Read an Excerpt
In a sense, this is an anti-decorating book. Creating a home is a discovery process, not a matter of ornamentation or setting the right things in the right places. It's about creating a living space that feels right and therefore looks smashing. When you express your internal predilections externally, you can evoke a moving and dynamic environment. Interior Alchemy is about pursuing what pleases you in making a home and making your pleasures all fit together. Express your passions, display what turns you on, find out what makes you feel comfortable and connected, and there you will find the perfect home. With a few simple secrets to help you along, this book is designed to help you find your way to the living space that is truly your own.
The homes in these pages all belong to people who have built their environments around their own quirky passions and points of view. What each of them shares is a love for old things for flea market treasures as well as real antiques. What drives most collectors and flea market addicts is a love for things with the taint of life on them.
Vintage pieces, antiques, found objects, all bear the visible signs of history. It may be a set of deliberately carved initials in a child's desk, some mysterious notes scribbled in the margins of a book, or simply a crude repair. What we call "patina" is no more than the accidental accumulation of such marks: worn spots, natural darkening, scratches and scars on the surfaces of things. All are the signature of decades or more of human use, and they conjure up images about lives lived before us.
One of the magical aspects of shopping for the things we love, the "gotta-have-its," is thescavenger hunt effect. When you hit on some fabulous piece that's been hiding out in a junk store or flea market, it's like discovering a buried treasure. Now I'm not talking about getting a great Tiffany lamp for only $1,500. I'm talking about getting a crazy, hideous 1970s lamp for $3, changing the shade, and making it look great. People who have already caught the bug know what I mean it's a big high. It's all about personal vision and creativity creating something out of nothing, transforming the ugly into the beautiful, or simply turning the not-quite-it into the just-right. Think sow's ears into silk purses. Think Rumpelstiltskin, spinning straw into gold.
My own collecting habits began when I was a small child. I loved to save objects from nature and things other people had discarded. I collected stones, shells, tiny plastic charms, china animals, colorful leaves each time feeling certain that I had saved something precious from a life of obscurity. I was a scavenger.
I transformed my childhood passions into my adult profession when I became a retail display artist. While creating displays for Macy's in Atlanta, I learned perhaps the most important decorating skill I've ever known. I want to share it with you; it's the secret formula in Interior Alchemy. From my earliest mentors, a crew of local display artists with a no-holds-barred sense of style that liberated me, I learned how to "hoosh."
Hoosh was a localism that meant display. As in:
"The top of that armoire needs a good hoosh."
"That table looks great, it just needs a little more hooshing."
"Heavens, it's already ten o'clock. I have to get hooshed."
"Hoosh that cabinet."
A hoosh is an arrangement that works, that has a sense of balance and its own internal coherence. At home, this means taking disparate objects and furnishings that you have and making something whole out of it, something with weight and presence. Hooshing also involves transforming things: finding great collectibles and turning out cunning fakes with staining and aging techniques and some Do-It-Yourself art.
But the most important thing you will need to add to the things you already own may be a fresh outlook rethinking the placement of your furniture and decorative pieces, and having the courage to experiment. You can hoosh everything from a collection of vases, bottles, books, boxes, fabrics, dolls, toys, and brushes, twigs, or bones anything that turns you on. You can hoosh furniture so that the pieces speak to each other. You can hoosh an entire room so that it has a nice feeling of movement from space to space. You can hoosh walls by filling them with pictures all the way up to the ceiling. And you can hoosh a room by understanding how to work with its horizontal and vertical planes of walls and floors by connecting them in mindful, interesting ways. The real art of hooshing lies in coming up with solutions to design problems using the materials at hand.
Each chapter in this book displays a different fabulously hooshed house or apartment. Some spaces are large while others are small; one is really tiny, showing how problems of different orders become the mothers of some very interesting inventions. There's the Attic-style space bursting with collectibles that give the sense of having been layered over time. The Spare home has a Zen like spatial quietness, and clearly makes the most of the visual planes. The Alienated apartment has a kind of future Gothic feel, a place where Victorian meets Blade Runner with absolutely original results. The keys to each style are offered in each chapter, which points out the fundamentals that get you the right effects. And there are step-by-step, illustrated instructions for some do-it-yourself projects, including original picture matting and framing. You can even hoosh up your own chandelier! That will get you going.
The ideas in Interior Alchemy may inspire you to take chances and play with your furniture. You've already got everything it takes just make yourself at home.