Susanna Salk



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Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

It was supposed to be just a flip.
Take a little old lady’s house circa 1970, dress her up and send her back into the prom world of real estate to look for its love match.
But it was WE who fell in love. Unexpectedly and obscenely in love and now can not let go.
We bought the cottage over a year ago. It’s only 15 minutes as the crow flies from our main house yet it feels lands away nestled in the foothills in a snug yet glorious lake region.
We put in all the work and spent a summer there enjoying the fruits of our efforts and then said good bye Labor Day when we rented it out for the winter and returned to our original abode.
Then we pined for it the entire year until this June, where we breathlessly showed up minutes after the renters pulled out of the driveway, our suitcases half-zipped with excitement.
Every day I feel giddy. Am I tricking myself somehow? Cheating on my beloved first house with some floozy of a renovation?
Do I love it here because its so different that the setting I’m used to?
Our main house is a grandly restored 1880s antique set amidst two hundred year old trees. We worked on it tirelessly for ten years, saving it from years of neglect and careless owners.
At the lake, it took us 6 months. We pulled up shag carpeting, opened the layout and painted it all white. I furnished it entirely from online catalogues.
We knew putting in a lap pool just outside the new living room french doors was a naughty, indulgent idea but we did it anyway and now skinny dip at night under the stars.
I wake up and feel serene. Is it knowing water is just steps away or the clean lines of the furniture and bare walls?
We take scooters down our little road to the dock my husband built and we zip out on our boat, often with our boys bouncing behind on knee-boards.
I never liked to bike before and now I bike around the lake every chance I get..
I don’t even like lakes so what is going on?
Is because we feel perpetually on vacation even though we are in our home town?
Or is this the place we should live in forever?
Or are we merely besotted with “here” because we know “there” is still “there?”
All I know is that we aren’t giving her up. Yet.


Thursday, August 14th, 2008

They say water seeks its own level and I’d say the same for shelter.
We adapt- or try to- in making ourselves feel at home wherever we are and some of us are better than it than others.
Sometimes it’s as easy as placing fresh flowers plucked from whatever road side you pass and displayed in the room you are visiting.
Some people insist on bringing their own music, sheets, candles to the places they stay, whether for one night or the summer.
(For me: all I ask for is fresh, homemade food and a place to swim laps. Oh, and The New York Times if possible.)
Now I am vacationing in New Hampshire in camp-like conditions that, when the sun shines, are glorious and, in rain, the most wretched.
When we first arrive (and we have been coming here for almost 20 years), the rustic nature of the cabins on the lake take awhile adjusting to. The floors are dingy, the beds creak and Daddy Long Legs your bed mates.
But when the sun is out, the water dances and you soon forget that the rag rug by your bed is probably fifty years old and never washed.
There is abundant tennis, swimming out to floating docks and wacky canoe races. (You have to be here)
A bell is rung for dinner and you congregate like seven year old campers to eat homemade waffles and mystery meat. There is Capture the Flag after dinner and you bike back to your cabin with a flash light balanced between your handlebars.
A little lit fire awaits and you and you converge with your children and books before falling asleep to loons calling in the distance.
And then it rains. And rains. Three days of wet, ugly rain.
At first you relish the coziness, stoke the fire and break out the puzzles. The sound of the storm on the cabin roof is delicious until it starts to leak. Here. There. Suddenly everywhere.
Beds are moved out of the way, towels and buckets crowd the floor and soon the wonderful orderliness we had achieved to make our little place feel like home is all lost. Then we lose power too. Our ship is sinking and I desperately want to go home. I want to have the daily order and grace to my life restored. I become an ogre in these condition and dream of hijacking the car and driving back to civilization until they announce the roads are washed out.
I find a musty blanket and burrow down. It’s like my whole system just shuts down in self protection mode. I am asleep before dinner and stay that way until morning.
When I awake, the rain has stopped. We move the beds back, alight a new fire. Open the windows. Place clothes out on the line to dry in the weak but increasing sun. Put some wildflowers in a vase. I feel myself open back up, blossom.
Am I a diva? or a good sport? Somewhere, I’m sure, in between.
I keep coming back to an image I saw in a magazine of children in Bosnia. Their homes had been ravaged by war and yet they had somehow managed a game of ping pong in a cordoned off area.
An old board was the table which they took turns holding up and alternating hitting the ball with their hands.
That’s all they had to make them feel in place. And yet, in their faces, you could see for however short a time, they felt safe.


