Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Passion for interiors...where it all began

I consider anyone who reads my blog to be a 'kindred spirit' - we each have a passion for interiors and making our homes beautiful. What I find really intriguing though is how this passion first started. There's often a simple little thing that starts it off, that snowballs, setting off a lifelong passion. At least that was the case for me.

Remember Petticoat Junction? I watched re-runs of this show every night after school (I also have memories of Greenacres, the Ghost and Mrs Muir, Monkey, Gilligan's Island, Laverne and Shirley, Perfect Match...but I'm digressing). I was always watching Petticoat Junction with a rumbling stomach and it seemed that every night they had fried chicken for dinner - teasing me with it! But again I'm digressing! I will eventually get to my point I promise.

So how is Petticoat Junction related to my passion for interiors? Well do you remember the little sister Betty Jo? She was the tomboy one. In season five she falls in love with handsome crop duster Steve and they become engaged. Here they are. I think they were a couple in real life too, though I am not sure for how long.

I can distinctly remember the episode where Betty Jo and Steve get engaged and Betty Jo chooses a "dream house" as the couple's honeymoon cottage. Unfortunately, Steve takes one look at the tumbledown shack and declares the "dream house" to be "nightmare alley." This leads to the couple's first lover's quarrel. All ends well, when Betty Jo magically transforms the little cottage into a sweet love nest.

I have no idea how old I was when I watched that episode, 12 perhaps, but I remember being entranced by the transformation of that cottage. All I could think about was how they had magically transformed the cottage into something livable and beautiful and I was hooked! I wanted my own little "nightmare" cottage to transform, using my own ingenuity and energy to turn it into something special. My interest was sparked.

Next to fuel my passion was Dolly magazine. This is an Australian teen magazine, and it still exists today. Back in 1983 I was a loyal reader, in the days when Nicole Kidman still had freckles and red curly hair (yes, that is her on the cover below!) and Culture Club and Michael Jackson were big.

As you might have read on my sidebar 'about me' - I read an article in Dolly about decorating small bedrooms. The article featured the cutest little bedroom, and fantastic storage ideas. How I wish I had kept this article! At that age I was living on my own with my parents in an outback mining town, as my older siblings had flown the nest. So, inspired by this article, I moved from a lovely, light-filled, double bedroom to a smaller bedroom at the back of the house. But I made it my own and I loved it!

Another significant development happened shortly after, when I moved to Chicago, USA for a year with my parents. Talk about a culture shock for an Aussie girl from an outback town of 1500 people! But what a fabulous feast! Suddenly I was immersed in a culture of Guess Jeans, Seventeen Magazine and Mrs Fields Cookies. A trip to the supermarket was a wonderful thing, just to see the array of all the products, including a whole aisle for makeup! Maybelline became my new best friend.

It was in Chicago that I developed a love for country style. I started buying country themed decorating magazines, and I fell in love with this picture. I've kept it all these years, carefully torn from a magazine, and carried all the way home to Australia with me.

Ok, it's a little dated, and the photo is very tatty (loved!), but still I love the pretty quilt on the wall, the freshness of the blue and white theme, the simple white fireplace and the worn wooden furniture.

When I returned home to Australia my mum and dad let me redecorate my room. I chose an antique brass bedhead, powdercoated white, a beautiful wooden wardrobe in the colours of the wood in the image above, and a white Laura Ashley wallpaper with a sweet and subtle little dot pattern on it. I still have some of this wallpaper - it lines the drawers of my chest of drawers. And my bedroom did not have a poster in sight - I didn't want to ruin 'the look'.

In the following years, as I finished high school and went to university, I began collecting for the day I would move out of home. I was often gently teased for a having a 'hope chest' but for me, it wasn't about finding a husband at all, it was about feathering the nest of my future home. It was about slowly but surely moving closer and closer to my dream. I even kept a list of "Things for my unit/bungalow" (yes that was the exact title!). I still have that list. I wanted baskets as well as antique tins, bottles and signs for my kitchen, bare floorboards and a Molissi fan in my bedroom, shells and star fish in my bathroom, and a trunk, basic couch with lots of cushions and an 'unusual decorative piece, eg wallhanging, gate or large mirror' for my living room. This list makes me smile, as I have many of these things now.

