Tag Archives: alexandra stoddard

Alexandra Stoddard on Creating a Beautiful Home

As a young mommy with 5 children hanging off my arms everyday in the late 1980s, I read a book from the library by Alexandra Stoddard, a revered interior designer and prolific author. 

Having moved a lot as a child, I struggled with a bit of rootlessness, yet was always looking for a way to be planted – create home.  Looking back at the notes I wrote when I read Alexandra’s book, I can see that this woman whom I will probably never meet, this woman who lives a life which is night-and-day different than mine – was actually an early mentor for me.  She gave me the words and understanding to create a home for myself and my family.

These are some things I learned from Alexandra Stoddard:

“I’ve seen the homliest houses transformed into havens of affection and joy by fascinating, high-spirited people.”


“An honest home that rings true to the lives of the people who occupy it will always be disarmingly refreshing to visitors.”

“Style requires discipline…Edit.  Putter.  Eliminate.”

“Don’t feel compelled to fill up all the spaces.  Space is a luxury.  Plus space  helps us feel serene.  Create rooms that have free corners.”

“Clean windows are like a cloudless day.  White window trim intensifies light.”

“I have  a theory about houses.  The front is the most formal and correct.  The middle loosens up a bit after we’ve passed through our public rooms into our private, intimate rooms.   By the time we get to the back, there is children’s art on the walls, good smells coming from the kitchen, and there is laughter.”

“Design your life, not your house…Create rooms for endless pleasure and feelings of well-being.”

“Houses, no matter how humble or grand, come and go and ultimately do not define us.  Home is an attitude that has to do with love and caring, thoughtfulness, honesty and authenticity.”

“If you are drawn to certain colors and objects, chances are that a compatibility of spirit will bind them together.”

About 10 years ago Alexandra Stoddard was in Denver promoting a book she wrote (which I have never read), Feeling at Home.   I found, tucked into my home-making notebook (where I have kept ideas and magazine pictures for inspiration) the torn piece of newspaper from an interview she did for the Home section of the Rocky Mountain News where she advises:

“Write down ten things that define who you are.  Now bring your list and walk around [your home].  How do you feel in your home?   If you don’t feel good about a dark corner, change it.  Do you have a blah area?   Get out your paint brush.  If you love the color blue, paint your ceilings blue…put a blue quilt on your bed.

“What I want is for you to feel…wonderful when you’ve made the connection.   You’re not decorating a house…you’re taking yourself and the way you truly want to live [to heart] so your environment stimulates the best in you.”

I really love her philosophy on home.  I am going to make my list now…Jeanie

“By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasure.”  Proverbs 24.3, 4 NIV

NOTE TO SELF: My Savior, my husband and kids, those grandbabies, writing, worshiping/singing, family dinners, time with Dave, time in the Word (aka time WITH the Word), speaking/teaching, cheering young wives and mommies on (my spiritual daughters), loyal friends…can I have more than 10?…

pictured: sneak peek on the orange-painting-craze; kid’s art on the walls

Accumulative Effect

So – home.  I don’t decorate.  At least not in the make-a-plan-buy-everything-at-once-and-see-it-through-asap way.  I want to, but the time (?), the resources (?)…so I just gravitate towards things I love and they show up all around me.  Eventually, a “look” emerges.

I love the clean modern, minimalist lines of current showhomes.  Every decorating show on TV displays an “after” room that is neat and clutter-free and fresh and has basically no visible signs of life (toast crumbs, shoes by the door, you know: life).  Everytime I watch one, I want an entire new house full of furniture that has never actually been used.  Right now I could have that and not even have to pay until January 2012!!!  You gotta love furniture showroom advertising!

We used to own an antique/vintage furnishings/home decor/custom framing/gift-type shop downtown in another state.  When we left that place, I kept only the things that had meaning  to me.  True antiquers would point out the chips and cracks in what I have, which may give them less value.  They might flip the aged plate over to read the markings, find out where it came from instead of enjoying the beauty of the piece or remembering the friend who gave it.  Yet these are the things I love.  The pieces of the past that bring meaning to my present.

If the house was burning down and I had already secured my family & dog, home videos and all of my photos, next I’d want (not necessarily in this order):

My antique oak buffet (“sideboard”) with the curved legs – the very first “old” thing I ever got when a lady wanted to show her thanks for a pastoral visit by giving it to Dave and I.  It was black with oxidization and had a broken and bolted leg.  A friend stripped it back to expose a tight wood grain and repaired the leg.  It sits in the family room, still, against a red-pepper-colored wall. Iinside is artwork-not-yet-framed, candles, video equipment and table linens.  Underneath, sometimes, are 2 more modern-shaped ottomans.


