Fun House

The concepts of “having fun” and “decorating a home” aren’t mutually exclusive

As I stood surrounded by neutrals in a massive retail monument to bigger-is-better, one of my friends turned to me and said, “You need to have some fun.” It wasn’t the universal “you.” It was personal. He sees me out and about pretty often and can attest that fun is something I have no problem having. But he wasn’t talking about my social life; he was talking about my television room.

I could, I suppose, refer to it as my “media” room, but the only medium that lives there is the television. My oldest son sometimes lives there as well, and that is the crux of the matter. “Does he really need a room?” people sometimes ask me. Admittedly, these are usually people without children who do not understand that even when your child goes to college nine months out of the year, he still needs somewhere to lay his head (and pile his laundry) when he drops in for the holidays and summer.

The idea is that I will finish the utterly-fantastic-and-already-dormered third floor, which will become my office and the transient son’s bedroom in the off-season. Then his room on the first floor will become the television room, making way for my other boys’ gaming extravaganzas and my viewing of Dr. Zhivago and the like.

I can’t quite get the design concept straight in my head, and while I’m fine with a little ambiguity and evolution, conceptually the backgrounds need to be in place before I really begin. My sparse inspiration board has clips of a blackish green wall color, a low rectangular sofa and tribal print-inspired textiles hanging from T pins. This is where my friend comes in. As we discussed the project he said, “You should do the Fornasetti cloud wallpaper on the ceiling! Be brave! Have fun! Stop taking everything so seriously!”

Piero Fornasetti was an Italian artist and designer who was prolific through much of the last century. And the thing is, I love his Nuvole Cloud wallpaper. An oversized pattern resembling a black-and-white drawing of billowing clouds, it is just the sort of thing I would love to have somewhere. But when budgets are tight (mine always are) and options are wide (the fate of the design junkie) I worry about making an investment in something that may not last.

I don’t mean that I am worried about the longevity of Mr. Fornasetti’s work, which is timeless, but my want of it on the ceiling of the television room. This is the problem with doing things for fun. A fairly timid teenager, I was intrigued by the idea of risk but hesitant to follow through. What if his parents came home, the floodlights came on, the door locked behind us? It’s difficult to have fun when you’re fretting.

Still, the few risks I’ve been willing—or foolish—enough to take, have worked out. There are a lot of decisions to be made and workmen to be accommodated before we get to papering ceilings. But maybe I’ll order the tear sheet now. Just in case.


Kitsch, but Carefully

I once lived with an outdoorsman. In our first house there were prints of fishing flies, needlepoint trout pillows and mounted duck trophies. All my idea. As my tastes evolved, those things started to go. But one day in Suzanne Cooper’s shop at 45th and State Line, I found three vintage goose decoys. Silhouettes cut from wood and hand-painted by some long-retired hunter, they are clean and graphic and, yes, charming. If you can find something really special related to a hobby or interest, by all means, do that.


A Novel Idea

There is a category of fabric and paper in the design world referred to as “novelty.” These are whimsical designs of repeating patterns of things like bird feathers or hot air balloons or Delftware plates. I’d be careful about overloading on this sort of thing. You’re not creating a theme park, after all. A little can go a long way. While tempting to have a nautical nod at the lake or beach, don’t feel as if you need signal-flag curtains, rope tie-backs and buoys for doorstops. Sophisticated style demands restraint, even when humor is part of the point.


Placement Can Be Everything

Using something “fun” in a space that is often left “blank”—a ceiling, coat closet or hallway—is often a delightful surprise. Ceilings get more attention than they used to, but go ahead and paint stripes on the ceiling of your son’s room. Marimekko-style flowers in your mudroom would brighten the messiest day. “Fun” actually is fun.