Thursday, January 29, 2015

Playing With Interiors

Art Walls &
Creating a Bedroom Where There Was None

The blue pillow cases are made from old kimonos by a Japanese lady (charity bazaar). 
Window curtains from Russia (gift from Mama). 
Quilt - Macy's (sale).

Justin bought me a new pocket camera: my old one went dead after extremely productive life, and another one was lost for a while, and when we found it, the battery exploded, and instead of buying a new battery for $30 to $50, he decided to invest in a new camera. So I'll most probably be getting back to my habit of taking tons of everyday pictures (which is both a wonderful hobby and good for family archives). I thought I'd share some with you - nothing super artistic, point and shoot, but with lots of character, warmth and attention to details, you know - the way I tend to do things.

I showed you our little cottage in this post, but those were photos taken over the course of two or three years, and, as you might realize by now, changes are the only permanent thing in this household. So in this post I'll bring you up to speed about a couple of aspects of our ever evolving interior, as it says in the subtitle for this post. I'll start with creating a bedroom where there was no such thing.

Part 1. Creating a Bedroom Where There Was None

When my parents were coming to stay with us this time, they worried about occupying our daughter's bedroom again - we are talking a few months stay, not a couple of days or weeks, and Anya grew up and definitely would feel the lack of privacy if she had to camp in the living room during these months. Even though she volunteered to do so (very kind of her), she'd start resenting this probably pretty soon, and my parents were sensitive, smart and absolutely lovely about it, and instead of creating a situation when everybody is annoyed with everybody, they created a situation when everybody has their own space and their privacy. As Justin puts it, "our house feels bigger when your parents are here."

Art Wall #1: Flower Power.
Do you recognize the purple and orange painting? It's by Shawna - I wrote the story of it in this post
The largest painting is an antique mall find.
The watercolor of a clothes pin is by a Michigan artist, I bought it directly from her many years ago, back in my shows and festivals past. Unfortunately, I can't remember her last name, only the first one - Marylin. We kept in touch for a while, and I know that she lived part time in Florida. Very talented.
The little painting of trees is a Goodwill find ($3 or so).
The Goose is mixed technique - hand carved and painted on beresta (birch bark), by my very gifted brother Andrei.
Finally, two embroideries. The one on green canvas (fall leaves and berries) is made by me 13 years ago (started it back in Russia, finished when I first arrived in America).
The one of flowers and butterflies is made by Mom's oldest sister Nina who passed away 12 years ago.

So how to do it in an old rental cottage with two small bedrooms, kitchen, living room and an odd room in between with practically no walls (windows and doorways on each single wall)? My folks just hung curtains to separate a corner of our "odd room" from the rest of the space. The project cost us nothing as the curtains were old linen ones from Ikea, and the rods are mismatched old rods. The "odd room" has never been used to its full potential before - it used to be sort of a dining/project/wardrobe room all at once, at times cozy, but mostly just a large wasted space. Not any more. Now we practically have an extra bedroom or study, or guest room for the cost of nothing! The bed is from Anya's room which, I will admit, was in my cottage style, and not especially in hers anyway. Making an additional bedroom was such an excellent example of creative thinking. Just think that you do have a space for this ... even if "this" is a new bedroom.

Part 2. Updating Kid's Room

But first of all, before they organized a room for themselves, my father focused on building from scratch a dream loft bed for his granddaughter. Anya wanted to have a loft bed since the age of 7 at least, but all the manufactured loft beds we've seen were way too tall for our home. When Anya heard that Dedushka can build her a custom bed, she was over the moon. At first, Anya drew a picture (in color) of her dream bed which we shared with my parents while Skypeing, so Dedushka/Papa had a chance to soak the idea for a while. (I wanted to include her drawing in this post, but unfortunately cannot remember where it is at the moment.) Using that drawing, my Dad made a new bed for Anya's bedroom. Such a great father and grandfather he is. The whole family was somehow involved in the process - purchasing wood from Home Depot, finding tools, and at the end painting in the color that Anya envisioned for her room. The whole project took about two weeks to finish, with designing, building, painting, drying and assembling time - the first two weeks after my parents' arrival.

The colors of the walls stayed the same - Anya's taste hasn't changed all that much since we moved in to this cottage in 2011.

She loves her new bed, and frankly her "new" room - and I heartily recommend a loft bed as a space saver, look how much it added to the little room.

Part of Anya's dolls collection (it seems, she's winding down with this one).

Mirrors and other cute purple and turquoise things are retail and antique mall finds and all cost close to nothing, but make the owner of the room very happy.

Sun shines through the Ikea curtain which Anya has loved for a while (bought at 50% off just recently). The cushions are Target (they have some talented designers working for them). The woven purple throw is from antique mall.

