In your house

Our living room in northern California was filled with favorite things.  July, 2004

Our living room in northern California was filled with favorite things. July, 2004

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”William Morris 

When one of my graduate school professors asked me to do a paper on William Morris, I wasn’t thrilled about accepting, but it turned out to be one of the most fascinating studies I completed.  What I liked best about his philosophy was his enduring belief that the useful can and should also be beautiful.

His oft-quoted words above are a good starting point for those of us who want to spend the winter cleaning and clearing away our excessive belongings.  Of course, beauty is a subjective thing, and not everyone would agree with our choices.  But in our own homes, we are free to surround ourselves with things that make our days easier, or bring us joy just by decorating our world.  Or, best of all, those things that do both.

I hope that you will remember Morris’ advice, and fill your life with the useful AND the beautiful. Do you have any favorites that fit both those standards?  Feel free to tell us about them!

One year ago today

Practical pleasures

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.


  1. Good morning, Julia!
    I like this quote by William Morris. Your living room is very pretty, but I’m guessing that the pot by the door isn’t there only for beauty. Is it for umbrellas? Or some other purpose?

    • Susan, if you look closely, you’ll see that there is soil in that pot. My guess is that I had set it by the door as a reminder to take it out (whatever was in it obviously having died) to re-pot it with a different plant. That same pot is now in my York sunroom with a thriving plant in it.

      • Hooray!! I didn’t realize that you were going to York often enough to keep a thriving plant there.

        • Oh yes, I still spend a good bit of time here. The carrot I’m dangling in front of myself to try to convince me to sell, is the idea of being able to use all that time for travel to places farther out. Covid set that argument back a good ways, not only because travel has pretty much halted, but because in the post-Covid world, it has been so wonderful to have someplace safe to go for a break from the routine. No packing or unpacking ever needed!

          • So true! I’m glad that you have a second safe retreat!

            • With spring approaching, things soon will be bursting into bloom. At the York home, the flowering plum is typically the first (sometimes as early as late February when the first buds appear), but by April an entire symphony of color will be tuning up…

  2. This post made me consider how busy we often are, and how we did never be so consumed by utility that we stop being beautiful in our interactions with each other. We should be kind as well as useful.

    • Susan, I think some of that mentality crept in during the years of so-called “time management,” accompanied by endless streams of consultants training us to say no to whoever needs us, so that we can prioritize our own interests. Admittedly this may have become necessary because others were being overly demanding of our time with the accompanying time-management gurus’ worship of the “skill of delegation” (meaning asking others to do things so that you did not have to do them yourself, even if it was for your own job or self interest). Somewhere along the way, selfish behavior became elevated to a moral imperative (how many times have you heard that you must take care of yourself first) with even the pop singers preaching that “gospel.” I am not surprised that we are not kind to each other, or helpful. For far too long, we’ve bought the lie that we can have it all without shortchanging anyone else.

Thanks for encouraging others by sharing your thoughts:

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