For years I’ve wanted color and pizzazz in my home, but my husband didn’t want to paint “until the kids are grown.” That was sensible, since they seem to splatter things on walls and leave fingerprints everywhere. Finally, my husband consented that it was time. Halleluia!

But what color? For help, I called my cousin, Nancy Adair, from Memphis. She’s an interior decorator whose work I’d admired for many years. I asked her if she’d come to Portland and help me choose colors and accessories for my home. 

 Nancy arrived six weeks later, and after exchanging a few memories and laughs, we started right to work. She faced the dining room wall of our great room, the wall I thought was my best decorating accomplishment in the whole house, and said, “Let’s start here. You need a large canvas instead of those little pictures, and something tall on the china cabinet because the ceiling is so high.”

My husband agreed. “I never liked that wall.”    

I was speechless. Nancy’s gaze turned toward him and took in the living room half of the great room. “I like the pictures behind the sofa, but you need a higher sofa, a red sofa, and an end table and lamp instead of that floor lamp.”

My heart was broken. The dining room was my favorite spot in the entire house.  And sure, the sofa was faded and too low, but I’d sat there reading Bernstein Bears stories to my children, illuminated by my trusty floor lamp.

That night I barely slept, worrying that Nancy would change all the things I loved.

Morning brought a new day; however, and I was gung ho to get started.  Nancy was right, by George, I did need a new red sofa with a textured fabric, preferably synthetic instead of cotton so it wouldn’t fade in the sunlight.    

We went to the housewares section of Fred Meyer, a mid-range department/grocery store, because I wanted to show her a bookcase I’d seen. She gave me a doubtful “maybe” on the bookcase, and then started loading items into the shopping cart: a trio of vases that were the ugliest things I’d ever seen; wicker baskets and boxes. I’m not a wicker person. 

“Wicker will help bring warmth to your house,” she smiled, “and give you some texture and variety.”  My chest tightened and my breathing became shallow from the anxiety attack I was having. She piled a cheap  nylon area rug on top of the other junk, and we headed to the checkout counter.

“Three hundred fifty dollars worth of trash,” I moaned to myself as I handed over my credit card.

When Nancy placed the purchases around my home, I didn’t like any of them.  She tried to console me. “You have to think about the whole picture,” she said. “Clients have a hard time because they only look at one piece, but decorators are thinking about the whole room – paint color, textures, the play of light. You just have to trust me.”

 The next day I took her downtown to the Pearl district, home of more contemporary furnishings and accessories­ – my style, but mostly out of my price range. Nancy began picking out single items that I absolutely loved but cost more than the whole cartload did the day before. I felt another anxiety attack.

“It’s important to have a few things you truly love,” she said.  “These are investments.” She nodded toward a $750 lamp that was the coolest thing I’d ever seen. “Put these things in perspective. Think about how much you spend at an expensive restaurant for dinner and drinks.” We bought some hand blown glass vases and a torchier lamp. I dreaded seeing my credit card statement.

We took a couple of days break to go to the beach so Nancy could enjoy the September sunshine. Both my nerves and my checkbook welcomed the interlude.

Back home, relaxed and refreshed, I was ready to tackle paint. Our kitchen, living room, dining room, and family room are all open to each other, and in those areas alone, Nancy picked out six different colors -eggplant, sage, lilac, red, gold, and white. I-yi-yi-yi-yi. Every wall had a different color. We painted swatches on the walls in semi-gloss paint. “These rich, dark colors need semi-gloss to reflect the light,” she said. “Trust me.”

My husband was against the paint color, against different colors on different walls, and especially against semi-gloss. “Eggshell white’s the only thing we need,” he grumbled.  We compromised on satin paint.  

Nancy’s last day was spent frantically trying to tie up loose ends.  She painted (did I mention she’s also an artist?) a 3’x 4’ abstract seascape for the dining room wall. I have to admit, the large canvas does look a lot better than the wimpy little group of pictures I had there.

She put sticky notes on the walls so I’d remember what color went where.  She made my bedroom look bigger by catty-cornering the bed, re-hung pictures and moved furniture to dramatize space. Finally, she switched some of my accessories around, using them to enlarge small spaces or create focal points. I began to see the whole picture, and I liked it, especially the things we’d bought at Fred Meyer. The nylon area rug was perfect with the pictures she’d moved to my entry way, and the wicker did create warmth. The ugly vases, grouped with other things, were stunning.

After Nancy left, the painters came, and you know what? I now have a warm, inviting home that makes me smile. We’ve received so many compliments, and my husband’s happy with the satin paint.

I called Nancy and told her how much I love my colorful, accessorized home.

“Well, you know, I told you all along to trust me,” she said serenely.

And all I could say was, “When can you come back and help me with the bonus room?”