"Better joy in a cottage than sorrow in a palace..." ~ Proverbs
Every child remembers a favorite Christmas. For most, it's the year they received a bike under the tree. For others? A set of slot cars, a pair of ice skates or a trunk of dress up clothes. Yet others? It was that much dreamed of doll, GI Joe or set of puppets. I enjoyed most of those, without question. And yet, my favorite Christmas was the year I received a Holly Hobbie Play House. This wasn't a dollhouse...one to pretend to move my tiny doll family about. This was a small cottage sized playhouse completely made out of cardboard. It was adorable. It had trompe l'oeil design of an adorable cottage. Little did I know that my parents had, quite literally, stayed up all night putting it together. (And later on that day, they realized that they had disassemble the darn thing and put it back together in my room!)
Until we moved, I spent every waking moment in that playhouse. I brought pillows and blankets and enticed our dogs to come hang out with me. I read. I played house. I played school. It was my sanctuary within my sanctuary. I felt happy, safe, free to be creative and utterly joyful there. I never worried about needing to clean it (it was too small to really get untidy). I never thought I might lose anything or that things would just vanish. It was manageable. Additionally, it was just how I wanted it. No one helped me...I simply brought in there bits and pieces from around the house....a favorite silver frame, my books, the soft leopard blanket my mother had sewn, my father's lap desk (which served as the perfect actual desk) and a little antique trunk to hold my "treasures". It was the most essentially 'me' space I've ever had.
It's no wonder that I've loved cottages ever since then. As an adult, I've been incredibly fortunate to have had a lovely roof over my head at all times. From my husband's and my first apartment to our current house, we've never been without the safety of shelter. Additionally, I've had some wonderful help from my mother with furniture and from my mother in law with painting each room. And yet, compromises are always made. Whether it's making do with furniture because it's serviceable, or finding the happy medium between what I find beautiful, and my husband finds too feminine, that majority of the spaces in my house are a testament to adaptation. Please don't misunderstand. I love my home, my husband, my children and our animals. But, every decision to change, or not to change, a space requires modification on my part. I am grateful, beyond measure, for the loving family I'm blessed with. However, I continue to daydream about cottages. Small, charming, folksy, shabby chic, historic, quaint, girlie and scrumptious...I've wanted "a room of one's own", thanks to Virginia Woolf, most of my adult life. Mine just happens not to be a room. My "room" is a tiny house of my own.
When I first came across this cottage in The Grower's Daughter, I fell in love. A former hunting cabin, the cottage was renovated by a Wheaton College graduate, when her husband and she chose to downsize dramatically and moved into a wooded property with very little in the way of luxury. The cottage became a labor of love, a refuge and a sanctuary for the builder. As Wheatie myself, I related to the the builder's aesthetic sensibility, her taste and her desire. I love the way in which every nook and cranny is used. I am passionate about the white, Victorian-meets-Shabby Chic style. I love the roses. I love the chandelier. I love the sleeping loft. I love the pink. I love the lace. I love the doorknobs. I love the china. I love the little porch. I love how utterly immaculate everything is. There isn't dog hair all over the white draped furniture. There aren't hockey bags opened up on the porch. There isn't a gaggle of (however beloved) teenagers draped over every surface. There are no half finished glasses of juice everywhere. It's peaceful. It's dreamy. It's private.
I'd love to have this cottage in my own backyard. I can imagine climbing into the bed (using a ladder I'd put on wheeled tracks), with a cup of perfect tea and a stack of my favorite books. I'd leave my cell phone back in my house. Although I would install indoor plumbing (unlike this dream cottage, that's a non-negotiable for me), I would keep this cottage just the way that it is otherwise. I'd eat things like cucumber sandwiches and sliced mango. I'd wear Victorian inspired dresses and sunhats. I'd wrap myself up in fur blankets when it would get chilly. I could write uninterrupted. I could sleep without being disturbed. I could hear myself think. It would be my own space. Just for me. No sweaty athletic apparel on the floor. No Ramen noodles left to congeal. No unending sports games on television at the loudest possible volume. No television at all, actually. It would be peaceful. Calm. Relaxing. Serene.
I realize this is a pipe dream. Even if such a magical abode just appeared, as if conjured, I know that it wouldn't remain perfect for long. My two dogs are immense and release enough fur every day to create a smaller animal. They'd be scratching to be let in within seconds. I know my husband, ever the space-needer, would be eyeing my cottage as a possible home for his lawnmower, plow and boat equipment. I'm sure my kids would lobby to make my cottage into the teenager hangout.While I'd be at the store, I'm sure I'd arrive home to find my charming decorations out, and the ping-pong table and TV in. Along with the iHome blasting music. My fantasy sanctuary would become doghouse, storage barn and media center the moment my back was turned. Maybe that's why it's best left a fantasy....I can keep it beautiful and perfect in my imagination in a way I'd never manage in real life.
And yet...there's a perfect place under the pine trees that would be just dreamy. Do you think I can keep it a secret?