OK, so this feature isn’t my usual special party, but it is a celebration in its own right – of the smaller things in life that we (or at least, I) too often take for granted. After a whirlwind winter of event-hopping to promote my latest book, I finally returned home earlier this month. My first obsessive-compulsive impulse upon “landing” was to tend to the many home projects that have been calling out for attention for months – like taming the dust bunnies bouncing in every corner and the honeysuckle that’s choking my backyard. Alas, I couldn’t muster the strength.

My next impulse was to start my equally large number of neglected work projects – instructional videos, assorted TV pitches, a new book proposal . . . the list goes on. Yet again, no taste for this stuff. I waffled for a while with no sense of purpose. Then I did what I rarely do . . .

I chilled out, soaked up my surroundings, and took a moment to appreciate what I have rather than fret about what I want or need to do. Here, you’ll find the results of my reflection (yes, even reflecting bears results): some photos of what I love best about my home (family members aside) and notes about how repurposing and other simple decorating principles can bring richness to life.

1 | Treasure Trove.

Jumble of Jewelry
Jumble of Jewelry Photo by Julia M. Usher

First, don’t hide your special things. Leave them out, like I have my favorite necklaces and earrings (top photo), so they can be celebrated every time you walk by. Also remember: treasures needn’t be expensive; all of the jewelry shown here is budget costume-quality made to look first-rate by grouping similar colors on a beautiful plate.

2 | Old is the New New.

Garden Room Glamour
Garden Room Glamour Photo by Julia M. Usher

You betcha. Even old stuff can be made to look au courant by using it in a novel way. My mudroom (second through fourth photos) is a case in point. I changed out a few knobs on a beat-up cabinet (missing some drawers, no less) to create a quirky storage space for trowels, seeds, and other gardening accouterments. A salvaged general store counter was retrofitted to become a pedestal sink, and fragments from old home and garden magazines and seed catalogs were used in lieu of wallpaper! I applied the same repurposing principle in my kitchen, where worn whip attachments, once used on commercial mixers, make a surprising chandelier (fifth photo).

Old General Store Counter Turned Sink Pedestal
Old General Store Counter Turned Sink Pedestal Photo by Julia M. Usher

3 | Layers for Life.

Color isn’t the only way to add pop. A monochromatic room or display can be soothing, yet still full of interest and life, as long as you layer texture into it in some way. A mix of shiny and matte finishes on my dining room sideboard (sixth photo) makes the setup sparkle. Smooth glassware atop weathered tin tiles has a similar effect in the place settings on the nearby table (seventh photo). And the concept readily extends elsewhere – even into my guest bedroom, where vintage Valentines mingle with lacy doilies under glass to create a romantic backdrop on the dressing table (eighth photo).

Garden Catalog Wallpaper
Garden Catalog Wallpaper Photo by Julia M. Usher

4 | A Personal Touch.

I don’t know about you, but I sometimes find art in the classic sense – meaning paintings and drawings – hard to work into my décor. Either the colors don’t mesh with the palette of the room, or my taste changes as time wears on and, suddenly, the art no longer fits. My solution? Stick to time-tested visuals – the images of loved ones! Better yet, print them in sepia tones so they fit with the color scheme in each and every room.

Repurposed Lighting Stirs Things Up!
Repurposed Lighting Stirs Things Up! Photo by Julia M. Usher

Another advantage of this route: it’s usually a lot less expensive to print a photo than to purchase the kind of artwork that will stand out, which means it won’t cost you a fortune to decorate your walls, even if you do the whole house. My husband’s great gramma is pictured in the third photo from the bottom, nestled in my bedroom hutch. I’ve got the rest of the Usher-Meyers family tree lining my stairwell and hanging just about everywhere else.

Texture-Rich Tablescape
Texture-Rich Tablescape Photo by Julia M. Usher

5 | Mix and Match, But Not Too Much.

Mixing and matching can be a great relief in home design. It not only gives you permission to collect slowly over time, but it can also breathe new life into objects by giving them a fresh context. But eclectic can either be interesting or overly busy. To avoid the latter, my trick is to mix and match within a limited color palette. Take, for example, my pillows tossed on my bed (second photo from bottom). I have more pillows than most people I know (ahh, I confess to another collecting fetish . . .), but they hang together here by virtue of their blue-and-white theme.

Vintage Valentines as Dressing Table Doilies
Vintage Valentines as Dressing Table Doilies Photo by Julia M. Usher

Repurposing also plays a role in my chair-top pillow vignette (last photo); the fringed floral pillow is made from an old fabric and bakelite photo album cover. (Say that three times fast!)

Family Portraits = Fabulous Focal Point
Family Portraits = Fabulous Focal Point Photo by Julia M. Usher

My apologies – I’ve reached the end of my notes, but you’ll have to scroll further to see the remaining photos (or click on one, and watch them as a slide show). As I was reveling in the moment, I lost track of the photo count along with my other worries, which just goes to show that celebrating the small stuff is really great therapy!

Pile of Pillows, Mixed and Matched
dPile of Pillows, Mixed and Matched Photo by Julia M. Usher
Another Pillow Toss
Another Pillow Toss Photo by Julia M. Usher