Monday, August 31, 2009

The fresh green hallway

Here you can see the orange hallway before with some color samples of green.

Having worked on my hallway for a couple of days, well there are so many details and corners it took longer than I remembered from the last time a couple of years back. Finally it's done and it looks fresh and harmonious with the rest of the house.
I wish it would be a bit larger, since we do not have a muddroom and all traffic goes through that small entrance with absolutely no space for a handsome halltable or a chair, bench or storage.
I managed a small shelf, covered it with a curtain and we hide most often used shoes there. On top sits an african basket for keys, shoehorn and a flashlight...

I used Behr's Primer And Paint in one (in Asparagus, 410D-4), but needed a second coat to cover the strong orange.

All pictures by V.Zlotkowski

Girl's room makeover

Our girl wanted more light and airiness about her room, less pink and more blue, less stuff and more space.
We cleared the room, painted, hammered and fixed everything together. It was much fun.

The room is a merely 10' x 11', tiny, but she considers it her nest and loves the room. At 12 she feels no more needs for toys, but cares for posters and books, her computer, music and her phone. Only space for her Steiff animals collection had to be found. She organized her shoebox size closet without my help and managed well.
Under bed storage houses extra bedding, for the important sleepovers and a small mattress can be tucked behind her bed on these occasions. The windows panes have her graffiti and were not allowed to be removed...

I did not have too much impact in her decorating scheme as you might imagine, I enjoyed working with her and her rather sensible ideas for her room. She absolutely loves the results and that is what counts the most!

Pictures, painting and decorating V.and Ch.Zlotkowski

Friday, August 28, 2009

Weekend flowers

Weekend flowers for all of you lovely readers who keep up with me and a big 'Thank You' for being there, it means so much to me!

Have a wonderful late summer weekend!


Picture by V.Zlotkowski

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Design activities and other thoughts

Over the last few weeks, since I am back from Massachusetts, I've had many thoughts about the way we live now, the needs we have and the things we feel we can not be without.
As a decorator with a keen sense for beauty, a mind for collecting and a hunter mentality I feel torn between my tendencies to find new and pretty things and the urgency to reduce.

Especially after returning from a vacation, where we used much fewer things, where I saw many great old homes with such simplicity, it dawned on me to try to come back to the essential things in my house back home. I try to reduce the need for new pieces, try to find ways to re-use furniture or china for example, try to de-clutter and to find a new balance between collections, loved items and just stuff, which we accumulate over time.

As a professional I feel sometimes a slight dilemma, seeing so many things only hardly used been thrown away, changed and changed again. Series of renovations, new furniture, new styles and never ending needs give me sometimes an uneasy feeling.
And yet I know this is part of my livelihood and my absolute passion.

I try to unite these conflicting ideas, try to fit them together and look for ways to find my way in a time, where consumerism is the basic idea of our daily life.
I encourage my clients to keep and buy things of value and to build up over a long time.

I began cataloging our belongings, started sorting and clearing, and by and by we all found pleasure in cleaning out years of stuff.
My husband and I managed a great deal in the garden, the garage and the attic.
The onset of the new school year was a welcoming time to go through the kids rooms,
file away and give away.
We painted my daughter's room, she sorted through her clothes, books and stuffed animals and wants to keep all things more organized and neat. Her tiny room seems suddenly larger!
The youngest cleaned his Lego, his collections of everything and all his clothes, which he is particular about it in the first place.
They are very proud of the new ideas.
I painted the hallway, it gives me great satisfaction and a lovely sense of accomplishment.


and after

A dresser, which served our babies as changing table at first, became later a piece in my son's and daughter's rooms and now houses all my table linens in the dining room.

I am sorting through my linen closet, cleaned my kitchen drawers ( multiples of almost everything...)and I now begin to think more about true needs before shopping.

