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Your Castle...your Home!

Good day to you! How is your week going so far? Are you in the rhythm and flow of your autumn schedule? Might you have something planned and waiting on the horizon? Possible reservations for an overnight stay at a nearby castle? If so, bring lots of layers (wool sweater or cardigan) and a good flashlight! Heating and lighting may be at a minimum!!! (so I've heard) lol

Have you heard the cliche "A mans house is his castle?" It's might sound a little outdated to say that, but I believe that phrase to still be true. I would attest that it certainly is in my case. My husband and I are forever making changes and updates to our home. It is the biggest investment of our time and money. We are very much connected to every part of it as we have updated, resurfaced and curated each corner and crevice with our own hands. Considering the investment, it is indeed our castle...all 2000 square feet of it. I cherish the thought that my home is my castle. My home is a true expression of my taste and personality. Let's just say that I am at home in my home! Further, my home IS my castle! My husband and I are both extremely passionate about quality of design and aesthetics. We work together to come up with a plan that will be our best, but always completed within our means. Still, the biggest priority is that our home functions the way we want for the way we live. Even when previous homeowners infused a style that is still current and/or worked for their way of living, we still go in and take it out. Off is off, it's not on...I always say. We are fastidious to make it "our" home and never flinch at the thought of removing something. We are finishing up our lake house and I can state that it is every inch our handiwork, inside and out. This makes for a very lovely quality of life for both of us. So, what do you think of this point with regard to your own home/castle? Does your home work for the way you live? How about design and aesthetics? Lastly, do you think you your home as YOUR castle?

To turn this post a little, why use the word "castle" as a means of reference when most people would never do so; especially since the very idea is clearly and extremely opposite of your home and mine, in every way? Surely the word castle denotes a certain type of home and for most of us an unequaled comparitive, wouldn't you agree? In any case, I thought it might be fun to say a few words about "real" castles (by definition),... yes, I mean those that look gargantuan upon approach. Right off the bat, their very presence is nothing less that magnificent and imposing. A castle's massive structure emits an intimidating presence and a sense of strength and security for sure. It seems to say "I am a monumental beast, so I'd turn back if I were you!" Their entry "doors" (or gates) have an impressive appeal and their aesthetics are unique thru and thru. A castle certainly dominates its landscape; you can't miss one!!!! BUT, upon inspection, when you really get up close and personal; you get a sense that it might be a grand place to visit, but you wouldn't necessarily want to "live" there. I've not had the pleasure of an overnight experience in a castle but have visited and feel educated enough to know that creature comforts (or lack thereof) would be better met at a local campground! Save for the number of castles inhabited today, complete with running water, electricity and "hopefully" a working furnace, these hulking behemoths had to be unbelievably uncomfortable...and smelly! (maybe more on that later...maybe!). All said, I bet you'll agree with me that you'll take "your castle" any day over one of those dark and dank, middle aged relics. And yet, before we become ungrateful to the history and significance castles provided to us then, as well as today, read on for some insight that will bring you back to their wonder and admirable qualities...

Castles, by definition, are simply big stone fortresses, complete with all the characteristics mentioned above. They were typically build during the medieval/Middle Ages period; between 500 AD and 1500 AD. (This time period refers to the time of the fall of the Roman Empire and ends with the rise of the Ottoman Empire. This medieval period or "Middle Ages" is referred to as the Dark Ages because of the lack of scientific and cultural advancement. Think of the movie, "The Princess Bride"; the movie is set in what would be a typical rendition of a medieval castle. Moving on... Castles were built as expressions of wealth and power to the local populace; as well as stalwarts of protection to those inside its walls. They generally housed nobility or royalty, including the crown, and could serve as a center of local government. Castles, often built on natural rises or cliffs, had very thick walls to guard against attack, included towers and a keep (its biggest tower), fortified gates and often a moat encircled around the perimeter. Their locations were chosen strategically for provisions like food and water supply. Their remains, as well as some that are still inhabited today, are scattered throughout England. Britain was, for much of the Middle Ages, deep in conflict as nobility feuded with each other and revolted against the king. In England alone, there were 1500 castles built over this long historical time period. And this doesn't include Scotland and Wales!!!!

