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  • Writer's pictureMarni Jameson

20 Years, 10 homes, 1,040 Columns Later



Warning: I might get a little sentimental today. This is the 20th anniversary of my, well, really our, weekly column. In addition to feeling old, I also feel grateful.

 

The milestone marks the first week of March 2004 when the New Orleans Times-Picayune became the first newspaper to run my syndicated column and continues to run it today. Thank you Big Easy! And thanks to all the papers from Sarasota to San Francisco that followed.

 

The roots of this column, however, actually started a couple years earlier. I was living in Southern California working as a freelance writer when an editor from the Orange County Register asked me to lunch. The paper was launching a monthly regional magazine targeting owners of luxury homes. (Think Laguna and Newport Beach.) He wanted a column that would be the antidote to the potentially insufferable, pretentious content.

 

“So,” I said, “you want a monthly column that is not about rich homeowners and their chichi architects and their museum-quality art collections and the exquisite homes they built on the bluffs overlooking the Pacific and how the whole experience was one giant lovefest and they had money leftover?”

 

“Right,” he confirmed, “a reality column.”

 

He’d found the right scribe. At that point, I had built two homes from the ground up, had the debt and cortisol levels to prove it, and had an arsenal of frustrations.

 

Still disbelieving, I added, “You want me to write about the tile mason with the drinking problem, the neighbors who won’t speak to you because you’ve had an outhouse and a Dumpster parked in your front yard for three months, the dogs who get so fed up with the construction they run away in search of a rescue, and about how the remodel took three times as long, cost three times as much, and you weren’t speaking to your spouse at the end?”

 

“Exactly,” he said. “Sprinkle in some advice. Be the girl next door who has the same problems as everyone else but is two steps ahead because you’ve made the mistakes and know who to call.”

 

Eighteen months later, my then husband and I moved from Southern California to Colorado. The news that the magazine would no longer run my column because I would no longer be local hit hard.

 

“They fired me,” I said, whining to my editor at the Los Angeles Times, a paper I frequently wrote for.  (Okay, so maybe that was a little dramatic.) To get me off the phone, she suggested I write to Tribune Syndicate to see if they might pick the column up for national syndication. (The Tribune then owned the LA Times.) Shockingly, they did, which kind of felt like seeing two shooting stars at once. (That joy was also short lived because a year later I would become a casualty of the syndicate’s scale down. Today I am self-syndicated.)

 

When I told the magazine editor who’d cancelled my column that it had been picked up for syndication, he congratulated me, then ominously added: “It’s great to have a weekly column, but one day, you are going to run out of ideas.”

 

Want to bet? I flashed back to when I was in kindergarten and got in trouble for talking too much in class. I wound up in the principal’s office with my mother to discuss “the problem.” When the principal asked why I talked so much, I answered without hesitating, “I just have so many important things to say,” which was unintentionally hilarious.

 

So here we are 20 years and 1,040 columns later, and I still have plenty of things to say. Here’s a brief look back at some of the moments we’ve been through together:

·      The calamities. You were there when my two custom seven-foot sofas arrived with the upholstery fabric inside out, when the back patio in our new Colorado home fell three-feet into a sink hole. When our rescue dog on his first night with us tested our commitment on the one-day old living room carpet. (Who gets a new dog and new carpet on the same day?)

·      The many moves. You were there through 10 houses and nine moves, including the move to Florida, where I had a stint as a live-in home stager and moved six times in four years. You were there when I found love and happiness in the Happy Yellow House before landing in the Happier Yellow House.

·      The life changes. You were there when I sent each of my children off to college, entering some sort of self-imposed dorm-decorating contest in which I was the sole contestant. You were there through my divorce and remarriage, the loss of two parents, and the gain of three grown stepchildren.

·      The micro and macro. Together we’ve covered the minor (how to choose drawer knobs and tea towels) and the major (the meaning of home and belonging, and how to leave a meaningful legacy).

·      The celebrity encounters. You and I learned from my interviews with world-class experts including the late architect Michael Graves (on three occasions), the goddess of domesticity Martha Stewart, “This Old House” star and carpenter extraordinaire Norm Abram, The Property Brothers, and other illustrious and less illustrious experts who generously shared their expertise.

·      The upsizing, downsizing, rightsizing. You contributed in so many ways to my domestic documentaries that resulted in seven books about all things home — decorating on a budget, trying to live beautifully with those who don’t, downsizing, blending two houses into one, and rightsizing your life to intentionally live where, how, with whom and with what you want.

 

I am thankful for my editors who have stuck with me as newspapers shrink, and for my readers. You are the real reason this weekly missive exists. Please keep reading. I still have “so many important things to say.”


CAPTION 1: Writer at work — “Because I have never been able to see where home design stops and home life begins, my columns are about both,” says the author pictured in her home office, in Winter Park, Florida. Jameson’s syndicated column turns 20 years old this week. Photo courtesy of Susan Beane.

 

CAPTION 2: A Moment with Martha — Martha Stewart is among the many experts whose advice the author has channeled during the 20 years she has written her home and lifestyle column. Photo courtesy of Marni Jameson.

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