my occasional musings on life, love, art, perfume ... what else is there?

6.16.2005

History According to My Mother's Decor


Turquoise! The horror of turquoise!

[Magically disappear three of those kids and make one a girl (those boys look a LOT like my butchcut/butchwaxed five year old brother; the sharpshorn Brad Pitt -- if you unfocus your eyes -- could be my lieutenant colonel father in civilian clothes. But we didn't do that icky holding-hands-during-grace thing until the advent of the Wicked Stepfather). Oh, and my mother looked nothing like Angelina Jolie with the flowing locks. Sorry, Mother. But it's true.]

My Mother's Life in Decor was neatly segmented into three periods:

The Turquoise Period, in which she surrounded all of us in all turquoise, all the time. This even extended to her car, a turquoise-with-fins Chevy Biscayne. Then there were her clothes, mostly turquoise. But it was most evident in our living room, where she played off many, many turquoise accents against black and white furniture. Mom was pretty chic then, all things considered.

Olive Green and Burnt Orange -- Her Second Decor Age -- is the one that still makes me shudder. Which scarily coincided with her Early American Colonial furniture period. We had living room wallpaper with an olive green colonial scene bouncing off the MATCHING (yes, matching) patterned drapes. Accents -- and again, a lot of them -- were in this rusty orange, and all the maple furniture had these spindled legs that you just know no self-respecting Early American would have been caught dead with. Pewter everywhere, though. So Paul Revereish. But do you really think Olive Green and Burnt Orange when you think Founding Fathers? Hey, tell it to my mother.

That one lasted a LONG time.

I had moved out and married by the time Mother went into her last redecorating frenzy. But her taste had really muted -- it might have been a reflection of her illness, actually. She was tired, and wanted calm colors and traditional furniture. Sadly, her last home decor period was my favorite. Pale blue and cream plaid on the traditional armchairs, a soft blue and pink floral on the loveseats, pink accents. She still had spirit, though. My stepfather HATED the blue and pink period. But she was adamant. And got her way at the end. Always.

I'm amazed at women who have linens, silver and and other familial artifacts handed down by their mothers. Our family moved a lot, and my mother was a compulsive seller/discarder who periodically sloughed everything off (including a husband at one juncture) and started over. There's nothing left except memory of my childhood homes.

It's not sad, really, although I would now love to have something, even if it was turquoise or burnt orange, to remember her by.

But she did teach me to live light. And I'm now going through my own Era of Red and Gold. Heh.

Today's fragrance Ivoire de Balmain by Pierre Balmain. Lemon, carnation, jasmine and fresh green leaves, accented with amber, raspberry and oakmoss. Thank you, Marta!

18 Comments:

Blogger Kyahgirl said...

From the Oxford Concise:
Poignant; sharp or pungent in taste or smell; painfully sharp;pleasantly piquant; causing sympathy;hence poignancy.

Take your pick.
M, Your writing, your memories, always bring the word poignant to my mind. Thanks for sharing.
xoxo Laura

8:17 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well we lived together, and were siblings, enduring the turned maple legs and the colonial patterns of orange and green draperies.

There was help for me though. My Grandmother with her very Victorian image and preferences surrounded certain areas of my childhood home with her touches. China. Roses. Feminity the 60's could not conjure (she was a woman who never wore pants a day in her life) The smell of her.

So many things that come out of you are more like the Victorian Grandmother, rather than similar to our mothers tastes of the 60's.

~clearing

8:31 AM

 
Anonymous Laura said...

So apt for me at the moment, M. Just got back from a trip to my elderly parents' house, where I finally talked my mother into getting interior of the house repainted. They live in a one hundred year old house that is surrounded by large trees, so there's not a lot of light in there. She chose dark and dusty colors (taupe, mauve and a deep hyacinth blue)--the opposite of what I (artist, interior designer) would have chose for that space. I bit my tongue and then swallowed my thoughts and after that tasty meal, I was happy with her choices. It is her house and I'm just fortunate that she and it are there.

8:53 AM

 
Blogger Yesrie said...

OMG, LOLOL. Olive green, gold, and Danish Modern :> We never had a turquoise period (though there's always been a huge turquoise section in my wardrobe), but at age 10 I loved the olive/gold combo so much that I got my ski outfit in those colors :-p OTOH Mom's skiwear was plum and powder blue, and I still love that combination.

My stepbrothers had the wiffle cuts and Mom had the halter dresses. Background music: Blame it on the Bossa Nova :>

Wow. Thanks for giving us a ride in the Wayback Machine, Mr. Peabody!

