and another thing... Fashion vs. Style

I went to the Great Lakes Home and Flower Show at the Kalahari's Nia Center last weekend. I sat for an hour at Border
Kathy Lilje
May 24, 2010


I went to the Great Lakes Home and Flower Show at the Kalahari's Nia Center last weekend.

I sat for an hour at Border's Book Store and paged through decorating books before buying a couple of the more informative or entertaining.

I watched hours and hours and hours of home improvement shows in the last few weeks.

And my decorating magazine stack is starting to take on a life of its own. It's only a matter of time before it will be the largest single item in our house.

All this was to try to get my head back into the DWELLINGS mode after its winter hiatus.

None of these preparations equipped me with all the information on how to have a beautiful, efficient, well-organized, environmentally-friendly home.

But a thought did rise to the surface about design in general.

There's a big difference between fashion and style.

The design industry thrives because many of us are easily attracted to whatever is the latest fad. Rather than search within ourselves to find what really pleases us, we formulate our tastes depending on what the current design mavens tell us we should like -- what's in fashion.

Style is more complicated. A person's history, her passions and pasttimes, her personality and life circumstances all play important roles in developing her unique way of presenting herself -- her style.

Whether in wardrobes or in home decorating, fashion is fleeting while style lasts. Victoria Beckham is fashion. Katherine Hepburn was style. Paula Abdul is fashion (of a sort) while Simon Cowell is style (of a sort).

I have a friend whose home was always sporting the latest look. She spent a lot of time, money and effort to be the poster child of what's "in."

For a while, ceramic, glass, wood and brass geese inhabited her home like the gaggle from hell. White geese with blue bows tied around their necks marched around the wallpaper border in her kitchen in the company of cookie jars, plates and pictures with the same theme. It was crisp, cute and oh-so-in -- then. In the bathroom, geese soapdishes held guest soap in the shape of, you guessed it, geese. Even her shower curtain had geese.

Not that I have anything against our feathered friends. If geese are your thing, more power to you. But for my friend they were only one of a series of fads that took over her house.

After that fad flew her coop, she moved right into another bird-brained idea -- ducks. She stripped her oak kitchen cabinets and stained them in a dark finish that blended nicely with new hunter green wall paint and duck decoy wallpaper border. Ducks took over every place the geese had vacated. The look was English hunting lodge chic -- baronial, solid and oh-so-in -- then.

It wasn't long before she decided shabby chic Victorian was more appealing to her. Out flew the ducks and in their place were a pink rose wallpaper border, artificially-aged white dining chairs and table, white crackle finished cupboards and lace curtains. Teasets in delicate china and lacy tablecloths brought a decidedly feminine look to the previously masculine space. It was delicate, romantic and oh-so-in -- then.

Before long, all that frilliness got to her and sailboats moored in her home. A new wallpaper border, a new kitchen set with captain chairs, a cheery blue, white and yellow color scheme and a chandelier made from a ship's wheel were added. It was fresh, airy and oh-so-in -- then.

Next the whole Provencal thing whispered sweet nothings in her ear and she shifted to grapevines, wine racks and an ornate antique table and chairs. She laboriously painted a simulated plaster effect on her walls. It was beautiful, earthy and oh-so-in -- then.

Less than two years later, she transformed that same room into a retro diner with red cupboards, a real Coke machine and chrome stools at a counter. It was fun, cheerful and oh so in --then.

When her husband recently retired and their income was slashed considerably, she had to come to terms with the fact her complete re-do days were numbered. But she was tired of being the waitress in the diner for two and didn't know what to do about it.

She had been on the cutting edge of home fashion for so many years that she had no idea what her style was. Bits and pieces of previous incarnations of her kitchen were stored away -- just some of her favorite things.

By remembering what she liked best about each of those eras, she was able to decorate her kitchen in a way that was all hers. She remembered how she always loved the pale yellow kitchen in her grandma's home.

"Now that was a real kitchen," she said.

She brought the round oak table and chairs from the geese era back up into the kitchen from the basement, painted the walls a pale yellow like grandma's kitchen (no wallpaper border), made a centerpiece from a pitcher (also grandma's) and some real ivy, stripped the red from the cupboards and painted them a soothing cream color and replaced the Coke machine with a bookcase and a comfy rocking chair. The sale of the Coke machine paid for the kitchen re-do.

She says it will be her last.

She says it finally feels like her kitchen.

I say she finally kicked fashion to the curb and found style.

It was a long journey, but she had fun along the way and the retailers had fun because of her fickleness. There was nothing too wrong with any of her kitchens. They were well-executed and furnished from the best shops (no, I mean shoppes). You know the difference.

As a way to honor the journey, she dedicated a shelf to kitchens past. It features a ceramic goose, a wooden duck decoy, a rose patterned pitcher and bowl and a tiny sailboat model. She kept the wine rack from the Provencal era, and music from a retro wall jukebox fills the air. Who cares if they're in fashion? These items are manifestations of her history, the cream of the crop, the souvenirs of her long journey home.

See you next week.


And another thing. If any of you have a Harley-Davidson themed home, please let me know. Ohio Bike Week is just around the corner. Show us your .... your kitchens.