The Inspired Home

Our own house and home expert Kelee Katillac believes in a different kind of renovation.

By Kelee Katillac, Kansas City, Missouri

As appeared in

What is it about breakfast that can make it the least inspiring meal of the day? Most mornings I padded into the kitchen, got some milk from the fridge and sat down to a bowl of cornflakes. My eyes flitted between my to-do list written on my chalkboard and the nutritional information on the side of the cereal box.

One morning, I decided I needed something more exciting to rev me up. I'm a designer and my first instinct is to see what I can do with a room. My eyes scanned the boring racks of spices—cinnamon, rosemary, salt, pepper. Couldn't I spice them up somehow? 

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Still munching on my cereal, I got up and went to the chalkboard. What are the things you value most in life? I asked myself. I started writing them down: peace, faith, laughter, friendship, authenticity, integrity, wisdom, creativity, love.

Then I looked at the spices and matched them up: basil for authenticity, integrity with salt, laughter for garlic, creativity with nutmeg. I even thought fragrant lemongrass was a great match for friendship. There was a perfect spice for everything.

I made a run to the ceramic shop and picked up jars, painted them and put them on my rack. You can also use recycled Ball canning jars and add your own creative labels. Now when I'm eating breakfast, I have a colorful shelf full of reminders to inspire me. I call them my "Ingredients of Life" jars.

My design work has taught me to look for ideas in any hand-me-down or cast-off item. One day I was searching for a way to make kitchen curtains. I didn't want to buy new fabric. There under the sink I found a stack of old tea towels.

My seventh-grade sewing teacher, Dorothea Shrader, was my idol in her pencil skirts and bouffant hair. She drove a dented Plymouth packed with patterns, back issues of Vogue and any old fabric she could find. She claimed you could make a wardrobe out of anything. I imagined her looking at the towels. Why not turn them into a pair of curtains? All they needed was a little color. So I did, and I love them.

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At the end of a warm summer day I like nothing better than to retreat to my small garden with a tall glass of lemonade. I've made the borders out of old plates—the bargains you can find at a thrift store—and I stake my tomatoes and other plants with the names of people I want to remember in prayer. (I paint their names on the stakes.) I even use them to name my tomatoes.

Last summer Roy—the Big Boy Tomato—had a real touch-and-go start. My friend Roy was struggling a bit at the time too. But with some water, sunshine and prayer, Roy the tomato turned into a county-fair champ. My friend Roy is thriving too.

Your home is a sanctuary, a place to regenerate. It doesn't have to be expensive to decorate. In fact, I think a home is more interesting, more lively when you use your own creativity and turn what others might see as trash into treasures.

I love bringing the bright colors of nature inside. I like flowers and sunshine and blue skies. I'm full of ideas to help you make an inspired home and I look forward to sharing them with you. But I don't doubt the Creator has given you some wonderful ideas too.

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Kelee Katillac is an interior designer and author of House of Belief and Kids' Sacred Places. For more about Kelee and her work, visit keleekatillac.com.

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