I love those vacation rentals that are a little tattered around the edges but also wonderfully warm and informal. The sort of place where the curtains are beginning to fade from the sunlight and where you feel perfectly okay putting your feet up on the coffee table, shoes and all. I want to live in a place like that, not just for two weeks each summer when we take our annual vacation, but all the time. I see no reason why I can’t make the house I live in everyday live like a vacation getaway. And so, I’m working my way, room by room, through my small, 900 square foot plus basement, 3-story cottage. I’m looking for ways I can “vacation-ize” each space to give it that relaxed, carefree atmosphere.
One of the things that makes a vacation home relaxing isn’t necessarily what is included, but rather, what isn’t. Vacation homes have an absence of “stuff.” Because no one really lives in them you don’t find off-season clothing in the back of the closets or boxes of holiday decorations in basement corners next to photo albums and old high school yearbooks. While I’m more than willing to do a bit of de-cluttering, let’s face it, we all like our stuff. And while we can perhaps dress certain areas of our homes to look and feel like our favorite vacation getaway, we’re still going to have to deal with all the trappings of everyday life and find someplace to store them.
I began my living room make-over by rearranging the furniture. I moved both the sofa and recliner to new positions I’ve never tried before; I moved out a mismatched Queen Anne chair; and I made room to bring in a pair of modern style seats done in matching brown leather which I had recently retired from another room. It’s a lot of seating for my little living room but I like the effect. Somehow, the additional seating has made the room feel… friendlier. My sofa needs to be replaced soon. Until I find one I really like I have thrown a patchwork plaid cover with a woodland motif over it. There’s nothing that feels more casual than a sofa throw. I added some cozy pillows but not so many that they’ll get in the way.
White satin wallpaper and a room sized white rug make a neutral background in our main living space. I’m not usually a fan of neutral walls and I was tempted to change the wallpaper to something more exotic. But for now, I decided to make do with what I have. With the many pictures and accessories already hanging, the white background is working. My current plaid curtains also contribute to the laid back feeling.
The next thing I did was strip my mail collection corner down to a bare tabletop. When you check in at your vacation rental you wouldn’t have a pile of junk mail and bills on the table to pester you. I kept them, of course, but instead of leaving them in the open, I hid them away in a decorative box that I slid onto the shelf beneath the table. In place of the tabletop clutter, I set up a jigsaw puzzle. It will be a quiet and laid back activity to while away at on cold winter afternoons.
One of the problems I needed to address was a large, open archway. A few years ago, I took over the 7′ x 14′ room that adjoins my living room and turned it into my sewing/painting/art studio, moving my projects out of the basement. Badly in need of its own make-over, the pass-through space between the living room and kitchen is usually a mess in progress. Spying it through the open archway would be a constant reminder of the work I need to do and would detract from the easy spirit I am trying to invoke in the house. If I were going to have any success at “relaxing” the atmosphere of my living room, I needed to hide my work space.
I hung a curtain rod over the arch as if it were a window and I installed a pair of floor to ceiling curtains and white sheers. The curtained arch gives me easy access to the space but keeps my projects and supplies out of sight when I am trying to unwind and enjoy the living room.
With all the bones in place, I filled in the gaps. I brought in a small book case and filled it with light reading books and DVD’s. I brought in a stack of magazines that I’ve been anxious to read. I moved the Wii out of hiding and placed it beside the TV where its bright blue box will remind me to use it. I hooked up our Bose Wave Radio/CD player to our TV enhancing our TV’s sound system. I rearranged side tables for drinks and snacks. And, as a final touch, I went outside and moved one of my bird feeders so that it can be easily seen from the living room window — a small touch that has made my cat very happy.