The ever-changing nature of decor

Growing up, we didn't have a fireplace, but we did have a secretary/china cabinet that lived in a weird nook into the hallway that had knick-knacks inside. For me, this was basically just something to collect dust and clean rather than anything I got to have fun with.

After moving out, I've always had a little area that I would decorate, no matter how cluttered the rest of the home got. It's fun to decorate things for the seasons, or just switch it up regularly. In my mind, this would be a fireplace mantle. But somehow I've only had one of those in ONE apartment. So I've made do as best I could. Our last apartment, I put a shelf above the couch about 18 inches from the ceiling, high enough that even the tallest person wouldn't hit their head on the brackets underneath while flopping down. When the room got re-arranged so that it was actually above the walkway, it was still tall enough that it was fine. I liked to use this shelf as my "mantle," decorating it for holidays and such. It was high enough that the cats didn't bother it, and it wasn't tempting to getting cluttered up with drinks or mail or the general daily clutter.
There it's decorated for Valentine's day, with the quilt rack underneath--both decorative AND functional!
My mom once came home from a work seminar, no idea what it was about but she was sharing an anecdote. She said that the lecturer was talking about spacial clutter and mental clutter. She said, "If the top of your head was flat, would you set your coffee and the mail on it? Raise your hand if the answer is yes." Of course, most everyone in the room would. She guessed that those people who said yes also had cluttered desks, crap in their purses, and cars that needed cleaning out--and of course, they all sheepishly agreed. The goal of the seminar was to help these people learn to keep that flat surface clear and ready for action. To view flat surfaces as spaces to be used, transient, not spaces to be filled constantly with things that don't move.

This stuck with me, for some reason. That combined with my training using negative space in desktop publishing combined to teach me an appreciation for clear surfaces. Places to sit the groceries to put them away, not places to leave them for days in the bags. Places to set up a cutting board and cook, not places that need to be cleaned every time I want to make a sandwich or gourmet meal. Places to decorate, to be used, not to be embarrassed by or cover with a lumpy tablecloth when you get unexpected company.

In our current situation this decoration space for me has been the sideboard. Bar. Buffet. Whatever you call it, since it's called all three interchangeably here. Unfortunately, this is also in the traffic center of the house, being in the dining room and right next to the doorway on the way to the kitchen. Every flat surface in that room gets cluttered, and moreso when Pops is in charge of clearing off the table for dinner--everything just gets shoved wherever there is space. As a result the sideboard (my preferred term) gets trashed, and the bookshelves have reportedly been cluttered with random junk for about 1 week less than they've been full of books. But that's a project for a different day.

In an effort to keep this from getting cluttered with junk, I try to keep it full-but-not-bursting with things that reasonably belong there. I put a tablecloth on it to protect it and decorate a bit. We're using it to hold our bar supplies since we don't have a bar set up in the garage yet. It has the open wine collection, which makes perfect sense being in the dining room. And I use it to hold the basket of cloth napkins in a perfectly centered area between all the places people are eating--and right on the way out of the kitchen where you can grab on on the way to your seat. I try to clean it up regularly so it doesn't get too out of hand.

I've done this a couple times now, but this time I took pictures! I seem to have perfected the balance of decor, usefulness, filled and negative space to minimize the clutter build-up, though I'm sure I'll never convince people to just drop things on any flat surface they can find. But that's ok. The key is to keep up with it so it doesn't get out of hand. That's why picking up the dining room is on the weekly chores list!

I'd started picking up on the right end, but just a couple things before I remembered to get clicky with it before continuing. Gotta have blog fodder!

From left to right, front to back when pertinent: Church tissue cover, teapot, triple stacking baskets (empty), cast iron teapot, giant Crown Royal bottle, table caddy, wine collection, candle, bar supplies (more on that later), empty space that constantly gets filled with ad papers and other such clutter, bowl for bottle caps and mini-trash to get sorted and discarded later, basket o'napkins. All on top of a dusty, crumb-y tablecloth.

Half of these things really just don't belong here! And that tablecloth really needs some quality time with the washer.

Time to start from scratch.
Isn't that better? How lovely is that sideboard?! But left like this, it would be 12 hours before it was covered in extraneous junk. Time to find that balance of positive and negative space, usefulness and decoration. And what better excuse to use the new table runner I got for half off at Value Village on Monday?
I may or may not have mentioned that my kitchen is decorated in strawberries...

Perfect fit! Score!

But this is also a great time to spruce things up. This is a cast iron teapot Mr. Moon picked up from a free box at a yard sale. See that bowl? It's for holding hot coals to keep the tea warm. How cool! But so dusty! And so full of texture that just dusting with a cloth wasn't working. Enter the toothbrush. There wasn't really any scrubbing necessary, just a light touch and it cleaned right up, see the bottom of the picture side versus the top? So easy.

In Progress... but oh noes we forgot the wine!

Now what do we have here? Let's get a closer look.
The left end...

This became a little tea station. Still not sure what will go in that bottom basket, but the top one held the 3-wick bowl perfectly! That nice iron teapot, all cleaned up, along with the white one with its creamer pot (though, that is actually full of splenda). A basket full of teabags, carefully arranged to display the colors that coordinate with the pops of pinky-red in the strawberries. And a lovely picture of one of Don's sets of grandparents.

The right end, by the kitchen doorway.

Of course, we have the basket of every-day napkins. That little acorn bowl is perfect for bottle caps and wine corks (the bottle/wine opener is in that drawer), and I can drop little pocket pieces that get strewn about here so they're contained but not a huge project to take care of right away. A little decorative candleholder set, still in need of tealights which are still in storage. And another set of grandparents.

The Center Bar area

This little tray I love for all sorts of things, and I wanted a place it could go to be useful without taking up storage space, but still being easy to clear off if it needed to be used. What you can't see is that it has bamboo sides and a stainless steel bottom, which I've placed a white doily on top. We have a shaker with a couple strainers and a muddler, down inside is a channel knife for garnishing. Another little shaker with a strainer lid, but the lid is missing. There's a fix for that that I found while doing this project that I'll share later. Jigger, with flask funnel. Shot glass. Tiny bottle of Bailey's that could probably go back to the liquor shelf but it's too cute! A nice stainless pitcher with wicker-wrapped handle. A couple high-ball glasses (I think that's what they're called). Aluminum teapot. Steel butter tray, with adorable tiny silverware: two tiny sporks with strawberry handles (perfect for serving olives, pickles, cherries, etc.), and a spreader knife with molded strawberries for a handle.

Oh, that shaker missing a lid?
That jigger wedges on perfectly without getting stuck!

Alright, let's step back and take a wide-view look again:
It's all black, white, and grey/steel and a little warm wood in there, lots of neutral with pops of red and green. I love the fact that there's a little usefulness and a little decoration on both sides, a little black, white, wood, grey, and red on both sides.

Now if only I had time to get through the drawers and cabinet underneath that still looks like a tornado zone... but that's a project for a different day. This day was all about big visible motivation.
Any fun decorating going on in your house? Any areas that you like to fiddle with and switch things out all the time, for visual excitement? What are you working on this week?


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