Summer is a great time to tackle household projects, right? The finite weeks of the season and the long hours of daylight seem custom-made for designing and executing home improvements.
Of course, summer is the worst time for projects. First of all, the kids are home from school and hanging around all day asking for food. Second, you are spending your weekends at the pool or going on day trips. Third, there is the natural inertia of summer. It is hot. It is humid. Your body is telling you to rest, not climb a ladder and spackle.
But I found a terrific little project that takes hardly any energy at all, and gives great rewards: tablescaping. Tablescaping is the artful arranging of objects on a table (or shelf, or piano) to create an elegant vignette. It can evoke a seasonal theme, a hobby of yours, or highlight a collection.I have seen examples of this when decorators in magazines or on TV give a table a "makeover." They take a surface in your home which was covered with a bunch of unrelated things, and then, by adding, subtracting or arranging various items, your table is transformed. It is not just a place to set things. It becomes an expression of who you are.
We tablescape at my house all the time. In fact, my husband is an expert at it. His dresser top says "Can't Find A Trash Can." The surface is covered with small bits of paper, half rolls of Certs, used Metrocards, change, pens, stubby pencils, paper clips, unwrapped Band-Aids, hunks of dog treats, loose Advil pills and fuzzy ChapSticks. He makes his rounds all day long, stuffing things in his pockets, and then at the end of the day he "arranges" those things on this dresser.
In our living room, the kids and I engage in competitive tablescaping. That is, I arrange attractive art books, a vase of flowers and some polished silver coasters on a table. To me, that table says, "We appreciate art, reading, and evening cocktails in this house. Please feel free to join us for some gracious living."
Then my two boys come along and rescape. They set up a Darth Vader Lego Showdown, bringing in forces from both the dark and the good sides. They fill the coasters with spare Lego parts as they constantly create and recreate fighter ships with blasters and rockets. The flower vase becomes a hiding port for jets. They set it up, play with it and walk away. Their table says "I can shoot my enemy more than six different ways, but that got boring so now I'm watching SpongeBob."
Sometimes a tablescape can be a revealing window into your true self. For instance, my bedside table is beautiful Art Deco little cabinet, and I have a pretty swing arm lamp mounted on the wall above it. I can honestly say the whole effect is charming. However, the table is covered with lotions, ointments, nasal sprays, eye drops, and cough medicine. There are so many little bottles there that I have to put my library books on the floor. That table is telling me "You think you're so great with this pretty bedroom, but you're really just a wrinkled lady with allergies who doesn't have time to read all these books."
I love to read shelter magazines and gaze at beautifully done rooms. But I always end up fuming "Where is their STUFF?" Where are the newspapers, the unfinished science projects, the letters from your insurance company denying your anesthesia during your colonoscopy?
If you think decorating means making your home into something so pretty you can't live up to it – then tablescaping is your answer. You're not a slob: you're tablescaping! You're not just dumping your papers on the kitchen counter.
You're making a statement that says, "I volunteer for way too many PTO committees. Somebody take me out to dinner."
That's what I call an elegant vignette.
Pam Lobley is a columnist and co-author of the book "You Definitely Know You're a Mom When ..."