Shared Space
Monday, June 30th, 2008

Visiting my college for my husband’s reunion (we both went to the same school), I found myself taking a picture of the outside of my Senior dorm room window. I don’t know why I wanted to document it: it wasn’t just for nostalgia’s sake or that it was an incredibly beautiful building facing the glorious Quad. It was for the satisfaction of coming back and capturing what was for so long just a memory, only available to me when I tried to remember dorm life and all the rooms I had once occupied (some alone, some with assigned roommates and some chosen), since I walked into my first 10×10 space in boarding school at the age of fifteen.
I can never forget what I brought with me that first day and many of the rudimentary furniture/accessories I carried right through with me ’til college, (where was Pottery Barn Teen when I needed it?!):
1 wooden bureau: my mother had inherited it, then gave to my older brother, who deemed too ugly to bring to his boarding school, so I then painted it white to “feminize”
1 Indian bed spread: brought at our local “hippie” shop
1 set of flowered sheets: I’m not sure these were 100% cotton: I guess we cared less back then?…
Versace fashion ads shot by Richard Avedon: I liked to hang them all along the upper edge of the room until my room mate asked me to take them down: some of the expressionless models “scared” her
1 clock radio: sort of black and boring
1 lamp: can’t remember what it looked like?
1 framed posted: I think of one of those cliche Renoir or Monet paintings
Pictures of friends/family in graduation frames

Once I got to college and we had a college store (where I merrily charged away things like cigarette cartons and argyle socks under the auspices of book charges) I started to buy lots of plants and hang them from water pipes.

Why didn’t I buy curtains? Or change the hardware on that tired bureau to jazz it up? Layer my bed with an exciting assortment of faux fur pillows throws?
Of course it’s easier now to find all those things at 3 am via the internet.
But back then, there were so many girls who got how to create a lair that bespoke of them from the threshold: A friend of mine in college had a Henry Moore sculpture in her room, can you imagine? Another, an espresso machine. They had names like Lucinda and Valesca and they wore stiletto heels to class and smoked while they brushed their teeth. Their rooms were dark caves of style with taped-down shades. And it wasn’t just the women. My old boyfriend thought nothing in spending most of his inheritance on a sound system that, whenever he put on the Eurthymics, you could hear it in China. Razor sharp sound was to him more important than any furniture. In fact he got rid of his bed frame on the first day of school and moved in a futon straight onto the floor in its place.If you squinted past his homework which lay waiting on his desk, might almost think you were already graduated and living in the Village.
I would walk past these rooms down the wide halls (originally built to accommodate women in hoop skirts) and open my wood door and feel very much still at school. I still had some of my ninth grade dresses hanging in my closet after all and my Vogue ads were starting to curl up along the bottom.
Yet somehow, no matter how many times, I changed rooms and dorms, I didn’t change anything.
Who are in “my” rooms now? Who will occupy the rooms in my house I love so much now after I’m gone? I guess we can never think of rooms as being “mine” but always, no matter whose name is on the lease/deed, as “ours.”
I tell my son to photograph every room he will ever live in at school. It will remind him of how his personal style began, how he put down his own roots in his own soil and his ability to pick them up and replant them again. It will remind him of who he is still becoming.

Wednesday, June 11th, 2008

So we finally found the right piece to the puzzle and JUST when we were reaching the end of our rope. The oh-so-important coffee table was like the finger in the dam. Without the correct shape, material, size, the rest of my parents’ sitting room would just not flow. We looked at leather, (too masculine) glass, (too sharp), circular, (from India (close, but my father thought the tin material would be too noisy when he went to rest his feet on it) and tufted, (too precious). It was like those dating events where you meet someone for 10 minutes and then move on to the next guy, hoping sparks will fly with one of the 100 bachelors before the alloted time.
So each table courted us with its possibilities and capabilities, (“Look! You can put a tray on me!”, “Psst: I’m one-of-kiiiiind!”, “Hey now: my fabric is super-resistant!”), but I could tell from my parents’ lulled expressions they weren’t biting.
When their eyes started to glaze over, I knew I was in trouble. They had come up for the whole day, just to shop in my area (comfort factor) and I knew that if I sent them back to Boston empty handed, it would never happen. They were gun shy, (forget ordering a table online: it was as remote as a mail-order bride) and heart broken,(their former decorator had sort of squelched that honeymoon period you have when you first go to decorate a new room) so it had to be done in person and with me there.
Just as we were about to leave, I spotted a cubed-shape wood table far in a corner, stacked above its mate: the shy kids at the school dance. The wood was from India and slightly bleached so its texture was interesting. The bottom of it was carved out into a circle so you could see through it. I approached, worried it was too funky for my parents’ taste but at this point, I was desperate. We placed it in front of a store sofa that resembled my parents’ existing one so we could see it in context. Then I put the second cube right next to the first as it would look in their room.
They stared and didn’t say much at first, as I started rattling off its attributes like a matchmaker: (“This is a total conversation piece without being a room hog!”, “Placing two cubes together gives you the room you need in front without taking too much space,” “Look, you can make them end tables or even extra seating!”)
They were listening, their ears perked, their eyes starting to glow.
Then my father suddenly said, “and the circles on the bottom echo the circular glass window in the room.” Bingo. Love at almost-first-sight.
Ironically enough, after spending so much time and money on mistakes in the room, the tables that brought it all together were just $150 each.
And they fit in the back of their car. Off they went home, the four of them, snug as bugs.
The next day my parents were in the full blush of love. The tables had already received a stream of compliments for their uniqueness. Yet they didn’t overwhelm the space one bit. They were completely practical yet decorative.
Just like the ideal partner.

