The Hidden Art of Homemaking, Chapter 5: Interior Decoration

It’s Week 5 of  The Hidden Art of Homemaking Book Club hosted by Cindy at Ordo Amoris where we’re discussing Edith Schaeffer’s book, The Hidden Art of Homemaking a chapter at a time.

Chapter 5 is about Interior Decoration, and I have to say I think this might be the chapter I feel most at home in so far, because Edith talks about decorating one’s living space, whether a “dream home” or a boarding house room, not with the latest decorating fads for a magazine-worthy decor, but with originality and personality. She says our “spot” should not only express something of ourselves to visitors but should also be a place that is satisfying and feels “at home” to us. She advises the reader not to wait for certain funds or the ideal home (some of my frustrations along those lines are here) or even for marriage, but to start right where we are with personal touches to our space, and as she has said in previous chapters, ideas beget ideas, creativity begets more creativity.

She shares some personal examples that may be beyond the scope of what many of us can or want to do, but they’re good for sparking ideas. Some are time-honored traditions, like making quilts or rugs from scraps, or restoring old furniture rather than buying new. We did some of this when we were first married, transforming a storage barrel used in college into a side table with a long tablecloth over it. Once when the kids wanted a tree house, and new lumber was prohibitively expensive, my husband found some used wooden palettes and took the boards apart, sanded them down and made a great tree house. That was one of the things I hated leaving behind when we moved.

After last week’s chapter about drawing and sketching, I began to wonder why she didn’t include crafts or home arts, like embroidery, quilting, etc., but she mentions them here.

There is nothing inherently wrong with buying new furniture and decorations, and we’ve done a good bit of that as well, but the goal should be to make it homey and express one’s own tastes and personality.

We do need to keep in mind the other people with whom we live. I don’t believe in stripping the place bare when young children are in the house, but that’s probably not the time for antique vases. I have decidedly feminine tastes in decorating, but living with all males, I’ve tried to have the family room, at least, more neutral. My husband has said that if he lived alone he probably wouldn’t think to decorate, but he does appreciate the homeyness decorations add. He usually leaves the decorating choices up to me, but we do major furniture shopping together and consult on paint colors, etc.

We need to keep in mind, too, that “this world is not our [ultimate] home,” that we’re to lay up treasures in heaven rather than earth, that here on earth moth doth corrupt and thieves can break through and steal, and we’re not to set out hearts too much on “things.” And sometimes “we are to be willing to sacrifice in the area of material things as well as in all other areas, to put first the things of God, to put first His use of our time, or money, and our talents” (p. 79). I was reminded of that just yesterday morning with this post about a time of loss. Isobel Kuhn tells of a time early in her marriage when they were ministering to a poor  tribe whose manners were decidedly different from her own. She was pleased with her nesting and her newlywed “things,” but then one of the women blew her nose into her hands and then wiped them on the new couch, and a mother held her baby away from her while the baby urinated on the new rug. Those things weren’t done to express hostility toward Isobel – it’s just the way things were done there. She had to struggle to not let her precious “things” take precedence in her heart over the needs of the people she was working with, and she learned to be very practical with her possessions. The Goforths lost everything four different times in their lives. After the last time, “when, in the privacy of their own room, the ‘weaker vessel’ broke down and wept bitter, rebellious tears, Goforth sought to comfort her by saying, ‘My dear, after all, they’re only things and the Word says, ‘Take joyfully the spoiling of your goods!’ Cheer up, we’ll get along somehow.’” He wasn’t being calloused: he had a generally faith-filled, buoyant spirit, while his wife had…one rather more like my own. We need to hold all of God’s material gifts to us loosely, remembering they are ultimately His and He has promised to supply all we need.

But even within those parameters, He often allows for some expression of personality and creativity in our living spaces.

I shared a tour of my house here, but I thought I might share just a couple of those expressions of personality here.

This one has a story behind it:


I collected Boyd’s Bears figurines for a while, and this is a small figurine of a flower basket with a teeny little bear hiding in it. I kept it on the windowsill above the kitchen sink for a while. One day I found this little dinosaur next to it, put there by one of the boys when they were younger. I don’t know if the dinosaur was supposed to be after the flowers or the bear. 🙂 Or maybe the boys were just adding to the decorations. But I’ve always loved this as a picture of living with boys, and now I keep these together in a little curio cabinet.

Of course, living with boys, sometimes the “decorating” gets a little out of hand…

Life with boys

I mentioned Boyd’s Bear figurines – I posted some of my collection here. I just love their little faces and the details of them. There is only room for so many, though, before they become just a blur of too many to keep track of, but I tried to get my collection to reflect my interests – there is one holding the music to an Irish folks song, one reading a book, a couple cooking, several “Mom” and “couple” ones. Most were given to me by my husband or Mom.

Another of my favorites is a needlepoint piece I did when expecting my first son. My youngest still had it up in his room until his twelfth birthday, when we took it down so he wouldn’t get teased about it. That was kind of sad – an official turning from little boyhood.

