Palo Alto Weekly

Real Estate - October 21, 2011

A fresh look

Decorating as a communal activity

by Kit Davey

I must have been a pioneer woman in a previous life. I enjoy growing food for our table, being thrifty and holding quilting bees. Well, not real quilting bees, but my own modern version.

Informal social gatherings focused around creating something for the home are fun, synergistic and have saved me loads of time and money. If you enjoy sharing your home with friends and like to make things, try having your own "stitch and chatter" session.

A few ideas:

Art and craft parties. Every few months I have an art party during which I share a craft technique. I've held greeting card, mosaic and collage sessions. I've also attended parties at my friends' homes. One friend showed me how to make stationery and other paper items using rubber stamps; another shared bookmaking techniques and another showed me how to mat and frame artwork. The idea is to share a process you enjoy and have some facility in, provide some basic materials for your friends to use and then spend time working together.

During the work period there's time to talk and share techniques and discoveries along the way (sort of like free-play time in elementary school). If you don't have a special skill or technique to share you can still hold a "bring your current art or craft project" session.

I do this regularly with an artist friend so that we can encourage each other in our creative endeavors. We both find that if we don't schedule in creative get-togethers we'll never do anything creative because there's always laundry to do, checkbooks to balance, etc.

Lectures. Is there an area of interior design, decorating, architecture or gardening you'd like to know more about? Consider asking a design-related professional to give a presentation or demonstration to a group of friends in your home. Some presenters will be willing to do this for free, whereas others may charge a fee for their time, the cost of which you can divide amongst attendees.

Last year I hosted a feng shui class in my home. I invited 10 people to join in the full-day class. Everyone had an opportunity to ask about her home, we shared lunch and all walked away with more knowledge and having enjoyed each other's company.

Swap parties. To help keep my house clutter-free, and to get something new for free, I hold regular exchange parties. Every swap has a theme — books and CDs, clothing or knick-knacks (also known as "white elephants"). I go through all my closets and drawers purging them of unwanted items that may become a treasure for someone else.

Each guest brings as many items as she wants and food to share. We sit in a circle and take turns holding up a cast off in front of the group, and anyone who wants it snags it. We go around the circle until all wanted items have been given away. Any unwanted items are boxed and donated to the group's chosen charity.

Work exchange. There are many tasks around my home I don't enjoy doing or have the expertise to implement. To make these chores more pleasant I arrange to do them with someone who gets pleasure out of performing them or who does them professionally, in exchange for helping him/her with something in their home.

I recently exchanged a four-hour living room transformation for four hours of organizing help in my garage. My professional organizer friend needed help fitting in a new armoire and giving her living room cohesion and flare — a task she felt was too overwhelming to deal with on her own. Together we rearranged all the furniture, repositioned art and scrounged accessories from cabinets and drawers.

On her visit to my home a week later she enthusiastically helped me reorganize my garage. A job I would normally have dreaded became fun because she loves organizing. I have also traded for garden design services, furniture, window cleaning and sewing. What special skill or talent could you give to a friend in exchange for helping with a dreaded chore?

Kit Davey, Allied Member, ASID, specializes in re-design, staging, design consulting and professional organizing. Email her at KitDavey@aol.com, call her at 650-367-7370, or visit her website at www.AFreshLook.net.

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