Part 3. Living Room Art Wall

I think your own style can basically come together in two ways: you make mental notes every time you see something striking and make a conscious decision to go with a certain style, whatever attracts you to it: comfort, status, whim, etc. Or your style forms almost randomly, evolves naturally over time, and only later you realize what it is. I still don't know what my style is called. What I know is this. It is comfortable, colorful, cozy and unpretentious, very informal. You don't need to worry about misplacing something or leaving a red wine stains in my house - no need to stress about all this nonsense. I want you to feel comfortable, to get on the sofa with your feet, have a nice cup of tea or coffee, write, draw or share creative ideas, and hopefully get an inspiration from some of the creations around you. I did not do it for visitors - I did it because that's how I want to feel at home. I felt self-conscious for quite a while to invite people because I don't know anybody with a busy, colorful, mismatched style like this. I recognize that for a minimalist at heart, my home might feel like a disaster, and as a "good girl" I don't want to cause any discomfort and don't want to be judged either. But I eventually came to acceptance within myself. Minimalism, thorough organization and thinking of color schemes is just not my cup of tea when it comes to my favorite home arrangements. What I love about homes is character, flavor, layers, colors, creativity, informality and warmth.

Art Wall #2: Flora and Fauna.
The central photograph is an art show find from Cincinnati, OH (the photographer was from Florida, the dusk shot was made in South France).
The fruit painting is an antique mall find, dating to the 1970s.
The little ceramic tile picture is from Goodwill.

The whimsical birch bark carvings are by my brother Andrei Lialin (visit his web site here - if you have any questions about his art or want to purchase a unique jewelry box or other art piece, don't hesitate to email me about it).

This art wall is ever changing. Recently, the landlord made some upgrades in the house (you can see the ugly white box on our central wall - it's our new heat pump, great in the long term as it supposedly saves our electrical bills, which used to be really high in the winter because the house is old and, as many old houses are, poorly insulated). We had to work around it, to drag attention from it to the wonderful art - thankfully, there is plenty because I started collecting things years ago (some of them are from Russia), and I have very talented and generous family and friends.

Another still life is from an antique shop on Bainbridge (I think that one is closed now), and the bird feeding her babies is from the Fife antique mall. The little "barrel" is carved from walnut, and I believe it's a traditional Ukrainian craft (I have a box carved in a similar way).
Finally, to the newest addition to my art collection - very special to me.

This is by my friend Slava Fedorchuk, a self taught artist, photographer and poet (also known as a gifted programmer during day hours). I met his wife Irina via blogging many years ago (I'm an old bugger... I meant blogger), in another state, and what sometimes feels like another life. Since then, so many things changed - new children were born in both families, everybody changed jobs or occupations, and not even once, we all changed locations, but still stay connected, and when Slava shares his art on his Google Plus page, I like to comment - and this painting was one of my favorites of his. What do you know - the artist just decided that he wanted to gift it to me. I love the double effect of sunny oranges reflected in the tea pot, the tea pot itself (such a symbol for us Russians and Ukrainians - we just love tea and long heartfelt conversations with it), and gifted by the artist himself, it's such a treat!

My daughter painted the big picture with a vase and apples (in Cezanne spirit) during her art class - I think she was 8 or 9 back then. The delicate sepia photo touched my heart when I saw it in a small Russian store in Cincinnati. Other little pictures (on the left) are watercolor on birch bark, above them is Russian fairy tale decorative plate (gift), and below is a little embroidery one of my coworkers gifted me for my relocation to the US. Old stuff with lots of memories. The curio is full of small trinket boxes - one of my hobbies a few years ago (I have probably about 200 boxes in my collection).

Since we have a large family in a small space at the moment, all of our rooms are multi-purposed, and our living room is also our dining (and breakfast, and lunch) room. The dining table was by the window for a while, but for now we moved it to open up more space. Below you can see the way this space looked just a couple of weeks ago. You can play with large pieces within a small space very successfully, I believe - the most important is to not overwhelm the room with the amount of such pieces (in our case, it is a couple of sofas and a dining table which get a lot of use and get moved around from time to time).

The wooden cutting board is hand painted, as is the metal Zhostovo tray, both are traditional Russian crafts and antique mall finds (Port Townsend and Port Orchard, respectively). I only use them for display, though they are perfectly practical and functional.

The antique rice container is from China, the beresta samovar and container from Russia (my parents' gifts), the paper box from the Phillippines (gift), and the printed tray is from England ($5 find at the antique mall in Fife).

