Beachlife Design: Stuff with Story

I love visiting ordinary design blogs. I so enjoy the everyday blogger who posts photos of the design elements she’s created in her home. Nor can I resist the highly styled, glossy design mags but in the end they leave me feeling more frustrated than inspired. I’ll never have the budget of the people whose homes are featured in Florida Design, whereas the lovely Sarah from a beach cottage is more my muse. Our design styles couldn’t be more different but that’s not the point. She makes do with what she’s got, and her vignettes and tablescapes and whatnot always have story, and that’s what’s important to me in my design. Story.

I once had a color consultant over, and she really didn’t want to stay on the task of helping me choose some colors. She wanted to rearrange my furniture and accessories and even go out and buy accessories for me. As if I’d want someone else’s idea of what I should put in my home! No. Most of my pieces have story, and I love the process of adding something here and there. Why, a new piece just joining the household triggers a whole chain of editing and rearranging!

Last week I read on Sarah’s blog a single line that resonated with me because it’s been my own design point of view, too. (I paraphrase) “I like creating little vignettes in the home that please me when when I’m walking past carrying an armful of laundry.” Yes! That’s it! I don’t care about a show home; when I glance this way or that, I want my items, old, new, inherited and found – to be meaningful to someone in this house. And that someone would be me, because let’s face it: no one else around here really cares about things like this.

I love to read and talk about design so I’m going to do it here from time to time. Beachlife housewife is happy to talk to herself, and take pictures of the little things that make her smile.

An absolute bibliophile who loves to garden, I needed to learn about the Florida climate and plant life when we moved here. Atop the books sits a lidded, marble container that I grew up looking at in my parents’ house. Now, it has a new home, with me. Those stack of books wouldn’t be finished without that container; it completes them.

I created the dish gardens nearly a year and a half ago (and they’ve survived!) and they are lovely tabletop gardens for a living room. They are desert plants so they don’t need much water and I love them so much that I’ve even given them as gifts. The yellow shell came from a favorite local shop-not a chain store-that carries cool things with an eye for design and that yellow color really spoke to me. I love beachy, but not all over the house. So this is a compromise piece: urban beachy. Without it, the two dish gardens just seemed…lonely.

An idea I borrowed from something I saw in a store. My shellscape is a combination of ‘bought’ shells (you can’t find that kind of lovely on these shores) and my found treasures. The sand? Well, it’s from the beach at my beloved Lake Michigan! I’ve carried it in a ziploc and used it in various projects around the house for the past ten years. So for now, I gaze at it in its glass container of lovely shells – bought and found – with a bit of deco grass thrown in for color and texture. I love it.

Three design books the favorite being the architect William Morgan, a world-renown master who lives right here in Atlantic Beach. I’ve met him, visited with him in his home, and this book is a signed edition. Atop these books is another of my mother’s accessories – a simple floral box that I grew up with. I love that it’s with me now because every time I see it (and the marble round container) I think of my mom. She would have liked what I’ve done with them, I know it.

Wider view of the same stuff.

All about China, here. The art was purchased in Beijing and the wood bowls resemble the bowls my daughter holds when she slurps her favorite noodles adeptly with her chopsticks.

The story here is the green bottle. When I was in MOS once, I watched Lourdes wrapping a bottle with yarn and immediately I knew what I could do with bits of my mother’s beautiful yarn that I have to remember her by. My mother collected yarn, couldn’t resist beautiful yarns or yarn shops – if you’re a knitter, which I am not, you’ll understand. So when she died, she left so much yarn that I couldn’t bear to pass all of it on…I chose a few pretties for myself and tossed them into a basket. Not so creative, but then, my mom understood my limitations as well where my creativity did reside. Anyway, I offered to buy the green bottle and Lourdes scoffed, and gave it to me! I then chose many strands of my mom’s most beautiful yarn, and made my very own ‘yarn bottle’. Every time I look at it, walking to and fro, yes, I think of mom.
Oh, I’ve loved the grassy pot for about twelve years now, since I first bought it when we lived in Grand Haven, Michigan. When I found the bird at here, MOS, made from that same, distressed texture, I knew it had to live in the beachlife house. For now the bird sits underneath a grassy canopy in the corner of my shelf.

More vignettes from my own beachlife beach house to come another day. I do have some beach-style art elements in certain parts of my house. This particular house, though, doesn’t have beach style architecture, so that informs my interior tendencies, I suppose. Still, it’s hard to resist good art in any form, so next time, beach stuff.

Meantime, I’d love to know what are some of your favorite design blogs, beach-related, or not?!


  1. Sammi says:

    I am totally the type of person who decides, when right in the middle of something else, that I need to change my entire room around. And I have to do it right then.

  2. Maya says:

    I couldn't agree more with your design philosophy!! And I love your beachy touches. The shell scape is really gorgeous!!

  3. Nick Lulli says:

    I love your house! It is so well designed; you should become a design reporter or something!

  4. Terra says:

    I love this article.

  5. simpledaisy says:

    I couldn't agree more!! I think it's great when people have their own sense of style about them!
    I think when you walk into a home it should tell a story….
    Everything about it should let people know what your about!
    My visitors wonder if I do infact have a husband!!! haha…
    I say "yes…he's present in his bathroom and the garage!!!" haha:)
    Great post!

  6. Shellbelle says:

    Love the whole vignette idea, seems that's what I've been doing with this move. I have really downsized my living space, so now I have to mix my favorite things together. So far, so good and like you said, I love walking past them, makes me smile and feel a little less homesick.

    While she blogs about all kinds of things, Barbara @ one of the places I turn to for design advice. Her book Waterside Cottages is fabulous and is featured in the June issue of Romantic Homes.

  7. Margie says:

    I have no style, Jeannie, so no design sites for you. But I loved this post!

Speak Your Mind