As Hurricane Florence batters the North Carolina Coast and is expected to head up our way in a few days, I feel the need for comfort. (I will make pasta for dinner tonight: my go-to comfort food.) The shop has been visited this week by refugees from the coast wandering around Black Mountain where they have come for shelter. They seem to hold each other a little tighter and have a wide-eyed expression on their faces. One young family from the Charleston area told me, “We left Wednesday. We have been in our home for only two years and have poured blood, sweat and tears into renovating it. As we drove away, we turned around and got what may be our last view of our home.” At that, the husband pulled out his phone and showed me pictures of the kitchen and the changes they had made.
“It’s only stuff,” he went on. “What’s important is my wife and daughter right here. And our cat, who we brought with us.”
But as many times as one says, “It’s only stuff,” the truth is, our stuff is what gives us the comfort we need to face each day. They are our security blanket, similar to that clutched by a sleepy toddler. Maybe it’s because I am a Cancer, but my home is my cozy nest, my security blanket, and like a mother robin preparing a nest for her eggs, I am forever fluffing and improving my home. As I discover a small object that I absolutely must have, I plot the changes I will make to the house to show that object off in its best light. And when I buy something new for the house, I bring something from the house to the shop. While part of me believes that you can never have too much stuff, the reality is that there is only so much space in a house.
The fashion these days is for home decor to be spare and clean: modern furniture, oiled Scandanavian wood, few objects cluttering up surfaces. If there are books, often they are turned to hide the colorful spines so all you see are the matching white pages, making the books a useless decoration and not a source of pleasure. I subscribe to three or four home decor magazines and feel as if I am looking at the same interiors again and again. To me, that modern look is too sterile and impersonal.
I prefer a cluttered, English country house or Bloomsbury cottage look. I love things that show wear and do not make guests feel as if they have to be careful where they put their feet. Objects must be colorful but faded and do not have to match. I want guests to feel embraced when they enter. Walking into my house helps you know me better.
The things I collect in Chifferobe are the things I like to have in my house. There are very old pieces of furniture, including a blanket chest that is said to have belonged to Miles Standish. They wear their age gracefully and do not make a person scared to use them. I keep the prices low so that more people can afford to take them home.
I also stock locally handmade things that are imperfect and not uniform, so you can feel the maker’s fingerprints. They carry the energy of the creator. And things that smell good.
My home is more than a dwelling to me, and I suspect that the same is true for all those in the Carolinas who are hunkering down or running for their lives. I feel your pain as you watch the news unfolding from motel rooms in the mountains, wondering if the nests you have so carefully prepared will be there when you go home.