9:33 AM

 
Blogger NowSmellThis said...

My Mom's house was done entirely in tans & browns when I was growing up, and it was very much a reaction to her Mom's house, which had very bright colors in jarring combinations. One room would be raspberry, the next, bright green.

And I know this has nothing to do with it, but who are those children in the picture? Is that from the movie?

10:57 AM

 
Anonymous chef 'em out said...

Ditto the above comments.That picture is a classic and brought back memories.

11:35 AM

 
Blogger Stephanie said...

I knew a Mireille in high school, who'd moved to the States from South Africa. I'm guessing you're a different Mireille?

12:21 PM

 
Anonymous Laura F. said...

M, darling, could you please fix that godawful typo of mine above ( 'would have chose')? Never in my life have I said such a thing and it gives me the heeby jeebies.
Mwah.

2:26 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Laura f...I believe we all know you would never say such a thing. All together we will see it as fixed in our heads that you never did say such a thing. All together we are sitting on in an avocado kitchen drinking Folgers from Safeway cups bought with bonus coupons, thinking that you have perfect diction at all times as the tangerine cafe curtains waft gently, stirring the bodices of our 73 gold and green colonial print shifts....



~clearing

2:45 PM

 
Blogger mireille said...

Laura ... I'm not able to edit comments (you're probably able to do that in typepad) but we know that you are grammatically as well as aesthetically pristine and that it must have been a mistake in the cybermachinery. That's the only way any of MY grammatical glitches happen. heh. And I do love the whiteflowers in reverse. xoxo

2:47 PM

 
Blogger mireille said...

and also: what clearing said!

2:48 PM

 
Blogger BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

Actually, I LOVE that picture and the turquoise has a definite retro quality about it.

Oh, M...I didn't know you were a product of the Americana type family! In a way, it is cool.

4:08 PM

 
Blogger Atreau said...

I think it's a shame that people don't sit around the kitchen table anymore. Growing up we had to hear my parents ranting over the politics of the day while my sister and I explained what we learned at school.

We had a yellow kitchen, then later a white one.

5:44 PM

 
Blogger mireille said...

S - I think it's sad, too. There was at least one meal a day -- dinner -- where the family sat and argued. I learned how to argue over dinner.

5:55 PM

 
Blogger briefcandle said...

Ohhh, the memories! My parents still live in the house I grew up in and it is like something from a time capsule.

Danish Modern dining room, floral against black upholstery, sapphire blue wall to wall carpeting...you get the picture. They even have thier original early 60s pink wall mounted *dial* telephone. When the guy came to install DSL, he gawked in amazement. Like a kid seeing an adding machine.

I see this at least every Tuesday afternoon, when I help my father (he's blind) manage his paperwork. Next time, I may just go up to my bedroom and look in my old desk drawer to see if the pencils I used in high school are still sitting where I left them over 30 years ago. I would guess that they are.

Anyway, thanks M for reminding me about eating warm fresh baked rye bread on the way home from Church and Communion, which required an empty stomach in those days. And those wonderful Sunday afternoon meals where we all stayed in our Church clothes and ate special foods like lamb and cornish hens.

Love your blog, I missed it when I was in the hospital.

6:32 PM

 
Blogger thc said...

Yesrie nailed it, it's Danish Modern and our house was full of it in the 60's as well.

7:11 PM

 
Blogger katiedid said...

Oh the horror of those color schemes!!! The olive/orange thing is one that especially makes me violently ill, at least as how I've seen others do it up.

Admittedly, it's no where near as bad as the avacado/putrid lemon thing my parents were inflicted with they first moved into their last house.

That last color combo she had sounds quite relaxing and soothing, I think. I wonder what kind of memories my kids will have of my decorating choices now.

7:26 PM

 
Anonymous neko said...

Turquoise! It's the hot color of the spring/summer over here and I'm about ready to gouge my eyes out (despite having rather liked it before the fad). Is it just as hot in North America? Or is it (thankfully) limited to the Sears catalog or Land's End.

That said, my parents never got around to much of a color scheme when I was a kid. Now that the children are out of the house they've taken to investing in furniture... all in this strange faux-suede deep dark blue color. I find it overwhelming, but I know my parents are happy to have matching furniture for once. While I don't like the color I appriciate the fact that it allows me to send my mother all sorts of exotic Japanese textiles (indigo is THE traditional color here) for my mother to make in to accent pillows and such.

I do kind of miss the dark browm bamboo print with wicker accents couch of my childhood though. The cusions made for the best camo forts.

8:39 PM

 

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