As a person who loves to decorate and adorn my home, I'm always balancing my wishes with my pocketbook. I hate settling for anything less than perfect, but I frequently do. Generally, availability is the problem. There is a less than stellar selection of wares in Calgary (especially if you have traditional tastes) and if you ever want your home to be remotely attractive, eventually you must pick from the available offerings. Or you keep living with that Ikea coffee table in your otherwise polished living room.
And lest we forget the bigger issue - the question of cost. I covet fine things, but just how much is too much to spend on a given object?
A simply appointed hallway (with Burberry umbrella, no less) by designer Christopher Maya
I know many people quote William Morris's "have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful". While I agree wholeheartedly with his quote, the reality is that I cannot afford what I find most beautiful, generally.
And while this is wonderful in theory (and perhaps a great shopping mantra to prevent too much junk from accumulating in your home), it is nearly impossible to put into practice, unless you have infinite time, resources, patience and access to products (by living in a large and cultivated American city for example, like some lucky so-and-so's who shall remain unnamed).
So I find my poor self continually settling. In our house, I can probably name less than 10 things that, if pressed, I would say I truly adore. Everything else is adequate: I may like it, be fond of it, or have nostalgia for it, but I don't love it. Perhaps if I were into flea market chic I'd be easier to please. Or perhaps the quote would be easier to put into practice if I were born with the deep pockets of a Rockefeller or an Astor?
The reality for most decorators of modest means, specific tastes, and limited access is compromise. Unless of course you are the martyr purist willing to live a life of eternal waiting with your few precious gems for the arrival of that perfect object of lust. I envy you your strength and patience!
Just the other day, I came up against another contest of want versus wallet. I spent $270 on window hardware from Restoration Hardware (where you pay for character, if not quality) for our dining room (that's for a 48-72" rod, two brackets, 14 rings, and two end caps!). When I think of beautiful homes I admire, this is a drop in the bucket compared to what many spend to create a blissful and considered environment.
David and I can afford this splurge, financially-speaking. But I don't want to afford it, spiritually and practically. I am a die-hard saver and feel sick spending $270 on a curtain rod. Naturally, it is impossible to find a shiny nickel rod anywhere in Calgary for anything less than this amount. Trust me, I've tried. At the custom drapery shops, and the price point was $300 minimum.
In the long run, this isn't much to spend to make a beautiful window, considering I bought the silk panels on sale. But the reality is, for $50-100 I can buy an inexpensive rod that while mediocre, will do the trick. It's not like my home will be in House Beautiful any time soon, so who will notice? And I can put the $300 towards a coffee table that people will notice, something that actually matters, in terms of form and function.
But the dilemma arises because I don't want to settle. Yet I don't want to waste money either. I prefer to spend my money to pay down our mortgage, save for renovations, or buy good furniture. For me, good furniture is most important decor-wise. I also prefer wool rugs (I cannot pretend to afford silk) and good bedding. Art is important too, but lovely works can be had for a modest budget. For everything else, I am flexible (which means cheap).
What I wonder is, do you also struggle with where to spend your decorating budget? Do you do the same balancing act, whether your budget is large or small? In the annual Acquisition of Things, what do you spend your money on? Where, or at what cost, do you draw the line? What can you justify spending big bucks on? What do you insist on buying cheaply?
In a future post, I will explore the places I've found to save money (so I can even consider splurging on preposterous hardware for my windows!)