I recently read an article in one of my magazines about a family, who for one year did not buy anything new apart for food and entertainment. They became wonderfully resourceful, had things given to them, re-used items for school and play, spend ultimately much more time together. It had great appeal to me.
By the way, I gave up on many of my subscriptions to magazines. It is a new lightness of being.
It has nothing to do with not wanting to spend money, well, it's a great side effect, we spend that saved money on organic food or travel, but the idea is to live more mindful, to be more aware of our needs and to let being be more important than having.

I am still not through with everything here at home, work my way slowly around and discover things I had forgotten we have...
It's going to be a long road! (Make that a winding, lovely country road, with trees for rest and shade...)

It is all very refreshing!


Pictures by V.Zlotkowski, five center pictures from the book 'Domestic Art'

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

To travel back

"As an adult, I have often known that peculiar legacy time brings to the traveler: the longing to seek out a place a second time, to find deliberately what we stumbled on once before, to recapture the feeling of discovery. Sometimes we search out again even a place that was not remarkable in itself - we look for it simply because we remember it. If we do find it, of course, everything is different.
The rough-hewn door is still there, but it's much smaller; the day is cloudy instead of brilliant; it's spring instead of autumn; we're alone instead of with three friends. Or, worse, with three friends instead of alone. The very young traveler knows little of this phenomenon..."

From 'The Historian' by Elizabeth Kostova

I have felt this way for a long time and I enjoy it, to recover the feelings connected to a place in my life's past, which has some meaning.
Location is the glue, that holds my memories together and especially as a traveler who has seen almost too many destinations.
I've had to uproot myself many times, from many places and I need to go back: it brings me closer to myself.
Even when I travel to unknown places I seek out the history, so as to connect with the location on a deeper level, peoples places, homesteads, stories of the region, the changing landscapes.
I need to feel connected, I need to feel that small moment of homecoming, of familiarity and the thrill of recognition.
I love to come back and find things almost unchanged. Or at least parts of it.
As a mother I so long to share it and sometimes I am sad and I often feel, that things that move me deeply make hardly an impression on my young children.
I have been thinking about it a lot of times. I need to be patient, maybe it is too early to share. Especially my American born children live absolutely in the now. The older boys reflect already more on places of the past, but they also had to share to a large degree the moves of their parents, having been uprooted themselves quite often. The younger ones have the benefit of a steady, local childhood. And the interests are so different.
When I was a young girl, I would beg my grandmother for stories from her childhood. They magically opened places of her youth, her marriages and her family to me, by then already things almost entirely lost to the past.
I would lie in bed with her in the dark, she would ask me to caress her arm and she would begin to talk. The darkness of the room swallowed me, allowing me to see into her world.
Sometimes she would softly cry and I felt sad and helpless. I would tell her how much I loved her, she would go on and tell me more. I can see it now as clearly as then. I can still hear her voice.
My younger children have no grandparents to speak often to, visits are usually short and they possibly will never have the chance to ask questions one asks only after having known a person very intimately.
There is a special connection between children and their grandparents, something of the generation gap can be bridged, something we can not do easily with our own parents. (And so it goes into the next round and I might just have to wait for my own grandchildren or for a little later...)

My parents were somewhat impatient towards their parents stories, had a certain feeling of embarrassment, the 'eye rolling - not this story again' kind of mode, but we children loved to hear them. But possibly they were worn by their daily fights to make a living in East Germany, they had other worries and could not bring themselves to dream back.

I am so much more aware of this now, that I am older. Now I am trying to connect and try to hear what my parents have to tell. And I want to visit often, to come back to a place I left far behind long ago.

Traveling begins through stories...I often visit these places in my mind, visit again and again.
Among them are places I have actually never been to.

Picture by V.Zlotkowski

Friday, August 14, 2009

About writing

I am having such a hard time to get back to where I had left off back in June.
I think especially after the long absence I need a little adjusting and I found it rather difficult to start blogging right away, my mind is filled with many new impressions and not all are right away translatable into the blog.

