Monday, January 24, 2022

As an interior decorator, I am sometimes called upon to fulfill unusual requests.

Last year, however, almost proved to be my undoing.

You see, I am involved with cat rescue and care for a stable feline population. Our group practices what is referred to as TNVR, which stands for trap, neuter, vaccinate and release. Cats are humanely trapped, taken to a certified veterinarian for neutering/spaying and to receive immunizations, and then returned to their familiar habitat.

So when my wonderful husband, Ron, offered to build a secure dwelling for the cats to use during inclement weather, I was thrilled. But I should really have been cautious. He does tend to get a bit carried away, and we ended up with a two-story residence with two front doors!

Now the issue arises: How to decorate this multi-level cat house?

No, really, I am mostly kidding, although I did consider Cottagecore. Um.

Speaking of core, I certainly do have a core of directives that guides me as I enter someone’s home for the first time. Most importantly, I am never judgmental. Life gets complicated, and often our home base can reflect this.

Very important to me is that the home mirrors the personalities of those who live there. I had a colleague who formulated a design she liked so much that she used it as a template for all future work, with the result that the homes she decorated had a cookie-cutter look. As far as I am concerned, décor is about more than being aesthetically pleasing. If you don’t say “Ahh, home” when you walk in, that’s a failure, however stylish it may be.

Also, I am very sensitive to color and texture in the space. It is well known that we eat first with our eyes. When we look around our home, the colors must be what is loved, whether serene, daring or traditional. Happily for me, I was born with cones in my eyes such that I can detect the slightest variations in hue, and sometimes an artist friend consults me about color because she knows that I have this inborn skill. Texture also plays a vital role. The phrases we use show how important the tactile sense is: soft as a feather, rough like steel wool, smooth as silk. The curated use of fabric is essential.

Harmony isn’t important only in music. A pleasing interplay among the elements in a room results in a satisfying sense that all is as it should be. Proper scale and careful placement yield a scene that brings joy.

Practicality is necessary, too. It won’t be a successful decorative effort if there isn’t a thoughtful way to deal with real life. Only movie sets are perfect. In our everyday world, there is lots of mail, important projects, gifts waiting to be wrapped, toys abandoned, items to be returned, and so it goes. Plans have to be crafted to deal with all these things.

And practicality brings me back to, well, cats. Not only, of course, since we also have a much-loved dog, Motek. And children, the center of the home. And guests, the welcome if temporary addition to our space. All must be taken into consideration for a home to function smoothly and happily.

Just as a group of cats is called a clowder, a group of homes makes a community. So truly central to our lives as members of our Jewish communities, we greet guests on Shabbat and chagim and usher them into our dwellings. We want them to feel comfortable and relaxed as we share each other’s company and make memories. For this to occur in an organic way, our home needs to showcase our values and our joy.

All these things are so very important to me, and I am always humbled and respectful when invited into someone’s personal space for a consultation. It is both a serious mission and a joyous adventure.

Dorene lives in West Orange with her husband, Ron, and is on the Sisterhood Board of Congregation AABJ&D. Also very involved with AMIT Children, Dorene serves on the Board of Governors. To learn more, she can be reached at [email protected]

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