Celebrations

I have lots to celebrate today. For one thing, its the first monthiversary of the blog! It seems both much longer and much sooner than a month ago that I began. Thank-you to everyone who has been reading along and commenting, its so great to hear feedback of what you’re enjoying most.

It is one of my main intentions with this blog to offer to all of you some examples of women who embody the definition of a classic woman: one who is graceful, kind, seeks to lead by example, is able to love and be loved, supports, inspires, is ambitious without being aggressive, and selflessly nurtures when called upon to do so.

It’s easy to pick out muses like Grace Kelly and Sandra Dee for their impeccable style; to quote authors like Jane Austen and Virginia Woolf; or to point to fictional characters like Mrs. Gigglebelly, Kathleen Kelly, and Mary Poppins for their life lessons.

Perhaps you say though that this still doesn’t prove it can be done in the modern world; that this style and way of life is archaic. That the modern world necessitates that we re-think how women dress, act, achieve, and live. You even may say that the era of golden girls like Grace and Sandra is long gone, and Mary Poppins’ lessons are fine and dandy for when you’re five years old, but what about when you grow up and its 2012? What then?

It is possible though. I am convinced because I see it acted out everyday. The muse is a real woman; in fact, she’s a modern woman, and I offer her to you as a perfect example of what it means to represent femininity at its best.

My Mom.

She’s my real life Grace Kelly, my Mrs. Gigglebelly, my Mary Poppins. Everything that fills my life with joy and beauty, I first learned from my mother:

I learned about Jane Austen from her copy of Pride and Prejudice, placed always on the dining room bookshelves and read so often the binding was falling to pieces. I learned that reading the entire children’s section of the Beale Memorial Library was not impossible. I learned that writing was fun; that Doris Day and Cary Grant are the best on-screen couple. I learned that the most powerful job you can have is being a wife and mother; that showing love is not measured by dollar signs but often by a handmade gift, always (willingly) showing up to every dance rehearsal, putting someone’s hair in the perfect bun, or racing home to fetch the forgotten essay. I learned that arguments are settled by conversation, and that there won’t be arguments if there is conversation. I learned that you don’t have to know what you’re doing to decorate a room, you just try it and love it or hate it and change it and have so much fun in between. I learned that being selfless makes you the most precious, that laughter is the most beautiful sound in a home, and what reliability looks like.

Most of all though, what I learned from my Mom is how to love. How to show someone that they are your whole world, that you cannot imagine a life without them, and how you never regret anything that is for them. So, thanks mom, for being a muse far better than any other woman, real or fictional, and for effortlessly acting out what it means to be a wonderful woman. Oh yes, and happy birthday.

– <3 A. 

Style Secrets from Virginia Woolf

Whatever you know of Virginia Woolf’s life and works, you probably don’t associate her with styling. Surprise, surprise: the woman knew the effects on the mind and body of a well-styled room long before Better Homes and Gardens, Martha Stewart, or HGTV filled our lives.

In my third year of college I spent twelve rather grueling weeks studying, obsessing, and making sense out of Virginia Woolf’s writing. It was quite the journey. Out of her stream of consciousness, abstract imagery, and at times rather depressing prose, two things stuck in my mind:

1.) Maintain a room of one’s own:

In her famous lecture turned essay, Virginia Woolf wrote in A Room of One’s Own that one of the most essential things to the success of an artist, and, more specifically, a female artist, was to have a space all to oneself. At the time, Woolf wrote this to point out one of the crucial reasons she believed that women had been unable to write effectively. The nineteenth century woman who “never (had) an half hour…that they can call their own,” did not possess the means to acquire a room, or time, to herself unless “her parents were exceptionally rich or very noble.” At the mercy of her husband or some male support, the average woman, if she desired to write, had to “write in the common sitting room” where of course, “dogs will bark; people will interrupt; money must be made; health will break down.” Woolf felt that, unlike the man who might wander off to an office and shut himself away to work for hours, the women of nineteenth century homes had no such place to work, create, or imagine in.

Women no longer have such restrictions. We make our own money, own our own homes, and follow our own ambitions. Yet, with no limits to our “duties” or desires, women seem to need a room of their own for entirely different, but no less important, reasons. The modern woman is fulfilling roles the nineteenth century woman never dreamed of. By fulfilling these roles though, there is little time to escape into a place where the mind can focus on self, what is important, and what needs to be culled out of a life packed to the brim of to-do’s.

