making it work.

February 1, 2011
kitchen shelf
this has been quite a winter. in between bouts of snow shoveling and ice skating along the sidewalk, i’ve been lucky enough to be able to work a lot from my apartment. while i’ve also had my share of wintertime adventures, in the moments i’ve spent hibernating i’ve been thinking a lot about the space i call home.
and it’s not just me.* i think the wintertime breeds a tendency in many people to reflect on the spaces we find ourselves spending so much time in; thinking about our four walls and what we fill them with. 
since graduating from college five years ago, i’ve lived in seven different apartments, some of them for lengths of time that barely allowed me to unpack my things let alone craft a thoughtful space.** as someone who deeply cherishes the tiny rituals of place-making, this kind of moving around is sometimes a challenge. rental apartments are rarely just right and there’s usually something or other that i’d like to see changed but lack the time or money or power to do anything about. 
but, i’d say, there’s also a way for making it work. 
this is the shelf in our kitchen and when we first moved in, i hated it {a hatred rivaled only by that which i harbored for our kitchen cabinets, cloaked in the same dark stain}. it felt overbearing and ugly. i insisted that it just wasn’t my style. that try as i might, i couldn’t make it work. 
but today i feel differently. filled with my own thoughtful objects, the shelf itself suddenly feels useful; providing the starting place for the perfect cup of tea shared with a friend. the thing is no stylist’s dream come true, but to me it is just right. its mishmash of items: the dried out rosemary leaves, the unruly little cranberry bog and stained aluminum coffee pot remind me of past adventures, farmers’ markets, and grandmothers, respectively. beyond these bits of whimsy, the shelf is filled with useful things. as a graduate student, my budget for anything that falls out of the realm of necessary is, for all intents and purposes, nonexistent. and so i try my best to adopt a philosophy of consumption that puts emphasis on usefulness. and beauty. for all that can be said ill of him, that bit william morris said about beauty and usefulness, i think he got right.
what do you think?
*see rachel and joslyn‘s most recent pieces on consumption.
**and yet i always do. i’m a firm believer in unpacking, and quickly. it’s good for the psyche, i’m convinced.

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20 Comments

  • Reply kenzie February 1, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    i know what you mean! I've moved several times since college, and I work so hard to make where we live how I like it. I totally hated our kitchen, (green walls!) but now I enjoy it, with our things added to it.

  • Reply Christine C. February 1, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    oh my goodness…I love this shelf and what you have done with it. it is such a beautiful vignette.

    we still have to meet…maybe for tea?!!

  • Reply Jane Flanagan February 1, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    I love this shelf and all its contents!! I just cleaned my pantry on the weekend and decided I love it to bits. I feel the same about my medicine cabinet when I organize it. These things are so much more than the sum of their parts, reveal so much about is. It's endlessly interesting.

    Beautiful post!

  • Reply Char February 1, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    i love this little shelf and how you've made it "yours" totally with things that have meaning and substance to you

  • Reply Rachel February 1, 2011 at 6:03 pm

    The shelf looks wonderful! Your little bits and pieces make it perfect. Renting means we accept a lot of features that we wouldn't have in our ideal place, but it also makes us resourceful!

  • Reply Julie February 1, 2011 at 7:14 pm

    I LOVE it…you made it look so cozy and rustic. Don't you just love the feel of adding and creating fresh things in your house…I sometimes can't get enough of it!

  • Reply Katie @ Chai Thoughts February 1, 2011 at 7:35 pm

    This is beautiful! I love how simply arranging objects can make a less-than-desirable space one that everyone wants to emulate. I've been doing some re-arranging myself, and it makes my apartment feel so much better.

  • Reply Sarah Morgan February 1, 2011 at 10:06 pm

    The shelf is beautiful! You've completely made it your own. I love your display of objects.

  • Reply Kayla Poole February 2, 2011 at 12:07 am

    Not stylist worthy? I say better! Wonderful post, Erin, I agree on all counts.

  • Reply Celeste February 2, 2011 at 6:44 am

    I love that your shelf is simple, accessible and beautiful. The perfect combination.

  • Reply Doe February 2, 2011 at 11:03 am

    I've been trying to live by the William Morris bit for a long time, and by this credo as well, just as lovely, from the Shakers: If it is not useful or necessary, free yourself from imagining that you need to make it. If it is useful and necessary, free yourself from imagining that you need to enhance it by adding what is not an integral part of its usefulness or necessity. If it is both useful and necessary and you can recognize and eliminate what is not essential, then don't hesitate to make it beautiful.

  • Reply Allison February 2, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    i think this shelf and your collection of tea things are wonderful! i've also been going through a bout of trying to make my rented place feel more like home. sometimes it's hard, but it's definitely worth it.

  • Reply Meredith February 2, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    i absolutely love the shelf. so beautiful! it practically invites you to have tea.

  • Reply Amy@OldSweetSong February 2, 2011 at 8:56 pm

    posts like these are why I love you.

    thoughtful. poetic. introspective. beautiful.

  • Reply Erin February 2, 2011 at 10:02 pm

    you're nice.

  • Reply Deb February 3, 2011 at 12:34 am

    Love: "as someone who deeply cherishes the tiny rituals of place-making"…I'm like minded and some of my fav. books are on that very subject. No wonder I adore your photos!

  • Reply Emma at The Marion House Book February 3, 2011 at 1:46 am

    Before I started reading your post I thought – 'what a lovely shelf'. So I was surprised to read that you hated it. Glad you changed your mind!

  • Reply Bri February 3, 2011 at 7:43 am

    i love what you've done with this shelving! very simple and clean. i currently am living in an apartment and i understand the need to create a home out of your place and it's the little tweaks that i feel make it special. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Ashley February 3, 2011 at 10:30 pm

    I think this is a wonderful use for this shelf. As a renter, I'm always trying to make things work, things that I wouldn't have chosen if I had the chose. This gives me an idea for something in my own kitchen. Thank you. πŸ™‚

  • Reply bijuterii din argint February 21, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    I look around me … and it is all too orderly, and new … I feel like a robot ..
    Special things, like your shelf, make my heart melt.

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