By Heidie (Raine) Senseman
If you’ve ever gone shopping for throw pillows, I pity you, for you are either a wayward soul searching for the perfect pillow that you will not find, or you’re the emotional support friend being dragged from store to store.
I also pity you if you’ve shopped for wall decor, for each mass-produced, HomeGood’s-stocked picture on the shelf is either too large, too neon, too cliche or too expensive. In the process, you find the occasional oddity, like a 3×4 foot portrait of a yellow parrot — amusing, but not what you were wanting for above the mantel.
Shopping for bedding poses different problems. The quality duvets are made of linen, and they cost a shameful $300, and very few of us have $300 to spend on a duvet. Additionally, sheets come in too many shades of white. I’ve looked at sheets in “white,” “off-white,” “cream,” “milk,” “milky,” “eggshell,” etc. They all look the same. So you pick one, and then you wander around Target to the throw pillow section, hoping to match the shade of your sheets to a lumbar pillow and your overpriced duvet.
When you’re too exhausted to go on, you drive your items home. Your trunk is full and your wallet is empty. You say a quiet prayer for Jesus to help you transform your $500 rental into a home with the items in your trunk, for this is the space that He’s blessed you with for the year. And maybe your new throw pillow will draw attention away from the flesh-colored pull-down window shade that the previous tenants bolted into the wall.
These are my musings from having recently decorated my first home. I’ve lived in several apartments before, but I didn’t move into a space that was truly mine until this winter when I married my loving and patient husband — the silent sufferer of our many Target outings. My husband gave me full creative license to decorate our apartment. I’d never done much more than Command-strip a bulletin board to a dorm wall, and now I had an entire apartment to fill.
It was a strange type of work. It didn’t require the same rigor as academics, and I didn’t have deliverables like I did as a public relations writer. I also couldn’t “leave” the work scene at the end of the day because the work was my living room, replete with empty walls. As I sat on our teal couch — my one decisive purchase — and scrolled through Facebook marketplace, I began to wonder how decorating a home could possibly be good or meaningful.
Building my wedding registry made me feel like a gross materialist. That hesitancy followed me into the preliminary stages of apartment decorating. I had to hog-wrestle the voice inside of me that said table runners, candlestick holders and vases were pure vanity. “It’s not a sin to spend money on a rug,” I’d remind myself, though not fully believing it. Why not just live somewhere plain? Why hang a painting?
I continued to struggle with the substance of decor shopping, but I did so productively, perhaps because I dislike idleness more than uncertainty. I found throw pillows that matched our “ivory” sheets, and I purchased a table lamp at half-price, and I decided to splurge on the new armchair instead of risking a roach-filled one from Goodwill.
Then, one day, my husband and I had a friend over for lunch. He complimented our open shelving (not real open shelving, to be fair — two bookshelves we’ve shoved against the north wall of our kitchen to house our dishes). He said the color schemes flowed well between rooms. He sat in our new armchair, and we swapped stories for the afternoon, and he gazed at my husband’s antique barometer in the entryway as he walked out the door.
After he left, I chewed on the idea that any sweet interaction — any meal with a friend, or quality conversation — has to take place somewhere, and we all prefer it when that somewhere feels homey, clean, even pretty. We’re suckers for comfort and beauty. Just because a throw pillow lacks utility doesn’t mean it isn’t doing something. It’s building a space in which life will unfold.
The pillows and posters and potted plants are building the setting — the setting in which our fellowship and breakfasts and fights and reunions will play out. And isn’t that a privilege? Aren’t movies richer when they have quality backdrops?
Heidie (Raine) Senseman is a senior English major with a concentration in creative and journalistic writing. When she isn’t doing capstone research, she likes drinking La Croix and reading Brian Doyle essays.