The love seat fits perfectly into this strange little corner which originally was an entrance to the cottage (you can see the door with shelves which became a wall when they added another room to the house). I love fabrics, they soften and warm everything. Granted, these are not those gorgeous exotic woven rugs or blankets which you can see in bohemian style homes. But they still are lovely! The quilt is from a supermarket (Walmart or Meyers, don't remember which, bought on sale many years ago - it's actually quilting, not print). The cushions are tapestry: the flower one is Russian, the fruity one is not (found at Goodwill). And you can see my tapestry wall too. The upper tapestry is Russian, with me for years. I framed it in a way that cannot be undone without damaging the tapestry. I have no idea what possessed me to do it, but I guess at least it does not collect dust. Oh well, do it better the next time. The lower one is an Italian scene, and I found it in our local Goodwill for $2.99. The plate and plaque on the wall are also of an Italian spirit - Romeo and Juliette is an art plate, limited edition ($5 at antique mall), and the plaque is traditional golden leaf technique.

The view from our windows is still the main decoration of our modest little home. I just love it. It is one of the reasons that keeps me here, despite my nomad nature and constant willingness to relocate.


So I'm thinking now... what is it, my home interior style?
I think it started evolving into what it is back when we lived in a beach house (a small cabin) for a few years. I met a very talented woman, a self taught interior designer, who was very much into antiques country style, folk art, etc. She was incredible. I used to borrow some of her home magazines and just go through them over and over again. Then I started buying books about interiors (I have quite a collection of those now). And over time, I think, without much analyzing, I just started adding things that I loved, which bring me the feeling of warmth, acceptance, and joy of life, and at the same time awaken my imagination - the way fairy tales warm my heart and amaze me with their wit and fantasy. All of it together makes my home what it is. A little bit of English cottage, a little bit of Russian dacha, a little bit of whimsical artistic home - easy going, ever changing, and more than anything, cozy and comfortable. I'll include some of my most favorite images which inspire me, and without copying what I see, I create a home which has a similar feel, and yet is totally and only mine.

The three images of Russian Dacha above are from Dream Homes Country: 100 Inspirational Interiors (Merrell, London - New York). I love this book, my only complaint is that images are way too small - but on the other hand, there are TONS of them, which is a plus.

This one is from Rooms to Inspire in the City by Annie Kelly (Rizzoli, New York)

The last one is from Perfect English Cottage by Ros Byam Shaw (Ryland, Peters and Small, London - New York) - one of my most favorite books.

Phew, that was a long one. Are you still with me?
Tell me about yourself! What is important to you when it comes to your home interior?




  1. Наташа, все такое уютное, домашнее! So cozy! You have done a wonderful job decorating the room! You've got so many beautiful art pieces! Привносит особую прелесть в интерьер, делает его неповторимым.

  2. You decorate exactly as I do, with pieces that tell stories. Warm and welcoming and not too precious. Perfect!
    I don't have any idea what my style is either. Maybe because they are unique to us. Our own style full of the things and people we love! Excellent! xo Jazzy Jack

  3. you actually have 2 of this great rugs!!!!! :-)
    when can i come to live in the new bedroom please?
    i find it strange when people put style over comfort or "design" their homes after given formulas. datcha-style is the best describing i think - comfortable, cozy, not representativ, but full of color and LIFE!!!!! the changes and new things your parents put to the house speaks the language of people who are used to limited consumption - they made gold from dirt so to speak. love this - buying a nice interior in a designer store is not creative - one only needs money. but like you and your folks do - finding, creating, collecting is just wonderful - that´s the reason your home looks so lovely and inviting - it´s made by warmhearted, creative people!!!!!!
    switch on the samowar - i´m coming over!!!!

  4. Your home is so sweet, and is an art gallery to boot! Your husbands comment on the house seeming bigger is something my husband and I joke about. Because our home is very small if we move a piece of furniture or get rid of something we always joke, "The house is huge now!"
    It's wonderful that you've made accommodations for your parent's stay. We have a dilemma every year when Russ's parents come to stay as they take our bedroom and Russ and I have to sleep in different rooms on tiny little single beds. Nobody gets any sleep. Your solution looks great!

  5. Your home looks so cozy, colourful, warm, so alive. It has its own character which reflects the characters of its inhabitants. I too like home to be home, one should feel comfortable and at ease there. Not like in a museum where one must not do this or that. I have seen houses that look literally sterile. I don't know how people actually live there.

  6. I love you home, it is the perfect reflection of your creativity and love of beauty,
    I love the eclectic style, the realization, that a good home is never done!,
    the sentimental touches, as well as the sentimental premise of the post,
    _especially the butterfly art work from you now deceased aunt)
    most of all I love the view and light!
    It seems to come from you!
    Now a love seat in the entrance is perfect!
    xx, Elle

  7. Your home has so much character, and so much *warmth*. It feels so homey and inviting- and I feel like it has a lot of you in it, too. That was really savvy of you to create a makeshift room for your parents with just curtains- its amazing how just the illusion of a wall can make you feel like you have privacy. And I'm sure your daughter appreciated having her own space during those months! I probably wouldn't mind sharing with my grandparents either, but sometimes you have aan off day and need that one place where you can brood and be alone. And the loft bed! Such an awesome idea. If they made a queen size version of that, i'd be all over it.

