Tag Archives: interior design

Alexandra Stoddard on Creating a Beautiful Home

As a young mommy with 5 children hanging off my arms everyday in the late 1980s, I read a book from the library by Alexandra Stoddard, a revered interior designer and prolific author. 

Having moved a lot as a child, I struggled with a bit of rootlessness, yet was always looking for a way to be planted – create home.  Looking back at the notes I wrote when I read Alexandra’s book, I can see that this woman whom I will probably never meet, this woman who lives a life which is night-and-day different than mine – was actually an early mentor for me.  She gave me the words and understanding to create a home for myself and my family.

These are some things I learned from Alexandra Stoddard:

“I’ve seen the homliest houses transformed into havens of affection and joy by fascinating, high-spirited people.”


“An honest home that rings true to the lives of the people who occupy it will always be disarmingly refreshing to visitors.”

“Style requires discipline…Edit.  Putter.  Eliminate.”

“Don’t feel compelled to fill up all the spaces.  Space is a luxury.  Plus space  helps us feel serene.  Create rooms that have free corners.”

“Clean windows are like a cloudless day.  White window trim intensifies light.”

“I have  a theory about houses.  The front is the most formal and correct.  The middle loosens up a bit after we’ve passed through our public rooms into our private, intimate rooms.   By the time we get to the back, there is children’s art on the walls, good smells coming from the kitchen, and there is laughter.”

“Design your life, not your house…Create rooms for endless pleasure and feelings of well-being.”

“Houses, no matter how humble or grand, come and go and ultimately do not define us.  Home is an attitude that has to do with love and caring, thoughtfulness, honesty and authenticity.”

“If you are drawn to certain colors and objects, chances are that a compatibility of spirit will bind them together.”

About 10 years ago Alexandra Stoddard was in Denver promoting a book she wrote (which I have never read), Feeling at Home.   I found, tucked into my home-making notebook (where I have kept ideas and magazine pictures for inspiration) the torn piece of newspaper from an interview she did for the Home section of the Rocky Mountain News where she advises:

“Write down ten things that define who you are.  Now bring your list and walk around [your home].  How do you feel in your home?   If you don’t feel good about a dark corner, change it.  Do you have a blah area?   Get out your paint brush.  If you love the color blue, paint your ceilings blue…put a blue quilt on your bed.

“What I want is for you to feel…wonderful when you’ve made the connection.   You’re not decorating a house…you’re taking yourself and the way you truly want to live [to heart] so your environment stimulates the best in you.”

I really love her philosophy on home.  I am going to make my list now…Jeanie

“By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasure.”  Proverbs 24.3, 4 NIV

NOTE TO SELF: My Savior, my husband and kids, those grandbabies, writing, worshiping/singing, family dinners, time with Dave, time in the Word (aka time WITH the Word), speaking/teaching, cheering young wives and mommies on (my spiritual daughters), loyal friends…can I have more than 10?…

pictured: sneak peek on the orange-painting-craze; kid’s art on the walls

Accumulative Effect

So – home.  I don’t decorate.  At least not in the make-a-plan-buy-everything-at-once-and-see-it-through-asap way.  I want to, but the time (?), the resources (?)…so I just gravitate towards things I love and they show up all around me.  Eventually, a “look” emerges.

I love the clean modern, minimalist lines of current showhomes.  Every decorating show on TV displays an “after” room that is neat and clutter-free and fresh and has basically no visible signs of life (toast crumbs, shoes by the door, you know: life).  Everytime I watch one, I want an entire new house full of furniture that has never actually been used.  Right now I could have that and not even have to pay until January 2012!!!  You gotta love furniture showroom advertising!

We used to own an antique/vintage furnishings/home decor/custom framing/gift-type shop downtown in another state.  When we left that place, I kept only the things that had meaning  to me.  True antiquers would point out the chips and cracks in what I have, which may give them less value.  They might flip the aged plate over to read the markings, find out where it came from instead of enjoying the beauty of the piece or remembering the friend who gave it.  Yet these are the things I love.  The pieces of the past that bring meaning to my present.

