Maggie Robinson

Mar 29
There’s No Place Like Home

I’ve made a nest in 18 places in my adult life. Whew. Makes me sound like a gypsy or a jetsetter, and I am assuredly neither. But it’s fun to unpack boxes and pull out the talismans that have followed me around the country. Nothing horribly valuable, but meaningful just the same. I have a framed poem from my friend Claudia, two green Wedgwood pitchers, my grandmother’s Tiffany vase set with turquoise. Lots of mismatched china from both sides of the family. A stuffed pig that was presented to me one Christmas from “your four little pigs.” A pastel sketch by daughter #3. My great-aunt’s marble table. A reclaimed sideboard my husband refinished.

When my kids were little I’d drag them to antiques fairs, and they’d go around saying, “Look, we have this at home.” There’s been a distinct Victorian vibe in every house we’ve had, simply because of the objects we inherited. As much as I admire sleek modernity, my eye is trained to vintage.

When I write, I try to picture what the hero and heroine surround themselves with. I make it a point to go on house tours, read up on decorative arts, watch period-set movies. Vanity Fair is a favorite of mine because of its broad scope. I guess I’m just a frustrated decorator at heart.

What makes your house a home? Do your characters have things they can’t live without?

There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort. ~Jane Austen

I’m blogging 3/30 at Romantic Inks about the stuff on your desk you “need.” Drop by!

21 comments to “There’s No Place Like Home”

  1. J.K. Coi
     · March 29th, 2008 at 9:58 am · Link

    There are some things that I just need to have in my house. And my books are one of them. I’ve had books crowding my space since I started reading at the tender age of whatever. They used to get piled on bedtables, countertops, inside drawers and closets and there wasn’t any room so they got packed in boxes.

    When we moved into this house about two years ago, my amazing husband built me floor to ceiling wall to wall bookshelves in the office. Enough space for ALL my books. At least it was at the time. Now the books are starting to get doubled up on the shelves, but at least I don’t need to break out any boxes yet.

  2. Elyssa Papa
     · March 29th, 2008 at 1:19 pm · Link

    Books are pretty much littered everywhere in my apartment, too. Along with chocolate. *g*

    J.K., I’m jealous of your wall to wall bookshelves! I want them where I live.

  3. Tiffany Kenzie
     · March 29th, 2008 at 3:44 pm · Link

    Books…many books are a must. The other must is my piano. It’s old and outta tune, but I love to play it when the fancy strikes me.

    I want wall to wall bookshelves!

    I love art. I have four of the five Ophelia prints I want (I have three waterhouse’s and the millais . I have other period art that’s probably not authentic but pretty. I like pretty.

  4. J.K. Coi
     · March 29th, 2008 at 4:39 pm · Link

    Ooh Tiff, good one. I don’t think I could live without art. I’m always amazed when I go into someone’s house and the walls are bare. I’m like, how can you live like this?

    I’d love a piano too, but since I can’t play, it would just sit there gathering dust. Actually, besides my stereo, I wouldn’t have any use for musical instruments at all. The only class I failed in high school was music. I can’t play anything, and I’m completely tone deaf.

  5. Kelly Krysten
     · March 29th, 2008 at 5:19 pm · Link

    Books, picture of family and friends, and movies are everywhere in my place. I want art, but have none.

  6. MistyJo
     · March 30th, 2008 at 2:46 pm · Link

    Books are a must for me, too. They’re all over the place. My DH’s cd collection competes in numbers with my books. I enjoy art, too. Copies, and not expensive ones, more like awesome flea market and yard sale treasures. (I have some of the copies listed in my pic albums on facebook.) My house wouldn’t be complete with Disney stuff. And I inherited a Carnival Glass, or Depression Glass, collection from my mother. It’s the blue pattern.

  7. Maggie Robinson
     · March 30th, 2008 at 4:59 pm · Link

    You guys are making me feel guilty. For a writer, I am very bad. Most of my books are still in boxes in the basement. All the ones I really want anyway. *g* I have two little bookshelves in my writing room, but they are nowehere near big enough for everything. I used to have books stacked under my desk, but I kept kicking them over. Ely, we need Kris’ amazing husband! (at least to build shelves)

    Tiff, I always wanted to learn to play the piano, but had to settle for getting my daughters lessons.

    Kelly, family photos are all over my house too, especially of the cutest baby in the world, AKA Sadie.

    Misty, I have my mother-in-law’s pink depression glass!

  8. Keira Soleore
     · March 30th, 2008 at 5:47 pm · Link

    Maggie, love, love, love that picture. I love telling people about my desk. Heading over to Romantic Inks… 🙂

  9. Keira Soleore
     · March 30th, 2008 at 7:36 pm · Link

    J.K. Count me in as another highly envious reader of your wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. I might want to steal your husband for a while. And so will all the Vixens, Pirates, and Vagabonds.

  10. Santa
     · March 31st, 2008 at 12:01 am · Link

    I was pulling out some serving dishes for a dinner party I was having when I came across a huge white, pig shaped ceramic piggy bank decorated in pink. It was a gift an old family friend gave my oldest daughter when she was baptized. I started to cry because he passed away a few days earlier of a heart attack at the age of 43 and I thought…
    What the hell was this thing doing at the back of the china cabinet. She should be using it and enjoying it and…

    It’s often the treasures we tuck away and happen upon at the oddest times that mean the most.

  11. Maggie Robinson
     · March 31st, 2008 at 5:31 am · Link

    Oh, Santa. I’m so sorry. And you are right. Use those dishes, wear the good shoes, put on the bling in the daytime. Life is short. If you’re saving for “best,” sometimes best never comes.

    Keira, I love the picture too. It’s so homely (in the English sense of the word). Love the little girl bowling.

