Inspired by Frances Schultz’s popular House Beautiful magazine series on the makeover of her East Hampton house, Bee Cottage, what began as a decorating book evolved into a memoir combining the best elements of both: beautiful photos and a compelling personal story.
Schultz taps into what she learned during her renovations of Bee Cottagedetermining how each area in the house and garden would be used and furnishedto unravel the question of how a mature, intelligent, successful woman could have made such a mess of her personal life. As she figures out each room over a period of years, Frances finds a new path in life, also a continual process. She comes to learn that, like decorating a home, our lives must adapt to who we are and what we need at different points along the way.
The Bee Cottage Story is part memoir, part home decorating guide. Frances discusses the kinds of useful, commonsense design issues professionals take for granted and the rest of us just may not think of, prompting the reader to examine and discover her own “truth” in decoratingand in her life.
Frances Schultz ’s popular blog at FrancesSchultz.com is a revealing window into her lively and sometimes laugh-out-loud writing as well as her inspiring style and taste. She is also author and coauthor of several books, including A House in the South , and for six years was on-air host of the award-winning cable television show Southern Living Presents. A contributing editor to House Beautiful magazine and former editor at large for Veranda , Frances has appeared on The Today Show , CNN’s Open House , The Nate Berkus Show , and numerous others. A North Carolina native, she resides in the Santa Ynez Valley of California and in New York City.
A House, a Heartbreak and How Did I Get Here?
Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. — Brené Brown
I'd planned to make Bee Cottage the perfect place to begin my second marriage. I'd bought it with my fiancé's blessing. It was great for us and for his two sons. Though the house was old and needed work, I relished the prospect. If only I'd been as optimistic about the marriage, but the story of Bee Cottage begins, I'm sorry to say, with heartbreak.
After the wedding invitations were sent, after gifts received, after the ridiculously expensive dress made, after deposits paid, after a house bought ... I called it off. I wish I could say he was a jerk and a cad, but he wasn't. He was and is a great guy. For purposes of our story I will call him G. The relationship failed because we just were not a fit.
And there I was with a house and the dawning that everything I had dreamed it would be would now be something else entirely. I cried, I hid, I hated myself. I stared at the walls, gazed forlornly at the non-existent garden, moped at the fifty-year-old refrigerator, sighed at the stove that didn't work, and fretted over the roof that needed replacing ...
Looking back, I reckon many of us get to a place like this at some time or other, a spot that illuminates the space between where you are and where you thought you'd be? Sometimes an illness or loss jabs you into awareness of what you haven't done, where you haven't been, who you haven't become. But for many of us it isn't as clear as a single momentous event. It is more a culmination of experiences that turn out differently from how we expected — in a sort of climax of existential mission-creep.
In my Great Muddle of 2008, I had more questions than answers. One answer I did have, though, was that I loved this rundown little house with the blue shutters and the quirky rooms. I loved what it could be. I knew (more or less) what to do with it — more than I could claim in other areas of my life. I wondered if I could pull the house — and my life — back together at the same time. I would find love again, I told myself, and when I did I would give it a good home.
In my sea of fear, self-loathing, and self-doubt, amid heaps of mistakes and mis-steps, the belief that I could make the house lovely and welcoming, that this was something I might get right, gave me a glimmer of confidence and a glimpse of joy. My desire to create a beautiful, harmonious environment was a place of clarity for me in an emotional morass. Embracing that desire began to bring me around to who I was and what I could be. It was a point of light in a big dark room, but it was something.
In many ways mine is the story of any decorating project, fraught with ups and downs and fits and starts. What surprised me was how the decorating process became both metaphor and means for personal discovery, and ultimately, for healing. I came to see how inherent in my love for decorating were the very insights and analogies that loosened the knots in my spirit. I think this holds true for everyone, be their passion for sport, art, literature, science, cooking, or teaching — whatever the calling, career, or hobby. All are rife with metaphors that point to our particular truths and what is authentic for us as individuals.
Like the Chinese saying about the longest journey beginning with one small step, so it was with Bee Cottage in beginning to hear my heart's song. This is the story of that process, soul-searching illustrated. I hope you'll find useful information here based on my years of experience with, and writing about, design for magazines, books, and my own blog, FrancesSchultz.com. I'm merely sharing my story and hoping something resonates with you if you find yourself in a similar place. Which I hope you don't. But if you do, whether it's a new house or a new chapter in your life (they often go together), my advice is to start from where you are, and begin with what you know. Because at the end of the day, that is all any of us have. And guess what? It's enough.
Excerpted from The Bee Cottage Story by Frances Schultz, Trevor Tondro. Copyright © 2015 Frances Schultz. Excerpted by permission of Skyhorse Publishing.
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