handmade home

top photo: Swedish Elle Interiors 2010: home of Maria Astrom and Sam Stigsson. bottom photos: British Elle Decoration June 2011: home of Kristin Peters

I was relieved to see the cover of last month's British Elle Decoration celebrating the handmade home. As I gazed around our own little house, I could see fewer than a handful of items that we'd brought brand new, and fewer still that haven't been adapted, or painted or otherwise tinkered with. We've always preferred to find furniture and objects to re-home and had quite a collection. But when we moved here we found that most of our furniture didn't fit. Needing new furniture throughout we had to be inventive to keep costs down. Older items are frequently more petite, so a 1950s Danish teak sideboard (bought for £10 and revived with patient applications of teak oil) sits neatly in the sitting room concealing any number of toys behind its sturdy doors; a sternly plain Victorian bookcase fits perfectly into the study alongside a pair of vintage desks and a rosewood linen press contains clothes and linens in the alcove no modern wardrobe would fit into.

The one problem with the handmade home is that it can take longer to source furniture and it usually involves a bit of work. Whitening old wood that can never be restored to its full glory is utter simplicity but while slippery modern laminate needs a little more effort, it yields equally satisfying results. A friend's unwanted IKEA chest of drawers has been transformed with some chalky white paint into a piece that is often mistaken for vintage scandinavian. I'd much rather expend a bit of energy than a lot of cash, but sometimes I admit to putting the task off. Which is why a prettily-shaped modern dining table (another cast off from a friend) has been waiting patiently in the shed for me to get sanding and painting. But it will be done and every time we use it I'll think of her.

The interiors I love most are those where you have a strong sense of the people who live there. They may not be the most styled, or even entirely my taste, but to me there's nothing better than stepping into a characterful and individual home rather than one expensively but blandly furnished. What I like about the photos above, and this eclectic bedroom, are that they're examples of relatively simple but still individual and homely rooms.

For our own home I prefer a simple palette of white and wood offset by splashes of colour. I like pictures and photos (both snaps and John's own fine art photographic prints) books, fresh flowers, candles in jars and glasses and a mix of textures. I like looking at our collections of natural objects and discovered treasures but dislike clutter, so tend to only display a selection of our things at a time. And I'm bordering on obsessed with keeping all the necessary clutter of life (art supplies, paperwork and inevitable mountain of toys) firmly behind solid doors. I also make quite a few things for the house - cushions, coverings, throws, table linen - and like to display a few pieces of Joel's work properly amongst our other things. All in all, it's a home handmade by us all and we like living in it.

As I'm writing the guilt of that languishing table is gathering. It seems there's nothing else for it but to get out the sandpaper and the paints and get down to work. 

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