They say your home should be your personal sanctuary, right? Last time I checked, my sanctuary didn't contain skateboards, trains or a diaper genie. Don't get me wrong, I'm one of those women who always knew that I wanted kids. I had enough dolls to play preschool with and was frequently seen pushing a tiny stroller around our local mall.
Now, many years later, I am a mother to three boys. Each pregnancy and birth brought along its own growing pains (both literal and physical). With my first son, I learned that having the newest stroller was not nearly as important as having the most practical stroller. An umbrella stroller would have to do. My second and third children also taught me a lot: The swaddle is in fact not a straight jacket, and if the changing table, no matter how nice, is not wide enough to accommodate wipes and diaper creme, it might as well be an antique piece.
So when it came to decorating my first "real" home, I decided that I would pick a spot (or two) and make sure they fit my vision. (Prior to this home, futons and college desks filled our otherwise empty apartments.) I had long ago accepted that my five-year-old was not going to appreciate the light blue gingham duvet I chose for his room. Instead, superheroes and Star Wars were his desired motif.
Likewise, the beautiful Pottery Barn playroom and nursery, while adorable and perfect in the catalog, never fit my children's latest obsession (my three-year-old son insists on a Michael Jackson life-size poster). You can imagine my initial disbelief and subsequent acceptance that Restoration Hardware did not sell a bedroom set (or even a duvet) to match the Michael Jackson décor.
Moving forward, I set my sights on a spacious living room in my home. It is one of the first rooms one sees upon entering the house. The large windows display our pool and deck, and the natural lighting illuminates the area. This space could be my tabula rassa, an opportunity to create that aforementioned sanctuary. Try as I might, this space couldn't be converted into a walk-in closet and my husband's man-cave certainly would not fit the bill.
I headed to Barnes and Noble to browse the shelter magazines. I came across a shabby chic living room, adorned with oversized white couches, large pillows, and a love seat. The look was simple and undemanding, yet it was warm and inviting. The couches were set upon a light brown nubby carpet and the walls were just the right hue: somewhere between light blue and grey. The décor in this room begged for barefoot feet, warm coffee and comfortable conversation. I had the magazine picture scanned, copied and emailed faster than my own pragmatic instincts could imagine.
My interior designer, a very nice (and diplomatic) lady, was happy to "help me achieve this look," however, she wanted to remind me that "white wasn't the friendliest of colors for a family home." Looking back, I realize she was setting the stage. A mother of four herself, she knew all too well what spilled fruit punch and melted Popsicle look like on a white couch. Next, my husband, best friend and sister all urged me to pick a different color couch, love seat and ottoman. They hoped I would settle for a darker shade of white (more like light brown). I stayed true to my gut instincts, and pushed full steam ahead with the design I had in mind.
Four years later, I still love the feeling I get when I open my front door: serenity, relaxation and comfort. (Never mind the screaming children or Michael Jackson soundtrack). Yes, the couches are stained and the ottoman is used as a launching pad for my son's superheroes. However, the sofas are large enough to fit my whole family, and the room is still perfect for entertaining adults. My sanctuary may not be exactly as I had imagined, but its pretty close. The dog knows not to sit on the couches and the boys know not to climb on the love seat. At least not when I'm watching.