It’s easy, even in the most flexible of homes, to be traditional when it comes to children touching things. We all know how easy it is for children to bump, stumble and have an oops. When one-of-a-kind artist crafted and vintage items are involved, the stakes are even higher. While I felt the normal amount of trepidation concerning this, I also decided to take a risk. I want my children to develop an eye for design. What better way than to have them decorate the house?
A large blond shelving unit in our living room was selected as the perfect staging surface. It’s a focal point over our Mid Century corner couch set. With wide spacing between shelves and long, sturdy wood planks, it was the ideal palette for my three daughters to practice their design eye. My two year old baby boy was napping during all this, which proved to be ideal.
I was rather impressed with how small my girls looked next to the shelf. I snapped a photo of my 10 year old next to it to illustrate the scale of the project. Only my 12 year old could just barely reach the top shelf. I had to assist with the heavy bits.
The rules: they were allowed to use any items in the entire house. I encouraged them to walk around from room to room, looking at wall art, books and other objects in different ways. I explained how items didn’t need to be used in the expected way. A book could be a pedestal, a painting could be propped up, a piece of sculpture turned on its side. They were excited to view the house in this new, adventurous way.
First up, my 5 year old. She was the most out of the box thinker, grabbing items that surprised us all. She found a fabric roll from Ikea that had a Scandinavian design and draped it off a shelf. After studying the colors on that for a minute, she ran off to find an old book set for children. She knew the cloth pattern was Swedish in style and grabbed a wonderful Viking inspired sea serpent locking box from the Etsy shop Harmony Craft to tie in. Running to the kitchen, she grabbed her Great Grandmothers kitchen rooster for the top shelf. I loved how well the colors went together. I knew she had an eye for fashion, but this was the first time I’d seen her do a display.
Next was my 10 year old. She was a little hesitant, not sure how to approach the design. In the end, it wasn’t color or layout that made her decisions. It was what she personally liked and held dear. First up were a series of paintings by a family friend and artist, Molly Fisk. To tie in with the nautical themed art, she added a 1930’s boat that she admired. Going along with her love of gardening, she selected three house plants. A 1930’s blue pottery bud vase was added. (Several of my vintage pottery pieces were purchased from River House Art Pottery, a vintage Etsy shop) With a nod toward her love of reading, she added in books in different arrangements. It was the first time she’d considered that books didn’t need to be straight up and down on a shelf and could be a design element.
Up last was E, my 12 year old. She’d mentioned how much she loves simple, Mid Century style in the past. No guidance was asked for during this project. First she added a feed sack pillow from artist Leslie Janson for the couch. She just walked quietly about the house, peeking into cabinets, examining shelves, and opening closets. Soon blue and aqua vintage glassware began to emerge. Some members of my vast old bowl collection were carried from the dining room. A miniature water tower and a small house sculpture by one of our favorite Etsy artists, 2of2 filled the other shelves. A cool Mid Century head sculpture was found in the Etsy shop Douglas Vintage. I admired how her layout really reflected her love of more simple, clean, modern lines.
Watching the children carry each object to and fro so carefully was enlightening. I realized that I need to give them more responsibility when it comes to home decor. Seeing how they offered encouragement to each other, gave critiques and provided labor was satisfying. While each girl was the owner of her design, it over all was a collaborative effort among three disparate age groups. Let’s hear it for children, breakable vintage items and treasured art. What a great combination!
All photos are copyright of Nachokitty.