Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Redecorating Guy-Style



Sunday I was asked to go to my widowed brother’s house out in the boondocks to give some feedback and suggestions on a redecorating project he’s planning for his living room, dining area and kitchen. That sounds straight forward enough, doesn’t it, but I wasn’t sure how much arm twisting his lady friend did to get him to agree to bring me deeper into the mix than I already was. I was worried about tip-toeing around some conflicting ideas I knew they had. But I’m nothing if not my dad’s daughter, so I put on my diplomat’s hat and went out fully intent on finding out what look he’s going for and to do my best to get him where he wants to go without having a shootout at the O.K. Corral. I have an art degree. I know color and balance. I love them both so what could go wrong with a plan like that?

My brother’s first purchase for his new project was a huge, red chair. Okay. Granted most women would not start there, but he did and a good sister works with that without asking, “What were you thinking?” Besides, I knew he’d already gotten that question from his friend. The chair did give me an idea for a signed and numbered print that belonged to my husband. It has touches of red in it and I knew the other colors would look great with his brick fireplace. The print also has major guy appeal because it depicts an old general store with gas pumps out front. My brother loved it. Great! Prints are always a good place to start for color-scheme challenged people. Did I mention he also has a large, white leather couch to figure into the equation? A few weeks ago, when I heard about the red chair and the fact that he wanted an area rug to lighten up his dark wood flooring, I sent him a link to a rug online and he ordered a sample and it was there on Sunday, too. It worked perfect to pull all the fixed elements in his living room together and more importantly, my brother likes it. We kicked around a lot of ideas and we settled on paint colors and other small-but-important tweaks. I was happy. He was happy and his lady friend was happy. No one took a bullet or got their feelings or pride hurt. 

I volunteered to go back out after the painting is done to revamp the stuff on my brother’s wall of built-in shelves---it's all out of scale now---and to redo a collage of photos he keeps behind a large V-shaped window that had been salvaged out of our family cottage and was turned into a shadow box. His lady friend had lobbying to get rid of it (and the shelves) but I knew she’d have more luck finding an albino elephant to serve us afternoon tea. Instead, I suggested color changes that will de-emphasize the window's presence. Displaying and arranging photos and shelf decor is where I shine and my brother seemed pleased that I offered to tackle those jobs. We walked around his house, basement and poll building searching for treasures to put on the shelves and we settled on a few toys from his youth plus an edited version of the framed photographs he’s got scattered all over the place. I’ve never seen so many family photographs and snapshots in one house! They’re EVERYWHERE! And now that he has five great-grand babies all under two, his snapshots are spawning like white caps and brown gills at a mushroom farm. Thankfully, my brother is open to me helping him make some sense out of them. Maybe even relieved. He says people keep giving him pictures and he doesn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings so he puts them where they can be seen. He’s my dad’s child, too.

I gave my brother a mission---should he choose to accept it---to find some thing large, rectangle, metal and old to up-cycle into a photo collection display point for a wall in his dining area. My tame-the-photos plan is to put vintage photos in the shadow box, his kids' formal and family portraits on the shelves with the antique toys, and the great-grand-babies' and other in-flowing snapshots on the new photo display board. What he needs the most, though, to contain the photo clutter is permission to rotate pictures to photo albums or boxes when his photo display point gets too full. The key to keeping any collection from turning into a hoard is to designate a certain amount of "artful" space to it and when the space is full you either stop collecting or you upgrade what you’ve got by using the take-one-out-before-putting-one-in rule.

