Thursday, June 5, 2014

Help a Decorating Challenged Girl Create an Oratory

I've been inspired by this summer book club, "Summer in the Little Oratory," to create our own "little oratory."  An oratory is just a fancy word for a dedicated prayer space.  As my friend Lisa Schmidt says, it's all about "bringing the monastic into my domestic."  (If you haven't checked out the book club yet, you should!  Lisa Schmidt gives a great intro and summary of what the group is all about here.  There are weekly posts dedicated to each chapter of the book, and there is an accompanying podcast as well.  The book is The Little Oratory: A Beginner's Guide to Praying at Home.)    

The good news is I stumbled upon the book club series for the little oratory at a perfect time--just after we moved into a new home.  The bad news is I'm, well, shall we say....decorating challenged.

This is my plea to get some decorating advice for my little oratory from all of you.  I've found what I think is the perfect space for our little oratory, but I'm not sure what to do with it.  We have a small hallway from our front door that leads into the family room/kitchen.  The space I have in mind is in direct eyesight from the front door.  It's directly behind the family room loveseat in a little nook that backs up to a wall separating the family room from the kitchen informal dining area.

Here's the angle from the hallway.

Since we already have so much furniture for seating in the family room, I don't want to add another chair.  I want our little oratory to be a place to store our Bibles, the Catechism, lives of the saints, studies/devotionals, rosaries, holy water, other reference books.  I'm envisioning beautiful artwork including icons of Jesus, the Blessed Mother, our family's favorite intercessors.

Here's another angle of the space:

I went to a lot of trouble to create a "circle time" bulletin board earlier this year.  I'm on the fence as to whether or not I'd include it on the little wall backing up to the kitchen, or if I should just leave it in the playroom downstairs...It's very classroom-y and not very aesthetically pleasing, so I hesitate to put it up on the wall.  

Buuuuuuuut the kids would love to have that easy access to it, and it'd be nice to sit on the ground with them after breakfast and start our day off together in front of our religious artwork.  Maybe I could just prop it against the wall?  I'd love for the kids to be able to see everything that's on that board on a more regular basis than they would in the basement playroom.  It has a Happy Saints liturgical calendar, our daily prayers (Morning Offering, Angelus, and prayer to St. Joseph), the days of the week with an attached devotion to each, the mysteries of the Rosary for that day, and our special prayer intentions as well as our extended family "person of the week" that we're praying for.      

I know, I's our space, and we should just do what we want with it, but I want it to be pretty!  I want it to be my little visual retreat every time I glance at it or come over to get my prayer materials.  Maybe I should just put it on the wall and remember that I don't have to look at it from the kitchen!

Let me share a few pictures of the family room so that you get an idea of what the surrounding space looks like:

From the kitchen
The previous owners sold us their kitchen table & chairs and the family room sofa, loveseat, and two chairs.  Yay for inexpensively furnishing our home!  Kindly pretend that: our built-ins are perfectly accessorized, this shorty bothered to pull out the ladder to put stuff on the top shelves, and that I have the right art up on the walls.

Now that you have a sense of what the rest of the space looks like, how would you go about filling the oratory?

For this wall, I was thinking:

  • Framed artwork and crucifix on the wall 
  • Short, wide bookcase 
  • Use top of bookcase for smaller artwork, statues, flowers, candles/candlesticks
  • Use shelves to store our Bibles, the Catechism, lives of the saints, studies/devotionals, rosaries, holy water, other reference books

What do I do about this wall?  

I don't want to add additional seating.  Is the circle time board really crazy ugly to hang here?  Be brutally honest, please.  Really.  Just tell me.  Do I need to just leave it blank?  Share your brilliance!  I've been spending my prayer time in the family room on the couch or at the kitchen table, so I guess I'm treating this area as a storage space & visual retreat.  Maybe I should add something to make the area more enticing for the kids to stay there like some little baskets that they can easily get their books and sacramentals from.  I have some space next to that end table (or even the bottom shelf of that end table) where I can put a little bean bag and some bins.  What about those cute little cube seats with the removable lids for storage?      

I love, love, love this prayer space that a teacher in a Catholic school created for her kindergarteners. 

Maybe that's what this wall needs to become--the elementary-themed oratory space with the circle time board, a cute framed "let the children come to me," and bins for their stuff.  

I'd adore any and all feedback you have!  Help a decorating challenged girl out.  

By the way, I created a "Little Oratory" board on Pinterest to help me gather my favorite pictures of other oratories and some artwork I'd love to have in our space.  


  1. Great start, Catherine. I'd get nice, comfy--yet flat-- pillows for sitting/ kneeling on .and prop them against the wall when they are not in use.
    I also think your favorite crucifix could be the main center of interest on the wall, while the other images could be smaller and more subordinate...The circle time board is nicely done and should be accessible. Have fun creating!!!

  2. Hmmm, why not use the built-in shelving units next to the fireplace (or at least one side) for your oratory space? I'm visioning family rosaries prayed as you all sit and cuddle on the furniture and floor, and with the way you have you furniture positioned, the sight line is focused there. The other area then can be used for a reading nook/kids corner, but you can still spruce up that space with pockets of holiness, maybe just more kid-friendly?