Now's the time|Not all important tools are ones kept in toolboxes

And now's the time to talk about the single most important -- irreplaceable, indispensable -- tool you can have as a home owner or d
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

And now's the time to talk about the single most important -- irreplaceable, indispensable -- tool you can have as a home owner or decorator.

Is it a screwdriver, hammer or tape measure? Nope. Those can all be replaced, remember?

Is it a bottomless bank account? WellllI... I'm sure that couldn't hurt and while great wealth might make home ownership less stressful and decorating more carefree, it's probably not in the cards for most of us.

But never fear -- my most important, irreplaceable, indispensable tool costs absolutely nothing. That's right, there's no "limited time offer" and you don't have to "act now to get a second one free."

The tool may, however, have to be acquired. At least that's my experience...

OK, I won't keep you in suspense any longer. The single most important thing you can have is a sense of humor, or at least the ability to not take things so seriously!

And how did I arrive at this conclusion? Well, you know those decorating magazines? I get 'em all. Or at least it seems that way. House Beautiful, Domino, Cottage Living, Birds and Blooms (for gardening and landscaping) plus some others that relatives bestow on me... and I enjoy them, I truly do, but what I've learned is that you just can't buy into the idea that your home should look like those in the magazines. I had to take a hiatus for a while because I became too intimidated by the perfection in their pages.

The reality is, it's doubtful I'll ever have my own "team of designers" or heated marble floors or an orignal Andy Warhol to use as a "focal point." I mean, talk about intimidating -- the least expensive vanity (I'm in the market for one of those) in a recent magazine has a price tag that's more than my house payment. And that doesn't include the chair!

As for advice? Please. I'm not saying these publications don't have good suggestions and ideas to get you thinking -- but one book says it's all about pairs: The club chairs on either side of the fireplace should match. Ditto the lamps on either end of the sofa. Except that I read somewhere else the only time you should "pair" things is if you want your residence to resemble a hotel room. It's enough to make your head spin.

Hey, you wanna hang some artwork? You have two choices. Read seven hundred different theories -- eye level, flush bottoms, in a group, in pairs (again,) six inches from the top of the couch, symmetrically, asymmetrically, behind a lamp (what?) -- or pick up the hammer and nails and hang it where it's most pleasing to you. Trust me on this: Choose option number two. I was so confused by all the rules, a whole bunch of art lived under the beds for almost three years.

Again -- inspiration, ideas -- sure. Use the magazines for those but don't allow yourself to get so caught up in someone else's notions of design or style that you're paralyzed. As soon as I loosened up a little, my home started to reflect my personality and became much more comfortable.

So what if some of the decor would send the editors of those glossy pages into fits -- the coconut woman who graces my coffee table makes me smile. She started out as a gag gift and has been passed around my family for years (poor gal) but she came home with me last Christmas and I've decided to give her a permanent place of honor. She looks smashing in her grass skirt and polka-dot bikini top, and is a perfect complement to the palm tree print on the wall. I've also given her the dignity of a name: Lola. I doubt she'll be appearing in the pages Better Homes and Gardens any time soon but you know what? Lola's happy, I'm happy.

You know what else? Sometimes your best ideas won't work. Once again, here's where you lighten up, make some adjustments and employ another crucial tool: flexibility. An example? The plummy-colored eucalyptus swag that was just perfect over the bed had to come down after the cat became obsessed with it. You know cats are nocturnal creatures, right? Well, I really liked how the swag looked, and the cat was apparently quite fond of its taste and texture, but getting sprinkled with eucalyptus bits in your sleep is not exactly conducive to that all-important sense of humor. Neither is a cat howling outside the bedroom door, so I had to switch to a less, um... crunchy decor -- a framed drawing done by a Firelands art student.

It's not the look I originally wanted but as it turns out, I like it better and I appreciate the sleep.

So there you go. Now's the time to bend some rules and live happily in a home with the best designer available -- you -- using that most important, irreplaceable, indispensable tool!