So do you, my kindred spirits, have a story to share of how you became passionate about interiors and homes? Please share!

Best wishes,


CrowNology said...

Hi Catherine,
I was always decorating my Barbies home (my father bought me a huge bookshelf that was tall enough for Barbies to walk around in...It became a 5 story condo) I used old wallpaper, doilies, candle holders as table bases...It was the best part of the playing. I wish I had photos!
Thanks for your comment on my site. I have a DSLR that I am trying to figure out too. I'm too old to learn new things.;)I believe I may have made a mistake in the comment I left for you. Sorry. I noticed in your last post you were talking about the home you have made for your Angus and you...
I hope things are better for him, and you, right now.

sealaura said...

Thanks for sharing your story. It was so sweet and let us get to know you a bit more, what a treat. My design story is not too exciting. I have lways wanted to have a beach house and at the same time have clean modern lines. I must say, reading your blog and others, makes it really hard to pick one look. I can relate to your love for country style when you lived in Chicago. When I lived in Indiana I too was struck by it along with the beautiful woodwork of the Amish, and I am a city girl from LA! Anyway, I still think I am more of a blues and crisp whites, along with some wood, thrown in with some rust kind of decor girl. Have a great day.

Millie said...

Oh gosh, this is soooo difficult because dear Catherine, my 2 favourite TV shows as a kid were The Three Stooges & The Hathaways. And what an interesting decorating style that would be - 3 crazy manic men & a bunch of house-trained chimps in dungarees! OMG I've just realised that is my style!! Love your story to bits!
Millie ^_^

Kath Lockett said...

I can't say that I have the style or natural finesse that you or your readers have Catherine, but I first started to notice homes as child watching TV as you did, but I was much more easily influenced by the fashions at the time.

Such shameful interiors that I loved included the Brady Bunch's living room (that funky stone fireplace and groovy step-down into the sitting area); Molly Meldrum's Cane chairs from Countdown (and yes, I saved up my pocket money and bought one for my own room) and Pam Dawber's funky warehouse style apartment (with see through glass fridge doors) in the shor-lived eighties sit-com 'My Sister Sam'.

These days it's colour. I'm gravitating to red as I did when I boarded at university when I edged all of my clapped out chipboard bookcases, bedhead, wardrobe and desk in red tape to accentuate the pillows and quilt on my bed. It sounds awful but everyone would walk in and go 'wow'. And isn't that 'wow' what we're all looking for?

These days it's not so much 'wow' as 'Hey, this is nice. I *want* to be here.' And that's fine by me. :)

paperjunk-lc said...

I used to love petticoat junction! I wanted my name to be something Jo. Betty Jo, Bobbie Jo any kind a Jo. Crazy the influence a TV show can have on you as a kid. Remember the big "M" in Mary Tyler Moore's apartment? I loved her apartment. I think the love of initials on a wall came from that show. Thanks for the walk down memory lane.

AnNicole @ OurSuburbanCottage said...

I LOVE this post. Kindred spirits indeed.

I did a similar thing of tearing a photo out of a catalogue and daydreaming about it for months until I could convince my mom I HAD to have that bedding. We ended up totally redoing my room to include that lovely white and floral bedding, little white shutters on my windows, white walls and pale green wallpaper beneath a chair rail. Ohhh, I loved it.

I also remember rearranging my mom's living room furniture one night while she and my dad were out (I don't know how an 8 year old girl was physically able to do that). My poor mom came home and said "Oh, it looks great. But I think I liked it the way I had it before." Ahhh, memories :).

Lauren said...

Oh I loved hearing this.

I used to rearrange my room all the time & then I'd go to friends' houses & rearrange & help them "redecorate." I remember moving into our new house when I was little choosing the wallpaper boarder (eek!!) and the coordinating SPONGE PAINTING colors to go with it for my bedroom!!! hhahaha (colors pulled out perfectly from my laura ashley bedspread!!) haha I was in Heaven!