Needlework bears

You can’t really tell from the picture, but there are different types of stitching in different places and the little cookies are raised rather than flat.


This is one I am hanging on to. I don’t know if I will hand it off to a grandchild (if any of their parents want it) or keep it for a playroom here.

A few years ago I realized that I had done a lot of cross stitch through the years that I had given away for gifts, but didn’t have much that I had done for my own home. I wanted to do a few pieces both to express my own personality and maybe to hand down to progeny. Of course, my tastes are more feminine, as I said, and having all boys, I don’t know if they’d be interested in any of these just because their mom made them, and daughters-in-law will have their own tastes. I hope when I am gone that they will keep some things like this for grandchildren – I often wish I had something personal from my grandparents. But at any rate, these are a couple of my favorites:

Our only investment in “real art” was a set of prints by Paula Vaughan, a gift to me from my husband, who knew how much I liked them. But I have also framed cards and pages from calendars.

I did have one class in Home Furnishings in college, where we learned a bit about elements of art and principles of design, but I am far, far from expert in it. I never did get to go on and take the next class, Interior Decorating, which I would have loved, I think. Sometimes I watch decorating shows and “get” what the designers are saying, sometimes I have no idea. 🙂 I don’t always agree with what they do, but I sometimes enjoy listening to their reasons. But though some of these principles and elements are helpful (i.e., wondering why something looks “wrong” with the end table next to the couch and then realizing that it’s because the lamp there is way too small in proportion to the rest of the furniture), overall what’s most important is what Edith stresses: making a place homey, comfortable, and an expression of your own creativity and personality.

More discussion on this chapter is here.

This post will be also linked to Women Living Well.

13 thoughts on “The Hidden Art of Homemaking, Chapter 5: Interior Decoration

  1. So delightful, Barbara! I absolutely love your sons’ ideas of “decorating.” It’s great you shared those. :o) It must be fun to have all those men around. I am glad they let you use pink and roses–even if they did add a dinosaur or a dart to them!

    Years ago, when we were just about to become missionaries, I asked a lady missionary to help me know what to take and what not to take. She told me to take the “little things that will make your house a home.” I didn’t have much, but I’m glad I did take those little touches to warm up my very gaudily wallpapered first apartment in a strange country.

    I think the key is, as you said, to make your space “yours.” It’s the place where you and your family live, and it needs to be your personal oasis, a real home. It doesn’t matter how big it is or how fancy, but even a fistful of wildflowers will make any house your own. :o)

    Thank you for sharing!

  2. i love how much home means to you. it is something that though i don’t currently experience, i remember from having lived in the same house for my whole childhood. it’s fun to hear you chatting about your ‘place’. thanks for sharing!!

  3. I really liked the cross stitches and your interior decor is lovely. It’s nice to have someone to consult with and shopping together for things like these.

  4. Lovely cross-stitch!

    I could show almost identical pictures of nerf darts and boy toys intermingled among my things. My favorite is the Star War figurines that get put among all the Willow Tree figurines on the mantle. I always smile and let them stay there for awhile because I know one day they won’t be there!

  5. I have a general theme of airsoft going on in my house too, including the permanent ping mark on the TV where someone shot it. It has become a good lesson on grace and the scars of sin. Every time we watch TV it is on someone’s face or in the picture.

    I don’t know where all my old cross stitch stuff is but I sure spent a lot of hours doing it. I decorated my first nursery with it.

    Yours are very, very pretty.

  6. Beautiful needlework! I do appreciate what you said about not storing up things on this earth, or growing too attached to our possessions. I think we struggle more with this in 2013 than Schaeffer’s generation did in 1970. I have hauled around some old family treasures, small ones, for many years, often with no place to put them, so they stay in boxes. But they’re precious to me anyway. The one home we owned where I had space to display everything, and everything came out of their boxes? We only lived there 18 months! God has a perfect plan.

  7. I also am always thinking of the coming generations and want to preserve some heirlooms for some of the grandchildren or great-grandchildren. I notice that the men don’t usually think about these things. 🙂

  8. Love this post!! I’ve often thought that I’d like to go back to school and take classes in interior design and decorating.
    I adore the flowers and dinosaur together. How sweet that you kept it that way.
    I think we have similar tastes in decorating, and obviously I can relate to being the only lady in a house full of males. I try to tone down some of my feminine influences too but they don’t seem to mind all my lace and flowers.

  9. Wonderful post barbara! You’ve addressed so many important issues and summed it all up so nicely.
    I am finding in this season of my life that what held onto and thought would be important to my children is not so much. I wish I were more selective about what I kept, my cleaning out projects now would be much simpler!
    I love collections, and I get sentimental about every little possession. Not sure why, but that seems to be the way I’m wired. Working hard at investing in relationships rather then things these days.

  10. Pingback: Book Review: The Hidden Art of Homemaking | Stray Thoughts

  11. Pingback: A Christian Philosophy of Things | Stray Thoughts

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