I feel my thinking turning more away from design these days and more towards the way we're leading our lives, philosophy and what I have read lately.

I think I will take some more time and fill the blog with what I believe means something instead of writing on a too personal note and passing my mark...
Apart from the fact that the children are not in school yet and my time is more limited then before, working on my latest project keeps me away from my desk.
So forgive me for the low tide and bare with me until I am up to speed again.

I hope all of you enjoy the last weeks of vacation and family time!

I am still reading your blogs, that is such fun and I so enjoy your company!
I am going to write, but for time being a bit less!


All pictures by V.Zlotkowski, top two at the excellent Peabody Essex Museum in Salem.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Being tagt: What makes my heart happy...

I have been tagt by Rebecca to reveal what makes my heart happy, well, thank you so much for asking and here it comes, in no specific order:

Having my family and all my children under my roof (which is very rare, since my two oldest sons live in Berlin,Germany), talking with them, seeing my children grow, spending time with my husband alone, reading, decorating, working on my design projects, playing piano, time with good friends, sitting at a beach, travelling, taking pictures, creating something beautiful, writing my blog, listening to classical music, working in my garden, thinking of my grandmother Susanne, walking in a lovely landscape far from cities, getting letters in the mail from my friends, coming home after a long absence, being back where I come from - Germany, feeling the strong connection to the past, living with traditions and making new ones...

The more I think about it, the longer that list grows, I feel lots and lots of things make my heart happy and it is so nice to list it here and this makes me feel so happy too!

Thank you Rebecca for making me think about it!


Picture by V.Zlotkowski

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Summer days

The summer days in Gloucester,MA have been wonderfully inspiring, relaxing and gave us hours of bonding. We've had all the time we needed to come back to family life, lazy hours at the beaches, going on long walks with our dog, reading, talking together and making plans, sightseeing, dreaming and of course the joyful decisions of where to eat and all the delicious sea food choices we could make...

This has been family time after a long stretch, we've had a hard year. And our plan not to send the children to sleep away camps but stick together and explore this wonderful country together has been a big success.

We discovered many places, small towns steeped in history, sleepy corners in tiny villages, lobster shacks recommended by the locals, an old cemetery with graves from
200 years ago...

We discovered Boston and Salem, Rockport and Marblehead, we spend a day in Maine and I've finally got to see Concord,MA a place I have had on my list to visit for a very long time. (Luisa May Alcott's Orchard House)

We all needed time to adjust and in the beginning both kids complained of boredom, but slowly we found our ways, our rhythm and the pleasures of slowness.

Our next door neighbor's 4 children became the companions for our kids playing and bathing together at nearby beaches.Their parents opened their 200 year old home to us, shared their wine and told us many tales of the area.

They helped us find hidden treasures and places off the beaten path.
We've met so many delightful people, a local tile artist,who inspired our children to many stepping stones, a lovely woman who invited us for lunch and will be a new friend, a man who made wood his artistry, a painter turned photographer and a photographer who started painting...

We sailed the shoreline of Cape Ann and fell in love with the country.

I've learned so much about the history, of the pilgrims who settled exactly across from our house, 'witches' and their fate, the American revolution (Boston and Concord) and the civil war and it's sad implications. I've read about Harriet and Isabella Beecher Stowe, about Luisa May Alcott and her circle, about the transcendentalists, the Emersons, the Hawthornes and many others who lived in Massachusetts and shaped its identity. One can feel it until today.

Sitting at a cove on our last day a seal stuck his head out several times a looked at us with curiosity, we looked back in awe and said our good byes.

I am so very grateful for the time we've had together, I am grateful for these peaceful days and I am grateful for the new ideas and inspirations for a simpler life which only appeared after this time to reflect.

Soon I'll show you many more pictures, these I have taken with my phone and lack the quality I am usually after, he... they are simple family pics after all...

All pictures by V.Zlotkowski
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