Home & Design

Green Acre #102: An Ode to Visual Hoarding








Designer Charlotte Moss says collages of images and colors she likes inspire her to great settings for great entertaining. It works for us lesser beings too. / Photo above and on the front from “Charlotte Moss Entertains” (Rizzoli, $50).








I AM NOT a fan of Pinterest, that cyberspace bulletin board where people stick photos of their every material desire.

Yes, there’s a great deal of I-want stuff out there, or up there, or however you might say it. But give me a magazine, an actual glossy piece of paper, with brilliant photographs that I can rip out and hang in front of my nose for a day, a week. Years.

May is a particularly fine month for ogling magazine spreads devoted to other people’s summer decorating and entertaining schemes and fabulous gardens. Here are all the intentions you could possibly have. With spring so youthful, so promising, surely by July, August, September at the latest, you too—meaning me—will have replicated, more or less . . .

As always, I find myself pondering how to install a swimming pool, even a wallowing trough, in this minute city garden.

A pool is the single element from my long-ago house-hunting checklist that’s missing. We have the garage (aka carriage house), the basement, the attic, the fireplaces and the porches. All essentials for one reason or another—fireplaces and porches for me, and enough space for Princely crap that arrives and never departs.   

Now, if I got rid of said Prince I could take the life insurance money and put in the damn pool—I’d hire a truck and a bunch of (sexy) muscle and heave every board and nail out of the garage and turn it into the pool house. Or maybe a guest house. Perhaps a studio for something artistic that I will then do, brilliantly.

I can never decide, which is neither here nor there since he’s not going anywhere—what would I have to complain about?—and the garage remains a garage.

But. On page 113 of this month’s House Beautiful there is a gorgeous pool and pool house, and I want them. Chaise longues with pale pink cushions and white piping surround the turquoise pool. More pink-and-white cushions flop about on the wicker chairs and a sofa and ottomans under the pool-house roof, and it all looks very fresh and clean and COOL and there’s not a buzz saw in sight.

“It’s not a buzz saw,” he says. “It’s a Sawzall.” A reciprocating saw for the pedantic among us.

Oh. This is supposed to be reassuring. He saws all kinds of stuff with it. Yesterday he was standing on a wall, sawing off several sturdy but intrusive limbs from the cherry tree while yakking on his cell phone, an operation I refused to watch.  

What was I saying? Oh yes, pools, magazines, fresh clean . . . 

More from Charlotte Moss’s “Charlotte Moss Entertains” (Rizzoli, $50), as seen in Veranda magazine.

Then I open Veranda magazine and a feature on designer Charlotte Moss and her new book (Charlotte Moss Entertains, Rizzoli, $50; see opening page) that includes what she calls collages of her favorite things: beside the pool, a shocking pink and yellow fringed patio umbrella from someplace in India; fat burgundy peonies, fuchsia dahlias and French blue hydrangeas; statues and glassware and silver, a wedge of watermelon and a yellow canary. “Pile it on!” she says. It’s joyous and HOT and exotic and I want it.

How does one begin to reconcile such disparate desires?

Collaging is an excellent way of gathering and honing items that attract you into some comprehensible scheme. Designers like Moss have long done it, and I suppose those Pinterest postings are intended as such.

Better, though, to stack a dozen or so magazines and swiftly go through, tearing out every page that catches your eye for any reason. You’re searching for crumbs of inspiration, a personal aesthetic, not a complete picture. Yet.

When you have a nice pile, pick up a sheet and tear off everything that doesn’t appeal;  there will probably be a surprising amount of that.  From each page you might be left with a single flower, the corner of a cushion, a lipstick color.  

Now, take some glue or tape and a poster board, which, if you’re like me, might be found shoved behind a bookcase for a teenager’s project that should have been completed in 2001.

Dump all your tearings onto the poster board and move them this way and that, overlapping, ripping off a smidge of not-quite-right that you overlooked, and when you’re happy, glue them down.

Now hang this collage somewhere in front of you and consider the colors, the patterns, the mood that has emerged. Didn’t know you were that attracted to . . . puce?  That glitter really gets you energized? That amethyst and emerald make you happy?

What also materializes is a shopping list for what you love right now. Even if you can afford precisely nothing on the board, quite possibly you already have reasonable alternatives in your closets, your basement, you attic—or your mother’s attic—that can be hauled out, dusted off, maybe repainted, and reimagined into your happy place.

Notice that I said, what you love right now. Moods change, styles go in cycles (that open-plan living room is going to look mighty dated in a decade, mark my words, by cracky). What you love today may make you cringe tomorrow—and vice versa.

Of course this means you must never throw anything away. So much for Marie Kondo and the fad of de-cluttering. If you never dump it,  you’ll always have it.

—Stephanie Cavanaugh

LittleBird “Stephanie Gardens” opines on things botanical-ish every Thursday.




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