So, take Woolf’s advice: steal a workplace for yourself.

Convert a closet:

office option

Tidy a desk just for you:

Pinned Image

Or create an inspiration board:

inspiration boards

Maintain a room, a corner, a space all your own where, regardless of whether you are an artist or not, you can put life on pause lest your mind become “heaped…with bitterness and resentment” from the everyday.

2.) Whatever you do, do it like a woman.

In her criticism of a female novelist during the nineteenth century, Woolf noted that the novelist’s writing voice was muddled by her belief that she ought either to admit that “she was ‘only a woman,’” or protest “that she was ‘as good as a man.’” Contrasted to these women, she notes that only Jane Austen and Emily Bronte were successful in their craft because “they wrote as women write, not as men write.” They neither excused themselves for their writing because they were “merely” women, nor tried to adopt a false voice in order to be compared to a man. They were, in essence, essentially themselves. In speaking of women writers, Woolf expresses that “it would be a thousand pities if women wrote like men, or lived like men, or looked like men, for if two sexes are quite inadequate, considering the vastness and variety of the world, how should we manage with one only? Ought not education to bring out and fortify the differences rather than the similarities?”

Wouldn’t she be horrified at the current androgyny? Woolf stated that Jane Austen was one of the few successful female novelist during her time for, unlike other women, she did not try to learn from the “men’s sentences” that were her only examples. Instead, “Austen looked at it (the man’s sentence) and laughed at it and devised a perfectly natural, shapely sentence proper for her own use and never departed from it.”

Whatever you desire to do, take it from Virginia: do it as a woman would do it, not as a man would. Devise your own approach and never depart from it. Excuses and protests will achieve little, but give a woman a space to think and the confidence to think as herself, and there will be, as Virginia found, “no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.”

source: A Room of one’s own, harcourt, inc, 1989

                                                              – <3 A. 

Loft Love

Happy Friday! This week has been a whirlwind with Halloween and birthday festivities. Baking, present wrapping, carving, and decorating has occupied the majority of my free hours so this weekend I am definitely looking forward to relaxing and watching my go-to-movie for this month: “Sweet November.”

If you had the unfortunate experience of watching the 2001 remake with Keanu Reeves, please don’t give up yet because the original 1968 film is so, so, so much better.

It’s a pretty obscure film and combines romance, drama, comedy, and a little bit of nonsense with the perfect proportions. Sara, (Sandy Dennis) is a single woman who owns and maintains rental properties. In her free time though, she assists bachelors in overcoming some sort of emotional flaw. Each month, Sara takes a different man under her wing—each man, with a different problem. In November, she meets Charlie (Anthony Newley). Charlie, who once had poetic aspirations, has lost his ability to see beauty and enjoy life because of his busy-ness and constant worry about being on time. His life, as Sara describes it, has become all “hurry, hurry, ding, ding.”

I think Charlie’s issue is one that modern audiences can identify with most. Caught up with his career, obsessed with getting ahead, or, at least keeping up, he forgets to look up from his watch and everyday tasks to see the little things that Sara finds such joy in. What I so adore about Sara and this film is that the way she makes Charlie fall back into love with life is merely doing the simplest things: They sit outside and paint and write, feed pigeons in the park, and drink tea by Sara’s fireplace; in small, thoughtful ways, Sara shows Charlie how to care for other people and not always himself and his wristwatch.

Like I said, the movie has a little dose of absurdity that makes it so endearing. Sara’s loft is a prime example of this, mixing together the most nonsensical of items to create the most charming space. I don’t normally like lofts. I don’t really care to see all the exposed framework and things of houses, but Sara’s looks so warm and lived-in.

An open fireplace, an Edwardian-looking chair, twinkle-lights on a tree and exposed, industrial-looking shelves next to an ornate cabinet. Its so ridiculous but makes me want to spend an evening with her. 

Her bedroom, I think, is my favorite. tucked under an entire wall and half-ceiling of window-panes, the cozy upstairs room looks like it would be divine to sleep-in on a rainy morning. It does actually rain during the film as Sara lies in bed and I’m always so very jealous.

The space is so unique and personal. From her loft, it’s obvious that Sara cares nothing for normal “styling.” Instead, as in her life, Sara only surrounds herself with the things she loves most. Her love for life is almost childish. She is often silly, irrational, and has the strangest notions and obsessions. Despite all of this though, she is also completely independent, able to nurture her excitement for living into everyone she meets, and finds humor in the everyday. For Charlie, just spending a month with Sara gave him a very sweet November.

