Just like birds and their nests, people and their homes come in all shapes and sizes.From minimalist modern white cubes to frill-filled country cottages, we all have very personal ideas about what kind of spaces we want to inhabit, and different challenges to face when trying to create our perfect home.
On paper I probably look like a pretty conventional person – 40, married, 2 kids, a dog…but my early years were, compared to most people I know, quite wild and bohemian. I lived with my young single Mum in an assortment of shared houses and communes, moving house and school often…home became wherever my stuff was, so in a way my stuff became my home.
My mum called me her little magpie, because I kept a little pile of shiny treasures and jewellery from jumble sales under my pillow…every morning it would have all fallen down the back of my bed and I’d root it all out and arrange it again in a little round pile, the size and shape of a birds nest. My treasure was watched over by a random collection of cuddly toys, some handmade by my Mum, some from jumble sales, and a one-eyed dog with a zip in her tummy for keeping my nightie in that had belonged to my Mum. I was tucked in every night under a quilt she made…it had patches featuring a psychedelic 60s landscape, with fields, trees and a cottage under an orange sky…a dream landscape to look at as I fell asleep.
I spent my teens and 20s continuing to move around, and accumulate stuff… I deliberately avoided making conventional choices – no magnolia paint or fitted carpets – resulting in homes crammed with quirky unusual finds, and kept defiantly ‘uncurated’ (read messy!) Even my growing collection of fabric, inspired by that psychedelic quilt, threatened to grow out of control…but there’s no point having lots of beautiful things if you can never find the one you’re looking for! Maybe I was having too much fun with friends to take the time to sort and edit, but there comes a point when rather than owning stuff, stuff can start to own you. If you spend more time worrying about your stuff or trying to organise it than you do enjoying it, you’ve got too much!
For a long time I felt pulled in 2 directions – longing for the stable family life that I’d seen but not experienced first-hand, but wondering if I was capable of creating it, and if maybe I’d find it boring and stifling. Fast forward to my days now, spent wrangling my kids into their school uniform and wondering what to cook for dinner – not boring after all, because every day brings new joys and challenges – but also not quite the dream of domesticity that some aspire to! Paperwork mounts up in teetering piles, and housework is sometimes ignored in favour of getting the paints out and making even more mess. But that pile of fabric is now folded neatly in my studio, and is used to make beautiful quilts for my own children, and other people’s.
Many treasures have been collected over the years…vintage tins and vases jostle for space on shelves, and cupboards are crammed with my Dad’s old Tonka trucks and classic 1960s Galt board games. My childrens’ book shelves are heaving with much loved classics, dog-eared from the love of generations of children. They sleep cuddled up under handmade quilts, with patchwork cushions, retro cuddly toys that I have made for them from vintage fabric, and that one eyed dog with the zip in her tummy.
In another life maybe I’d be a hoarder – I do find it hard to throw things away – but one of the most positive things about family life is that it challenges you to be the best person that you can be, for the sake of those you love. It is more important now to collect memories, moments spent laughing with my kids, than to lug home that amazing 50s kitchen dresser that I love but don’t have room for. So I sort out, chuck out, and give away. The things that we lose or choose to let go of live on in memories…I haven’t seen that psychedelic quilt for decades, but it inspired a love of vintage fabric that is a big part of my life today. My home is no longer wherever my stuff is, but wherever my loved ones are…we are building our nest together, and it is full of love.
Rachel Mansi loves her family, nature, fabric, vintage treasures, tea and cake. She runs www.rainbowvintagehome.co.uk selling beautiful 60s and 70s fabrics. She loves Instagram and is sharing a favourite pattern every day with lots of other fabric addicts… check out #welovepattern2015 if you fancy some eye candy!