If the house was burning down and I had already secured my family & dog, home videos and all of my photos, next I’d want (not necessarily in this order):

My antique oak buffet (“sideboard”) with the curved legs – the very first “old” thing I ever got when a lady wanted to show her thanks for a pastoral visit by giving it to Dave and I.  It was black with oxidization and had a broken and bolted leg.  A friend stripped it back to expose a tight wood grain and repaired the leg.  It sits in the family room, still, against a red-pepper-colored wall. Iinside is artwork-not-yet-framed, candles, video equipment and table linens.  Underneath, sometimes, are 2 more modern-shaped ottomans.


The very large pine library table we found in the garage of a house we bought years ago.  The previous owners had attached a 4 x 8 sheet of plywood on top to use it as a work bench.  It was filthy and beat up.  It is now the very roomy, shiny desk at which Dave does all his wee-hours-of-the-morning writing in the master suite.

A small drop-leaf desk with doors which are so warped they will never properly close again.  I bought it for $5 at a garage sale and my all-time-great-friend-for-life, Lisa Bierer, painted a European castle scene on it.  Open market?  Probably couldn’t get much, but it houses my stationery and family photos and the loving touch of a good friend and I wouldn’t sell it to save my life.


The old-school-window coffee table.  All 5 of my children attended, for at least 2 of their elementary school years, Northern Hills in Norfolk, NE.  Not long before we left there, they were doing a remodel on the old 1920s building and were throwing out the big, old multi-paned windows.  A teacher friend called us (knowing we like weird things) and said, “You should come and get some windows!”  We did and a few years ago, my husband bought an old bed at a thrift store and used the legs and other distressed wood to create a coffee table.  It is a piece of my children’s past through which they once gazed toward their futures.  And in the Twilight-Zone-category, they all now attend and do ministry at Northern Hills Church here in Colorado.  I have no idea what that means, but there it is.

The Victorian family cut-outs representing us that my husband created in the 1980s.  I was in to “Victorian” then.  Hey, our shop was “Victorious!”  Dave cut out almost-life-sized Victorian people representing each of us, and we painted them and used them as part of our yard display at Christmas.   We lived in a great big 1860s Queen Anne Victorian then and we won a Christmas lighting display contest in our city the year we made them!  They are rarely seen now, unless you happen to glance up into the garage rafters, but they are our own family “antiques.” 

Some days I’d like to throw everything out and start all over.  But I also like that which says: we have been creating a life for almost 28 years!…much came before us….these things are part of our foundation, our long-lived and continuing commitment.  Maybe due to the somewhat rootlessness of my childhood (we moved around a lot) I want proof that my life and home didn’t just appear on the American Furniture Warehouse showroom yesterday.  It didn’t just end one place and start over the next.  Home carries the proof of deep roots, sometimes slightly-tattered and time-worn, but beautiful in their reflection of the green, life-giving blessing of God.  The effect of the things accumulated?  Real people in 3-d, not a magazine shoot.  Safe.  Nurturing.  Home. Sweet.  Home.

If the house were burning down – mainly the family and dog, the home videos and all my photographs!…Jeanie

NOTE TO SELF:  But editing, very aggressive editing is way OK, too!  It is January – a good time to edit ruthlessly!

pictured: the buffet, the Lisa-Bierer-painted desk, the school-window coffee table, a branch I just painted…orange! :)

“For me, home is the coming together of my past memories and experiences, of my love for my children and husband and friends;…my optimism tangibly expressed in life-enhancing ways – room by room…”  Alexandra Stoddard in Creating a Beautiful Home

The post that got me on this home-making train.

