How It All Began
When I was a little girl my Aunt Karen gave me a book called The Maggie B by Irene Haas. This book, replete with vivid, fantastical illustrations tells the story of Margaret Barnstable, a young girl who wishes on a star one night that she would have a ship named after her and be able to sail on it for a day. True to children’s book form, her wish was granted and Maggie set sail on her very own ship, with her little brother, James, to keep her company. During her seafaring day, Maggie revels in her newfound independence and responsibilities. She spends most of the day tidying the ship’s cabin, sweeping the decks, tending to its garden, and cooking meals for herself and James. At one point a storm comes and Maggie masterfully “battens down the hatches”. While riding out the storm inside the cabin, with interiors befitting the pages of Better Homes and Gardens, Maggie gives James a warm bath inside the kitchen sink and bundles him up just as the seafood stew she has prepared finishes cooking. They sit down to a cozy meal, safe in the warm bosom of the ship’s cabin and ride out the storm while eating dinner and singing songs.
As a child, this book inspired me to replicate this intimate and cozy world by creating my own cocoon. I would spend hours on my very own ship – in this case the four walls of my small bedroom – tending to and enjoying my very own hideaway where I was the captain and the crew. I would spend hours playing house; fluffing the pillows, re-arranging the furniture, changing my dolls’ clothes, grooming their hair, and whipping up gourmet concoctions at the Easy Bake Oven station. My dream had become, like Maggie’s, to have a home of my own to put my mark upon and shelter my family and friends from life’s storms.
Home Sweet Home
As I came of age I dreamed of having a home that I was proud of – a home that was warm and inviting and offered everyone who crossed its threshold something special. A home that would insulate its inhabitants and guests from the world – a respite, of sorts, from the sometimes cold and unwelcoming realities of life outside its doors.
On the eve of my wedding to my husband, I eagerly anticipated sharing a house together and making it into a home. I often thought about Maggie during this time and the cocoon she had created for herself and James. I couldn’t wait to set sail on my own.
After moving in with my husband and starting to set up our house, it became clear that Maggie knew more as a young girl than I did in my early 30s about what it took to create the kind of home I envisioned for my family and how to manage it all. How did Maggie know what to stock in the pantry and how to manage her time in the kitchen? How did she organize her linen closet? How did she keep up with all the laundry? How often did she clean her ship? There is so much to keep track of in a home, how should it all be done? And when? And how?
I knew the mood I wanted my home to have – warm, comfortable, elegant and inviting – but I didn’t know how to achieve that. I knew how I wanted people to feel in my home – welcome, special, and at ease – but how? I also knew that I wanted a home that would work for my family and our lifestyle. How could I enjoy the home I planned to create instead of constantly working to maintain it? I started to question how Maggie knew the things she did…
School for the Domestic Arts
Nowadays, we can easily access the secrets to getting a wine stain out of the carpet on the internet, but what about the je ne sais quois of really making a home something special? Everyone has a space that they live in, but only a talented few have made theirs into a home. Every house provides shelter, but only a home can provide tranquility, inspiration, nourishment, and a place where life’s memories are made.
I often imagine what Maggie would be like as an adult – how she would live, what her home would look like, how she would run it, and what being a guest at one of her dinner parties would be like. What would she teach us about creating a domestic life filled with beauty, comfort, and ease? The grown up Maggie would have so much to tell us about how to get the most out of our home life.
Through Mrs. Barnstable’s School for the Domestic Arts – its blog, guides, and other resources – I will help you create a home you love to be in, show you how to host a party with panache and ease, and guide you through how to manage it all without feeling overwhelmed.