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Quilt bedroom

Handmade wall hanging quilted by a member of the “Pressing On” quilt group at First Baptist of Wheaton


This girl adores the domestic alchemy of turning a house into a home.

Call it what you will – feathering the nest, decking the halls, or gilding the lily – there is something about personalizing living space that has a language all its own.

It hollers Welcome!

It beckons, C’mon in…we’ve prettied things up for you.

It spreads the walls wide and says Our hearts are open to you. Our home, too.

But when it comes to decorating expertise (Spoiler Alert!), I am an amateur, a poseur. Life outside our four walls leaves no time to watch HGTV or pore over decorating magazines. Funds that might go to pay a gen-u-ine expert for his or her sage advice have a thousand other uses.


Handmade wall hanging quilted by a member of the “Pressing On” quilt group at First Baptist of Wheaton


So I find ways to decorate on purpose instead. Here are my three faves.


My friend Joleen is fabulous at this. She and her family open their home multiple times each week to host groups large and small. Part of the fun of visiting is seeing how Jo has creatively repurposed eclectic items from one room to freshen up the look in another.

It took Mike and me nearly 13 years to get to it, but when we finally transformed the former nursery in our home into an office (a room of my own!), we replaced the pink rosebud border and hunter green bookshelves with various shades of coffee, cream and chocolate.

Where to get a few pops of brilliant blue to brighten things up? Framed photographs of the cobalt skies and seas of Hawaii were redeployed from our guestroom, and a grouping of tear flasks from Israel finally found a home.

Office printsTeal vase

After that guestroom’s comforter was ripped to shreds by two playful kittens, we redecorated with butter yellow and spring green. At last! That old green recliner that sat in another corner of the house, silent and ill-fitting? Now it speaks up and says Put your feet up! And our guests do.


My formula: form + function = decorating on purpose. Other than a few paintings and photographs, everything else not paying rent to sit under our roof has to work for its keep or it’s outta there.

The sturdy woven Kenya bag, a gift from Mike’s sister 20 years back, enhances our back entrance while serving as an easy grab for Saturday morning trips to the farmer’s market.

Kenya bag

White pitchers, platters and bowls top our kitchen cupboards. Peaceful on the eyes and useful to the hands, they all pitch in when guests come to call. My rule for acquisition? Garage sales and resale shops only.

Kitchen cabinets1


My small city is home to over a dozen resale and consignment shops. Goodwill is the first place I check for costume pieces or specialty items, but Stars, Repeat Boutique and Twice is Nice are favorite hunting grounds. Best yet? Most benefit local charities.

After our cat Pippin pushed a large glass vase off the top of Mike’s armoire this winter, I found a $6 replacement pottery vase from Thailand at Stars. (Take that, cat! This one’s too heavy for you to toy with.)

vase bedroom

That squat teal glass vase in my office? It’s exactly like one I saw on a spring magazine cover but Home Goods had it for only $6.99.

The “Be our guest” signs we post in our guestroom with our home wireless network and password cost nothing – a free download from Sweet Blessings, my favorite printables site.

Add a bottle of water plus packaged trail mix, and overnight guests hear the message that they’re wanted as well as welcome.

be our guestexample

Handmade wall hanging quilted by a member of the “Pressing On” quilt group at First Baptist of Wheaton


What are your favorite ways to decorate on purpose?