I may be alone in this, and if pinterest is anything to go by, I am, but when I see pictures of cute vintage homes filled with open shelving and delightful little vignettes of antique knick-knacks, I shudder, and think, 'But what about the dusting?' This makes me officially not part of the cute-house club. But just because I think knick-knacks should stay between the pages of magazines, or in the houses of people with 'staff', doesn't mean I don't decorate, it just means that I like my decor to earn its keep.
I am a fan of the permaculture concept that elements in your house and garden should perform as many functions as possible. When we planted a hedge to screen out the neighbours (function one), we chose lemons because we can eat them (function two), and as a bonus it looks and smells divine (function three) and attracts bees when it flowers (function four). I like to decorate on the same principle. The things I love to collect and display on shelves and tables are baskets, vases, bowls, candlesticks, lamps, jugs and plants, oh and a free pig money box from our insurance company that we put all our 5c coins in for the yearly charity coin line at school.
Here are the craft drawers next to our dining room table and the living room. Vases, baskets, and an old world globe from an op shop. What I love about having a limited number of 'things' is that you get to know each one intimately, and develop little routines for using them.
The vases I grab all the time to use on the table, especially the teeny milk bottle ones at the front (thanks Aly, darling sister-in-law who always gives good presents), the baskets are regularly filled with fruit, or whatever I have brought in from the garden. The flat baskets are the perfect size to fit in the gap between the top of the refrigerator and the cupboard built above it, so I use them to dry herbs and flower petals on top of the fridge. The deep basket is the perfect size to fit a packet of chips, so is known as the chip basket, when it isn't being used for apples or walnuts.
The globes have been so useful over the years. Whenever we are talking about a country at the dinner table, or are discussing something on the news, or the children are doing their homework at the table, the globe is right there. I bought the little one recently, because the old one still has the USSR on it!
I mostly decorate with food though. As you can see in the top photo, we eat a LOT of fruit, and we bring in a lot of produce from the garden. It has to go somewhere, so I figure it may as well be displayed gorgeously in my favourite bowls and baskets as be stored in a plastic bag on the kitchen bench. Actually, my kitchen bench currently has a giant ceramic salad bowl of apples, and a basket of slightly squishy pears ready for stewing. When you try to live thriftily and organically, with gardening and cooking being major elements in your day, you can't just have a nice little fruit bowl in the corner with three apples and a banana in it. You need space for storage, and also space to cook in. I have quite a small kitchen, so around the corner in the dining room is a long sideboard which I try to keep clear apart from a large pot plant, so that I can stack my big baskets and bowls of fruit and vegetables there if I need a clear bench for a big cooking project.
Sometimes these jugs hold custard, sometimes daffodils. Obviously jugs need an extra good scrubbing by hand as well as a trip through the dishwasher (or a soak in boiling water) if you are going to use them for both flowers and food.
I do like William Morris's principle that everything around you should be useful or beautiful - but I think that most things can be both. My house is too small, and my time too short to surround myself with things that are just beautiful, and it would be so sad in our short lives to be surrounded by ugly things whose only virtue is their function.
Kindling basket that was our ex-laundry basket. Sitting on an old shoe cupboard that now stores firewood.
Now, over to you - do you like the vintage, eclectic style of decorating with lots of bits and bobs and dusting, or do you choose not to dust? Or do you embrace minimalism? Or do you long wistfully for minimalism but live with the reality of duplo, barbies, and children's art all over the fridge? If you are a gardener or farmers' market cook, how do you organize all that food?
Disclaimer: There are a small number of knick-knacks in my house that I am sentimentally attached to. But I happily dust them because I love them. Also, I have a very large number of vases. Including a whole cupboard devoted to them in the laundry. The Man sometimes looks pointedly at them. But they are so USEFUL. Because you can put flowers in them, and... you know, sometimes even small branches...