Hopefully this weekend you can do a few silly things. Maybe add a vintage lamp in with your modern drapes, jump off a park bench, or compose poems on your porch….Sara did, and she had so much fun.

– <3 A. 

Plain Jane

Plain Jane: “It would be mortifying to the feelings of many ladies, could they be made to understand how little the heart of man is affected by what is costly or new in their attire…Woman is fine for her own satisfaction.”

Jane Austen in Northanger Abbey 

And might I add, for the satisfaction of other women…keeping up with (Mrs.) Jones is sometimes a pursuit not worth running after. Something to remember.

Home Envy

I had the great pleasure, that ended in the great horror, of walking into Pottery Barn recently and walking out with the realization that, that store could have been a figment of my imagination for as realistic as it was for my life. Everything was so exquisite, and the women shopping there, even more so. Rugged yet elegant, natural yet chic, the store had beautifully combined the usual dichotomies perfectly. Even their salt and pepper shakers were so adorable, it was ridiculous:

Perhaps Pottery Barn isn’t your style, but I’m sure you’ve all had the drooling episodes of walking into stores you adore but cant afford and emerging frustrated and suddenly dissatisfied. Home-envy I guess you could call it- a very dangerous affliction.

A Remedy:

The quickest way for me to get over my home-envy, is doing a little DIY. So today, I thought I would share some anyone-can-do-it mural DIY to perk up your home if you too are sneering at your side-table or railing at your rug.

Wallpaper is making a comeback, and, for good reason. Putting a fun pattern on your walls or even a single wall can make a huge impact in an otherwise typical room and with so many modern patterns available, the word “wallpaper” no longer conjures up images of bad 80’s motels and outdated grandparent’s houses. However, wallpaper can be awfully expensive and is notorious for making messes and ruining walls with its super-sonic-sticky glue. So, why not paint it instead?

Step One: Supplies

  • picture of a pattern you can download or upload onto a computer
  • a projector that plugs into your computer
  • paint
  • patience

Pick a pattern that isn’t extremely intricate, mostly because you will hate yourself later for having to paint in a bunch of detailed lines. I mentioned that you can choose a picture you can download or upload because, the easiest way to do it is obviously to download a picture off the internet. However, my image came from a piece of scrapbook paper. I took a picture of the piece of paper on my phone and then uploaded it to my computer:

After doing our wall, a friend loved it so much she wanted to do it in her home too. She wanted to use a pattern of actual wallpaper she found on the Anthropology website. It was super expensive though, so, she just copied the image, I edited it in photoshop to get a large enough image to project, and we had our template to paint the pattern ourselves:

Like I mentioned before, this image is pretty complicated and was very difficult to paint. She had some extreme patience and a steady hand though and it turned out fabulous.

Step two: Painting

If you have no artistic ability and are looking at this project thinking, “uh, yeah, no way would mine look like that,” think again. If you can color in a coloring book, you can do this. Pull up the image in whatever photo viewing program you use (I use Picasa) and put the settings on full screen slideshow. Then, plug in the projector and point it at the wall you want to paint on, and start filling in the lines.

DIY mural and wallpaper

Easy, yes? You may have to play with the alignment of the projector to get the image in the right place on the wall. As you can see, this only covered half the wall and we had to realign the projector to paint the bottom half. Just line up the pattern again once you have re-positioned the projector and you have a seamless wall.

DIY-mural-wallpaper

DIY-mural-wallpaper

DIY-mural-wallpaperThe other pattern, because it was so much more detailed, was much more difficult to paint. However, the effect is stunning if you have the patience to hang in there.

DIY-mural-wallpaperThe best thing about this is that if you mess up you don’t have to scrape off a whole wall of rumpled wallpaper, you can just paint over it and re-stencil. Or, if you end up hating it in an hour, a week, or a year, just paint it away and create something new.

Pottery Barn has yet to infiltrate my own world, however much I wish it too, but I think this easy project keeps you loving your own abode in a super cheap, fun way, and kills that home-envy just a little bit.

Happy Friday to everyone, hopefully this has inspired you to do some fall decorating this weekend. This marks the end of week two of Vintage Muse Modern Views and I wanted to thank everyone who has been faithfully reading along. Don’t forget to head over to http://www.etsy.com/shop/VintageMuses and check out some pretty things. This weekend there will be some pretty patterns added for you to choose from.

– <3 A.