Stories from middle America

before and after

Before and after of the living room.

It is Sunday morning, blissfully early. The home I have known for the past ten years is quiet. The kind of quiet I savor on mornings like this. I sit here with a mug of pumpkin spice coffee, wrapped in my plush purple robe, and take in my relatively new surroundings. Up until a few months ago, my living room/dining room space was awash in bland neutrals, boring pictures, and blasé furnishings.

When I bought my home ten years ago, I “designed” the space with Earth tones in mind: browns, greens, tans, a splash of dark red here and there. These colors were not among my favorites, you see; rather, they were easy.

“They were safe and easy to match”, I told Jessica recently. “Do I love them? No. But I felt I could pair them with other hues somewhat effortlessly.”

It was not until taking a critical eye to this dual-purpose space that I realized my choices were only easy for one simple reason: they were all pretty awful. And what’s easier than matching awful with even more awful? (Although I am laying on the sarcasm thick like the Nutella on my whole wheat toast, there is some truth here.)

After landing a new job last year that yielded a nice bump in pay but also involved the responsibility of staying in a hotel out of town two nights every week, my space at home left me feeling trapped. The brown walls, the mass-produced “artwork,” the vague topiaries, the floral throw pillows, and dusty candles I never lit started to smother the creative side of my brain and my personality.

For years I have prided myself on adopting a personal style that was a little bit vintage, a little bit colorful, and a whole lot unexpected. After several talks with Jessica-–typically over chilled mimosas and a creamy wedge of brie-–I realized, with her keen observation and astute designer’s eye, that my living quarters never truly matched who I was; and, even more accurately, who I was continually becoming.

before and after

Before and after of the living room.

As a woman at thirty-three who will be married in less than three weeks, this space I shared with my future husband (another creative personality who has met my wit if ever anyone did) was no longer relevant, no longer reflective of who I was. This space demanded redecoration of the highest order. The heinously designed hotels where I laid my head two nights a week left me craving a space that was beautiful and welcoming the moment I arrived home on Thursdays.

So with some trepidation, a bit of excitement, and a general idea of my budget, I asked Jessica for her help. Let me tell you, it is a very scary thing to welcome a stranger–-let alone a good friend-–into your home and willingly listen to an honest critique of your taste. After Jessica first arrived and took in my surroundings, my butterflies slowly dissolved.

The reason?

It is hard to be bristled by feedback when the subject is not something you truly love.

“The brown walls too dark? Of course! Let’s change them; I am so over them,” I found the courage to say in agreement with Jessica. How could constructive criticism do any damage when all I craved was dramatic change?

With each piece and each corner we examined and evaluated, I realized the entire reason I asked for Jessica’s help was because I no longer loved this space. Whatever design faux pas I made in the past was now irrelevant. We were starting anew, beginning with a fresh coat of paint, followed by new artwork, new seating, and a stunning chandelier.

As the weeks of my redecorating project continued, Jessica-–and any interior designer worth her or his salt-–gave my own personal style a name: Granny Chic. The minute she precisely identified the look I wanted, the subsequent steps were easy as (my late grandma’s apple) pie. No longer did I blandly scan Pinterest and interior design websites, trying to make sense of what spoke to me. With a general definition of my own style, finding pieces became within my reach.

At times Jessica would suggest a lamp or throw pillow that the Old Wendy would vehemently (yet politely) question. The New Wendy, however, embraced the change, the opportunity to not see the entire puzzle just yet, but rather savor the individual pieces. And in helping me pick the pieces, Jessica also explained the “why” behind them all: why a taller side table was necessary between the chairs; why framed art looks best in bunches with large white matting; why filling every wall is not always an immediate priority.

Now that my redesign project is largely complete, I can liken the experience to the adoption of a new health regimen. If I want to eat healthier, I first need to stop eating (and buying) crap. Next, I need to completely change the way I view food, be smarter about my selections. The same, you see, is true with interior design. First, I needed to STOP buying home accessories that did not speak to me. Second, I needed to completely alter my view on what was popular versus what I loved. I had followed this guideline for years when shopping for clothing; now, I needed to do the same with home furnishings.

I knew what I loved in fashion. Why was it so difficult to do the same in my own home, a space that I loved and spent so many important hours of my sweet little life? As I have come to learn, the commitment is scary at first. New paint? But it’s so permanent! To which I learned to reply to my inner self: And so what? If you hate it, change it.

I would never know the joy and bliss of my redesigned space if not for a modest budget, a willingness to change, a desire for inspiration, and the help of a good (and talented) friend. And so on this quiet Sunday morning, I put down my MacBook Air for a few moments longer to look around and savor these surroundings. Know why? Because it’s not a magazine ad or website photo; this stunning space is all mine.

  • Becky Bohan Brown

    Wendy: “Granny Chic” no more;) Jessica did a
    wonderful job because I adore your new Wendy’s spaces. The pictures are

    • Wendy Townley

      Becky, thank you so very much! I am beyond thrilled with the final design 🙂

  • Erin McBride

    Wow! Looks fantastic.

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