My House in Turnaround

center hall colonial shingled houseDuring this transition in my home and my everyday life, simplicity is the new definition of luxury.

Here at Atticmag our purpose, as a magazine, is to show interesting ideas for home design – kitchens, bathrooms, furnishings, rooms and décor that we admire for various reasons. That mix has sometimes included my homes and Allison’s as we made changes or tackled our own projects. While those have been some of our most popular posts, the blog has never been what I would view as “up close and personal.” That will change over the next few months because, to put it very simply, I’m reorganizing my house [above] and redesigning my life.

Dining room and kitchen of NY apartmentLast month, Mr. AM and I moved out of the 12th floor New York City apartment, where we’ve lived for nearly two decades, into our country house 90 miles north. We’d long planned the move but when one of us was ready the other one wasn’t – so we kept postponing. When we decided to sell the apartment in the Spring, it was snapped up so quickly we were suddenly packing (while I was patting myself on the back for the success of the sensible renovation I’d done the previous year).

Our house — where we’d spent the last two summers and many weeks in between – has been comfortably furnished for part-time life. Allison has been after me to do a tour but I wasn’t ready. I didn’t have enough accessories. I felt the modern art I’d collected since my twenties wasn’t a good mix with my Swedish furniture, and I was stuck with some leftover furniture that I wanted to switch. I was never there long enough to accomplish everything.

moving boxes in the garageNow, my garage is filled with 80 plus boxes which I am unpacking scandalously slowly. It needs to be clear when the new car – the first one I’ve ever bought — arrives next month. So, this is a major moment for me and the first time since 1983 everything is in one place. It’s time to let go of everything I’ve been hanging onto since then, too, and there’s plenty. One great lesson from staging the apartment for sale was that having fewer things required less of my time for upkeep. Simplicity is my new definition of luxury.

Here’s the issue though: I love my stuff. It’s soooo hard to let go of things I’ve always had and always loved. It’s difficult to decide what I need and what I don’t and to realize that saving something that may fit again someday is silly. If it doesn’t fit now, it never will. So I’ve created three main categories: keep, sell and donate. And I’m recycling the moving boxes to deal with the last two. A friend and her mother will cohost what I’m calling a “pre-estate” house sale with me over Labor Day weekend. And even before that, I’ll swing by Salvation Army with the donations. Valuable vintage pieces will go to eBay and some furniture is headed for a country auction. Meanwhile, I’ve sent all the modern prints downtown for a sale in November. Most of my walls are newly bare.

While my whole house is in turnaround (as they say in Hollywood when they rewrite a script) I have two minor accomplishments, ironically in the living room.

living room with Swedish furniture and Balinese wood sculptureFirst, I’ve found a great spot for “the beast,” a large and remarkably fragile wood sculpture Mr. AM purchased years ago in Bali, while he was the Southeast Asia bureau chief for The New York Times. close up of teak Balinese sculptureThe sculpture took more time to move than any other single piece because it had to be lifted into a special wood crate, and then bought up our front steps and uncrated in the living room where it now sits in a previously awkward-looking corner.

19th century Swedish side tableSecond, my very best antique side table — here in ts former corner now occupied by the beast — finally looks right. It’s a quirky 19th century country Swedish piece with original paint and a stretcher with a handmade wooden urn imitating much fancier tables of the time. It never held the corner well and I considered selling it.
Swedish table next to my sofaNow it’s next to my sofa where it’s  had a a love-at-first-sight experience with my oldest Chinese ginger jar lamp from our apartment.
Cambodian silver elephantAnd suddenly, I’ve gone from no accessories to a surplus now that all the little Cambodian silver animal boxes that once spent time on my kitchen windowsill now have been moved to that tabletop.

Overall, it’s a monster change and there’s more in store, both inside and outside of our little house in the woods. Please visit again and follow along to see how I  simplify my house and my life and enjoy every minute of it. Or not.

I’ve also written about redoing my cinderella fireplace, installing the guest room curtains, crafting a French door curtain and the hunt for the kitchen hutch.


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14 Responses to My House in Turnaround

  1. Pam @ diy Design Fanatic July 24, 2011 at 9:16 pm #

    What a huge change for you! Can’t wait to see the whole house tour!

  2. aneyefordetail July 24, 2011 at 9:20 pm #

    Well, congratulations on the move! And for selling your apt. so quickly…our house in the Hudson Valley has been on the market for over a year now. It sits, lonely and empty, and I hate to think what is happening to my gardens in all this heat. But it was time to move on and we are oh so happy to be down South!

    I actually didn’t have a problem with all the “stuff”…I couldn’t WAIT to get rid of everything I didn’t use or need! We did a pretty good job of giving away and selling before we moved…..but then, once we got here, we must have unloaded many many car fulls of even more “stuff”!

    And yes, I listed my empty boxes on the “free” section of Craigs List and had many takers.

    Anyway, it IS a process! Good luck in your full time house!

  3. Kelee Katillac July 24, 2011 at 9:21 pm #

    Love your new space!

    I agree about simplicity as luxury!

    Stop by the new blog…..


    Kelee Katillac

  4. laxsupermom July 24, 2011 at 9:23 pm #

    Wow! All that carving on “The Beast” is amazing! How absolutely gorgeous! The little table looks right at home, too. Can’t wait to see more of your home, as you accessorize it.

  5. Pam July 24, 2011 at 9:40 pm #

    Congratulations Jane! I love the look of the new place! The little table is fabulous.

    I wish I lived close to your area so I could come to your pre-estate sale. :)

    Happy Unpacking!


  6. Scribbler July 24, 2011 at 9:42 pm #

    I, too, am attached to my stuff. Up until about the last decade or so, it was easy come – easy go, but now I don’t seem to let go so easily. You will have it whipped into shape in no time at all, I bet. Looking forward to the result.

  7. shelia July 24, 2011 at 10:20 pm #

    I wish you congratulations too! Oh, everything is so lovely! I’m proud for you and I want to see more.
    Be a sweetie,
    Shelia 😉

  8. Beth July 25, 2011 at 2:44 pm #

    Can’t wait to live vicariously and see all the changes! Glad you already had a house when your apt sold!

  9. RHome410 July 25, 2011 at 8:48 pm #

    Love the house.

    Completely agree with “Simplicity is my new definition of luxury.” But it is so hard to get rid of things and so hard to get motivated to even try! It’s my long-term goal.

  10. classic • casual • home July 25, 2011 at 9:15 pm #

    Good for you! You are going to feel GREAT when it is over. Nice cleanse. We have moved a lot so I know what you are going through.

  11. Joselyn@The DIY Spot July 26, 2011 at 12:33 am #

    Jane ,

    We used to be neighbors! Thanks for dropping in and leaving such a sweet comment. So you moved out of the big apple! Your new home looks lovely and spacious. Love your antique table. Enjoy your new home. I’m sure it will all come together just the way you want it to over time. Joselyn

  12. Sanghamitra July 26, 2011 at 5:38 am #

    What a beautiful post! Great job! Can’t wait to see the finished one. Thanks for sharing:)
    Hope to see you on my blog:)


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