Friday, March 6, 2015

In Defence of Making Do

Queen Composter shares a home decorating dilemma. 

I will begin by saying that I have very little fashion and design sense, and I cannot walk into a room and see how I can transform it into a vision of my own style. I cannot just slap a coat of paint on something and magically transform a room for under $700. Anyone who comes into my home or sees how I dress can see that right away.

The downside is that I am sometimes embarrassed by the mismatched nature of my home furnishings. The upside is that I am not spending thousands and thousands of dollars updating my home to the latest and greatest style.
My mismatched floors after an old dishwasher broke, leaked,
and damaged the flooring. Thank goodness for kind neighbours
who help source replacement boards and install for me.

One of my pet peeves is watching home decorations and real estate shows that have people saying how the house is not move in ready because the perfectly serviceable countertops are not granite and the appliances are not stainless steel, and how they want to rip everything out of the kitchen to make it more their style. When we moved into our home we were thrilled, despite the fact that the original 80s kitchen cabinets have not been updated (just painted) and the countertops have a faux treatment to look like granite (and they aren't fooling anyone, I assure you!). It was move-in ready because everything worked.

Recently I moved some furnishings from my grandmother's home to mine. She is in a seniors care home now and in need of downsizing her belongings as we prepare to sell her condo. Walking around her home is like being in an 80s and 90s time warp. We decided to take some of her furniture because it is good quality. I knew that I wouldn't be able to sell or give away the furniture, despite the quality, and this was confirmed to me when the caretaker popped in for a visit while I was packing and moving. He mentioned another elderly resident in the same situation as my grandmother. Her family knew of someone whose entire home had been consumed by a fire and they needed to start completely over. The elderly resident's children offered  everything to this family, who rejected what they saw because it wasn't to their taste and looked like it belonged to an old lady.
This isn't just a poor quality photo; the furniture really does
make the room look this dark. Note the 90s style faux
tribal pattern on the left.
When we moved everything into my home and I started unpacking, I started to cry, and not just because of all the memories of my grandmother in better days (she has dementia and Parkinson's). I was also sad because the furniture is darker than I prefer, some of it faded. Looking around my home, I once again felt frustrated that I am always making do with what I have.
This armchair sat in an east facing window and
is very faded as a result, but it is so
Over a few weeks I adjusted and I am actually now quite fond of the furniture in my home. Now I see the positives: we have more seating space for everyone; the furniture is more comfortable than the old stuff we inherited from the previous owners; I have more storage space; the move prompted me to donate of over 30 bags and boxes of stuff; we have some excellent quality pieces that I believe are timeless. I could slap a coat of paint on things, replace hardware, and buy slipcovers, which perhaps down the road I might do (or knowing me, probably not).
I could replace the handles, but I think I like them now.
The bonus is that I have a home for all my gardening books
and knitting supplies that were all over the room before.
I realize that popular media needs to create tension and drama for people to watch, to sell a better life for people to aspire to have (Home and garden channels, Pinterest boards, you name it). But sometimes we just need to be happy with making do. It's not the end of the world if our home isn't perfect, our clothes aren't the latest fast fashion, or our lawn and gardens aren't magazine worthy. I won't be taking the online quizzes to determine my personal style anymore. I have decided that my style is comfortable.
This is my favourite piece. This china hutch,
and all the amazing  White Dogwood Royal
Albert china is now mine. 
I have saved some great pieces from most likely the landfill, and I have saved not only money but also resources in not purchasing new furniture. Sometimes this is called recycling, or the new upcycing, I would like to start a Making Do Movement. I am proud that I am making do.


concretenprimroses said...

Those shows drive menuts too. It is so wasteful to sledge hammer perfectly good things. That's why I like the rehab addict. She rehabs old homes in very bad condition and always looks for ways to keep what she can.
About your too dark furniture, did you know you can spray paint upholstery? It is supposed to work very well. (Outside obviously). But many pieces have been saved that otherwise no on would have wanted.
The wooden pieces that you got are beautiful!

