Check out any country decorating magazine and you will find houses with white sofas. Really?! White?! Have these decorators ever even been near a farm? I can’t believe that anyone in any of those farm decorating magazines ever actually sits on the sofas and chairs that look so pretty against the robin’s egg blue walls.
One of the hardest things for me to get used to as a farm wife was the enormous amount of dirt that finds its way inside my house. It sneaks in on boots and pant legs and dirty hands and calf bottles. So we built a mud porch and I believed it would capture all the dirt, just like the butter yellow one on page 23 of Good Housekeeping Magazine with the neat cubbies and tidy boot trays. I forgot to factor in hay twine and 50 pound bags of calf milk replacer and a box full of stove wood and egg buckets and stacks of egg cartons. I forgot that all of the boots it takes to keep a farm running won’t fit on a nifty little tray. They barely fit on the large bookcase I placed there for them; tumbling off to lie at odd angles on the floor. I forgot to factor in barn coats and good coats and rain coats and coveralls. I didn’t plan for a space to hold ear tags and syringes and stray boxes of nails and fence staples. In fact, I would challenge any decorator to organize my ten by twelve foot mud porch in a way that would stay neat and tidy.
Then there are my floors. A friend and I once had a conversation about choosing floors for a farmhouse. I was admiring her multi-colored brick design linoleum. “Oh, it’s so ancient,” she said. “But, I keep it because it doesn’t show dirt.” You would never see those words in a country magazine, but it’s been my decorating philosophy for the last twenty odd years. If it doesn’t show dirt, it stays. I’ve had brown sofas, brown chairs, brown floors, brown trim. There are lots of beautiful shades of brown: chocolate and ochre and clay and sienna and cedar and burnt umber. I’ve learned to love brown because it allows me to love my family in all their farm dirt glory. The men in my family don’t have time to unlace their boots every time they need to step in for a moment. If I love them, I cannot ask them to go change into clean clothes before they drape their bone tired bodies on my couch. It would be senseless to challenge them to bring in wood for the stove without dripping bits of it all over the floor. When a calf needs to be warmed by the stove, it would be heartless to say, “Leave that mess outside!”
Love decorates for comfort. It finds ways to exist with the realities of the life it has chosen. So, when my husband offered to buy me a new couch for my birthday, I began shopping on-line looking at all the shades of brown available. Once I had an idea of what I thought would work, I took him along to help me pick it out. Joe dutifully sat on every sofa, in every show room, until we had both found one we could live with. It was white. Then he said, “How about we look at fabric samples and choose one we like.” I strolled over to the sample counter, confident that I knew just the shade of brown that would work. While I leafed through the floppy fabric books, he grabbed one and handed it to me. “How about this?” he said. The sample was blue. Like the top of the bowl of sky on a summer day. A clarion, clear blue. It might show dirt. I stared at it longingly before answering, and good sense won over. After all, we are middle aged and it’s high time we took some risks. My blue sofa will be here tomorrow.