The very large pine library table we found in the garage of a house we bought years ago.  The previous owners had attached a 4 x 8 sheet of plywood on top to use it as a work bench.  It was filthy and beat up.  It is now the very roomy, shiny desk at which Dave does all his wee-hours-of-the-morning writing in the master suite.

A small drop-leaf desk with doors which are so warped they will never properly close again.  I bought it for $5 at a garage sale and my all-time-great-friend-for-life, Lisa Bierer, painted a European castle scene on it.  Open market?  Probably couldn’t get much, but it houses my stationery and family photos and the loving touch of a good friend and I wouldn’t sell it to save my life.


The old-school-window coffee table.  All 5 of my children attended, for at least 2 of their elementary school years, Northern Hills in Norfolk, NE.  Not long before we left there, they were doing a remodel on the old 1920s building and were throwing out the big, old multi-paned windows.  A teacher friend called us (knowing we like weird things) and said, “You should come and get some windows!”  We did and a few years ago, my husband bought an old bed at a thrift store and used the legs and other distressed wood to create a coffee table.  It is a piece of my children’s past through which they once gazed toward their futures.  And in the Twilight-Zone-category, they all now attend and do ministry at Northern Hills Church here in Colorado.  I have no idea what that means, but there it is.

The Victorian family cut-outs representing us that my husband created in the 1980s.  I was in to “Victorian” then.  Hey, our shop was “Victorious!”  Dave cut out almost-life-sized Victorian people representing each of us, and we painted them and used them as part of our yard display at Christmas.   We lived in a great big 1860s Queen Anne Victorian then and we won a Christmas lighting display contest in our city the year we made them!  They are rarely seen now, unless you happen to glance up into the garage rafters, but they are our own family “antiques.” 

Some days I’d like to throw everything out and start all over.  But I also like that which says: we have been creating a life for almost 28 years!…much came before us….these things are part of our foundation, our long-lived and continuing commitment.  Maybe due to the somewhat rootlessness of my childhood (we moved around a lot) I want proof that my life and home didn’t just appear on the American Furniture Warehouse showroom yesterday.  It didn’t just end one place and start over the next.  Home carries the proof of deep roots, sometimes slightly-tattered and time-worn, but beautiful in their reflection of the green, life-giving blessing of God.  The effect of the things accumulated?  Real people in 3-d, not a magazine shoot.  Safe.  Nurturing.  Home. Sweet.  Home.

If the house were burning down – mainly the family and dog, the home videos and all my photographs!…Jeanie

NOTE TO SELF:  But editing, very aggressive editing is way OK, too!  It is January – a good time to edit ruthlessly!

pictured: the buffet, the Lisa-Bierer-painted desk, the school-window coffee table, a branch I just painted…orange! :)

“For me, home is the coming together of my past memories and experiences, of my love for my children and husband and friends;…my optimism tangibly expressed in life-enhancing ways – room by room…”  Alexandra Stoddard in Creating a Beautiful Home

The post that got me on this home-making train.

Quoteable Home

Who said this?  “Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.”



“…in this house…we are living our days in contentment and grace…”  Alexandra Stoddard


“Home should be a very personal oasis, a refuge from trends, prentiousness, ‘in and outs.’  Home should reflect the things we love and the people we care about.”  Joann R. Barwick in House Beautiful,  January 1989

“‘Second hand,’ or ‘already loved.'”  Mary Emmerling

“Economy often begets creativity.”  Mary Emmerling


[In home decor], “I work for an unstudied, unpackaged effect.”  -Winslow

A pine table is a proper thing, but a pine table that pretends to be black walnut is an abomination.”  Ella Church Rodman


“Start Fresh. 

Strip your place of everything – remove light fixtures, ugly hardware, hinges, doors, moldings, carpets – anything that is ugly and you don’t like it.”  Alexandra Stoddard in Style for Living

This whole home-making thing started with this post.

pictured from top: a corner of Robin’s house featuring the oak clawfoot pedestal table some one gave to Dave and Tara who gave it to me before I gave it to Joe and Robin;  a rooster Robin recently purchased on a treasure-shopping expidition; Hunter jumping on the couch this morning