What will 2021 Bring?!?
I wanted to save this blog post for the New Year. Each and every project I take on, every home or business I decorate is special to me, and this one was no different.
I was approached towards the end of September to assist the Doherty Family with the area adjacent their kitchen and dining room. Erin’s parents wished to gift them something to heat their home for Christmas but, since they already had a fireplace, the monetary gift would be used to imagine, execute, and style the space instead. This is the first image I was sent.
I met with Erin one evening to take some additional photos and to ensure I had a handle on the scope of the project. When I arrived and walked up the step to the house, two things instantly resonated. Erin has an eye for aesthetics (she had an old chair, some well worn cowboys boots, and fall foliage) setting the tone on her step for the warmth of the space I was about to be invited into and they had two beautiful half grown kittens. Despite a cat door into the warm, cozy garage nearby, one tried to sneak in with me as I entered the house. Remember this part- I’ll circle back to it.
Erin welcomed me in and showed me the area. As I looked around I could see many primitives and many items that were, quite evidently, treasured antiques. The most striking of all was a wooden rake hung on the wall in a place of importance. A gift brought from Quebec by Erin’s parents. The same parents gifting this mini makeover. Knowing that her parents had also placed such importance on a heat source, I imagined them living in a rustic cabin in the wild woods of Quebec. My imagination ran wild-visioning them tapping their own maple trees for syrup, decked out in red plaid and denim heating their own abode with their hand cut wood. I never asked much more about them; I wanted to leave this little picture in my mind just as it was.
As we started to discuss the feature wall, the Doherty kids came bounding down the hall from their evening baths, hair still damp. Chattering away while I inspected the space and my mind start to race with ideas. I took a few notes making sure I understood what needed to be sourced for the project.
Later that evening I started compiling images. We bounced placement of the fireplace back and forth and, as I like to do, I inundated Erin and Steve with visuals. They landed on a corner placement. Then came the chairs. I went through all my options and paired it down into two extensive collages. They were keen on wingback chairs but the non-negotiable was that they needed to be practical for a family with two young children. I should clarify: this space, in close proximity to the kitchen and dining table, was to be a place where Erin and Steve could enjoy their morning coffee in each other’s company, where one could sit and still visit if the other was at work in the kitchen or where they could quietly read or simply enjoy the fire. It required seating for two, a place to set down a cup of coffee/tea and needed no provisions for a television.
As they started to wade though chair options, sending me discoveries of their own for validation I set out to source light fixtures. In the meantime, Erin sent me a few area rugs she admired. I was already earmarking a few fixtures from the store sure to compliment the tone. Erin assured me that now that placement for the fireplace was collectively decided, Steve would have it installed in no time and asked to have a few parts shipped to the store.
The lights and rug were ordered within days. We settled on a pair of chairs and to be sure their footprint was ideal, I popped by briefly once more with some cardboard cutouts indicative of the chairs. It turned out those chairs were unavailable so back to the drawing board we went. Steve then retrieved the newly chosen chairs by the end of September.
While Steve waited for the fireplace fittings, he set out to install the feature wall. I guided the Dohertys to some barn board and Erin tailored it by washing it with a bit more paint. Once the feature wall was complete, a rustic beam mantle was installed followed by the fireplace itself.
As they lived practically on my way home, I delivered the lights and area rug. In no time the lights were installed and the rug was laid out to settle.
Now it was my turn to dig in! I arrived as scheduled, one afternoon with all of my goods while the family was away at school and work. I paid close attention not let either of the kittens in as I hauled my accessories into the home. Based on memory, photos, and measurements, I had planned out most of my styling back at the store. I made several trips in and out of the foyer, all the while aware of a buzzing coming from the house.
Once everything was inside and I was certain I hadn’t let a kitten in, I proceeded into the house. I discovered the humming was the Roomba carrying out its task. At this point, I knew nothing whatsoever about Roombas.
I looked around the room and knew that ,first, I wanted to the reorient the area rug and chairs. As I did this, the Roomba and I crossed paths. Multiple times. Each time I would wait for it to work its way around then I’d spring forward to slide a chair or an ottoman a little more to the left or to the right. I was afraid to lift it and set it on another course for fear I would completely disorient it. I imagined it like a turtle flailing its legs about as I picked it up by its shell. I had no idea how to cancel its task and, eventually, out of frustration I cursed it and told it to go away. Within minutes it disappeared down the hall and fell silent. I was convinced it was voice activated. Since then I have saved rigorously, purchased my very own Roomba adoringly named Buckley, and will be the first to say, with three house pets, how life changing it has been.
I digress. Once the Doherty Roomba retreated sheepishly down the hall, I picked up momentum. I was satisfied with furniture placement. Added side tables, a lamp, and styled the mantle.
I realized I had brought a couple things I no longer needed and there were a few more things I wished I had brought along from the store. Back to town I went to make the swap. I drove out of the yard very slowly looking all directions for the kittens to be sure they didn’t get to close to my vehicle or were resting under the hood or wheel wells as I have seen cats do before.
I was back in no time, the final embellishments were made. Based on what we had discussed about the purpose of this particular space, as a parting thought, I added a couple empty coffee cups. I placed a platter of cookies sitting on the counter on the ottoman- setting the stage for their return.
And then I waited anxiously by my phone for the remainder of the afternoon for word of their first impressions. They were delighted and I was relieved.
It had been a true team effort and I was in awe of their ambition, attention to detail and unprecedented expediency at completing the tasks they took ownership of. I was on cloud nine. Until about nine. PM. When I got a text that one of the kittens was missing.
They had been looking all evening for it and feared that it might have hopped in my vehicle and taken a ride with me. I was fairly certain it would have made itself evident in the cab of my vehicle but feared that maybe it had taken a ride under the hood after all. I considered the irony that I had been so careful not to let them in the house and for having the foresight to look diligently around as I drove in and out of the yard. But I chastised myself for not banging on the hood just to be sure.
I waited anxiously by phone until I received a text that the kitten had indeed been found- returned by a neighbour! It’s quite likely that as I crawled out of the yard at a snail’s pace the kitten followed me and then couldn’t find its way home.
They say, “all’s well that ends well” but contributing to that worry and distress, even for a brief time, horrified me. I left them alone to rejoice in the return of their kitten and, as we signed off for the evening, reminded Erin that she should enjoy everything for a few days before deciding what she absolutely loved and intended to keep before coming in to square up.
A couple days later Erin and little Miss I came into the store to settle up. I was immediately shown by Miss I that she had lost a new tooth. Full of animation she was so excited to show me.
And there’s the magic of it all. I was invited into their home less than two months before. They put their trust in me and welcomed me into their sanctuary. They introduced me to their children and after a few brief meetings, I was blessed to be able to help them transform a blank canvas into an area they could relish. I developed a rapport with their children, a love/hate relationship with their vacuum and a profound appreciation for the opportunity I was given.