I’ve been thoroughly enjoying setting up Your Gathered Home tours over the past few months! I’ve had the privilege of meeting two Instagram friends in person and getting to know several others better over email and chat as we work out the details.
I always love to say that gathering is a kindred-spirit thing – when you find another person with the same love for beautiful things, eclectic decor, vintage treasures, and the thrill of the hunt, you can be pretty sure you’ll speak the same soul language!
For this series, I developed a set of four simple questions centered around my philosophy of gathering – finding and making beautiful things, right where you are:
- Why do you gather?
- Do you have a favorite gathered find or story?
- What is a favorite home decor piece or project that you’ve made?
- What is your best advice to others on creating a gathered home?
I absolutely LOVE hearing everyone’s response to these questions! We all have different answers, different experiences, different stories… and yet we are united by a common passion. That’s just such a beautiful thing to me!
Well, as I was plotting out the future of this series, I had the sudden realization that I had never sat down and shared the answers to those four questions with you in one sitting.
Sure, you can find the answers scattered throughout the archives of the past five years here on the blog, but I’ve never pulled them together into one tidy little story… until today!
*Today’s post may contain affiliate links, which help generate income to keep The Gathered Home running and never cost you anything extra! If you’re interested in how that works, read more here.
Meet Brynne: Finder, Maker
Yes, this may be a shot from my goofy April Fool’s photo shoot, but I actually made this my new profile photo recently because this definitely the real me: messy bun, glasses, t-shirt and jeans, old high-tops.
So hey, you guys! I’m Brynne and my two favorite pastimes are finding and making. I’m in my late 20’s and I’ve been married to my best friend, Bryan, for seven years. We just moved into our second home last summer, which was our fifth move in six years. Fingers crossed it was our last move for quite some time!
I just can’t tell you about myself without including this guy, since his encouragement to follow my dreams and his acceptance of 90% of my wild decorating ideas and finds have been absolutely essential to the creation and continuation of The Gathered Home!
In a typical week, I will clock at least 5 hours over 2 days visiting various thrift stores, make 1-2 trips to the hardware store, and re-charge my phone’s battery 1.5x per day because I. am. addicted. to Instagram. (Find me there: @the_gathered_home)
I am not a good cook and I hate taking the time away from projects to do mundane things like prep food and eat said food, so if I ever won the lottery (granted, my odds, since I don’t play, are pretty slim), you’d better believe “personal chef” would be high on my list of splurges!
However, I spend so much time pursuing my own interests – when your passion is also your job, it can be hard to weed out self-indulgence – that I sometimes worry that maybe my entire life is rooted in frivolous things.
It helps to fall back on this beautiful concept from the author Thomas Merton (1915-1968) that reminds me that seeking beauty doesn’t need to be superficial. It’s dense and rich, but well-worth the read:
A tree gives glory to God by being a tree. For in being what God means it to be it is obeying Him. It “consents,” so to speak, to His creative love. It is expressing an idea which is in God and which is not distinct from the essence of God, and therefore a tree imitates God by being a tree. The more a tree is like itself, the more it is like Him. If it tried to be like something else which it was never intended to be, it would be less like God and therefore it would give Him less glory. No two created beings are exactly alike. And their individuality is no imperfection. On the contrary, the perfection of each created thing is not merely in its conformity to an abstract type but in its own individual identity with itself. This particular tree will give glory to God by spreading out its roots in the earth and raising its branches into the air and the light in away that no other tree before or after it ever did or will do. Therefore each particular being, in its individuality, its concrete nature and entity, with all its own characteristics and its private qualities and its own inviolable identity, gives glory to God by being precisely what He wants it to be here and now, in the circumstances ordained for it by His Love and His infinite Art.
— Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation
Why Do You Gather?
I started on this lifestyle of creating our home through second-hand sources in our first apartment. We started off with the “IKEA Starter Pack” – Billy bookcases, an Expedit, a Lack coffee table, four chairs, a desk, all in the famous black-brown.
At the time, I had just discovered blogs and voraciously read my way through the archives of all my favorites – Young House Love, The Nester, Vintage Revivals. They all seemed to find awesome things on Craigslist and in thrift stores, and my soul was hungry for more interest in our simple, beige and brown apartment, so I started hunting.
I had never answered a Craigslist posting or set foot in a thrift store before, so it felt like I had stumbled upon the best-kept secret ever! Just about anything you could ever want, at higher quality and with more beautiful details than I could hope to afford paying retail prices…
I went a little wild at first, indiscriminate with my purchases because I was constantly finding something “special”, but over time I settled into a nice rhythm of admiring beautiful things, and bringing home that which a) spoke to me and b) could be useful in our life.
I gather for several reasons…
I love the thrill of the hunt. I am so not a spontaneous person. I like to have my schedule (and general life-direction) planned out well in advance, no surprises. And yet I love setting out for a thrifting excursion with no idea of what I’ll find or how it will change my plans!
It’s the one area of my life where I welcome a little chaos, a little serendipity.
I love old things. Always have! Something is infinitely more special to me when I know it has a long and perhaps mysterious past. I wonder who first purchased or made it and why? What were they like?
Don’t even get me started on old books, especially if they have notes in the margins or soft pencil underlinings… It’s like having a book club with the ghosts of past readers!
It’s the only way I can afford the styles I love. Sometimes I worry that people might make certain assumptions about our spending habits or income level when they see our home. I’m not sure why I worry, but I guess I really want people to understand that this isn’t a house that lavish spending furnished – it’s filled with pieces that popped up in the right place, at the right time, at the right (bargain) price.
Without exaggeration, gathering has allowed me to furnish my entire home for less than the cost of my dream West Elm sofa (this one, for anyone wondering).