    And thank you so much for your kind, kind words about my book! You've always been so supportive and encouraging over my writing, and I want you to know that I appreciate every single one of your sweet words. It means a lot to me :)

    xo marlen
    Messages on a Napkin

  8. What fun! Oh that was such a delightful post, Natalia! You have a home where anyone would feel welcome and there is so much personality there. I didn't even see my painting right away; I was so busy admiring the bed and its textiles. I love your art groupings and how everything has a story or meaning and was not bought to match the sofa. I too love textiles and although I like quality and craftsmanship I do not want precious things in my home. I don't want to have to worry about them. Getting divorced and starting over with only half (actually less then half) of the things I had originally selected to fill my home, meant leaving behind things I loved, but we cannot get too attached because there is always a risk of loss in life. After all, I live in an earthquake zone.

    Anna's loft bed is fantastic. I love loft beds and hers is so special having been self designed and made by her Dedushka. Her room is so full of life and personality and she looks so happy there.

    The new room, the newly created bedroom for our parents also looks delightfully cosy.

    Justin's words are so beautiful I think you should print then out and frame them or perhaps paraphrasing them like 'our home gets bigger the more family is here'.

    My style is similar to yours in that I am influenced by a love of cottage, folk-art, beach and bohemian styles. I have been in my home for a year and a half and I am still discovering how I want it decorated, though like with you that will always change and evolve somewhat. I used to feel frustrated that I didn't have beautiful architecture to work with but on the other hand a lack of that can inspire more creativity, the kind that comes from making do or using what you have. There is so much personality and character in that.

    Like you I have a collection of design and decor books. I bought many from the Sarah Susanka Not So Big series when my ex and I were renovating our house. I also enjoy Oberto Gili Home Sweet Home and Ben Pentreath's English Decoration.

    Are these photos you are going to send to Gabrielle at Moon to Moon? I don't feel ready to do that yet because I am so displeased with my living room wall colour and won't likely get it painted for a few more months. Also, the light is so much better for photography come spring/summer.

    This post was so delightful I didn't want it to end, even though you thought it was a long one. xoxoxo

  9. thanks for sharing your home pics, so interesting!. Love all those little details, objects, colors, textures over the wood walls, everything is evocative and full of personality, and it's also cosy, like if it's going to embrace you!
    I've not developed a decorating skill, my walls are almost empty!. Mr.A. is an absolut minimalist and I've learnt to live with less things, as we moved many times. Some photographs on the walls and a pair of ikea shelves with books, that's all!. But we're changing, 'cause we bought a sofa and some chairs last year!. Who knows!

  10. Oh Natalia, I loved this! your home is beautiful, it's so inviting, you have created an incredible home which is warm, richly decorated and so full of texture and colour, I felt so relaxed reading this post. Your Father is incredible, what a loft bed! and what a gift, I bet Anya will love that bed forever and your view!! what a view! also before I forget, your parents bedroom is amazing and very clever - I don't think I'm skilled at interior design at all, our rooms tend to just happen, I don't think it ever looks as comfortable as I'd like it too, I think I should take a leaf out of your book and look at interior design books! x x x

  11. What a lovely home you have, Natalia. It reflects you, Justin and Anya so perfectly - warm, creative, welcoming, friendly, multi-layered, art, history and family-oriented. That's just the way it should be! Justin's comment is wonderful, and the bed your father has built for Anya is fantastic. (Nina was looking over my shoulder at this post earlier and cooed longingly over her collection of Monster High dolls!) xxx

  12. I have already told you that I absolutely love your home. It's wonderful. And first time I see Anya's room and her dolls collection:))) We have something in common, I also don't like trapping my dolls in boxes:)

  13. Your home is a dream, dear friend ... I'm sure your friends feel great when you visit, every corner of it has ITS own personality, it's a reflection of you. Love it !!

  14. What a beautiful home you've got Natalia dear. Even a cave will feel big when you are sharing it with people you love. xo

  15. Your home is lovely. The artwork, purple throw and carpets I love specially, and that view - manifique! I like the haphazard approach to decorating, that picking up of items that you love without having a definitive plan for them, but somehow having them all work together. Organic, is what I would call it, and oh so beautiful. You have that style! Thank you for sharing. More please!

  16. Thank you so much for this very personal tour of your wonderfully cozy home, dearest Natalia!! The love you feel for all your collectables and decorative pieces is evident in the memories they hold for you...and your little cottage is definitely a reflection of this!! Homes should ALWAYS be a place where its residents feel comfortable and at peace; I imagine that your visitors would instantly feel this way, too, once they step through your door!! P.S. My hubby and I live in a small, one bedroom condo...and we've installed a curtain rail on the ceiling of our livingroom that instantly creates a guest room when needed!! XOXO