Lee and Beth said...

Thanks for sharing your story with us. That was great to get to learn a little more about you. :) I didn't use to be as passionate for decorating as I am now. In fact, I've only just started really getting in to it. Now, I can almost call it a little obsession of mine. I can't stop!I love to make a beautiful home and I love reading home decor mags and blogs. My favorite style is country. I have tried to change my style in the past, and I always come back to country. I just love that lived in, cozy, put your feet up, feel. I also really love a "beachy" feel in my home. Also, a very comfortable and lived in style.
Hope you have a great day!! Beth.

Leigh said...

Hi Catherine

Great post - my favourite show was The Ghost and Mrs Muir. I loved that house so much and dreamed of having my very own Monkey Puzzle tree in my garden. After all these years, I still love the house in this series - it hasn't dated and I would still love to live there!


Jen said...

What a neat post! I haven't thought much about what started my love of decorating, but I've been doing some form of it for as long as I can remember. Way back when it was "fancy" houses built out of my Legos. I also used to sit down with the giant JCPenney catalog (does anyone else remember when they'd mail you a 600+ page book of stuff??) and I'd go page by page in the home sections and write down in detail every single item I would by, categorized by which room it would go in! Oh sheesh, I haven't thought about that in such a long time...sure wish I had some of those lists now, wouldn't they be good for a laugh?!?! Thanks for the memories!

Draffin Bears said...

Hi Catherine,

As always a wonderful post!
Brought back such happy memories Petticoat Junction, Dolly and Seventeen magazine ~ looked forward to getting my copy and still have some 17 mags stored away.

I am like you and have ripped out pages that inspire me with ideas and colours. I got the collection of Country Look, 5 large binders filled with some wonderful decorating ideas.


lily-g said...

I was forever decorating my room, collecting flowers in my garden, but I apparently was the least creative in my family, more of a dreamer. I married a builder and we renovated and built houses. I have been a decorator now for 17 years and the rest is history!

River said...

As a child, I was always building houses using the large rectangular blocks my sister owned to construct the walls, then placing our huge fairytale books on these to create a floor for the second story. I always made sure there were plenty of rooms so the "children" wouldn't have to share, and the rooms were huge. I've always wanted lots of space around me, to be able to walk and dance around freely without bumping into this or that piece of wall or furniture. I guess for me the interior decoration isn't the big deal, the architecture is the thing.

Julie@beingRUBY said...

What a great post! Certainly brings back so many memories.. maybe too many! I think my love of decorating really set in when I moved out of home.. but as that was quite young.. it was truly on a shoestring budget..

Until last year I still had all my home and interior magazines from when I was 17. They finally had to go in the last move. It was tragic throwing them out, but perhaps more tragic looking through them and remembering the styles back then.

OH.. and I had forgotten about Petticoat Junction. I loved that show!

Melissa H. said...

Hi Catherine! I just discovered your blog today and I think it'll become one of my regulars :) My passion for design came later, when I was in college. Growing up I loved all different types of art and design, but didn't truly hone in on my obsession for design until I picked up my first issue of Domino. It was my senior year of college and I was getting ready to start my first job and move into my own apartment. I remember the day so vividly. I brought the issue home and started tearing it apart. I was cutting out pictures and mixing them together in collages. Now, design blogs and magazines are like yoga for me- inspiring, peaceful, and good for the soul.

viera said...

What a lovely post. I love your story. You are such a good teller.

www.designfabulous.com said...

What a great post. I love to hear about how people were inspired in design. I also watched petticoat junction reruns as a teenager. I loved that show! I always loved the run down look of the house on Green Acres, with her city style mixed in. I remember specifically loving the bedroom in that show. It is funny what you notice and remember. Thanks for the great post.

Julia @ Hooked on Houses said...

I enjoyed this post so much. For one thing, I watched "Petticoat Junction" reruns after school every day, too. I wish I could see that episode you were talking about again!

Love the old cover photo of Nicole Kidman. That hair! She looks so different now.

Thanks for the lovely trip down Memory Lane. :-)

ed said...