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Dare to Decorate

Two style-challenged homeowners go boldly where they've never gone before

To be honest, the whole idea of redecorating unnerves me.

My husband and I are an unlikely decorating match to begin with. I brought color to our union: bright orange and neon green, to be exact, a color combination I can explain only by saying I was the last girl scout to choose my fabric on patchwork pillow-making day, and it seemed to me after investing so much time in hand sewing, I was committed.

Mark brought to our marriage the sophisticated taste and affluence of your typical college man: a basketball hoop laundry hamper, slatted wooden crates that grocery stores use to sell lugs of fruit and a collection of dark wooden objects decoupaged with American eagles that I can classify only as "paperweights."

A family therapist might see the merging of our two childhood bedroom sets as an abstract metaphor for the oneness of marriage.


All I know is that for the past 17 years our entire decorating strategy has revolved around ditching the most offensive of the cast-offs that served as our dowries, including the orange fish net that once draped artfully across the living room wall and the brown canvas rocker that swallowed fannies the way the Venus flytrap sucks up flies.

Somehow the massive, mud-colored, faux-wood dressers in our bedroom have managed to escape being overthrown. For some reason (I remember now, money) they've remained, flanking our bed like sentries.

But their days are numbered. The deal was clinched after a recent visit from some over-zealous children who like to jump. We looked at our cockeyed bed frame and realized it had hosted its last Pee-Wee Olympics. While we were at it, it seemed we might as well junk the clunky dressers too and buy something that didn't scream to be accessorized with black velvet Elvis paintings.

Since it's taken all these years simply to arrive at an uninspired, nondescript middle ground we could both live with, I was not approaching redecorating with high hopes. It would be lovely to find a style that made both our hearts sing, but in the back of my mind I feared being overpowered by both my husband and some flashy style-monger salesman who'd be pushing gold brocade Louis XIV settees.

Plus it was hard to shake the nagging question: is decorating really practical, anyway? I have yet to see in the glossy decorating books even a hint of dirty laundry. And where do the owners of those rooms keep the 40-pound bag of dog food? Should you just color-coordinate the bag to match the linoleum? Better yet, just color-coordinate the dog? "I'd like a taupe dog, please, to match the great room. Low-pile, preferably," you could say brightly.

These were valid questions. But can you really debate a broken bed? Circumstances seemed to dictate that it was time to redecorate (or more to the point, to decorate in the first place). Not trusting our own instincts (after all, we've lived with this stuff for 17 years; surely any sense of good taste we once had is blunted), we trooped to the furniture store to snag a decorator to help us.

As it turns out, my worries were unfounded. The decorator came last week. She was great.

"We're pretty casual," I said in what is perhaps the understatement of the year, guiding her back to our bedroom past little league cleats on the piano and dog-ingested tennis ball bits. Our dressers, which were last cleared off in 1989, sported mounds of papers and dog-eared magazines.

But this lady had mastered Decorator Tact 101. Seeing the paper debris, she had a ready answer. "You must be readers," she offered. Ecstatic at her insight into our finer qualities, I was ready to buy whatever she was selling.

Working us like a Vegas crowd, she continued, "My nightstands at home look just like yours." I eyed her color-coordinated eye makeup, earrings and scarf and had a hard time picturing her bedroom strewn with half-finished super-hero artwork and peanut butter toast crusts. But I simply nodded and pretended to believe her.

"Could we move the bucket?" she suggested gently, pointing to the pail in the corner we use to catch rainwater.

"We'll be re-roofing soon," we assured her.

Tossing off terms like focal point, balance and scale, she waxed eloquent about the finer points of our room—among them, the open beam down the middle of the ceiling. I felt bad that I'd never appreciated these features as assets.

As we discussed hitherto unfamiliar furniture styles, I tried to picture each "piece" as it would actually look in our home: covered with Legos.

We finally made our decisions (cherry wood in a Country French style and already "distressed" to save us the trouble). The decorator graciously left, leaving us to bask in the glow of the thought of furniture that will arrive on our doorstep as its very first stop.

We'd done it. We'd survived redecorating, marriage and egos intact. That left us with just one last hurdle to jump.

Happen to know any newlyweds who'd like some dressers? Tell 'em if they don't look too closely, they almost look like real wood.

Lynn Bowen Walker is happy to report the cherry wood furniture looks beautiful in her bedroom and it's only slightly more distressed than when it first arrived.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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Creativity; Home; Marriage
Today's Christian Woman, Spring, 1999
Posted September 30, 2008

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