Alice's Mad-Tea Party, image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

“He said he didn't think we should be afraid to embrace whimsy. I asked him what he meant by whimsy, and he struggled to define it. He said it's that nagging idea that life could be magical; it could be special if we were only willing to take a few risks.”
— Donald Miller, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years

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“When I used to read fairy-tales, I fancied that kind of thing never happened, and now here I am in the middle of one!”
— Alice, Alice in Wonderland

Right across the street from John Cobb's retirement community at Pilgrim Place is an unassuming house that holds many surprises.

Meet Whitney Relf, a woman who created a rainbow out of a gray day.

Whitney Relf is a Professor at Cambridge College, Autism Researcher, Lecturer, Consultant, Case-Management. She received her master’s degree in education from Xavier University, and went on to study special education at the University of Kansas. Whitney received her PhD from Claremont Graduate University in education specializing in autism, and taught high school kids with high functioning autism for 12 years.

Whitney learned how to quilt from a neighbor when she lived in Michigan. You could say that it was Michigan’s gray winters that lured her to living in full color.

Butterscotch walls, with an explosion of pink and red flowers and sprinkled with glitter; that is how Whitney painted her life on a gray Michigan Winter day. She was tired of living in a colorless world.

Whitney describes her style as eclectic. The color, the fullness, and the sometimes funny décor gives her joy and reminds her not to take life so seriously.

Whenever I go to Whitney's house, I feel a lure to express my whimsical side.

Wearing a Whitney

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Whitney has gifted me a few items over the years. She made this sweatshirt for me with her trademark favorite red. I love it and wear it all winter.

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Whitney painted and découpaged this T.V tray with Mexican tarot cards (Loteria Del Sol). She gave it to me and it is a cherished gift.

Traditional playing cards, tarot cards, and lotería cards all originated in 15th Century Italy, and the icons in Lotería have become especially known and used by Mexican culture.

Life's A Party! Come on In!

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“A land was full of wonder, mystery, and danger. Some say, to survive it, you need to be as mad as a hatter. Which, luckily, I am."”
— Mad Hatter, Alice In Wonderland

Have a Cup of Tea

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Whitney in Wonderland

The dinning room has an Alice-in-Wonderland theme. Teacups and Alice can be found in every corner.

The chest of drawers in the dinning room was decoupaged by Whitney. She collects whimsical tea cups. and is often gifted items that match her theme. There is always room.

“March Hare: Take some more tea.
Alice: I’ve had nothing yet, so I can't take more.
Mad Hatter: You mean you can't take less. It’s very easy to take more than nothing.”
— Alice In Wonderland

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Living Room . . . Room for Living

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“. . . the only simplicity to be trusted is the simplicity to be found on the far side of complexity.”
— author unknown

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Finding My Religion

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Whitney makes fun and colorful slipcovers for some of her chairs. This is the corner where Whitney places all her religion and spiritual art.

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When a friend died and Whitney was given her costume jewelry, she created this lamp.  It's a constant reminder of both perishing and creativity.

Bottlecaps & Butterflies

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Bottlecaps add texture to furniture and whimsey to doorways.

Baby clothes hanging on doorknobs in the hall are reminders of her children who are all grown up now.

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Splish Splash I Was Taking a Bath

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“It was a night when you might expect to stray into a dance of mermaids.”
— LM Montgomery

Dreaming in Color

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The quilt above and the rug below where made by Whitney.

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Odds And Ends

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The kitchen curtain is made from vintage handkerchiefs.

Helping hands: A few Barbie arms serve as hooks. This has always been a favorite of mine.

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Henri Matisse and Frida Kahlo hanging around.

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Whitney bought the fabric for this chair at Pilgrim Place. She created this quilt and upholstered the chair with it.

“Each creative act is the universe incarnating itself as one, and there is nothing above it by way of final condition.”
—Alfred North Whitehead

  • Kathleen Reeves is a member of the Board of Directors at the Cobb Institute, and leads the Institute’s group for Spiritual Integration and the Arts. She also serves on the communications team and oversees the Institute's social media messaging.