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The Fine Art of Decorating the House and the Body

August 19, 2012

One thing I always noticed about my friends Mary and Lauren’s college dorm rooms was how goshdarn cool they looked.  And it wasn’t just their bedspreads and the posters that they hung on their walls, because I had a bedspread from Dillard’s that I liked a lot and some really neat posters that I had bought at the college bookstore.  You know, like this one:

No.  What set Mary and Lauren apart were not the big ticket items in their rooms.  It was the way they could pull the entire barracks-like space together with little details which would never have occurred to me.  Things like curtains, fabrics, and wall art chosen for color and shape and coherence as much as for its inherent stand-alone coolness.  My room looked like a college dorm room.  Mary and Lauren’s rooms looked like a beautiful, sparkling fairy of justice and light had flown in and sprinkled magical fairy dust all over the spare surfaces.

And as for the way they dressed, the fairy did not hesitate to dump huge gobs of dust all over Mary and Lauren’s wardrobes as well.  It wasn’t that they spent lots of money on clothing.  To the contrary.  Both girls preferred thrift stores to shopping malls.  But whereas I scanned thrift stores for practical items (a black skirt, a lightweight jacket for running) at very cheap prices, Mary and Lauren went there for the purposes of art.  They had “the eye.”  They could spot something magnificent in items on the shelf or rack that I would completely pass by.  But in their capable hands, the beauty in these items was quickly revealed.  Mary bought a quaint country apron and incorporated it into a glamorous going out ensemble.  Lauren’s brightly colored 70’s shirts were unique and lovely.

Though I am not artistic, I strongly believe that art and “the eye” is something that you can learn, develop, get better at.  As a teacher, I am very hesitant to think that anything is 100% inborn talent and can’t be learned.  Anyone can become more artistic.  But I am always, always impressed at the artists that I know for whom every life detail is a work of art.  People whose dorm rooms look amazing, not because of the money they have put into them, but because of their eye for detail.  People who can cheaply throw together outfits that look unique and beautiful, pushing playfully or edgely at the boundaries of fashionable.

Though I still don’t call myself an artist, as an adult, I have developed slightly more sophistacted decorating tastes than I had when I was in college.  I have finally accepted that framing my pictures, rather than Scotch taping them directly to the wall, is a good way to go.  And though my dad pointed out that I probably shouldn’t feel original for buying a photograph of a falling down barn (apparently everybody else who lives in the South also has a picture of a falling down barn), I have been trying to do better at buying art that hasn’t been mass-produced for Wal-Mart.

But though I am training myself to have a more aesthetically sophisticated eye, I am still really just following rules of taste.  Mary and Lauren and others like them don’t need rules of taste.  They create beauty everywhere they go, without being told how, because that’s just what they do.  I don’t think they could stop if they tried.  It’s that damn fairy.

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