I have lived many places in my adult life in five different states including Wisconsin, my home state. Whether it was a small house in the Rio Grande Valley, apartments, good old Milwaukee bungalow duplexes or, in the last 17 years since marrying Tom, snug houses of our own, the question was always, how do I make this place a home?
A friend told me that our home feels warm and welcoming. I hope that’s true, because that’s exactly what I want people to feel. Whether it’s makeshift furniture or a room of nice, new furniture, I think it’s possible to make almost any place feel homey.
Back when I was a single parent and didn’t have much to work with, I had a few things that moved with me—a very used piano, lots of good books (even though the bookcases were far from beautiful), a well-used but comfortable couch with the ever-present afghan on the back , a rocking chair my mom bought me and a couple of serviceable lamps and end tables. I got a nice pendulum clock for the wall one Christmas as a gift, and that added a homey touch.
I have never had much of a sense of decorating style. Years ago, I had a friend with a magazine house in the Washington Highlands of Wauwatosa. She was so gifted in decorating that it took my breath away. She made her home feel cozy and comfortable at the same time. She had the knack of re-doing old furniture with paints, and she would sometimes sell these lovely tables and chairs at special sales. When she threw a wedding shower for me back in 1995, her table settings alone were so beautiful.
That sure isn’t my gift, but I try to make my home cozy in my own way. One of my favorite pieces of furniture is my round end table with shelves for favorite books. It polishes up beautifully (on the rare occasions that that happens!), and it invites anyone who is so inclined to pick up some of my (somewhat motley) books I’ve collected over the years from used bookshops.
One thing I determined early on was that I didn’t want TV’s in an obvious place. I wanted my children to see books around them instead. I personally find it a little sad that where a mantel clock once would have taken pride of place, it is the current trend to attach massive flat screen TV’s over the fireplaces in living rooms. Everybody has their own views and preferences, but I wanted to encourage reading, so I put bookshelves in my living room instead.
But the truth is, children don’t have a clue what quality the furniture is, or how worn the couch is. If you take the time to snuggle up with them with a book to read, all they know is the love and security they feel. The little things you add to a room are really small extras. What children will remember is the time you spent with them.
Making a home feel homey starts with the people in it, really. All the cozy, charming accessories and furniture won’t mean a thing if the atmosphere in a home is full of tension and conflict. It’s the love and care our families feel that can make even a poorly constructed apartment feel like a little bit of heaven.
Home is a place in our hearts. I want my children to carry with them out into an often bleak world memories of a warm, safe place where they were loved unconditionally and prayed for and taught the things about life that matter most. If I accomplish that, I will feel like I did my homemaking job well.