It connects me with my purpose. Remember that beautiful quote earlier about the tree? I feel most in tune with God when I’m finding beautiful things in unlikely places and giving them a second chance. It’s my way of partaking in a grand cosmic story of redemption, because I believe He is making all things new and beautiful as well!
Do You Have a Favorite Gathered Find or Story?
Does my mom have a favorite child? (If you know the answer to that… Don’t tell me!)
If you know me at all, then you know I’m a story teller. I’ve always relished the chance to tell a good tale, and if it grows a little dramatic in the retelling… well, I’m just trying to help you feel what I felt and really enter the story, right?
So really, I should have listed this above, but gathering stories is almost as favorite a part of my life as gathering treasures!
Let’s see – there’s the tale of the tufted-leather Chesterfield we took a 5-hour round trip in a hurricane to acquire… When I shared the story, I hinted at my couch-commitment issues, and sure enough, here we are, a few couches later and this fellow is happily homed with someone else:
It was a showpiece to be sure, but definitely not comfy for lounging! Do I still wish I had it? Sure! It would certainly swank up a certain library nook, but I’ve been gathering for long enough to know that there’s always something fabulous out there to be found!
And sometimes you find the same things twice, like these brass bar stools that I spotted once on Craigslist and didn’t get because I was being ridiculously practical – at the time, we didn’t have bar. When we moved into this house, I knew they were exactly what I wanted and searched Craigslist hopefully for months, never really expecting they would pop back up again!
Or should I tell you the tale of the leopard rug that was one of my earliest Craigslist acquisitions? I met the seller at a storage unit which, it turns out, was not hers! She said she was selling the rug for her friend, who was out of town and had forgotten to leave her a key…
So she called another friend who brought over his welding equipment and cut through the lock of the storage unit so she could sell me this huge rug for $60.
Yep, folks, I might very well have a stolen rug sitting on my living room floor at this very moment. But in all honesty, that thought didn’t occur to me until after the very-strange acquisition – at the time, I was just trying to get out of there!
It’s incredibly hard to play favorites over here, because I truly try to fill my house with things that I love, but the lucite coffee table I snagged for $90 at my favorite Dallas thrift store is a strong contender for first place!
Runner up would have to be the brass canopy bed frame, also $90 (my lucky number?), found on Craigslist. Shown here in our first home’s blush pink master bedroom, but also soon to be shared in our khaki green bedroom here in the new house!
What is a Favorite Home Decor Piece or Project That You’ve Made?
Do you know, that’s such a difficult question for a perfectionist!
After the fact, I can almost always find something to nitpick in my execution, which is why I tend to spend so much time on my DIY projects – investing enough time and effort that I’ll be happy with them for the long haul!
My pink kitchen makeover is definitely still a favorite! It actually contains two of my favorite DIY’s – the black and white VINYL backsplash (get the tutorial here!) and my Royal-Tenenbaums-Inspired Faux Roman Shade.
Finally, I know I’m stretching the definition of “favorite” in a new and very millennial way, but these two projects made their way with us from our first home and I’m still just as fond of them today – my DIY icosahedron pendant light and this floating frameless art I created using an actual old U.S. patent image!
What’s Your Best Advice to Others on Creating a Gathered Home?
If I could share JUST ONE THING that has been an absolute game-changer for me over the last several years it would be this:
Never underestimate the power of serendipity.
Here’s what I mean by that:
There are very few pieces in my home where I started out with a picture of exactly what I wanted and then went out and found it (1) in a reasonable time frame and (2) at a reasonable price.
There are oh-so-many pieces in my home that I found on the spur-of-the-moment, felt a spark, and then allowed them to shape the direction of my style and decor.
I didn’t know that I wanted curvaceous Art-Deco styled club chairs the color of bandaids, but when I spotted them on Craigslist for $20 each, I took a chance. Lo and behold, they transformed my living room and helped me embrace a new-found love for beige:
I thought I didn’t really care for the color red, but this thrifted tasseled pillow helped bring the color into the living room, and subsequently introduced it into the rest of our home! (The fabulous red shade in the kitchen? All thanks to this $9 purchase!)
It’s so easy to feel burdened or held back by budget constraints! I know that looks different for each and every one of us, but I still want to encourage you today – wonderful things can happen when you roll the dice and work with what you get!
If you hold out open, expectant hands you never know what might fall into them!
It might not be the find of your dreams, but it just might be something even better for you, more perfect for your home, more useful for your life.
Never underestimate the power of serendipity.
I realize this wasn’t exactly a home tour, like the rest of the posts in this series, so if you’re looking for something a little more on those lines, I’d love for you to check out my official Home Tour page!
That’s where you’ll find before and afters and all the related projects for each room I’ve tackled in our first home and this current home so far!
Share Your Gathered Home
1. If you are a “kindred spirit” gatherer with a love for photography and a home full of stories to share, I would love for you to get in touch via email (firstname.lastname@example.org), or by posting pictures using #yourgatheredhome on Instagram! I can’t promise to share every space, but I do promise that I will be absolutely thrilled to hear from you and connect over our shared love of finding and making!
2. If you live remotely near the Dallas/Fort Worth (or surrounding Texas cities) area and you would be interested in participating in the “Your Gathered Home” series and having me photograph your home for a home tour, I would LOVE for you to reach out! We’ll have a blast hanging out in person, taking pics, and I promise I’ll let you laugh at the funny positions I get into when I’m in the photography zone 🙂
I can’t wait to hear from you – whether you’re sharing your own gathered home, or your thoughts on today’s post!
Connecting with kindred-spirit gatherers is my very favorite blessing to come out of this blogging adventure!