Beautiful homes show up everywhere I look. Supermarket racks are filled with magazines featuring stylish apartments, houses, and estates. Pinterest boards offer endless images of French country kitchens, ultra-modern living rooms, and master bedrooms where the walls, throw pillows, and knickknacks are carefully coordinated around a central color scheme.
It’s enough to make me feel utterly inadequate.
I have a love/hate relationship with these photos. They show me what I like when it comes to home decor, but they also make me realize the gaping chasm between what I like and what I have. Looking up from an article about a tastefully-renovated country home, I see my own tiny postwar tract house, and a more stark contrast is hard to imagine. No one will ever write a feature about my eleven-hundred square foot dwelling, home to two adults, two young boys, and thirty thousand Legos.
But what if they did? What if an editor who was determined to keep it real paid a visit to my very lived-in house, giving it the full magazine treatment? What would the article say?
Here’s my best guess:
Looking around Ginny Kubitz Moyer’s home, you notice a surprising decorating motif: Dog Post-its. As you walk throughout the house, carefully navigating the toys underfoot, you spot countless Post-its on the walls and doors, each paper square sporting an identical image of a fluffy white canine.
“That’s the work of my five-year-old,” Ginny explains. “He got a pad of them in his Easter basket, and instead of using them for writing notes, he plastered the house with them.” She gives a philosophical shrug. “It’s better than having the boys write on the walls with crayon. Trust me on that.”
Dog Post-its aside, surprises hide around every corner of this suburban home. Enter the hall, and you find whimsical Lego creations displayed next to a wedding picture of Ginny and her husband Scott. A monkey-themed bowl containing Goldfish cracker crumbs sits in the middle of the couch. Plastic swords peep over the top of a very tall living room bookcase. “Wow, I forgot about those,” says Ginny, looking up. “The boys were getting too rough one day, so we confiscated them. That was what? Two years ago?”
Overall, the home sports an evident attempt at modern English country decor, with a floral rug only slightly marred by stains and Ginny’s beloved teapots displayed in the dining room hutch, far out of reach of projectiles.
“Yes, we did the decorating ourselves,” says Ginny. “Can you tell?” She describes their furniture as a blend of Target, Ikea, and hand-me-downs, especially the latter. “I know things don’t really match, but to be honest, I kind of like having pieces with family history.”
Her most prized piece is a wing chair upholstered in light burgundy. “This was my grandparents’ chair, which they bought sometime in the early sixties. Grandpa loved to sit in it to watch TV. I’ve spent many happy hours in it myself, feeding my babies and reading bedtime stories. The original upholstery was literally threadbare, so I recently had it redone. It was one of the best investments ever, giving this special piece a new life.”
The small bookcase by the fireplace, stocked with a double row of books and the occasional Matchbox car, is also an heirloom. “A few years ago we came across a black and white snapshot of my dad as a baby in Chicago in the 1940s, and this shelf was in the background. I was so excited when I recognized it.”
Even amid the clutter, Ginny has managed to fashion a personal retreat for meditation and solitude. She points out the brown desk pushed up against the window of the master bedroom: “That was my sister’s childhood desk. She didn’t want it anymore, so I gladly took it.” It’s now Ginny’s prayer space, decorated with candles and photos of family and friends. On the wall by the desk is a crayon drawing of four monsters, a gift from Ginny’s older son. Below it is a Post-It of a white dog. “I know these images aren’t exactly what most people think of when they think about prayer,” Ginny concedes, “but having them nearby helps focus me on what really matters.”
She grows thoughtful for a moment. “I sometimes get envious of houses I see on Pinterest or in magazines, the ones where everything matches and looks so sharp. And yet my house reflects my life, I guess: a little tired, somewhat chaotic, but also surprising and fun. Warm and full of memories,” she grins. “And in the end, I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
QUESTION: If your home doesn’t live up to your image of “the perfect house,” how can you re-frame your definition of “perfect”?
CHALLENGE: Take a tour of your own house, looking not for flaws but for evidence of fun and love.
Edited by Sarah Monson.
Image from Ginny Kubitz Moyer, with graphics by Julie Finlayson.,