light, simplicity, symmetry

“My Friends, The Carpenter & The Painter” by Carl Larsson

Now that Tim is back at work it is time to roll up my sleeves and restart the massive home interior improvement project. It was just before Tim’s heart attack in 2007 when we started by scraping the “popcorn” ceiling treatment off of the mold prone bathroom ceiling, and painted the ceiling with smooth mold-resistant paint. And the project has not proceeded much since then, time being consumed with elder care and one medical crisis after another.

And then there was the traumatic selling of our grandparents’ Cape Cod houses: Tim’s grandparents’ home in Provincetown in 2009 and the Dennis Port home of my grandparents in 2010. From each house we inherited furniture, keepsakes, paperwork (including boxes of someone’s poetry) and a baby grand piano, all of which have been stuffed wherever I could put them in a hurry. And I’ve tried to get it all organized ever since!

A home is not a lifeless object but a living entity, and like everything that is alive it must obey the law of nature.
~ Carl Larsson
(New Swedish Style)

I also have a vision of what I want this place to look like, and it involves the elements of Scandinavian style: light, simplicity and symmetry. One reason we bought this place is that we love the enchanting light here so close to so much water. Yesterday I spent some time with my paint color chip book and my collection of Scandinavian design books. When painting begins I now have chosen the colors for optimum reflection of light.

Simplicity and symmetry are proving more difficult to pull off, but I’m persistent if nothing else. Simplicity is getting there as I pare down – I’ve donated about ¾ of my books and many knick-knacks… I love de-cluttering, but it can be tiring as well as rewarding. Symmetry is getting there, too, although I think the kids may be tired of my calling them so often to help me move furniture up and down the stairs. If the furniture needs moving on the same floor I do it myself with those ingenious “moving men” disks. It’s not unlike a giant three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle!

FreeStyle is a no-cost design show where professional rearrangers de-clutter, reorganize and move furniture and accessories around a room to give homeowners a dramatic new look without spending a dime.
~ FreeStyle: Home & Garden Television

I love and used to watch FreeStyle when I got a chance and have adopted that philosophy while incorporating all these beloved antiques into our home. Especially since I’m blending them in with the contemporary pieces we already have. It’s been a challenge and an adventure and will continue to be as I keep at it!  🙂

Do you have a particular decorating style, or an eclectic one? What would you say is the mood of your home?

20 thoughts on “light, simplicity, symmetry”

  1. Ohhhhhhhh, I loved reading this post. I’m not a minimalist in the TRUEST sense of the word, but darned close. I don’t have much “stuff,” but I have lots of “nothing” which provides us with lots of space. Space to move, space to think, space to create, space to be.

    space, Space, SPACE — that’s my mantra.

    1. space, Space, SPACE – I will borrow your mantra as I proceed, Laurie! Clutter keeps creeping into our lives and I long to be free of it! Space to breathe deeply…

  2. I’m always, always in the process of decluttering, it never ends! The only thing is, it never looks like I’m doing anything at all. I can’t tell you the number of carloads of stuff we sent to the charity shop and took to the hospice for years before we moved here, and we thought that when we moved, there would be no more decluttering needed… and of course, we were wrong! It just goes on and on!

    Curiously for an artist, I have absolutely no interior decor style sense whatsoever. My sister is brilliant at it, and I’m hopeless. I put things where I need them, as and when I need them, and that’s it. The decor in our house is near to perfect in nearly all the rooms except my study and our bedroom, and it’s very strange because the colours here are ones I’d never have chosen to decorate a house, but I – we, both Bruce and I – loved the way the previous owners had decorated it and so we just left it. I think Bruce just altered the colour of one room and added a rug since we’ve been here! My study, though… I keep wanting to paint the walls lilac as I can’t stand the particular shade of turquoise they are painted (which is curious as it’s a colour I like!)

    Good luck with your decluttering and your Scandinavian style! Our house is full of windows and gets the light nearly everywhere, it’s lovely.

    1. How does that happen, Val? No matter how many computer monitors we haul off to the recycling section of the dump I soon find a few more of them in the basement. I just don’t know how they sneak past my watchful eyes.

      “I put things where I need them, as and when I need them, and that’s it.” You sound just like Tim! But I need a sense of aesthetic balance in my surroundings in order to think clearly and have peace of mind. Thankfully he is supportive and rarely objects to my plans, and then only when they somehow interfere with the functionality of his routines.

      Lilac walls sound serene and lovely! Our walls were teal and ivory with black accents when we moved here and we’ve slowly been getting rid of that decor. But as time has passed it takes me twice as long to paint half as much. But little by little a lot gets done. 🙂

  3. I think I will re-read your post when I need some inspiration to declutter and simplify! Our style is based entirely on what people have given us over the years (would that be luck?). We have some early Canadian antiques – I suppose that might be a theme. Lovely post, Barbara, and glad to hear that your Tim is doing well.

