A look back at the lessons the year served up reveals that I had my share of jams, upheavals and awakenings. I faithfully reported these with what I hope some would call humor served with a dollop of advice on the side.
For that advice, I credit and thank all the experts who graciously responded to my last-minute-fire-drill pleas for interviews on deadline. They came through with insights, photos and undeserved politeness. To each I extend a cashmere blanket of apology and a fluffy all-down pillow of gratefulness.
Last week, I shared best lessons from the first half of 2012. Here are my favorites from the second half:
In July, I decided a braided rug would perfectly finish my daughter's bedroom. As I did my research, I fell in love with this humble home furnishing, which has been around longer than America has been a country.
I was touched to learn these rugs emerged from a time when homemakers didn't waste a scrap. When dad's wool trousers wore out, or mom's apron, or grandpa's robe, they got torn into strips and braided into rugs that lasted generations.
Today's braided rugs last just as long, but you can be pickier about their fabric content, color, size and shape, said Donna Willis, of Yankee Pride, a braided rug company in Braintree, Mass., where she has worked for 25-plus years.
Lesson: A) Any home furnishing that weaves together history, tradition, practicality, durability, resourcefulness, craft and beauty is worthy of our respect. B) Be less wasteful in 2013.
In August, I and Pat Schroeder, the formidable former U.S. congresswoman from Colorado and presidential candidate, got aligned behind an all-consuming domestic issue: Housework.
Our worlds collided when I learned about her new digital book, “The House That Went on Strike” (Jumping Pages). Schroeder narrates the interactive book app, a rhyming tale about a house that gets fed up with its family and their slovenly ways, and rebels.
Why her? Because after Schroeder retired from the U.S. House of Representatives, she published a memoir titled, “24 Years of House Work and the Place is Still a Mess.” Schroeder's message to women: “We can't do it all by ourselves.”
Lesson: Housework, whether on Capitol Hill or at home, is everyone's responsibility. Pitch in!
In September, I discovered the meaning of romance. I talked to architectural historian Susan Sully, author of 12 books on Southern architecture, including “Casa Florida,” a look at romantic Spanish architecture.
We discussed romance in architecture, and, more specifically, how to get more in my house.
The word “romance,” she told me, comes from the root word “Roman,” and refers to something that “has a lost and beautiful past.”
“Any style home can be romantic,” Sully says.
Lesson: To make a space more romantic, said Sully, avoid the unromantic: static environments with no views of the outdoors, all synthetic materials, and pretentiousness. “Unromantic homes put on airs rather than tell stories.” Romantic spaces are old or look old or have old things. “They tell stories and beckon you surrender to your senses.”