Elise ZiegenbeinComment

A Tour of Our Living Space, and Some Thoughts About Art

Elise ZiegenbeinComment
A Tour of Our Living Space, and Some Thoughts About Art

As I tear apart three years worth of decorating in preparation for our move in a few days, it's cathartic to be able to share a few photos of our living area that I took a few weeks ago when it was still intact. Now, books are piled high in storage rooms and closets, walls are bare, holes are in the process of being spackled...

Our house is a 1970s ranch that came complete with formal living room and den. When we moved in, it was spacious and cozy, but it just didn't have a great flow. Upon entering through the front door, you were greeted by a small doorway into the den, along with a very large, blank wall that divided the formal living room from the den. It wasn't quite clear how to make your way into the main area of the house. And the large dividing wall between the two main rooms blocked much of the light on both sides of the house. Finally, we solved the problem by cutting a huge hole in the wall to create one continuous space for gathering, jamming, sprawling, and general hanging-out...ing. Now it's a living room, library, music room, and teaching studio, all in one. 

Other than cutting a hole in the wall, the only other major upgrade we undertook was to paint, paint, paint...white, white, white (with the exception of the black wall in the dining room, which is a story for another post!). Originally, most of the walls were painted beige, and the foyer was covered in wallpaper, which I also smothered in a good, thick coat of white paint.

These bookshelves were a labor of love. Pre-bookshelves, we had stacks of books all over our house.  My Pinterest-inspired "brainstorm" resulted in many evenings of team engineering, sketching, measuring, driving to and from Home Depot, wood-staining, measuring some more, and finagling, but we finally achieved our goal of building affordable pipe-and-wood bookshelves. As usual, Jordan provided the brains and brawn behind the finished product. And, at long last, our books had a home! (At least...for a while. Now most of them are packed away for two years. I'm planning to make good use of a library card.)

This space doesn't have a specific style or theme; I didn't plan it. It's a conglomeration of old and new, vivid and neutral, light and dark, modern and traditional. But every object in this space has a little part of our story in it. Our living area contains everything from treasures found at yard sales (the vintage map, the creepily awesome monkey table, the Turkish pillows, and probably 75% of everything else), childhood possessions (one of the globes, the xylophone, the guitar), special gifts (the mandolin, the framed poster from my undergrad senior recital, many of the books), family pieces (the starburst clock, given to me by my grandfather and lovingly carted 1000 miles by my brother; the retro chair, salvaged from a dank basement; the armoire and dresser, which belonged to my great-grandfather; the painting over the mantel), to carefully scoped out and saved-for purchases (the tufted chair, the foyer mirror, the cowhide).

I don't mind packing up all this stuff and and looking ahead to our new place in California. Part of the reason is that I feel ready for a new challenge. But the rest of the reason, for me, is that it's not so much about having a lasting finished product as it is about the little baby steps of curating, of arranging and re-arranging, of bursts of inspiration that sometimes fail but sometimes realize the ideal image in my imagination, of enjoying our space by beautifying it and inviting others to enjoy it with us, of crafting and creating functional solutions with Jordan, and of gathering in our space with our people, regardless of the state it's in, walls or no walls, stuff or no stuff...moving boxes or no moving boxes. :)

Our imminent move, along with some other blog posts that have been circulating the internet, has really prompted the question in my mind of why decorate? Or, to phrase it another way, why beautify? The question merits a much longer blog post and discussion, but in the meantime, here's one thought on the matter that occurred to me while writing this post: the question at hand is essentially the same question as why perform music? As a violinist, one of my jobs is to study, practice, and perfect a piece of music and then perform it. Once. And then it's over. I move on to the next piece or project. Sometimes, I improvise a piece of music in performance, and those configurations of notes are only heard once, ever, by the people sitting in the audience. And even they will forget those notes within a few moments. What's the point?

But most people don't ask me that question. They understand intuitively that there is some intangible reason, some good reason, for spending time and money on my craft, my instrument, and my preparation for the sake of performing music well, however fleeting the finished product is. And that is how I see the creative pursuit of working on my home. It is a canvas that occurs in time and space, to be used and enjoyed in the present moment, and if it is gone tomorrow--whether due to a move or to a disaster--then it is enough that it was beautiful and and pleasing to the eye and welcoming today, despite its imperfections.

Does this mean that everyone needs to perform music or decorate their home? No. Does it mean that hospitality depends on decoration? Absolutely not. My point is that it is not futile to create beauty where you can, regardless of whether it is lasting.

And there you have it: my living space and my soapbox! :)