I believe there is an interior decorator within all of us.
I would like the one within me to leave now.
That’s because he’s an annoying little twit who’s spending too much of my time and money in his attempt to make everything “just so,” insisting on “color schemes” and “balance” and “flow,” and of course “bold accessories that really make things pop.”
I like to think that I’ve always had some taste, that I’m a notch above those uncivilized brutes who — having never watched HGTV, having kept the interior decorator within them buried — are content with soft reclining seating (built-in cupholder optional), a wall-mounted flat screen TV the size of your average billboard, and nothing in between to obstruct the view.
But, of late, the interior decorator within me has — and this is the only way to describe it — blossomed. Recent circumstances, I think, are behind my newfound excitement with home decor.
For one, Ace and I have just completed a year on the road, most of which was spent hopping from pet-friendly motel room to pet-friendly motel room every day or two. Remember the Motel 6 bedspread? We do. In those places we stayed longer – a friend’s sailboat, a trailer in the desert, an empty house and the basement of a mansion – we weren’t afforded much opportunity to make them “our own.” After all that flitting about, I think I developed a zest to nest.
For another, while staying in the basement of a mansion in North Carolina for the past month (with free cable TV provided), I became briefly addicted to Home & Garden Television (HGTV) – and all those shows that showed people moving to new homes, or renovating and redecorating their old ones. I despised many of those househunters and homeowners – because they were whiny and spoiled – but I also, for reasons I can’t pinpoint, or don’t want to, envied them.
On top of all that, the place we’ve moved into is special – to me at least. It’s the very apartment unit my parents lived in when I was born and, while dozens of people and families have moved in and out of it since then, I hoped to make it mine again, tip my hat to its heritage and make it presentable.
So join me now for the reveal, keeping in mind that — unlike those HGTV programs — we had virtually no budget to work with. Nevertheless, I’d appreciate it if you say “ohmigod!” a lot on our walk-through, because that’s what they do on all those home makeover shows.
We’ll start in the living room.
Among its featured pieces are my mother’s old couch, an old family desk, an old rocking chair, a wingback chair that once belonged to my father’s parents, my cousin’s coffee table and my mother’s old footstool featuring the needlepoint of great aunt Tan, seen here (in the lower right corner) before I stripped off the old cover and discovered the prize beneath.
I chose copper-colored faux silk drapes from Target for the living room — one of my first, and one of my few, purchases. I just thought they looked cool, and that I could build my color scheme around them.
That gave me copper, burgundy and gold (in the big chair) and blue (the couch). Fortunately, I found a cheap area rug at Wal Mart that bespoke them all, and which, in my non-expert opinion, really ties thing together. I describe my color palette — yes, palette — as being based on elements of the earth: copper, silver, gold, water, wine (I consider wine an element) and silver.
While the living room, through its furniture, bows to tradition, its more modern artworks, I think, make for an eclectic mix — eclectic mixes, such as my dog Ace, being the best kind.
At first I had some concerns that the piece — its inspiration, Lance says, being a silver, Airstream-like trailer — would disappear on my grey walls. To the contrary, I think it works well … subtly, as if to say, yes, I am here, but I am not going to shout about it, even though I am silver.
You can learn more about Lance and his art — his father played major league baseball, and younger Lance once bartended at Baltimore’s Idle Hour, a bar in which Ace spent his formative years — at his website.
But back to my place. On the living room’s opposite wall, I — believing there is an artist in all of us, too — have commissioned myself to paint my own piece of modern art, of copper and blue and maybe some red, further establishing our color scheme.
The goals I was trying to achieve in the living room were comfort, simplicity and a rustic elegance that says “come in, sit a spell, OK you can leave now.”
Moving on to the dining room, I found some discounted copper-ish drapes with swirly things on them to echo, somewhat, those in the living room. The dining table was a Craigslist find and the featured artwork is a portrait of Ace resting by a waterfall in Montana, painted by my friend Tamara Granger, Ace’s godmother.
Again, I was striving for simplicity, making sure not to use too much or too-large furniture, since that prohibits Ace from easily navigating the house.
Decorating around your dog (don’t laugh, a lot of people do it) is crucial, especially when he’s 130 pounds. That’s probably why he doesn’t — as much as he’d like to — go in the kitchen, which, in terms of floor space, measures about the same size as his crate.
In it, one can accomplish all kitchen duties without walking — a simple pivot step is all that is required, or permitted. The kitchen features another of Tamara’s artworks, a big black bird, hung over the stove, where it echoes the greys and silvers elsewhere.
Behind the kitchen and dining room is an added on room — not part of the house when I first lived in it — that will serve as a laundry area, once I figure out where to put all the junk now stored there and get a washer and dryer.
In my sole bathroom, I have put up a shower curtain of turquoise, and hung towels to match. So it is white and turquoise. I think it needs another color.
My bedroom is simply decorated with a box spring and mattress that sit on the floor, the better for Ace, until his back problems improve, to climb in. There are two end tables, and a dresser whose origins I don’t remember, and another TV. With cable television starting at $60-something a month, I have opted for the far cheaper, totally undependable and highly unsightly digital TV antenna.
As we enter the guest room/home office, we pass two old editorial cartoons in the hallway — a preview of a bigger collection ahead which pays homage, if you will, to those talented and artistic souls who were once able — and in some cases still are able — to make a career at newspapers out of hoisting the rich and powerful on their own petards.
Amazingly, they were able to do this even though hardly anybody knew what a petard is. While, in modern day slang, some use it as a derogatory term for members of PETA, a petard is actually an explosive device. The phrase “hoist by one’s own petard” means to be undone by one’s own devices.
Editorial cartoonists are becoming an endangered species, but I was always a huge admirer of them — for they were people whose jobs seemed more like playtime, who were allowed to be goofy, and who had the power to makes us laugh, think and feel, sometimes all at once.
They could, and some still do, bring attenton to an injustice, afflict the overly comfortable, and point out that the emperor isn’t wearing anything — all with just a sketch and a punchline. It’s a shame many newspapers have opted not to have their own, anymore, because I think we have more naked emperors walking around on earth than ever before.
My collection — mostly from the 1950s and 1960s — includes the original works of Tom Darcy, Burges Green, Sandy Huffaker, Bill Sanders, Cliff Rogerson, Edmund Duffy, D.R. Fitzpatrick and C.P. Houston.
I lined their works up in two rows above my futon, AKA Ace’s bed, the arms of which still bear the scars of his gnawing on them as a pup.
They, too — those gnaw marks I was angered upon discovering but now view as Ace’s childhood artwork — are part of the decor now, another little piece of history, or at least his history. I wouldn’t cover them up for anything.
Rounding out the home office furnishings are my old library table, two dinged up file cabinets, an office chair, an actual bed made for dogs, and four newly purchased, less than stalwart Wal Mart bookshelves, ordered over Internet.
What’s now the home office was 57 years ago my bedroom. From birth to the age of one, I shared it with my older sister.
The futon — long Ace’s favorite place to rest, and from which he watched me write my book — is one of five soft sleeping areas he now has to choose from. In addition, he sleeps in my bed, the living room sofa, actually a loveseat, the actual dog bed, passed down from his Baltimore friend Fanny, and the Wal Mart rug that bespeaks the colors of my decor, and, come to think of it, of Ace as well.
This is where we’ll end our reveal, and we apologize if it was overly revealing.
(Next week: A look at the family that lived in the house that’s gone from being my crib to being my crib.)