* I apologize for a pun so early in the post, and any pain or confusion that it may have caused.
Do you have your own style? A personal, fresh, funky, original spin on interior design? Yeah? NOPE. You don’t. Your “style” is like your dryer’s lint trap, sucking up loose bits and pieces from things you’ve sat on or in, or mindlessly slipped into jeans pockets. Sometimes, it’s full of gum wrappers and gravel, but look closely, and you might pick out a nickel or a movie ticket or a satisfyingly-strikethroughed** to-do list.
I’ll admit the metaphor above doesn’t totally work (hey, I spend a lot of time doing laundry). But once you admit that you have none of your own style is when you are free to fully absorb the style of others … into the lint trap of your mind. To paraphrase a fellow patron overheard at my last visit to the Museum of Contemporary Art, “I don’t know nothing about no art, but I know what I like when I see it.”***
This week’s Journey Into the Lint Trap of Style involves rugs. Or as I call them, Floor Sweaters. Specifically, our living room Floor Sweater, and the pain felt by anyone who has ever moved: Finding that your carefully curated furnishings don’t quite fit in your new home, either physically, stylistically, or emotionally.
Here’s a flashback to our beloved chocolate-brown-and-pink floor sweater in our last apartment (photos courtesy of old blog posts about cutting baby hair and refinishing an old chair, respectively):
And here she is in the Babushka Living room, bravely cushioning a wrestling match between a tiny tiger and even tinier wolf:
Rewind to last November. With the Babushka House keys in hand, Scott and I had exactly three weeks – a pinhole of time – to squeeze through a couple of messy projects before we moved in. We were delighted to find beautiful wood floors suffocating under the oppressive layers of Orange Cream Soda-toned carpet and Eisenhower-era linoleum tile:
We hired a crew to liberate the floors and smother the wood in a rich shade of Dark Walnut (the Official Stain™ of Projectophile). I wanted floors the color of adult pleasures: Dark Chocolate, Espresso, Guinness, Wet Mulch, Flourless fudge brownies made with prunes.****
As a New Homeowner, I was rebelling against the floor of every crummy Chicago apartment I’d ever rented: scuffed, warped boards the color of watered-down apple juice or sun-bleached Velveeta, or – if I was lucky – damp cardboard.
And now I adore my elegant, peat-toned planks. But as you can see, they visually swallowed up my dark chocolate floor sweater. It was like the living room didn’t even have a rug. Just a softer part of the floor.
I craved a lighter floor sweater to break up the darkness; something big, wooly, warm and bright, but not distracting enough to overshadow the Marimekko print crowning the couch. I’d scan Craigslist, or the rug websites, but nothing grabbed me. I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted. But like that man in the art museum, I’d know it when I saw it. Also, it had to be dirt cheap cause the rest of this house was bleeding us dry.
After months of fruitless searching, I finally found the perfect rug for the Babushka living room in, right in my own back yard! Oh, and by “back yard,” I mean my more stylish neighbor’s living room.
A couple of weeks back, I ran into my friend and local hero Rachel at the park, where she offered to pass along her daughters’ old scooter. I hopped up off my picnic blanket and across the street to her beautifully decorated home, oozing with Mid-Century Treasures.
Scooter in hand, I spotted it: Rachel’s living room rug. A huge, cozy, creamy, shaggy delight, tiny spindles of yarn reaching up to hug my bare toes. “This is real wool?” I asked, fingering the noodles of shag, thinking of similar rugs I’ve seen online for more than a thousand dollars, “it must have cost a fortune!” Nope, Rachel assured me. This floor sweater was cheap, from IKEA, and was actually two smaller rugs laying side-by-side, like snuggling shaggy twins.
I snapped a grainy cell phone picture of the tag and sent a prayer to the Gods of Retail Continuity that it was still in production:
The next weekend, with a few hours left on a rental car, I hit the nearest IKEA to adopt my own Shaggy Twins. Sure enough, a 4½ by 6½ foot Vitten rug was only $149. Following Rachel’s example, I scored a combined 6½ x 9 foot wool shag rug for less than $300.
First, I conducted a dry run to see which sides to join:
Most days, our home contains higher-than-recommeded levels of naughtiness and horseplay. Simply laying the rugs side-by-side would result in at least one of the rugs in a different room by day’s end. The Shaggy Twins had to be surgically joined.
I grabbed these scary curved upholstery needles and twine leftover from the last chair I reupholstered. I keep them handy in case we find ourselves between health insurance policies and need to re-attach a small appendage or flap of skin:
Finally, I tussled up the shag and watched the seam retreat under its yarny tentacles.
But the fusion of the Shaggy Twins represents much more than just a bigger floor covering: Two little rugs, small and weak on their own, merge to cover an entire front room. The Twins epitomize the power of friendship, family and community. They could be easily separated by simply clipping the (now impossible to find) twine knots, but they are also held down by the legs of the sofa and chair and end table, which may represent children, or society, or capitalism, or bad weather, or patriarchy or something equally oppressive. Now, I’ve completely lost track of this metaphor, but you get the idea.
PS: Anybody want to buy a gently-used brown rug?
** Anybody know the past tense of strikethrough? Strike-threw? Struck-through? Streaked-threw? Strucked-throughed?
*** Note that this gentleman did NOT like any of the art that he did see.
**** Yes, that is a real dessert that I made once and it was delicious and my colon is still asking when we can have it again.