After decades of subscribing to various (OK, too many) home decorating magazines (a.k.a. house porn), I’m seriously considering cancelling at least one if not more of my subscriptions. The reason? I’m finding I like the “Before” pictures better than the “After”. Yikes! I’ve outlived the decorating fashion cycle. Without naming names, I noticed that one of my favourite Canadian decorating mags recently featured makeovers that reinterpreted the apartment from my first marriage in the seventies. It was all geometric wallpapers in headache-inducing colours, hard surfaces and, oh lordy lordy, an honest-to-goodness real-life macramé hanging planter. As they say in the world of fashion trends, “If you’ve worn it once, don’t do it again.” The same applies to home decorating. I’m certainly not about to start cruising ebay for my vintage polyester orange shag rug that required raking.
I’ve spent many years and most of my RRSP neutralizing my large decorating pieces like sofas, chairs and carpets so that I can blow my brains out on whatever pop of colour in accessories the experts tell me I can do more economically. I’ve tried that approach and I like it. I can change my cheap sofa throw cushions seasonally. My bed coverings can be easily swapped out for summer and winter looks and I never get tired of my plain sheets and towels. Old boomers like me also tend to enjoy throw covers to keep us warm when we’re binge-watching The Crown and they can be picked up in the yummiest colours. For a minimal investment we can change our entire “look” with one quick trip to Ikea, Urban Barn, HomeSense or Crate & Barrel when their sales are on.
Then, there are those who choose to throw good money after fads and trends. Tell me why anyone would ever want to install an expensive imported Portuguese tile backsplash in a bold, dizzying black and white pattern or crazy green and orange graphics? I know I’d get sick of it in about forty-eight minutes. And furthermore, if you put the house up for sale, any prospective purchaser will instantly subtract from his offer the cost of ripping it out and replacing it with white subway tiles. Spare me another go-round of teak furniture, moss green upholstery and patterned drapes. Unless you can afford to redecorate every year, keep the big investment pieces neutral. The decorating gurus got that part right. Obviously, I’m a strong candidate for the Brian Gluckstein Medal of Honour for my use of taupe in interior decorating. I’ve earned and I’m proud of it.
It’s the nature of business however, to keep selling magazines and furniture and the only way to do that is to induce us to want something different, better or trendier. It’s the same in clothing, makeup, shoes and automobiles. It’s called built-in obsolescence and Apple ingeniously engineers it into their iPads and iPhones. We have no choice after a few years to trade in the old, still functional consumer item and replace it with something supposedly better, more efficient and shinier. Which is why I would never recommend buying expensive consumer items—purses excepted of course.
When I first married in the seventies, we were advised to buy quality furniture that would last a lifetime. Who wants a high quality Barrymore sofa and loveseat in dusty rose with a pattern of exotic birds on it that will last forever? Well, my second husband sure didn’t. So I sold the set for a pittance, covered with an Ikea white twill slipcover because used furniture has little to no resale value. And the cheque bounced from the woman I sold it to so I had to go after her for $200.00. Today, that same sofa and loveseat set would cost thousands of dollars to replace. That one still stings.
Moral of the story
Our tastes change over the years and particularly when we’re young, it’s not a good idea to buy expensive furniture. Just ask any baby boomer or their parents who are trying to download that heirloom dining room suite to millennials who would much rather have something cool and contemporary from Structube or Ikea. Off to the charity shop goes Grandma’s treasured antique solid cherry desk that no one in the family wants. Buy what you like within your budget and be prepared to swap it out in a few years when you need a change of scenery.
By the time boomers are grandparents, we’ve pretty much nailed what we like and are content with what we’ve whittled ourselves down to. Downsizing is a big part of our lives now as we move from the family home into something smaller, whether a condo or a smaller house. That transition often calls for more compact furniture (except in televisions) but we can still repurpose a lot of what we already have.
We could probably afford to replace that worn out old leather LaZgirl but we’ll just get a newer version of the same thing. The neutral Hudson’s Bay polar fleece point blanket thrown over our legs keeps us warm and cozy while we watch the Leafs get humiliated for yet another year. It’s so lovely to kick back in our taupe-coloured recliner with a cup of tea or a glass of wine and watch reruns of The Big Bang Theory on our magnificent 4G 55-inch big-screen television. Am I losing my decorating mojo?