I've been creating some version of a pin board my entire life. As a child, my walls were papered with colorful ads (certain my destiny lay in advertising), then glossy fashion pics (having moved on to working in fashion, something my friends would find laughable now, with my wholehearted embrace of a "uniform"), then on to binders, folders, and sketchbooks of absolutely everything that captured my fancy along the way - interiors and food, then photography, art, design, and finally, crafts.
My interests continue to evolve and become refined, and those clippings get winnowed out over time. But there are clippings I've carried with me from year to year, city to city, life to life. They've become old friends to me by now; I recognize that the subject matter has transcended the trends of the moment, speaking to a core part of my personality, illuminating my deepest desires, motivations, and needs.
Some of those tear sheets are photographs of the various homes of Mary Cooper, a chair caner (preservationist, artist, colorist, gardener, stylist, baker...) who lives in New Orleans. The earliest clippings are probably twenty years old, when she was about the age I am now. I didn't know her or know anything about her, but I understood her aesthetically and those aesthetics spoke to me in a way that transcended mere design.
Twenty years later, serendipitously, Mary and I have become friends. I recognize her in all those old magazine pages, recognize that she is not given to trends, that she has a solid, confident, unshakeable sense of self and place, translated into surroundings that change according to practical needs, architectural design, or artistic desire, but never influenced by the comings and goings of the modern world (though she embraces IKEA as easily as she embraces antiques, which endeared her to me immediately).
The first time I spent an extended amount of time in her current home, I suffered from insomnia for two days afterwards. I felt so intoxicated by color, by her creativity. My sensitive nervous system was completely flooded, sent into overdrive by exuberance. That initial response led me to believe that I'd made the right choice in surrounding myself with neutrals in my own home. Subsequent visits have made me realize that I what I may have done was inadvertently "neutralize" myself into lethargy.
I find myself thinking more about color now. I think I'm ready to commit, to uproot the serenity I thought I had and give my home the sense of vibrancy that it's lacking - because if there's one thing I've learned from Mary's example, it's that your home should be an extension of who you are and what you need, on a soul level. Color, like everything else you surround yourself with, tells a story, the story of your life. And me, I'm ready for the next chapter. Stay tuned.
Below are photos from Mary's past home. Unfortunately, they're scans of tearsheets, so the quality isn't the same as a photograph. However, I think the genius of Mary's color pairings and overall aesthetic still shine through.
This 1885 house originally sat at the shore of the Mississipi River before being moved in 1908 next to a plantation on the outskirts of a young New Orleans. It endured one more relocation, a block away, threatened by collapsing levees. It was a flophouse for sailors, then abandoned for a decade before Mary rescued the house from ruin.
Tomorrow, I'll show photos of Mary's current home - a restored Creole cottage in the Bywater neighborhood of New Orleans.