Art and I made a two week road trip from London, England to the very north of Scotland, specifically Inverness, in 2002. And, although that was already 20 years ago, we still talk about how much we loved traveling through both countries. Our two week journey included a dozen visits to castles, manor homes and castle ruins. Time ebbs away at a lot of memories from those visits; but our brain still knows it was a fabulous time. Yet, today it is hard to provide vivid details of the interiors of one place to another. Or, it seems like my memories meld one house to another. For certain, though, places like Glamis Castle, Edinburgh Castle, Tower of London and Windsor Castle are impressed in my mind and their distinct details are still clear and unique from each other. Memories of castle ruins are more jumbled together because their facade and/or strongest walls are the only thing left standing of many a grand old castle. Speaking of ruins, I want to mention one particular castle that I found really interesting, both by location and its historical significance. Urquhart Castle in Inverness is worth a visit if you find yourself one day sauntering through the very north of Scotland. Its history claims only one monarch, King David II, stayed in this royal residence and that was back in 1342. Its story includes that Englands Edward I captured the castle in 1296 and later Robert the Bruce took control of it when he became King of Scots in 1306; only to be lost once again to England. If you remember the movie, Braveheart, Edward I as well as Robert the Bruce were poignant figures in the movie...and their presence was a true part of history, dating to this time period. This little piece of history is even more intriguing because the castle is still standing. It is a real live walk back in time. Interesting to note too is that, on one of our visits to a museum in Scotland, we found a display with a letter mentioning a William Wallace and his involvement as a rebel and defender of the Scots for freedom. So so interesting!

Alright, back to the something relative for you: this wouldn't be a post relating to decorating if we didn't talk a little about interior decoration; it's worth noting a few descriptions you might enjoy and may even have in your own "castle". Speaking directly of the time frame when castle "homes" were all the rage, most interiors included very very heavy fabrics; not for aesthetics first, but for the insulation purpose they provided. This is fascinating to think of, as these heavy and dark fabrics, often made of velvets and tapestry would have made rooms even more dark and foreboding. Anyone back then suffering from seasonal depression must have had a most difficult season, unless there was some type of medicinal means or a natural gumption to get outside to absorb the sunlight. I cannot imagine how one would cope! These homes were absolutely void of any type of efficient energy, as you can imagine. The fireplace was the only means of heat; or a warming pan with hot embers placed under the covers at the end of a bed for warmth. And remember, floors, although covered to some extent with a rug, would have been freezing at times. Outdoor camping with a Coleman stove and a down filled sleeping bag sounds like a luxury hotel experience compared to this! In addition, beds included a lot of fabric to offer insulation and warmth. A canopy on a four poster bed would have had drapes on each poster, including the top, and would have been a standard for this time period, if you lived in a castle. And, although most likely beautiful, the main purpose was to keep its inhabitants warm against the extremely cold interiors. Still, this particular "look" is something I find aesthetically beautiful; even though it's specific style would not appeal to alot of people today, for sure. And, it's hardly a current trend. Done well, it has a formal appeal and is a great opportunity to showcase drop dead fabrics. It's not a practical choice for anyone on a budget, as it requires a ton of fabric! Lastly, it's worth noting that this type of decoration focuses on the lifestyle of wealthy would be another writing to note the living conditions of those living on the "outside" of the castle. Another time...

One last note, the interiors of the castles, as living residences, still inhabited today are a real treat to visit. Often you will see that many wall fabrics, bedding and tapestries have been preserved. You can't help but appreciate that fact, yet hard to believe when looking at something dating from the 1500's. True to the way things are done over across the pond; they really don't tear stuff down and make it all brand new; they just update and bring stuff into the current decade while preserving all they can from the past. Quite practical in that sense wouldn't you say? So, would you admit that your home IS your castle? Do you have any plans to do an update or remodel in the near future? Are you a fan of lots of fabrics or prefer a simple, more streamlined look? Are you drawn to historical looks or do you like to be on trend when it comes to your interiors? Such great topics for conversation...

Well, I know I've kept you long enough...thanks so much for reading this little post!

Until we meet again, Jeanine

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