A year later, we were finally settled into a new home, and I was out exploring the shops in my new town with my two-month old daughter, Lulu. And wouldn’t you know it? I stumbled upon that very same gnome! My heart gave a little leap as I spotted him in the garden section of a local boutique, peeking out at me from behind a wrought iron bench. And yet I hesitated… I didn’t immediately scoop him up and bring him home with me.
Part of me considered the cost; our new home needed a lot of things, and a garden gnome wasn’t exactly at the top of the “must have” list. But I also considered what people would think. I’m new in town, trying to make friends, and even though I’m not currently working so I can stay home with Lulu, I still want people to think I’m a good designer. Hopefully, my home will demonstrate that I have classic taste and am capable of crafting beautiful, livable spaces – the kind of spaces someone might like to hire me to create for their family in the future. Would a
garden gnome, the epitome of tacky outdoor paraphernalia, give the wrong impression?
I went about the rest of day a little sad that I left that gnome behind, and the next time I frequented the shop, he was gone.
[blockquote class=blue]Don’t get too caught up in perfection and always include things that make you smile, not that just happen to be featured in all the decorating magazines.[/blockquote]
That was last summer. This summer, I found myself randomly talking about that gnome while on a vacation with my parents. My Dad listened patiently as I described how I’d carried that magazine clipping around for years and then didn’t seize the chance to buy the gnome when I saw him. He listened to all my hesitations and at the end of my story, he said “I’m going to give you a check and the next time I come visit, I want to see that gnome in your yard. You need to have something just for FUN.”
I though about what he said, and I realized that, despite all the coordinated fabrics and curated vignettes I so carefully placed throughout my home, it’s the unusual, unplanned quirks that I really love about it. I love the way the floor slants uphill when you walk from my daughter’s room to the bathroom. I love the little upstairs windows, the top of which barely hit my hip, but which are the perfect height for Lulu to see out of. I love how proudly my husband gazes at his trophy deer and antelope mounts hanging in our living room (even though I originally wanted them tucked away in his office).
While the custom headboard I designed and my beloved crystal chandelier bring me a lot of joy, all of the other offbeat, unplanned elements – the not so perfect ones – bring me a lot of happiness too. It’s the quirks that make my house really feel like a home, rather than just a showhouse.
When I decorate clients’ homes, I always make sure to not just include, but to prominently feature, the collections or sentimental pieces they hold dear. Whether it’s an obscure painting by a relative, an obscene number of family photos, or an animal statue sculpted by a five-year-old, I try to make sure that cherished objects, whatever they may be, have a special place in the design so they can be properly enjoyed. Yet I was denying myself this simple pleasure and taking the “just for FUN” element out of decorating.
Make sure you don’t make this mistake when you’re decorating your own home! Don’t get too caught up in perfection and always include things that make you smile, not that just happen to be featured in all the decorating magazines. Frame the letter your son wrote you from camp. Show off your collection of salt and pepper shakers, or frog figurines, or whatever it is that brings you joy. Your home should feel like YOU.
This weekend I went back to that store and, much to my amazement, there was my gnome. This time I didn’t hesitate. He rode home in the trunk next to Lulu’s stroller that very afternoon, and I know I’ll smile every time I see him waiting by our front door.
Kitty Burruss is an interior decorator, wife and mother.