Robin’s Nest

My sister-in-law, Robin, is a pastor’s wife, mom of four and a real estate agent (I wrote about her recently).  She has always successfully put her homes together with more creativity and ingenuity than with piles of cash.  She loves cottage decorating and has a toile passion.  She commented on my recent “House Call” blog post about how she enjoys painting furniture these days and making chalkboards from cheap, ugly and old Salvation Army artwork.  She paints the frames and then just paints the picture part with chalkboard paint and has one in almost every room.  As per my call for your pictures (readers-that means YOU), she just sent me a few photos of things she is up to in her house these days.

See Robin’s home and current projects.


Here are a couple of Robin’s chalkboards from what were formerly old thrift-store framed art.  Also, check out Robin’s favorite curtains made from toile she purchased at WalMart and the three large windows she covered in curtains she made from $1-yard fabric from the same decorator’s paradise! (Do I see “Robin’s egg blue” on those walls?  Haha!  Your name just lends itself to these comments and phrases, Robin!)



Next project:  The wood piece above is an old optometrist’s cabinet that Robin plans to paint.  The French impressionist painting on the left below was a $2 find at the Salvation Army in Aberdeen, SD.  The classic English boy and girl prints also came from “Sally’s.”



Here are Robin’s empty frames, hung for the beauty they possess all by themselves. And an invitation to imagine what might be!

Thanks for sharing a glimpse through your Aberdeen, SD windows, Robin.  Now, dear readers, you send me your pictures.  Show me what makes your home really your home in snapshots of vignettes and rooms.  E-mail them to jeanierhoades@yahoo.com -or- the other email! :)

We are taking home tours!…Jeanie

NOTE TO SELF:  A new chalkboard in a cool frame (painted, naturally)!  The one I have actually was a chalkboard.  How very un-original!

click on images above for a better view

Real Houses, Real People

Stephanie Nielson of Arizona, or Nie Nie as she is known to her blog readers (and there are gazillions, it would seem!) had her home chosen as the #1 Home of the Year by Cookie Magazine (“All the Best for your Family”).  See the whole description from Cookie’s decorating blog and lots more pictures here.

I love that she is young and has 4 kids and wasn’t some big crafter-decorator, but let her growing family and the personalities of her children sort of nurture that side of her.  Check out these cool ideas from a real family!


Check out the living room: no curtains or shades!  She isn’t worrying herself to death with how to stylishly cover her windows and the light shines in – on purpose!  I love the redhead on the couch!  The silhouettes are actually photo cut-outs painted black.  She updates them for her whole family annually!  And the shelves are lined in glued-on Old Navy gift wrap (click on the thumbnails above for a better look).


OK – look at the crib.  No, look more closely.  See the “garland” draping it?  They are the shrunken sweaters her mother wore growing up in the 50s and which she and her sisters dressed their dolls as they grew up.  Now they adorn the crib and I think it is genius!  I had all these baby clothes from Dave’s beginning and a couple of mine and never quite knew what to do with them.  LOVE IT!  And a kitchen wall lined with photos of the babes?  Have ALWAYS dreamed of doing that and covering with those 4′ x 8′ sheets of acrylic you can get at any home store to protect.  Someday….Stormie seriously loves that stainless-steel table (on top of an old dining table??) and the red chairs.

Here are more pictures from her personal blog:




I see color.  So great!  I wish I’d have been as brave at her age!  But all of you youngsters out there: get nesting!  In color!


Or, if you prefer, some current “magazine-worthy” showhomes:


Be real.  Use your stuff.  It’s you!…Jeanie

NOTE TO SELF:  Unpack and re-evaluate things I love, but are carefully stored away.  Can they be loved in broad daylight?

NOTE TO READERS:  Send me pictures of your home-sweet-home space that really, truly and honestly reflect you, the real you and let me share them!  jeanierhoades@yahoo.com

House Call

What makes your home different from the neighbor’s (whose house was built by the same contractor and for all the fancy outdoor facades, from an aerial view, is just another rabbit hutch in suburbia)?  What is in your house that makes it uniquely yours and not just another picture from The Pottery Barn catalogue?