My brother’s lady friend lives closer to me than to my brother so we rode back and forth to his house together. On the way home I remarked that it had gone a lot easier than I thought it would and she said she couldn’t believe how agreeable he was to everything I suggested. Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe he was just feeling out-numbered and was doing the “Yes, Dear Dance” and when he comes back from the paint store he’ll have a can of purple instead of Alpaca Blanket and Weathered White. Stay tuned for part two of Redecorating Guy-Style. I’m sure there’ll be one. ©

18 comments:

  1. My brother is a serial monogamist. His relationships are usually about ten years. He once had a girlfriend whose taste was questionable. She convinced him to paint his house gray with the most horrible plumb/burgandy color for the trim. I guess the color wasn't really that bad, but it looked awful on the house. Before they had it painted, she asked me what color I would paint the house. I asked her to step back and look at the entire picture. The roof was brown and the house had a huge brown wood deck. I told her I would use something in the brown family, anything from beige to a medium brown. When they broke up, my brother started dating a woman with great taste. She painted the house a medium brown, the color of coffee with a little cream; she chose white for the trim and had new white gutters installed. It was perfect and the white trim made it look crisp and fresh. Everyone loved it. She has slowly changed some things inside. He had lots of man stuff. It's all about compromise. They both like antiques, though. So they do have that in common.

    I bet your brother will love his new decor when you guys finish. It's nice that he felt comfortable asking for your help.

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    1. He didn't really ask for my help, his girlfriend lobbied for it which why I was leery about getting more involved, but I think he was glad I came out. My tastes and goals in decor are different than my brother's---the red chair and white couch would never happen in my house---but I think you have listen to objectives for the person living there and not press your own tastes on others when you help.What are the must-stays for example. Why do you want to redecorate in the first place. He's says his dark wood flooring was a big mistake but it's the high fashion trend now and would look great with different furniture which isn't going to happen. His goal in the whole project is to bring in more light and airiness without redoing a perfectly good floor. That will happen but I think the average woman will still want to move out all the furniture and buy differnt. LOL

      I remember that gray/plumb fad for exteriors. It needs lots of white trim along with it to really pop with the plumb taking a smaller accent role. When older couples move in together I think it would be very hard to compromise. My brother's girlfriend says she'd never live that far out of town to move in although they've talked about it. And I'm guessing he feels the same way about moving into town after spending his entire adult life in the country.

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  2. You are brilliant Jean. It seems you handled the whole situation with respect and control. Maybe you should run for President. ha,ha,ha.
    When it comes to things like this, I'm not sure men really know what goes where and what is the best color and etc. I know what I want but there are times, I know it might not the right choice so I let my wife decided on it. But there are times when I will want sometime, I'll get it. ( if Mary Lou lets me. LOL )
    I worst that men have is when dealing with paint. I love bright colors, red, jellow, green, light blue. I think Here I might be good it, I think.
    Continue helping your brother and I hope that he'll listen to you and be thankful for your assistance. See you my friend.


    Cruisin Paul

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    1. Thanks for the vote of confidence, Paul. In our generation, I think, there is a difference in the level of interest and knowledge in decorating between men and women, but that no longer applies to the younger people. Thanks to HGTV guys are catching up on design knowledge. My brother is a great guy. He listens to everyone, but is not a push over to anyone.

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  3. What a fun project! And you really did show a knack for having them both agree ... and I don't think he would "yes, dear" you! I need to come up with a place to put inflowing snapshots and artwork from the boys. Maybe another wall shelf in the hallway ....

    Are you SURE you won't fly over her to help????

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    1. Don't tempt me! It's only 35 degrees here today with no spring in sight for at least a week. I could do with some island sand and sun.

      Maybe my brother wouldn't say those exact words but all men are capable of pretending to listen, then doing the opposite. LOL

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  4. I do like your illustrations for each blog - colourful, appropriate and cheerful. I had to look closely to confirm that this time its the base of a bed spring bed, used as a pix holder. I like that kind of utilitarian art (which explains why I am a hoarder, sigh!).

    The biggest artists, fashion designers, chefs etc are men so I don't think taste can be restricted to women. And taste is subjective. I generally hate the "After" shots of decorated houses on this TV shows - like the "Before" better!

    Among my family and friends, the men have much better taste, and keener decoration talents than the females.

    Re house paint colours, mine is similar to the brown toned house described above by one of your commentators. The brown I picked didn't quite cut it (the trim is white). The medium brown "coffee with a bit of cream" sounds divine. ~ Libby

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    1. The bed spring is off a baby bed but I've seen all kinds of things used for the same purpose, my personal favorite being a grill off a vintage car.

