Shabby Mission

Status report: I didn’t work as much on my dissertation today as I should have, because I was still working on The Thorn and The Blossom. Today was the day we made the final edits, so I spent quite a long time on the telephone with my editor, and then there was some email correspondence. (Thank goodness for my Blackberry.) While all of this was going on, I thought, this is a new paradigm, isn’t it? Because I don’t think this is the way publishing used to work. I like the new paradigm: I think it gives authors more freedom than they used to have, allows them to do things they didn’t used to be able to do. But I can understand why it makes some writers nervous. It means inhabiting a world that moves more quickly, in which you have to be more connected than before. It’s harder to live in a cabin on the side of a mountain and just write – I mean if you actually want a writing career.

So it was a busy day, but in the middle of it, I took a walk around the neighborhood and took pictures of the sorts of things that inspire me. I said once that I called my decorating style Shabby Mission. The “Shabby” comes from Shabby Chic, a decorating style associated with the designer Rachel Ashwell. It’s often mischaracterized, so if you google the words “shabby chic,” you may get pages of pastel horrors, which is not at all what the style is about. At its core the style is about accepting the faded, the shabby, the incomplete. Ashwell lives in Los Angeles, and she focuses on pale woods, walls, linens. Those sorts of things look right in the California light, but not in Massachusetts. The “Mission” comes from the fact that I love Mission Style, with its solid woods and dark colors – its greens and ochers. But true Mission Style is incredibly expensive, and it can also be cold. In magazines, Mission Style rooms often look as though they are museums, as though one could not live in them. So I combined the two ideas into Shabby Mission: a style informed by Mission Style, but also by the lived-in aesthetic of Shabby Chic.

My aesthetic, if you want to call it that, is based on the natural world around me. I love the colors in forests, gardens. Like the hostas that are blooming behind the shed.

Or this pile of split wood in a corner of the back yard.  I love greens and browns.

Across the street were these mismatched but rather charming mailboxes.

Down the road to the park was this garden, in full bloom.  This is the sort of garden I like, spilling over its wall.

In the middle of the garden was this birdhouse. I like that it’s built of wood, and I like the Black-Eyed Susans beneath it.

The park is surrounded by forest, and by the forest path was this large plant.  I’m not sure what it is.

And look at these gorgeous ferns. I love the way green layers on green in the forest. That’s something I try to do in my decorating.

So now, on to the decorating itself. I brought home some Queen Anne’s Lace and put it in a vase on the dining room table, next to a bowl full of acorns.

In the dining room is this shelf, with books and my favorite green pottery.  Do you see what I mean by Shabby Mission?  It’s Mission Style, but not the expensive stuff.

I like chandeliers. This one is in the dining room. I also like curtains that let in light, like the lace curtains here. Those were made out of table clothes that I cut in two. The painting is of a road through the forest, by my grandmother.

This shelf is for supplies of various sorts, in green file boxes. The painting on top is of me, painted by my grandmother. I really should hang it up, shouldn’t I?

This is the small shelf I bought at the antiques store, with books (including a lot of Ruskin).  Next to it is a basket with blankets.  I keep baskets filled with blankets in several rooms.  You never know when you might need a blanket, and they just look cosy.

These are pillows on the futon, which serves as a sofa.  I realized at one point that I decorate as though I were living in a forest: in browns and greens.  (I sewed the smaller pillow to the right from a William Morris fabric.)

Remember this small shelf?  It was a thrift store find.  On top is a pottery bowl from the same thrift store, filled with pine cones.  Right now, this is where I’m keeping the books I need for my non-dissertation research.

And finally, this is what my floor looks like at the moment.  Things are actually more shabby than I would like, with piles of papers and books everywhere.  I prefer things to be worn but neat.  Here is the basket I keep in my room for blankets. It’s actually larger than it looks: I took this picture from a strange angle.

That’s all for now. I still have work to do tonight. But I thought I would write a post on my preferred decorating style. I’m doing so much writing nowadays that it’s actually difficult to sit down at the end of the day and write about writing. You may be getting more posts like this one for the next few weeks! But I think that in the end, these posts are also about creating the writing life. After all, I write much better in rooms decorated like forests.

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4 Responses to Shabby Mission

  1. KarenB says:

    Dora, I believe the plant you couldn’t identify in photo 6 (“by the forest path was this large plant. I’m not sure what it is”) is wild rhubarb: .

  2. Grey Walker says:

    Shabby Mission. I love it!

  3. Nivair says:

    Such a lovely post! I never thought about decorating style like this … you have given me great inspiration to make my own room more forest-like. My trees are overflowing bookshelves. 😛

    Also YAY FOR THE THORN AND THE BLOSSOM, of course!!! 😀 😀 😀 😀

  4. Nivair, good luck on the decorating project! 🙂

    And Karen, thanks for the identification. It does look a lot like domestic rhubarb . . .

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