Friday, June 10, 2011

The Writing on the Wall

I'm not a natural born home decorator. As a kid, my family moved around a lot, and as a young adult I continued to do the same. In my twenties and early thirties, when I lived in Manhattan, I occupied ten different apartments in as many years. As a result, I tended to avoid things that gave me a sense of domestic permanence, like hanging curtains or investing in decent furniture. (The other side of that coin is that I'm also a hopeless pack rat, and I've carried around things over the years that any normal person would've easily gotten rid of, but that's a different subject altogether.) So even though we've lived in our Brooklyn home for about seven years now, I've yet to hang pictures on many of the walls, or commit to anything as lasting as wallpaper. But inasmuch as I do decorate, my technique is akin to a scrap booker who collects the minutiae of my family's life, but I stick it on my walls rather than inside the closed pages of a book. In our kitchen, an entire wall is given over to a large bulletin board that forms a snapshot of our existence. Its in a constant state of revision, just as we are, and changes every few months. Of course it includes lots of photos and drawings that the children make, and its where I put tickets to upcoming concerts or plays so I won't lose them. Right now it's also home to Henry's number from last year's NYC Marathon (his first) and his medal from last year's NYC Triathlon (his third). Its got things we've found in the park (feathers and autumn leaves sealed in a bag), and postcards from friends in far off places (India, Australia). Its got birthday party invitations, one wedding invitation, and one letter to Paul McCartney from Jake, asking for an audience. Its also got pictures of art our friends made, and postcards from craft fairs where I've vended.

Jake wrote this letter to Paul McCartney a couple of years ago, but its a keeper.

The postcard of the the woman in the top right corner is a painting done by my mother-in-law, the more abstract looking postcard in blues and greens was for an exhibition to our friend Melora Griffis's paintings.

I love this spot in our house, and my kids seem to understand how much I love it because when any of them has produced a creation he is particularly proud of he comes to me asking "Can we hang it on the board?"

Jake's poem about a shooting star takes pride of place on "the board", as its known in our house.

The board was made simply by hanging three large sheets of cork alongside one another. No paint job or pretty paper cover, no fancy crisscrossing ribbons for tucking things inside. Cork, tacks, and the things we love to look at and talk about are all that went into making this particular piece of art.

One other similar decorating project I managed to do a while back in a fit of domestic motivation was this combination chalkboard/magnetic wall in the tiny vestibule in the front of our house.

I made this very simply by first painting the entire wall with two coats of magnetic paint. You can get this paint at any largish hardware/home improvement store or store selling a decent selection of paints. Note that even with two coats, this paint isn't super magnetic; it's well suited for the magnetic poetry magnets we like to make up poems with, but it isn't really strong enough to hang anything weighty from.

When this was thoroughly dry, I marked off a rectangle in the middle with some painters tape, and covered it with two coats of chalkboard paint, also pretty readily available anywhere you can buy regular house paint.

I was going to buy some thin, decorative wooden molding and install it around the rectangular frame of the chalkboard, but I ran out of steam. I think it looks pretty groovy just as it is, though. At first I used it to write out the weekly schedule and any pertinent things I needed to remember on the way out the door (i.e. "Tuesday-Bring Jake's permission slip for field trip!" "Friday: Charlie 2:00 Dr. appt!"). Then I decided to do away with that plan, because its much more fun now for the kids and I to leave messages to one another. And even though my two little guys can't read or write yet, they have fun scribbling with chalk. Its great to have ONE wall in the house where they can actually draw without getting in trouble.

I love that this is the first thing I see when I walk in the door of my house.
Soon I'll be posting about some other artwork I've managed to hang up that was a collaborative effort between the kids and I.
Until then, I'll leave you with one of my favorite (still!) songs about home.
The Talking Heads' This Must Be the Place


  1. I had a similar childhood with frequent moving and also have never really taken to hanging things on walls. I prefer to think of it as a minimalist approach to home decor :).

  2. I'm reading this before going to work ... I can't tell you how much it inspires me :)
    love to all of you