  12. Tiffany Kenzie
     · March 31st, 2008 at 9:02 am · Link


    I never said I played the piano well…

    But my husband is kind enough not to complain. He’s probably thankful I’m not on the clarinet four hours a night anymore.

  13. irisheyes
     · March 31st, 2008 at 9:57 am · Link

    Wow, Maggie, that’s a lot of moving around. I know that I’d be one of those people with the white walls and no pictures on them. If it’s not permanent I don’t have the energy to bother with even unpacking. I’ve only been in about 5 places over the course of my life and that was enough for me.

    I’m finally in the house I think I’m going to be staying in for a great many years. That makes creating a home a little easier. All the previous places I’ve lived always felt too transitional to me to decorate to any great extent. It got to the point where on our move before settling here, I didn’t even unpack boxes. This is the house where ALL the boxes were unpacked and precious items placed where they would remain for, hopefully, a long time.

    This place is taking forever, though. I’d rather leave a wall blank than throw something up there I don’t like or I don’t think fits. It also takes me forever to decide on color patterns, schemes, etc. The only place that is near where I want it to be is my bedroom that also happens to have a little room off of it with the built-in bookshevles courtesy of my DH. It’s my favorite room and where I can be found hiding out…er relaxing at various hours of the day and night! And now I know wherever I may go from here on out I will need bookshelves and my books to feel at home.

  14. Janga
     · March 31st, 2008 at 3:20 pm · Link

    Books, books, and more books–I have books in every room of my house–in bookcases, on tables, in boxes under beds and in closets. I even rent a storage unit for all those boxes that I can’t fit anywhere else. Do you think this book-buying habit qualifies as an addiction?

    Then there are the CDs, DVDs, photographs, angels in brass, glass, fabric, and paper, and assorted bits and pieces like a worry bear, a Proust coffee cup, a “Nearly Famous” pin, and my George Clooney mouse pad–I consider all of these things necessary to my life and my identity.:)

  15. terrio
     · April 1st, 2008 at 4:05 pm · Link

    I think I’ve read this blog four times and everytime I go to comment, something distracts me. LOL!

    I’m on my 8th place since venturing out on my own. And though my place looks like a flea market exploded, I have this weird attachment to my mismatch of things.

    I have to have stuff on the walls. Other than feeling homey, it cuts down on the echo. Hate when you get that echo in a new place.

    I have books spread out too. I bought a(nother) new 6′ bookshelf last year but haven’t completely moved stuff to all the shelves. I need to work on that.

    Since I recently opted out of buying a house, I’ve decided to make our apartment as much *ours* as possible. Painting, purging and positioning furniture are all on the list.

  16. Maggie Robinson
     · April 1st, 2008 at 6:34 pm · Link

    Terrio, nothing matches in my house either but I like it that way. Somehow it all goes together.I get a little creeped out when I go into a furniture store and everything is perfect.

    Janga, like my books, most of my CDs still haven’t been unpacked and we’ve been in this house almost 2 years. I did find a handful a couple of weeks ago though and put them on my desk in an old wooden salt cod box—because we’ve never connected the stereo either! So if I want to listen to music, it’s the computer. I have 2 separate storage rooms in the basement that I keep meaning to get to before I croak and the kids have to do it. I guess if I haven’t opened the boxes in 2 years, I must not need the stuff!

  17. Maggie Robinson
     · April 1st, 2008 at 6:37 pm · Link

    Irish, I’m just the opposite. Even if we’re renting a cottage on a lake for a couple of weeks, I redecorate it, LOL. Oddly enough, I usually start with the bathroom. Once that’s done, I’m really at home!

  18. Tessa Dare
     · April 1st, 2008 at 7:46 pm · Link

    I am so, so bad at decorating. I really hate shopping in general, and I also have an aversion to “stuff”. I don’t really attach sentimental value to objects, I guess. Of course, Mr. Dare is a complete packrat. I’ve also moved many times in my life, and I’ve used each move as an opportunity to purge, big time. I love going into homes that are tastefully decorated and comfortable. I wish I could create one of my own.

    But like so many of you, I don’t know what I’d do without books around. Pretty much everything else is negotiable.

  19. Gillian Layne
     · April 1st, 2008 at 10:11 pm · Link

    I have my grandmother’s secretary and her pie safe. Those make the house “homey”. I love the kids’ artwork scattered about. This house never manages to be “done”, so there are always odd trim boards or outlet covers or paint cans about. We’re a pretty casual family.

    And we have books in every single room.

  20. Anonymous
     · April 1st, 2008 at 11:59 pm · Link

    All this talk of how important books are to everyone here made me remember a decorating show this past year. The two twenty-something hosts were horrified about the number of books in the condo (from what I could tell, only about a dozen or so in each room). “Look at THIS!” they would exclaim as they raced from room to room. “MORE books!” Their faces would scrunch up in unhappy frowns, their mouths open in dismay, inviting the viewer to be equally shocked. “How could anyone live with all this CLUTTER!”

    I shudder to think about their reaction if they came to my house. Of course, I could always repeat to them my favorite line from the Rosalind Russell version of “Auntie Mame.” The snobbitty airhead girlfriend of Patrick’s gushes to Mame, “I just LOVE your apartment! Books are so DECORATIVE, aren’t they?”

  21. Maggie Robinson
     · April 2nd, 2008 at 9:31 am · Link

    Anon, I was addicted to that version of Auntie Mame (all the costume and decorating changes!), and read all the Patrick Dennis books I could get my hands on. Your post makes me nostalgic to re-read them and see if they stand up to my recollection.

    Tessa, I bet the Darelings are decorating your house right now. I used to call what my kids left behind “The Trail of Slime.”

    Gillian, I do love my family furniture and dishes…mostly because if I had to pay for them, I couldn’t afford them, LOL.