When I walked up to her door, I knew this call would go well. She had a lovely blue and red rug sitting at the front door—I mean a REAL rug, and not some plastic indoor/outdoor P.O.S. Always a good sign. It means she knows good stuff.
When she opened the door and let me in, my eye was immediately drawn to the oil painting above her fireplace. Turns out the piece has serious history: Her family lived in Cuba during Castro’s reign. Her uncle did “favors” for people and was paid in art and other valuable things. Not sure what those “favors” were but he sure knew how to invoice people. Needless to say, this client and I were going to get along just fine.
As it turns out, her home was filled with lots of amazing pieces–unique rugs and cool antiques sprinkled in here and there. I knew there was a back story beyond her uncle and there was. My client was raised on the East coast and her mother had loved antiques. Sadly, she had just lost her mother the previous year. The antiques and beautiful rugs were a way of keeping her mother in her life.
So why was I there if she had amazing things and her house had soul? I asked myself this question and of course, she was self-deprecating and said she had no idea what she was doing in regards to design. Bullshit. She had opinions about all the things she loved. She had amazing and colorful stories about each piece, too. She was okay with getting rid of some of her mother’s things that had been from her second failed marriage (“there’s divorce for a reason”, she said at one point, clearly knowing some things weren’t meant to be kept). She definitely knew good design. My heart was pumping hard (as it does when I see awesome stuff) but my head was fuzzy and confused.
Then she showed me “the rug”. This rug was rolled up and stored in her basement. It was a rug that had been in her mother’s house and it was special to both of them. It was another antique oriental rug but with lots of hot pink in it. Now, I friggin’ love hot pink so I was excited. Then she unrolled it. And it was…okay. It was old. It was nice. But just, okay. And I told her so but in a nice way (yes, I can be nice) that it won’t work with all the other lovely things she had. We quietly and unceremoniously rolled it back up.
The visit went on and at the end we had a clear plan of action. I was to supplement her rugs and antique case goods with Pottery Barn’s best slipcovered gray sofa (KIDDING!!). As I was leaving, she told me the visit was just what she needed because she was relieved that I gave her the “ok” to move on from the hot pink rug. She felt lighter.
Of course she had an internal struggle about not using the rug—it was her mother’s rug and her mother was gone. That’s tough shit right there. But, she also realized that just because she chose to move on from something her mother loved, it didn’t mean she was letting go of her mother. It just meant, the rug didn’t work.
By the way, if she wanted to use that rug, I would have said “fuck it, the rug stays” and made it work! But, I knew she was on the fence and I think I was there that day to give her the permission to move forward in this very tiny way.
I was quite impressed with this woman, and not because she had great things and is smart and beautiful (oh, did I forgot to mention that part?). She’s still grieving. She saved and cherished so many beautiful things that represent her mother, thereby, honoring her legacy. I felt her mother in the home without ever meeting her. But, I DID get to know her in that visit through the pieces and stories attached to her belongings; she was quite a lady!
I’m not sure why more people don’t see value in remnants from the past. I’m not saying we all need to have antiques littering our home. But if our homes are supposed to reflect ourselves and we are a product of our upbringing, why don’t we represent ourselves as a whole of who we are – including those who defined us. Some pieces speak to us and have soul. Some, like the Pottery Barn gray sofa purchased by a million other people, do not. Don’t be afraid to combine both when choosing your decor. Keep some, divorce the others. Old and new can live together and tell a whole different story of who you are.