It's an August morning of the most perfect sort — a gentle breeze flutters through the deep green leaves of late-summer trees as the day's still-soft sunshine bathes Diane Holm's petite front stoop.
Stepping into the 112-year-old house is at once cool and calming — soft music fills the room, plants abound and a filmy curtain lofts at an open window. A collection of copper plates lends pleasing symmetry and a soft patina to the dining room wall, and intriguing vignette displays call for closer inspection throughout the living area.
But it's the colorful walls — painted in red-to-orange ombre fashion in the dining room progressing to blues and greens in the living area that are most arresting. It's all quite a contrast from when Holm bought the house about two years ago. "The whole house was gray," she says. And so were all the other houses she looked at during her house hunt after going through a divorce and landing in a "depressing" colorless apartment. "Every house I went to was gray. And every flip was gray."
Holm, owner of White Picket Fence, a product styling company that specializes in still life and set design, bought the West Central house in part because of its ample lot and wonderful outdoor entertaining possibilities, but also because she could see it held potential. "This came on the market, and I think I was the first one to come here, and I was like, 'I'll take it,'" she says.
Then she set about making it her own.
CRAFTING A HOME
Using small bottles of craft paints, Holm transformed those on-trend gray rooms into a more personal and fulfilling space, all at minimal expense. "I wanted the colors to be warming and fun and like a healing area, where people can come and feel like they can be themselves."
When Holm showed photos of the walls to a fellow artist, she immediately put a name to the effect Holm had created: lazure painting. Actual lazure painting is a fairly elaborate process most often associated with Waldorf schools, which feature luminous lazure-painted walls with different colors assigned to each grade level — starting with peach for the youngest children — all with the goal of enhancing well-being.
While Holmes didn't go through the exhaustive lazure process, she understands the theory behind it. "Color makes you happy!" she says. "I think people are worried for the resale, but it's going to cost me what, 30 bucks, to repaint this?" And in the meantime, "This is totally different and exciting. I just am not a gray girl."
And the colorful walls help liven up the accessories and furniture left over from her previous married life, which was full of more-acceptable creams and beiges. "I lived the life of being neutral forever because, you know, you're catering to your mate, or you're doing what everybody else is doing. And then it's like, 'Why?'" she says.
Indeed her home now reflects her unique creativity and reveals a sly sense of humor as well. Holm's bedroom incorporates vintage furniture and abundant plants, but it's the room's gallery wall — featuring sometimes cheeky pieces — that's the focal point. "It's playful," laughs Holm. Much of the art and displayed items were gleaned from thrift stores, as well as the garage sales that Holm prefers to estate sales, which she finds overpriced. "I really don't go that often, just when I'm out and about," she notes. "You can actually buy one item and change your whole room."
Her talent for recognizing a "find" is something she happily shares with friends. "I'm inspired through decorating on the cheap," she says. "I had a friend of mine, she met me at TJ Maxx and I was like, 'We're going to redo your house for spring!' We had a whole cartful of stuff, and we went to pay for it and she was like, 'This is how much my lamp cost!'"
Throughout her own home, Holm finds ways to unite disparate objects — often things that could be found in an average junk drawer — in careful compositional harmony. White paper doilies are transformed into three dimensional floating spheres in a wall hanging over the fireplace. Glass globes Holm found at Art Salvage — she thinks they were used to mold decorative grapes in the '70s — now hold tiny plant cuttings as they dangle from a wire wheel she got at the dollar store. Spools of thread and buttons reside in a big glass canister on a shelf next to a sewing ruler and a thumbnail sketch of a shirt pattern. The effect of all these little vignettes is both mesmerizing and invigorating — a bit like being invited to a carefully curated treasure hunt.
It's upon venturing past a misty rainbow-hued wall near the living room and up a squeaky wooden staircase — decked out with glass lanterns dangling from the handrail — that a true surprise awaits. A flowery fantasy bursts into bloom at the top of the stairs as giant paper daisies fairly dance around a soft white bed tucked under the room's slanting dormers. Sunflower-gold curtains only attempt to tame the morning sunshine as it streams into the magical space. Meanwhile, steps away is yet another cozy place to sleep featuring a wall of delicate "hives" Holm crafted while she lived in the apartment, now arrayed on the back wall, under arches of gently swaying fabric scarves. The effect is dreamy.
Taking the leap to a bolder space requires courage. Diane Holm has some advice: 1:Incorporate things that can enhance your sensory system and boost your mood. Think of layering shapes, patterns and textures. Consider getting bolder with color, as well as using plants and other elements of nature, including things that create movement. And don't forget to incorporate lighting.
2: Your home should reflect your passions and years of built-up collections and treasures by telling a story to your visitors. Building a colorful space takes thought, time, and creative artistic energy. Take risks, be daring, go beyond the cookie-cutter ideas and think way outside the box.
3:There is a fine line between a streamlined space and a messy or cluttered space. I think it really depends on the flow of your room and furniture placement. And then the power of threes. If you have an area that needs details, having three items is plenty. It's nice to add tall, short and medium height items together in placement of threes.
With so much creativity on display at every turn, is Holm satisfied with her home? Yes, and no. Because for Holm, decorating is, just like the summer sunshine, ephemeral. In fact, by the time you're reading this, her space will be completely revised. "Oh yeah, I'll change this up when it cools down. I like to do different things. I like change," she says.
In fact, changing it all up is one of her favorite things to do. "When it's time to dust, then I'll just take a day. I'll work from 6 in the morning until 10 at night. I'm like, 'Oh gosh I didn't eat!' It's my passion, and so once I get started, that's the best day ever. Because you're out of your head, living in the moment. Then you wake up the next day, and it's like you're in a hotel or somewhere totally different. ...You feel different. It does feel like you're getting rid of your past and starting a new life."