Alexandra Stoddard has brought beauty and grace to the lives of millions all over the world through her many books, including the phenomenal betseller, Living a Beautiful Life. In Creating a Beautiful Home, Alexandra Stoddard generously shares her professional secrets as an interior designer as well as her personal experiences in renovating and decorating her own 1775 home in Connecticut. Once again, her original and imaginative ideas for every room in the house will inform and inspire you on your own exciting journey of discovery as you transform your living space into a warm and welcoming oasis of harmony, beauty, and joy.
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About the Author
Author of twenty-four books, Alexandra Stoddard is a sought-after speaker on the art of living. Through her lectures, articles, and books such as Living a Beautiful Life, Things I Want My Daughters to Know, Time Alive, Grace Notes, Open Your Eyes, and Feeling at Home, she has inspired millions to pursue more fulfilling lives. She lives with her husband in New York City and Stonington Village, Connecticut.
Read an Excerpt
Creating a Beautiful Home
"The Abiding Place of the Affections"
Stonington Village, Connecticut
July 6, 1992
Today we are celebrating the third anniversary of owning our sweet house. Peter and I are sitting in the sun by the sea. He describes our Connecticut village as "a small finger of land surrounded by water pointed toward heaven." We have fallen in love with our house completely. We immediately sensed that the house was blessed. Church carpenters began putting the frame in place in 1775 for the rectory of the first Baptist minister called to this community; and after living in this dear old house for a few short years, we know for certain that the house is enchanted. We know the history of the people who have lived here; we feel their integrity, character, love of family, country and home. Our house is under some magic spell. It delights us, charms us, captivates us, fascinates us, and above all, it enraptures us. This house has become our friend, our home.
One evening, as we sat by a fire in our living room with our feet up on a comfortable ottoman, we let the room fill with the pink glow of the fire and one single candle. We spoke again to each other about the overwhelming feeling we have when we are here, the divine, spiritual, make-believe quality to our housethat we feel but can't articulate. We know our moods are elevated as we cross the threshold and there is a transformation from reality to fantasy. And we have come to understand that in this house we are fulfilling our impossible dreams, and living our days in contentment and grace.
As an interior designer, I thought I had a pretty good idea about what constitutes a "home." I thought I knew what my clients were going through when I helped them with their houses. But it wasn't until we bought this house that I had a clue to the powerful emotions a house can arouse. I had lived in many beautiful houses. There had been my parents' houses; there had been rented apartments, including the co-op I've shared with Peter for eighteen years, but (as astonishing as it seems to me now) never one I could call my own. Suddenly, I was the client. Everything became deeper and more full of meaning. As a professional, I became more vulnerable, an authority whose knowledge was mirrored back to me personally. For the first time, I was making decisions for our family in an old house that has a soul.
This process of turning a wreck of a house into our abode and then transforming the physical reality into a dream of the ideal home has made me look at my life's work with a new focus, different now because I see things more existentially. How I see and experience this process is the truth about my home. I see everything as if for the first time. The way the light falls on my desk in the morning matters terribly to me. I do the dishes at different times of day, depending on when the light floods into the white porcelain sink, not when a meal is finished. For the first time in my life, I have the luxury 0f making discoveries about a house that may not be apparent upon first inspection but become clear naturally, in time. Only through actual daily living—the reality 0f how we use the house as opposed to its appearance—can we know for sure how we feel at home.
Throughout this book I will ask you many questions about your house or apartment so that you can make your own discoveries and find the answers that best distill your aesthetic, that best fit your own needs and the requirements of your family, and that suit the character and integrity of where you live. Creating my home and writing this book has been a satisfyingly interactive process that has helped me to continue to define my personal philosophy. Asking myself these very same questions has led me to the answers that have helped me turn my own house into a home. As I describe what Peter and I have done, and what we still intend to do, I hope that you will think about those questions—and arrive at your own answers.
Whether you live in your first house or a temporary place, your home—or mine—is finally an attitude and a mind-set you can create and live in and love everyday. In our homes we have the freedom to center around our own uniqueness and spirit and to be at one with the people we choose to live with and love. Here, we can emphasize all the things we value and be personally responsible for the consequences of our choices. I have thought, with deep concentration and humility, about what constitutes a home. As with most of us, it is human to want to give physical expression to that which we hold sacred, and to define ourselves—through light, color, and texture—by the spaces we inhabit, yet I have been in far more houses than homes, as I'm sure you have, too. And in part it is the errors in our designs for living that this book seeks to redress.
Here, together, we can discover the evolution of a house and how it becomes a home. You will reflect on your own aspirations and on what's real and unchanging in your life. Home gently and subtly forces you to face the reality of your unique qualities and to mold, contour, adapt, build, and change the things that don't support this truth.
We live in houses, and when they transcend into homes, they envelop our personality. Whatever is right and good about our lives, whatever is authentic and beautiful, will be reflected in the atmosphere as well as in the details that mirror our souls in meaningful, tangible, physical ways.
Excerpted from Creating a Beautiful Home by Alexandra Stoddard Copyright © 2007 by Alexandra Stoddard. Excerpted by permission.
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Once you've examined your own lifestyle preferences, decisions about decorating will come naturally. Start by asking yourself questions: Do you like spare, spartan rooms, or do you prefer cozy clutter? Are you looking for a dramatic or a serene effect? What are some of your favorite pieces of furniture? Asky youself why you like them -- and never be afraid to surround youself with things you have chosen because of their special meaning for you. And, finally, try to analyze your specific, current needs, and consider ways your home may evolve to meet them without destroying the spirit of your place or your personal aesthetic.