Sara Vartanian said...

I always find it surprising to what is deemed move-in ready or not. I'd be happy to join your making do movement!

Anna (Green Talk) said...

I love old furniture. I find that is better made then some of the furniture today. I have refinished and re-upholstered furniture.

PS I like the french wooden piece very much.

Julia (Color Me Green) said...

first thing i was going to suggest were slipcovers. but yeah, first you have to find ones that you like and that fit your couch which is a whole annoyance in itself and something i too would procrastinate on.

i agree with what you're saying about the common desire that even when a kitchen is functional, it's considered "needs to be upgraded" because it's not in line with current taste. not just on tv but among real people, who i guess are convinced by tv. i can't help but feel that our desire for everything to be "just right' will lead to a future in which nothing is even functional because we were unwilling to compromise and were too wasteful.

Betsy Escandon said...

My daughter's preschool teacher told me that one particularly well-dressed youngster told her, "Miss Diane, you have no style." To which she replied. "Oh yes I do. My style is comfort." My style is happy memories (family photos) and livability (washable, wipeable, family-friendly). I think that's about as far as it goes : )

LeadSafeAmerica said...

Lol - you should see our house. We lost everything in a fire in 2002 - and haven't really bought anything since then - just handmedowns and freebees! I must say I do long for having grownup furniture again - but I think I will have to wait til the little one is in college (another 12 years) and by then I may live on a boat (no furniture at all!)

Green Bean said...

This post made me feel happy! Yours is a home full of love and character, rooted in family. I am tired of a culture that says we should throw things out because they are not the "in" style right now. Way to take a stand and keep a bit of your grandmother with you.

Carissa Bonham said...

And just're not only saving money and items from the landfill, but you're saving so much TIME. It takes time to do all that fancy makeover business.

Helena said...

I'm over here applauding. :) Most of our furniture came from my grandmother's home--my then-fiance and I moved in together a few months after my grandmother died, and my mom and uncles were thrilled to give us whatever furniture we wanted so they didn't have to deal with finding a thrift store that would take it. And you know what? Ten years later, most of it is still absolutely fine. The kitchen table and chairs did eventually--literally--fall apart and so we replaced those, but other than one piece we painted, the rest is still as it was in her home. Some of our other furniture came from my parents' office (my dad's old desk) or my husband's grandparents when they died, so it's all kind of eclectic, but it works. My "style" is sort of coastal cottage, but whenever I ponder the idea of "redoing" our home to reflect that I shudder at the time and expense it would involve. Maybe I'm lazy, maybe I'm decent at making do, maybe some combination, but be that as it may, I'm right there with you. :) (It probably helps that we haven't had cable in several years and so haven't seen any HGTV type shows in a long time. I try really hard not to compare my home to others, and those shows make that hard.)

Lisa said...

My style is mid-century so I want used stuff anyway haha.

I wrote a post awhile ago because it breaks my heart to see people gutting beautiful mid-century homes to make them look like new cookie cutter homes. That's fine if that is your style but why destroy that piece of history that is perfectly fine?

Anonymous said...

Making do is what I have always done. Maybe it was being raised by my grandmother who was from the make-do age.

I find it wasteful to buy new when there are so many useful second-hand items out there on offer.

About your dark couches- have you considered learning to crochet, knit or quilt? They all can be a frugal craft. As with anything, you have to have-to-haves and expensive gadgets of the trendy shopping people, but the essentials are really quite basic-
scissors, material (yarn or fabrics), and implement(s) (crochet hook, knitting needle, or sewing needle/thimble). There are many (free!) tutorial videos on all three crafts to be found on YouTube and other sites.

Scrap quilting has been around since the pioneer days, using left-over and/or used bits of fabrics. The lady at Quiltville blog has some great ideas. You don't even have to have a machine.

Wishing you all the best, from one Make-Do Maven to another :-)

Pat said...

I think "old lady furniture" with a new coat of paint is beautiful. I have some of that and I love it.


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