I was thinking this morning about the new tablecloth, and the kinds of things I look for in antiques shops, the kind of things I like. And I also got to thinking about how the phrase "not your grandma's X" bothers me.
It bothers me on one level because it turns "grandmas" into a single, homogenous group- it stereotypes. But also, as I said, I had pretty cool grandmas and I don't like to think of them being run down in that way. (I probably read too much into the silly phrase).
But then I got to thinking more about the decorating style of my house. I tend to look for "midcentury" things when I go to antiques shop. Not high-style midcentury stuff like you might see on the set of Mad Men, but the kind of ordinary everyday things that people out in the middle of the country bought and used.
I like those printed tablecloths (like the one I posted yesterday). And I like feed sack fabric. (I also just like the IDEA of feed sack fabric; that flour and grain and chicken meal were once sold in a container that could be repurposed for something else, and that it even got to the point where the container was as important as its contents). And I like "figural" salt and pepper shakers or teapots. Or dishes with pretty flowers on them. Or little china figurines of dogs. Or those clothespin holders that are shaped like a little dress or pair of overalls. Or those souvenir plates from different places.
I admit it; I like what some people dismiss as "kitsch." I like it because it takes the functional and tries to make it cheerful. Or at least, idiosyncratic. And on a simpler level: I like it because the colors tend to be attractive to my eyes: bright pastels or those slightly greyed-down pastels like the feedsack fabrics tend to have.
I think part of my design sense (if you can call it that) was formed by my maternal grandmother. She lived in an old house (older than the one I now inhabit; in fact, her house had plumbing retrofitted to it and the bathroom was a later add-on - in the late 40s or early 50s. (My mom grew up without running water in the house)). She hadn't "redecorated" in a long time - just painted the walls as they needed it. But the house had some of the old linoleum in place, and much of the furniture was 30 or more years old. And she had flowered plates and crocheted potholders shaped like fruit and little china dog figurines.
I think also my sense of design was influenced by reading Country Living magazine back during my formative years. This would have been the era of the "heavy" country look (the mid to late 80s) - dark wood, lots of stuff around, quilts on the walls. The "country" look, at least as promoted by Country Living these days has changed - it's become lighter and more dependent on pale neutral colors and really isn't that different from the styles in a lot of other magazines.
Possibly my fondness for "figurals" (either figurines of animals, or useful household objects made to look like an animal or some other object) is a carry over from childhood - my two favorite types of toys were my stuffed toy animals and the little plastic animal figures you used to be able to get at any five and dime. So now I have china figurines of dogs, and Matryoshka measuring cups, and even a bunch of tiny My Little Pony figures in my house....things for me to look at and be happy about.
And you know? While dust on the floor bothers me, a certain amount of clutter does not. (Note to self: move all my blindbag ponies off the piano before tuner comes tomorrow morning). I like having stuff up on the walls, I like having shelves of stuff on display. I know that kind of thing makes some people twitch; there are people who can't stand to be in a room where there's STUFF around. I don't know. I suppose I live with a certain amount of clutter because my parents did: they had lots of books, and they had souvenirs from their travels out on display (they traveled a lot in the Southwest before my brother and I were born). They let my brother and me play with toys in the family room (some of my friends were not permitted to even bring toys out of their bedrooms). They let us do art projects, even if that meant there were drippy half-done paintings draped on the kitchen counter or bits of clay to clean up off the floor. More of a tolerance of the fact that life is messy, and if you're going to be creative, things can't be perfect.
I think also seeing my mom do lots of things - gardening, and sewing, and quilting, and knitting, and embroidery, and crochet - made me believe that it was a "normal" thing, that "everyone" did it, and I wanted to do it, too. I'm glad I was exposed to that as a kid; having hobbies have made my life so much richer.
So, all of those early influences - and maybe some kind of inborn sense of taste, I don't know - are what make me squeal with delight over tablecloths printed with vintage-style seed packets, or feel drawn to 1930s style fabrics, or want to put up shelves to put animal figurines on it.
I can appreciate those perfect, clean, all-neutral-color rooms in magazines, but I don't think I could live in one. (One thing I always wonder about some magazine pictured rooms: where do people keep their books? Or how to they manage their hobbies? In my house, there are books EVERYWHERE and I usually have at least three knitting projects sitting on the ottoman waiting for me to work on them)