The joke goes, in my family, that I can never decide whether to save the world or decorate it. With generations of ministers, teachers, and doctors before me, I inherited a strong idealistic streak. I have written passionately about civil rights, AIDS, and foster children. But I also adore pretty ephemera like chinoiserie, jadeite, and Oushaks.
I am not the only one torn between altruism and artistry. Three local designers—Beth Kooby, Tami Ramsay, and Ann Wisniewski—all had previous careers in nursing. Beth, whose home is featured in this issue, says, “It took me a long while to accept that design has just as much purpose as cancer nursing. But I believe your environment is extremely influential on your overall outlook and enjoyment of life.” I’ve heard Tami and Ann share much the same sentiment—though Ann notes that she often reminds clients that choosing a fabric is not a life-or-death decision.
History shows that homemaking is a very real antidote for stress. During the heat of the civil rights movement, many of its Atlanta leaders were working with appliance dealer Guy Gunter on remodeling their kitchens. In fact, Juanita Abernathy once told me she had a hard time getting her husband, Ralph, to focus on floor plans and carpet samples for their new house because he was helping Martin Luther King Jr. plan the March on Washington.
In this issue, Judie Raiford, owner of the longtime Roswell art gallery, told me that customers gravitate toward handcrafted objects in uncertain times. She said, “Right now people want something that will make them feel safe.” She was stunned to see spikes in sales after traumatic events like 9/11. “People want to feel where someone else’s fingers have been when they pick up their mug in the morning,” she said.
So, in a way, maybe creating beauty does save the world. After all, nesting is an instinct. That’s why they call magazines like this one “shelter books.”
This article originally appeared in our Spring 2016 issue of Atlanta Magazine’s HOME.