This week decorating felt trivial.
Coronavirus cases spiked across the globe, California went back to being on a purple tier, and, closer to home, we lost a good friend.
He was kind and steady. He could fix most IT problems (he once saved my computer and the 300-page novel I was working on when I thought it was wiped). He grew an enviable garden full of species native to Santa Barbara; if you didn’t recognize a plant you could bring it to him and he’d name it and tell you how to keep it alive. He was known to grumble a bit, but in an endearing way. He was the first of our group to marry and, many anniversaries later, he and his wife inspired us all by still using pet names and seeming as smitten as ever. He turned 52 a few weeks ago and died, unexpectedly, last week. His name was Geoff Jewel.
At first the news was shocking, then disbelief turned to sadness. It clung to everything and hung in the air like a gloomy mist. The short, dark days weren’t helping. I’d vacillate between trying to cheer myself up and feeling guilty for trying to shake the sadness because I know his wife won’t be able to, at least not for a very long time.
Geoff stopped by our house a couple of weeks ago to drop off two giant cycads from his collection to thank me for some design help. Since we are mostly home these days, it was strange we were out, but we were. Now we’ll never see him again and the cycads have taken on a sentimental status. I’m determined to keep them thriving.
I imagine so many of us are going through something similar. There have been too many deaths from this pandemic to come through entirely untouched. Or if you have come through untouched, I think all it takes is turning on the news and hearing the latest numbers to feel overwhelmed with empathy. And you want to help, but you don’t know how and intellectually you recognize feeling sad isn’t really helping anybody.
So what do we do with all this sadness? Is it okay to file it away, tilt our chins upward and trudge along like everything is fine? Is it okay to want to be happy when so many people are suffering?
I finally decided it was. I wasn’t helping anybody being stuck in a funk. So I decided to choose happiness.
What started to lift the muck of melancholy, was to make things prettier around our house. Decorating didn’t feel so trivial anymore. (I strongly believe beautiful environments elevate our mood–I think that’s why I do what I do for a living).
This mat arrived and inspired me to freshen up our front door. I’ve used it on three different houses over the years and decided it was time to buy it for ours. I love it and it’s a great price ($12.99!) but, truth be told, at 30″ x 18″, it’s barely wide enough for our 32″ wide front door.
Design tip: In general, you want your doormat to be at least as wide as your front door, if not slightly wider. Since most doors are also flanked with a few inches of casing on both sides, your impression of the width of the door is wider than just the literal width of the door itself. So when calculating what size to buy, I’d say err on the side of wider than the door. So, yes, it could be wider, but I love the pattern so much I’m forcing it to work and what helped was sliding it out from the front door a few inches making it less obvious that it wasn’t as wide as the door.
I’ve used this braided rubber one on a couple of projects and it’s so neutral it looks good year-round. Since it doesn’t try to steal the show, you can dress up everything around it (sometimes a doormat is just a doormat, right Freud?).
But this next one had me at “jute”. Of course it’s only going to work for “sheltered outdoor use”, per its online description, but it’s classic and good and adds just the right touch of natural, organic materials which I’m always drawn to.
I hung this preserved boxwood wreath from Target which we’ve had for almost seven years now and it’s still going strong. I love that it’s real boxwood but since it’s preserved it keeps on lasting and lasting. A real green option! Get it? 🙂
It’s so neutral, in fact, I’m going to transition it into all-things-Christmas the day after Thanksgiving. I used it on this house last year.
The new wreath along with a lantern and new doormat gave an instant refresh.
Here’s a faux berry wreath that has some definite holiday spirit. My mom has a similar one she hangs on her front door for the holidays. Her front door is painted a very dark charcoal so the wreath looks amazing in contrast.
During these politically-charged times, this battery-operated lighted peace sign wreath certainly sends a nice message.
A lantern by the front door is not only pretty, but adds a welcoming touch. I use battery-operated LED candles set to timer-mode in ours so they automatically turn on at dusk like magic. The lanterns below from Pottery Barn are similar to the ones I placed by our front door although I bought ours years ago at Osh of all places.
A planter or two, or three, by your front door not only softens the the scene, but is a good transitional piece from the outside in.
These ones one would work with most home styles from traditional to modern.
And the glaze on these next ones is so good. I recently saw something similar at the home of renowned Santa Barbara landscape designer. I can imagine them filled with ferns or succulents (climate permitting; succulents are usually sun-loving, but the aeoniums by our front door have tolerated the shade surprisingly well).
These lit twig orbs are similar to ours and would add a warm, welcoming glow at night.
And there you have it. I hope these ideas sparked some design inspiration. It’s easy to feel like letting it all go with thoughts of “What’s the point? Why do we try?” But I think we do need to keep trying. So chins up and off we go, trudging into another week. But let’s do so with a mindset of proactively choosing happiness and being thankful, shall we? I know it’s easier said than done. Perhaps check out this article which gives some good tips about cultivating joy.
Wishing you a very, very happy Thanksgiving next week!