with how they decorate their homes? Isn't that a worldly thing for us to focus on?
Beauty not only matters to our Creator, he is the author of it. Understanding that God is a God of beauty, order, and detail, I realized that while seeking beauty alone in our homes is hollow, there is nothing wrong with enhancing our own dwelling places in a balanced fashion. When I look at the beauty God created in nature, the way he wondrously crafted the details of the world, I am overwhelmed with his love for me. By making my home orderly and attractive, I communicate my love to those who live under my roof.
So, it's about people.
People are the priority when we are decorating our homes. And people are attracted to beauty. You want your home to be a place that draws people in. We're not talking about spotlessness and perfection here, rather beauty, color, and light. Anything that communicates love and care.
How does this relate to marriage?
We want to create an environment that will draw our spouses home, to make home an attractive, orderly place. The end result is not creating a beautiful structure; rather, it is about making an atmosphere where lives are blessed. It's not about the stuff. It's about using the stuff to make a place where people and relationships grow.
I notice you say "orderly." Does clutter affect a marriage?
There is no beauty without order. And clutter is a huge hot button for married couples. When home is disorderly and unattractive, it repels people. When they are there, they feel chaos, confusion, and stress. This will come out in a marriage—in simple things like, "I can't find my socks," to more complicated things like not wanting to be at home. We don't realize how much atmosphere impacts us.
How important is getting rid of clutter?
Before you ever think about beauty, get things in order. Start with one room at a time. Remember that you are not creating order for order's sake; rather, you are recognizing that disorder will drain your marriage and take away your energy. It's not about perfection. It's about finding things!
What other decorating "stressors" are there for married couples to be aware of?
Budget issues. Don't spend more than you have. Be clear up front with your mate about priorities. Before you make a major purchase, be sure you involve both parties.
It's important to communicate gratefulness to your spouse for what you have. For example, if your husband is the primary breadwinner, you need to be careful not to make him feel inadequate. There's nothing that destroys a man more than the feeling that he hasn't provided enough.
How has decorating your own home affected your marriage?
Initially, our bedroom was not a priority, and we just had hand-me-downs. We finally took time to make it attractive, make it a refuge. We got rid of the clutter and junk and made it feel like a special place. This didn't just help our sexual relationship, it helped give us a sense of peace.
So is the bedroom a priority when you begin decorating?
We often leave it for last, but ultimately it should be one of the first places we take care of. We want to create a place where we can rest and feel replenished.
What other rooms are important?
We have three major functions: eating, sleeping, and recreation. So you want to take care of the bedroom, kitchen, and living or family room first.
Have you made any mistakes when you've decorated?
I had a garage sale and sold a bunch of my husband's bachelor things when I was trying to clear out some clutter. Now I've learned to communicate better.
Speaking of those "bachelor things," how do you reconcile two people's tastes in decorating, which can often be light years apart?
Marriage is about compromise. You need to recognize that when you are married, and if you have a family, you aren't just decorating for one person. You need to listen to each other. For example, my husband had a special painting of his grandparents that I stuck in a closet for years because I didn't want to hang it. Finally, God convicted me that I was decorating for me, not for us. So I reframed it and gave it to him for Christmas.
What about that awful birthday or wedding gift your in-laws gave you?
It's your home. It should express who you are and what you enjoy. Your home should tell a story about you. If I get something I don't like, I don't put it out. Now, if it's something that is sentimental to your spouse, or a craft the kids made, that's different. But home should be a place you enjoy being in.
Do you ever see competition with others as a problem when couples decorate?
Celebrate what you have; focus on that. Don't keep up with the Joneses. Depression over what you don't have is a ploy of the Enemy and a sure way to lose our joy. Confess your envy and ask God to help you have a grateful heart. There will always be those with more and those with less in life. And remember: big beautiful houses may be picture perfect but the saddest of all. Other houses may be small and cozy and reflect love, warmth, and family.
Cindy Crosby is a freelance writer in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. She and her husband, Jeff, have wallpapered, painted, and decorated seven houses together over the past seventeen years and are still happily married.
for Your Home
In her new book, Simply SenseSational Decorating: Simple Steps to a Beautiful, God-Centered Home, interior designer Terry Willits suggests incorporating all five senses to create a balanced atmosphere of love and beauty. Here are a few of her tips.
- Sight. Have a signature color. Let your favorite color be your common thread woven room by room throughout your home.
- Sound. Tying a string of bells to your front door gives a welcoming jingle as guests arrive. A clock with chimes that ring the hour will also say "home" to you.
- Smell. Lighting scented candles in all sizes, shapes, colors, and fragrances will instantly give your home a sense of calm. Don't forget candles by the tub for a romantic bath with your spouse.
- Touch. Transform your cabinets with new hardware—beautiful knobs or handles that feel good when you grasp them.
- Taste. Sometimes, the most beautiful accessories are fresh fruit or vegetables tossed together in baskets. Willits suggests squash and pumpkins paired for fall; apples in yellow, greens, and reds for winter; limes and lemons in the spring; and pears, peaches, and plums in the summer.
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