My Mother’s Day treat was to tour the Alexander Majors historic house in Kansas City, just 11 feet inside the Missouri state line. The front yard is in Kansas. But no matter. I love touring old houses to be reminded of how people—usually wealthy people—lived. But even in a monied home, certain rooms were kept strictly functional, such as the kitchen and the bathroom, when those were added. Let’s take for example the kitchen in the Majors mansion. First of all, the walls were plain white. The windows that had curtains had plain white ones. The walls were decorated with drying herbs and cooking utensils that they actually used. Shelves displayed mason jars and plates and baking pans. And it was beautiful.
Now, I like my living areas to look just so—warm and welcoming and attractive. But these days a great fuss is made over kitchens and bathrooms as well, with perfectly coordinated towels and tile, with decorative (not-to-be-used) plates and pitchers on kitchen shelves, with gleaming granite countertops that cost as much as a driveway. Retailers and home magazines encourage us to keep several sets of dishes on hand, one for each season—as the quote shows, House Beautiful can point us to something in blue and yellow for summer.
All I know is that’s a lot to keep up with, a lot to buy, and a lot to think about. One writer I read recently encouraged us to get back to a focus on being rather than having. Good advice. Let our houses be tidy and bright. Display things that matter to you. Throw in some colors that make you feel good. These things make a house beautiful.