By Doris Haver Wilson and photos by Michelle Consuegra
About 13 years ago, when my husband and I walked up to this very Georgian, overgrown 70’s house, he looked at me and said, “Are you sure about this? I mean, you can fix it—right?” My reply was, “Relatively sure.” We started at the front door and went all the way to the back door as well as outside. There was no stopping point.
It took a year of tearing out walls, raising door frames, removing dated avocado green and gold wallpaper and shag carpet about four inches deep, bad plywood paneling, linoleum flooring, choppy spaces and even relocating a living room fireplace. Fortunately, the house was structurally sound because it took quite a “beating.” It was a dark and dreary abode. Being “solar powered,” I knew I had to let light in.
The outside wasn’t much better. It sported quite a jungle around the seven foot wall that surrounded the courtyard. This, too, brought back the same question, “Are you sure about this?”
We brought in truckloads of dirt, pea gravel and stone and set about building exterior walls and terraces, including a potting house on the lower terrace.
To get back inside, the house was virtually gutted. Stone flooring replaced some hardwood flooring; hardwood flooring was added where there was only subflooring, and then to blow everyone’s mind, the hardwood flooring was painted a high gloss black. Larger spaces were created, both visually and physically.
One of my many decorating heroes was, and is, Mario Buatta. He seemed to be able to take a sterile, cold space and effortlessly turn it into something wonderful with great feel and charm. Decorating is like art and beautiful music, you must “feel” it to make it beautiful and come to life. Mario once said, “A house evolves like a garden, ever growing and changing, a little bit at a time.”
My decorating philosophy is once things are accomplished, you fill the space with things that speak to you and complement one another. This is much like “the little black dress” theory. You have the perfect “little black dress,” and then you adorn it with fabulous jewelry; that is when you have your masterpiece. If you are a product of your environment, why not make it as happy, functional and pleasing to you as possible? It should be a statement of your style.
Someone asked me how long I have been decorating. The answer is “all my life,” and that’s a pretty long time. Even as a youngster, I had very strong opinions about décor and architecture. Beginning around age twelve, I was summoned by one of my favorite aunts who loved to redecorate almost every season. I would ride my bicycle to her house to accompany her to the local paint store in Decatur, Alabama, to choose her paint colors. We would move furniture around the house and even oversee a little remodeling. My pay for this very valued expertise was a trip to the hot dog stand where I could order whatever I wanted. We had a grand time. She continued to redecorate until her late eighties. She was an avid gardener who always worked in her garden all dressed up and ready to go wherever with whomever. This is probably where I inherited my love of the soil.
An article appeared not long ago in The Wall Street Journal entitled “Why I’ll Redecorate Until I Kick the Bucket.” The gist was that it would keep you young, looking forward, mentally alert, and prohibit you from being the little ole lady “stuck in time.” This is totally my philosophy. So, after 42 years of decorating professionally, I think I’ll plan to decorate until “I kick the bucket” and not be “stuck in time.” I might even order a new sofa at age ninety, even though I may request expedited shipping–no matter the cost.
Haver & Co. has moved from Cahaba Road (next to the Mountain Brook Creamery) in Mountain Brook to Office Park Circle.
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