Knock, Knock…Who’s There?

Last month I hosted a dinner party for some new friends that had never been to our home before. After getting “the tour”, one of the women excitedly said, “this is exactly how I imagined your house would be“. From her tone, I knew that this was a compliment and I was delighted that her understanding of who I am internally was reflected in my surroundings externally. I have heard my home described as warm, inviting and comfortable. To me, these are compliments of the highest order, as they are qualities I strive for personally.

During a recent luncheon another friend wanted to see my office. She stood in the middle of the studio, closed her eyes and took in a deep breath. “Can you feel that wonderful energy?” she said. I smiled, knowing that this is an energetic state that I actively cultivate and not a matter of happenstance. I have always thought of my studio as a sacred space. It is the place where I invite inspiration and maintain the clarity needed to keep all of my professional and personal plates spinning smoothly. I work hard to keep it full of vital (and positive) energy. I know that setting those intentions and putting my effort towards them is what’s creating those palpable energetic results.

With close to 30 years of residential interior designing under my belt I have been in too many homes to count. Like a doctor determining a patients’ health by looking at the external body, I am able to see the symptoms of imbalance and “dis-ease” by observing the vibe of the home. Happy people – happy home. Chaotic lives – chaotic home. Bummed out people – you guessed it.

Years ago I got a call from a woman saying she needed my design help because she “hated” her home. When I pulled up I could not figure out why she used such a strong word. It was a sprawling, Tudor styled home in one of the most exclusive towns on Philadelphia’s Main Line. But as I walked toward the door my initial perception began to change. The doorbell didn’t work and there were cigarette butts and old newspapers in the bushes by the front door. When the homeowner came to the door she was on the phone and holding a stack of papers in her hand. She waved me in and I was able to see several rooms from the large front foyer. There were boxes and piles of mail everywhere and suitcases sat at the bottom of the steps. Dry cleaning hung on the knob of a cabinet and looked as if it had given up hope of ever being put away. When her called ended the woman gave me “the tour”. I noticed that she peeked her head in each room rather than enter fully. It was quickly evident that she viewed her home as a place of neccessity and nothing more. As we talked further she told me about the messy divorce, the demanding career and complained about her unruly kids. After about 30 minutes I was dying to get out of there and breathe some fresh air. I was choking on the negativity, which hung like smog in every part of the house. I knew that beautiful fabrics and fresh paint would make it a pretty home, but unless she was willing to invest some of herself and shift her mindset, it would never be a happy one. By the end of the meeting it was clear that her involvement began and ended with writing the checks.

I called the next day to say that I regretted not being able to take on her project.
She would have never understood that only half of the changes I help people make can be seen or sat on.

I’ve always made a conscious decision to work with people who have a deeper understanding of what “home” is. I recently got a call from a couple that was delighted to be building their “dream home”. They’d worked hard to parlay their investments and efforts into buying a beautiful piece of property in Virginia. We set up an initial meeting to review the scope of the project and the preliminary drawings that had been done. Never once did they mention a specific design style that they wanted to achieve or a particular physical possession that they “just had to have”. They talked so enthusiatically about the design of the life they would live in that home – how the kids would grow up there, how family and friends would gather there and how they might grow old and gray there. I know that this will be a truly beautiful home. Not only because of my efforts, but because they are adding the essential elements that could never come from a designer or architect.

If we look at our homes (and our lives) as an outsider would, what would we see? Would we see a reflection of a life we want to be living? If we peeked in the windows would we see a place that invites love, inspiration and life energy? Or, are the curtains drawn with no one at home. Would you want to knock on the door and meet the people living inside?

I help people to fix what isn’t working in their lives by starting to fix what isn’t working in their physical surroundings. But any solid fix requires an accurate diagnosis of the problems. To discover where the problems lie, I recommend a very simpe exercise. Pretend that you are listing your home for sale. Make an imaginary flyer listing all of the attributes that make your home, and the life you lead there, desirable. I’m not talking about copper gutters and high ceilings. I’m talking about those intangibles that don’t show up on a comp list. Things like good energy and spaces for inspiration, relaxation and enjoying the company of others.

Now think about all the things you wouldn’t put in your ad – that its cramped by clutter? That your 14 hour work days allow you to keep ignoring things that need your attention? That you are too embarrassed and overwhelmed to have others come in?

Find the things you want to hide in your home and in your life and you have found the very things that need your attention. Make a “to do” list and start addressing them and knocking them off your list. You may just find yourself in a place you love living.

“He is the happiest, be he king or peasant, who finds peace in his home”
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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