You are probably wondering who the heck I am and what I am doing here. This is my attempt to tell you.
I am on a personal quest; a quest to create the home of my dreams, welcoming and airy, filled with cottage charm but without spending a fortune. I’m not naturally gifted in this area and I don’t have any training. I’m making mistakes along the way. A lot of mistakes. I’ve been making mistakes for years, in fact.
When I & my husband bought our first home in 2003, a 1930′s English-style cottage, I knew I wanted it to feel a certain way, have a certain look: warm and welcoming, light and airy, with period details and old-fashioned charm without being fussy, frilly, cluttered or claustrophobic. How I would achieve this, I had no idea, but what I lacked in experience I made up for with enthusiasm. So, armed only with a love of old quilts, vintage glass, white trim and chippy furniture, I set out to create the home of my dreams.
I failed. Miserably.
I painted every room a different color. A dark color. I went shopping and brought home random selections just because the display was pretty. I hit thrift stores and brought home pieces that weren’t my “taste” because they were cheap or because they would be fabulous with just a little tiny bit of work. Like a Magpie, I brought home anything and everything if it caught my attention while shopping. The house started to deteriorate, filling up with random accessories and broken furniture. I started to get really confused. I started to not be sure what my style was after all. I didn’t know why my home was frustrating me so much.
I became convinced that it was the spaces themselves that weren’t working. I needed to be more creative, more original, more clever. I tried unusual space arrangements, overly clever layouts. I started renovating. I gutted bathrooms and attic spaces, ripped out old decks, rearranged furniture and redesigned the floorplan. More than once. I got rid of the old thrift projects and acquired new ones. Saw a pretty picture in a magazine and completely changed my design direction. Over and over and over, for four and a half years.
What a mess.
Desperate and confused, I started to think my dream of a charming, airy cottage was just not achievable. I gave up. In the summer of 2007 I sold my house and found a fixer in Oregon’s wine country, a 1950′s ranch with 1980′s decor, but all one level with a fantastic floor plan and a big yard. Ugly, but very functional. We bought it, moved our stuff into the garage and focused on getting the old house ready for the market. I had watched enough HGTV to know that my house wasn’t going to sell in the state it was in, so we started renovating yet again. But this time, instead of trying to be “clever,” I just did the simplest, easiest thing that I thought would appeal to most people. I removed everything non-essential, painted with warm neutrals and bought or borrowed new furniture.
It was like the house came into focus. The new furniture was modern and the accessories spare for the market, but the bones were there. The basics were there. I could see how my original vision would work, if I had just started with this simple palette.
It wasn’t the space, it was me. I had tried too hard to be clever and original and had mucked up the space with too many ideas and too much stuff. Simple design isn’t uninspired, it’s a gracious structure within which to showcase wonderful things. Warm neutrals, simple materials. These are all things that provide the structure within which to have all the eclectic, fabulous, mismatched things that a Magpie like me brings home.
Finally, I think I’m getting somewhere. I have a long way to go. I have a lot to learn and I have a ton of questions. And now I have a 1950′s ranch with no inherent charm of its own. But I have an idea.
I also have a fire in my belly. I want everyone out there, everyone who is struggling with how to create the cottage home of their dreams, to feel like they have someone they can talk to. I want to help. I still don’t know exactly what I’m doing, but I’m doing my best, and if I can do it, you can too.
I’m so glad you’re here to take this trip with me.
To email me, send to: angela (at) cottagemagpie (dot) com!