      I have seen 'before' and 'after' shots where I liked the before's better, too. I'm glad you mentioned that! So many TV do-overs are too store display looking without any nod to the personality of people living there.

      You and Bella would not have to fight with me over the last coffee-with-cream colored chair in the store. I'm not a fan of anything on the fall color palette. It looks great but I won't want to live in it.

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  5. I am on my way tomorrow to visit my sister for a few days. She has never asked me for decorating advice but whenever I have offered her pillows that I quilted, she very happily took them! You are so correct that so much of decorating is personal:what kind of things that person wants to live with. For my part, even though most of my clothing is black, I do like being surrounded by color in my house, My kitchen is rose and my bedroom is deep yellow. Maybe, just maybe it has to do with the long winters!! (Speaking of which I will be on a flight to Boston tomorrow if the snow doesn't stop me from getting to the airport.)
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. Much of my wardrobe is black, too, with purple and rose being my second favorite colors.

      I can't imagine anyone turning down a hand quilted pillow. Do you use textures in them like in your other quilt projects?

      I used to have a bedroom all in pastels pinks and blues with touches of rose. I loved it but it was too feminine when I acquired a husband. LOL If I move out of this house, I might go back to pastels.

      Have a safe flight! Our ten day forecast has a 70 degrees day in it. Spring might get here after all.

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  6. Time will tell if it was the "Yes Dear dance". I'll stayed tuned to find out if your brother incorporated your suggestions - they're good! Offering artistic advice (something I am asked for, as well) is a venue where I put my aging memory to good use. The minute I leave the premises, I forget what I've suggested. So I've no investment in any follow through. Besides, it's the owner's elbow grease, not mine, that is required to make the changes - and too much of that requirement can trigger a very satisfying round of inertia.

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    1. Do you ever get an over-whelming urge to rearrange someone's knickknacks? It bugs me when things are out of balance. For ten years I was in charge of the glassware displays in a large floral shop and I loved it. Other employees would ask me to help them at their houses with their personal displays. I resist doing it in people's houses if not asked but once in a while I've been known to pick up something to fake interest so I could set it back down in a better place. LOL

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    2. No overwhelming urges to clean up eyesores inside other people's houses. Now, eyesores in others' gardens... that's a different story. LOL

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    3. I can't imagine anyone not wanting you to follow through on those urges. LOL

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  7. I do use textures in my pillows. I have started painting lace and sewing that onto fabric. I use yarns and threads. I am only beginning to explore the possibilities. And then I free motion sew designs as if I was doodling. It is so entertaining!! If I knew anything about embedding a picture into my comment, I would show you what I am doing but alas, I'm stumped!
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. I don't think Bloggers lets people put photos into comments but your description gives me a good idea of your work and I know I'd love it.

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  8. Please come to Washington and help me!!! We are doing a kitchen upgrade and completely re-vamping our big living room (new furniture to give it an updated feel -- have completely fallen out of love with everything in there!), which has two arched doorways and two focal points (big view window opposite the fireplace. I always have a hard time knowing where to put furniture in that big room. Unlike your brother I have almost no family photos on display because it just seems cluttered when I try to set picture frames around on tables. I have some nice original art, most of which should be reframed. I only have 1/2 an eye for all this so it always feels like I do a half-assed job of it. LOL

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    1. I don't have a lot of photos around either. I have this hide-and-seek plan with framed photos and it works like this: I have one per room (including the bathroom) all under 2-3 inches and I move them around after I clean. I like being surprised by an image from time to time instead of having them yell at me if they were bigger or if there more of them to the point where you don't even see them anymore. Ya, I know. I'm quirky.

      Rooms with two focal points on opposite walls are very challenging to arrange furniture in. People tend to do the "commuter train" thing so they won't play favorites. But you have to pick one to be the main focal point when deciding about furniture placement. If the room is big enough to have two groupings of furniture, one at each focal point, one still needs to dominate in terms which one gets the biggest grouping so that when you stand in the doorway to enter the room your eye doesn't fight for which focal point registers first. I'll bet you don't do a "half-assed job". You're probably just a minimalist and you stop "decorating" before what others might do.

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