vintage photo woman on beach

Aren’t we lucky to live so close to the water?  When our gang was younger I remember the military planning it took to get our family of six to the beach.  Boogie boards and sunblock and no-crust for this one and no-animals-harmed for that one.  Finally we’d get to the beach and would commandeer our spot - Dave (my ex) checking the stats in the process.  Was the tide going in or out?  How high was the pitch of the sand?  Not here; smoker to our left.  Not there; frisbee to our right.  He’d weigh and adjust and try to balance all those opposing elements - and finally we’d settle. 

But despite all that - up would smoothly slide a wave, defying both the tides and the pitch of the sand in order to douse our small camp.  “A rogue wave!”  Dave would declare.  And all six of us would squeal and scurry and grab for our most precious gear.  We’d laugh, dig up money for hotdogs, hang the wet towels on the back of the beach chairs, and then settle again.  Not terrible memories.  Sometimes it’s nice to get faced with an unexpected force that’s so strong in its point of view that there is just no denying it.   

And so it can be with our homes. In the beginning we buy, and then we nest. And that can all be part of this long process of wrestling chaos to the ground. Getting organized, getting renovated, making space - they are all really important steps. But sometimes, we can try so desperately to create a place for everything and have everything in its place that we may miss out on a little bit of magic.  What do I mean? Am I saying that it’s bad to remember our first trip to The Container Store more fondly then perhaps that first family trip to the Adirondaks?  No I am not.  I totally get it.  But take small bites, and chew thoroughly.  You’re at the buffet of life - don’t fill up on the dinner rolls at The Container Store. 

I’m in all sorts of homes all the time, and I bump into that magic in the most unlikely of places.  Suddenly I’ll notice that the inside of a basement door is painted a robins egg blue.  It was her mother’s favorite color, I’m told, and she could never bring herself to change it.  Or I’m entering a seemingly ordinary outbuilding to find the whole back wall, to-the-studs, has been converted to glass to overlook a little pond and it’s marsh.  Or I’m in a home office that has such a strong commitment to the color blue that it is on walls, built-ins, trim and ceiling, and it makes me catch my breath.  Or I’m in a half bath where the walls above the wainscoting are covered with baseball cards - hand glued and taped and thumbtacked corner to corner.  Or a cottage with a quirky, hand-painted plywood floor that has been added-to one summer to the next so that some areas crisp and some areas dull with age.  It’s that unbridled commitment to a distinctive point of view that just makes me want to celebrate.  That commitment bravely thumbs its nose at design rules and common sense.  And it’s just so wonderfully imperfect and unexpected filled with passion that I have to tip my hat to it, and let it be as it is.  Why mess with perfection, right? 

My mother was a bit of a rogue wave herself.  When I was in high school we moved to a depressed, industrial city where she taught dance at a posh little college.  She explored the streets by tying a straw hat under her chin, putting on her Hollywood sunglasses and having our dog pull her through town on her roller skates.  Hand to heart, 100% true.  My sister and I hated it, but she cared not at all.  And then I hated her a little bit for that too.  Couldn’t she see??  We were in a new school in the throws of wrestling chaos to the ground!  We had no place for her magic.  

So please proceed with some caution.  Everything has its time and place.  True magic needs to remain somewhat contained.  It’s a powerful force, and too much of it (unless handled extremely well) is not a good thing.  But for those of you who have made sure that, for instance, the finish on your light fixtures is the same as the finish on your doorknobs is the same as the finish on your cabinet pulls and your soap dish and shower curtain rings… loosen up a little bit.  It’s your home, not corporate housing.  Have some fun.  Jump on a trampoline.  Go play in the mud.  Who knows what you’ll find. 

And my mother?  She’s gone now, but she had that unconfined kind of magic, and a whole lot of commitment to it for sure.  That painted floor in the backwoods cottage?  That was hers.  And as her health declined and she got farther and farther away from me, I imagined her getting closer and closer to something else. Come see me now, I call to her.  Come see how my heart has softened, how much I miss you.  And I think she’s responded.  Because why else would I be seeing little slivers of magic around every corner?  

Jennifer Coles is a local interior designer. Her instagram is: @coles_color_and_design. Her website is: colescoloranddesign.com