Here is how you might know you are in my house and not the neighbor’s:

I use old doors, vintage windows, worn fabrics and well-loved furniture-with-a-history to throw a little intrigue into all things new. And though these pictures don’t show it?  I am not afraid of color!  Not at all. 

I re-purpose what some one once decided to throw away in favor of the newer-latest-better-whatever into suprise uses (a beveled-glass, multi-paned door hangs horizontally as  room divider catching the light and starting conversations….doorknobs are picture hangers…). 

I cherish the story told in the things my parents and grandparents owned before me, though these are precious few (a dime store candy dish from my Grandma Baker, old Christmas ornaments my Aunt Rosie was finished with, but gave me to start our marriage, books my dad read, or the one he wrote for me with his story, pictures and stories with them from my mom-the-“photog”). 

There is a della-robia embellished, golden-yellow biscotti jar which holds tea bags and hot-chocolate mixes, never once a biscotti.  And I have never actually owned a cookie jar.  Hmmm.  We just bake them and eat them apparently.  Curious.

There are the “temporary” burlap drapes (satin-edged so they don’t look like a feed bag, thank-you very much) and a #10 roasted red-pepper can holding my serving utensils. 

I have books everywhere covering my interests from gardening to worship to business and back.  In the coffee table an Albert Einstein rests atop a Beth Moore.

There are paintings by Rocky in Kindergarten and silhouettes of the grandchildren Stephanie gave me for Christmas (a hot decorating trend right now). 


There is the family table with imbedded glitter from my children’s projects and now my grandchildren, fossilizing our existance in wood. 

While I refuse (or attempt to refuse) to be a “collector,” as I look around the kitchen, I see I have aquired several interesting rooster representations over the years, so one might surmise I am a rooster-lover, in the very French country, non-kitschy sense. 

Although my 70’s lamp and two over-sized 70’s chairs in one area could only be called kitschy (Dave and Tara asked if I was going to turn the family room into a 70s loungeno). 


My vintage Di Corsi prints make me smile everytime I remember how inexpensively I got them because of the horrendous frames I discovered them in (super-gold-and-gaudy-in-plastic, anyone?), but whose colors and hues soothe and calm and have they not created the most amazing focal point over my very hip and modern headboard – oh, yes!

And please, don’t tell anyone yet, not until I know just exactly how to display and share this next delight in a way that Dave can tolerate (for he was even embarrassed when when I was making the hilarious purchase at The Goodwill Store), but, my friends, I bought a classic piece of Christian art, circa 1961, of Jesus knocking on the UN building (as if He were knocking at a door?)!  It was painted by the beloved Sunday-School-leaflet illustrator of the 40s, 50s and 60s, Harry Anderson (his is the art of my first Bible stories and visions of God).  The print I have was obviously framed and had been hanging somewhere since at least 1964, so I have an obvious era-based affinity for it.  I find it hilarious because I think Jesus would look at it and go, “I would not re-size myself to Godzilla-like-proportions to present myself to people.”  And I think He and I could have a great laugh about it, even as we expressed to the late Mr. Anderson* how truly talented he was and that no offense is intended.  Dave is afraid I will hang it and people will think we are taking it seriously as an icon of our faith or something.  For this reason, I may be forced to hang it in the office-ish part of our MBR suite, where only people who could truly discern would be allowed.

These are a few of the ways you might know you had wandered in to my house and not the neighbor’s house (in the re-reading, they sound more important than they probably are, but they are mine and me).  What about yours?  What makes your house special, distinct, yours-all-yours?  Do tell!

I love home!…Jeanie

NOTE TO SELF: Do the projects – the ones that keep making it more and more ours.

*Dave called Harry Anderson the Thomas Kincaid of the mid-century era.  T-hee.