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Prime Time: Thoughts from an ambidextrous casual eclectic utilitarian non-decorator

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No one has ever mistaken me for Martha Stewart. My house is plainly decorated - well, maybe not really decorated at all. Things are where they are because they fit there.

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My living room bay window has accordion shades but no curtains. In fact, after 24 years of living here, only two of my windows have curtains. I've gone so far as to purchase fabric to make curtains, but the fabric is still neatly folded in a drawer in the sewing room. I was never quite sure if it was what I really wanted. Besides, the living room window overlooks the lake and offers clear views of sun and moon risings. What better window dressing could I have?

I keep my house fairly clean, but clutter has always been an issue. I've tried to incorporate it into my own type of décor, and sometimes it almost works. When we first moved into this house, I had never heard of "shabby chic," but before long, I was halfway there. (Never quite got to the "chi" part.)

I eventually decided that my style of decorating is more "casual eclectic utilitarian." In other words, whatever I choose to put into a room must serve a purpose and must survive without frequent dusting.

My furniture is in good shape, and although I'm somewhat tired of it, the practicality I inherited from my parents, who grew up during the Great Depression, tells me that it is still good, comfortable and paid for, so why revamp the living room to fit something new?

I've never been too particular about the bedrooms, figuring that most of the time spent there is in the dark with eyes closed, so what's the difference if I left two walls unpainted six or seven years ago while I tried to decide whether it would look better if I painted them or not. (Still undecided - and out of paint.)

So, as we near the completion of a new house, my decorating ineptitude has caused a few sleepless nights. After my husband had done everything from foundation to framing to drywalling and more, there was finally something I could do -- paint walls. I thrive on colors, so I needed to make some decisions. I started with the main bathroom.

As I was on my way to select paint one unseasonably warm February day, driving along with my window down, the sun warm on my arm, I was mentally transported to Cozumel, Mexico, a favorite destination. With Cozumel on my mind, it's no surprise that I left the paint store with two samples: one called "Butterscotch" and the other "Juicy Cantaloupe" -- warm colors for the bathroom to remind me of Mexico.

I rushed home (all warm inside) with my paint samples, got out my paintbrush and swashed the samples side by side on a wall near the bathtub. I stood back, trying to imagine the walls completely covered in either of these colors.

Nope. Too intense. I feared I could spend weeks bringing home samples and assessing the situation without making a decision. I didn't have that much time. I returned to the paint store and chose a less overpowering "Baby Duck" that still reminded me of sunshine in the Caribbean. I bought a gallon. No sense doing those silly samples any more. I came home, painted the bathroom, stood back and examined my labor. Instead of, "Yeah, this is great. It's warm and rich looking," I was thinking, "This could grow on me." For the second coat, though, I stepped it down another shade to "Tucson Tan." Good enough.

Next, I got paint for the office - "Rich Taupe," a shade that reminds me of the color of melted chocolate ice cream -- comfort food for a comfortable atmosphere.

For the guest bedroom, I chose what I thought was a dark shade of sage, but it turned out to be more of a pale shade of spinach. (Funny how the paint looked so different on the little rectangular sample than it does on a wall!)

Although it wasn't what I'd had in mind, I had no desire to try another color. I don't mind painting, but I'm rather putsy at it. I'm also ambidextrous when it comes to doing the edges and corners, meaning I'm equally bad with either hand. Besides, the pale spinach had started to grow on me.

For our bedroom, I chose "Salt Water Blue" for the two longest walls and, on the opposite walls, "Heavenly Blue," which is almost complementary to the darker shade of blue. (Once again, those little samples didn't quite do it for me.)

So the color decisions have been made, my walls are painted, and the house is just a month or two away from done, when we can move in and I can, once again, apply my casual eclectic utilitarian touch.

I've already decided that I will NOT have curtains because most of the windows face the lake.

Why block the view? Thank God for natural window dressing.

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