By Laura Kaae
Killeen Daily Herald
HARKER HEIGHTS – For many military families, receiving a permanent change of station notice can be crushing. Just when you've settled into one spot, you find yourself packing up and heading to a new home that could be anywhere from Texas to Germany.
But according to local designer Sandee Payne, an Army wife who has moved seven times in the past 11 years, living a military lifestyle can still afford people the opportunity to have stylish, organized homes.
Always having had a passion for decorating, Payne said she really delved into home decor after she got married (to Maj. Michael Payne of the 8th Engineer Battalion) and found herself trying to use creativity to design around the few bits of new furniture the couple had purchased, as well as all the hand-me-downs they had accrued.
Payne noticed how little touches, such as painting walls, utilizing color schemes and sewing custom curtains could make a big impact on a small space. Soon, friends started picking up on Payne's talents and she began offering her expertise to whoever needed her help.
"I started freelancing with decorating and I realized in 2000, that this could be a full-time job," she said.
Year after year, wherever she was stationed, Payne began hearing a trend among her friends, all of whom told her she should write a book about organizing and decorating.
Though she never considered herself a writer, Payne soon realized that few resources were available for military families who, like her, wanted their homes to be stylish, organized and, most of all, functional.
Payne noticed many style and decorating magazines feature long spreads of expensive homes that are furnished with high-end decor. Pretty, yes, but functional? Nope.
"A lot of people don't live that way," she said. "In the military, we do a lot of moving and we're on a budget."
Finally, when her husband deployed to Iraq in 2003, Payne decided to begin writing out index cards filled with all the ideas she had for decorating.
"Every day, I wrote," she said. "I had stacks and stacks of cards."
Two and a half years later, Payne had finished writing and began the process of self-publishing her book, a move she chose in order to maintain more control over the marketing and distribution of it.
A photographer friend, Jennifer L. Bott, helped her with the photography.
"You won't find any full room photos," Payne said. "You'll see single shots of individual pieces."
Payne said she wanted to go that route of photography so people could use their own imaginations when designing a room, rather than just re-creating a room they saw.
Payne said she wanted her book to stand out for readers, both military related and civilian, as being a jumping off point for others to begin their home projects.
In 2006, "That Military House: Move it, Organize it & Decorate it" was released, as well as the corresponding Web site, www.thatmilitaryhouse.com.
The book is filled with decorating and organizing tips as well as checklists for people who are trying to navigate their way through their first permanent "change of station" move.
"In the military, there are so many negative feelings and people are tired of moving," she said. "There is lots of chaos and you never feel settled."
But Payne is determined to share her passion for helping military families feel settled and comfortable in whatever surroundings they may have.
"I want to help people create a better home," she said.
Comfort, Payne said, comes not from the actual structure of the house, but from the belongings we put in it, since for a military family, the walls may change every year.
"Our belongings make a home ... we attach ourselves to our stuff," said the Harker Heights resident.
Inspired by the success of her book and with a nod of encouragement from her husband and her two children, Payne launched a new venture Buy the Hour Interiors (www.buythehourinteriors.com), an interior decorating business that allows people to borrow Payne's expertise for as little as one hour of home decorating help.
Though she doesn't know where the Army might take her family next, Payne does know that she'll keep on pursuing her enthusiasm for helping others feel settled and comfortable in their homes.
"I'll keep on going with my passion," she said. "I get to help people love the homes they are in. What's better than that?"
Contact Laura Kaae at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 501-7464