    1. Thanks, Cait! It’s wonderful luck that you recycle furniture by using what you have had handed down to you! Someone once suggested I make a guidebook or catalog with a little history on where each treasure came from and who it belonged to… thinking about it…

  4. Your post has inspired me. I’m going to look into Scandinavian style. It sounds wonderful. I’ve been wanting to do something new with my home, starting with some massive decluttering (something I hope to finish or almost finish by the end of the year). I would like to lighten things up around here, on all levels. The weather here is cloudy a good deal of the year so some other way of bringing light into the house would be great.

    I currently have no style. Eclectic sums it up well. lol!

    1. Thanks, Robin! I suspect “eclectic” would sum up the styles of many of us! 🙂 I think the lack of light in Scandinavia is what made the people inclined to find ways to capture and reflect as much of it as they can… I’m getting a little more de-cluttering done each day and Sherwin Williams is having a paint sale this weekend so I think I’m on a roll here. Wishing you luck as you continue tackling your massive project!

  5. Hi Barbara,
    We also have been renovating, I love it, a lot of hard work but at the end it is just so rewarding. We have done about 90% of the inside, and will (if all goes well) start on the outside as in repaint, new gardens etc.

    I think color is a very personal thing, everyone loves something different, and I think this is what makes a house a home when you start to put a bit of yourselves into the house.

    If you need extra natural light in a room, have a look at some of the skylights that are on the market, one of my friends had a very dark kitchen, and she put in a round skylight and the transformation was fantastic, she told me at the time that the round ones were cheaper, but there are heaps of different types, I’m assuming skylights can be brought no matter what Country you live in.

    Good luck with your reno’s it will all be worth it in the end. 🙂

    1. Thank you, Magsx2! It sounds like everyone is in a mood to spruce things up, and your project sounds pretty thorough! It is rewarding to enjoy the fruits of one’s labor when all is done, definitely worth the frustrations…

      We do get plenty of light in here, except for the bathroom, which has no window and is a big color problem area for me. I think I have several botched attempts of different colors on the walls in there. I don’t think the condo association would take too kindly to us putting in a skylight, otherwise I think I’d love that idea!

      I did learn years ago that bold bright colors look better in tropical or Mediterranean light because they are strong enough to absorb the blazing sunlight found there. And soft muted colors look better in temperate climates because they gently reflect the subdued sunlight found here.

  6. You mention symmetry. I go for the simplicity, but I’ve always been a bit deliberately off-centre with the decor. It’s one of the bones of contention in our house. I’ll go to place a picture to one side, only to be told that the centre is always to place to aim for.
    I might tend to go off-centre to leave room for future additions.

    1. LOL – I have a blank spot or two on the walls waiting for future additions, too. 🙂

      Our split-level condo, built in the 1970s, is all about contemporary asymmetry: the windows and doors are off center and in the upstairs bedrooms there are three windows in each, of different widths, placed randomly on the wall. When we first moved in I thought it was all delightfully unique, but lately it’s driving me a little bonkers as I’m craving some symmetry in my surroundings again.

  7. Hi, I love your post, as for me I live in a small apartment in the middle of downtown Houston. My apartment has a couch, a chair, a small bed and a couple of book shelves which can not hold the book load I have encompassed through the years. I am always clearing out, for me simplicity is the better route, although I realize it is not for all.

    1. Thanks, K! Your uncluttered apartment sounds wonderful to me… Up until now I have been hanging on to way too many books, with multiple bookcases in every room and even piles of them on the stairs. It felt so good donating most of them and finally having a little elbow room to move other things around a bit. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Kathy – I love the talk!!! I think I’ve always had what he calls spectral sensitivity, but never the words to describe what I was perceiving. Wonderful explanations of focal glow, ambient luminescence and the play of brilliants… We do need less light pollution and more darkness as a canvas. Sunlight changes all day long and it makes sense that working with changes in natural lighting would be good for us – I loved that office with no electric lighting.

      It made me think of my son, Nate, who must also be aware of the sensitivity. When he was in high school his drafting lab had no windows. He got permission from his teacher to leave the room from time to time to go to the end of the hallway and stare out a narrow window for a few minutes. I think it is a disservice to students to design schools without windows, which they do in some urban areas to reduce opportunities for vandalism.

  8. Before I finished reading your question, I thought “eclectic” best describes my decor! Much of what we own belonged to my grandparents, and then to my mother. Sometimes I ask myself if I would have picked any of the antiques for myself. I do have a sentimental attachment to them at this point. And I like the “character” they bring to my home. But, I do love Scandinavian design. I think, the older I get and the more clutter that’s accumulated in my home, the more a simplistic design appeals to me! I’m famous for practicing the rule that if something hasn’t been used in a year, out it goes. I’ve also taken it a step further and if I have a photo of something that hasn’t been used in one year or as many as 10, it’s outta here.

    1. A lot more people than I realized are living with hand-me-down, beloved antiques! I understand the attachment and agree with you about the character. Treasuring their furniture and keepsakes is a meaningful way to feel a connected with our ancestors. I go by your one year rule, too. I just got rid of half my pots and pans because honestly I just don’t ever use them! Another rule I have is that if we bring anything new into the house we must remove something of equal size. Most of the time we stick to it but still, somehow stuff accumulates… 🙂

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