Thursday, May 1st, 2008

My mother wants help redecorating a room she calls “a disaster.”
It’s a room in my childhood home where she also grew up and still spends most weekends and summers there with my father.
Even though I had spent 20 years walking through and sitting in, fending off bullying brothers and entertaining boyfriends in that room, I am surprisingly not attached to its layout or style in any way.
Alter the design landscape of my childhood? Go for it.
It has always been a reading room. My parents read three newspapers a day on a love seat there, not to mention countless books for their book club.
For a while, they toyed with making part of the room a “media” room. but for two people who only watch television when Wimbledon or political debates are on, this seemed a little drastic. And when a media cabinet and another sofa where brought in, they cringed.
“lt suddenly looked like a showroom,” my mother explained.
I tried explaining that no one uses media cabinets anymore but it was too late. The little television stayed upstairs in my father’s dressing room and the room remains all about reading.
This decision unfortunately then set off a domino-style of design disasters. There used to be a desk for my father where the television area was going to be, so they had carved into what once was the adjoining guest bedroom to accommodate a new nook for my father’s paperwork. So now that there is no desk and no television,that whole side of the room has no, what I call “raison d’ĂȘtre.”
So they created a little vignette with some antique chairs and a painting in that corner. My mother emailed me a picture.
“Will you ever be actually over there?” I asked.
“No, we sit on the love seat. Besides those chairs are from Granny and not very safe to sit on.”
“So why did you put them there?”
“Because I didn’t know what else to do.”
I could hear the frustration in her voice. She needed my help but I was a whole state away and at this point, all she wanted was to wave a magic wand and make it all better. I hated to tell her there were miles to go before she read.
They then called in a very inept decorator who advised my mother to spend a lot of money on pieces which looked completely out of proportion to the rest of the room.
A giant glass table costing as much as a college tuition and weighing in at three tons now leers at her like an angry quarterback, all dressed to fight but nowhere to play. Not even dealers at EBAY will take it.
“Ship it to my brother, he needs furniture,” I suggested. But it will cost another small fortune for that.
“Take a hammer to it then,” I tell her over the phone one day and I hear the silence of contemplation. But she won’t get rid of anything because it cost too much in the first place. It’s like she went out and married five horrible men at once but the idea of divorce is too shocking, too soon. So she suffers.
So the decorator is now gone but the husbands stay.
She just keeps moving the bad pieces around, taking pictures of new vignettes and emailing me the sad results.
“Look, ” I say one day in a voice I hope will shake her to her senses: “Get the bad stuff out of there! You’re not throwing it away, just removing it from the scene of the crime.” I am walking down Madison Avenue on my way to a shoot, squinting at a blurry picture of an oversized ottoman she thinks is too big for being in front of the sofa and is definitely covered in the wrong fabric.
She has draped another fabric on top of it, wondering if she should go ahead and upholster? But she has discovered some marks on the fabric so maybe she can get her money back and I could help her find a new design?
“Mum, you’re worrying about the leaves on the branches of the trees when you’ve got like, the whole forest to think about,” I say quite pleased with my updated and expanded metaphor.
“But it was so expensive!” she moans.
“Life is short. You have to look forward and move on. Otherwise you’ll never feel good in there again!”
“It feels like…I’m constipated,” she cries.
She has never used that word as long as I have known her. Now I know how very serious it is.
I tell her to at least move some pictures around, They have an extensive art collection and she has some images that are too heavy for the romantic feel of the fabrics below them and vice versa.
She hangs up and thirty minutes later, emails me the swap. I am impressed with her fortitude and proceed further.
“See those two side tables? They’ve got to go. They don’t match and are too small next to the sofa.” I bump into a man on Park Avenue as I now have my iphone pressed closed to my eyeball and turned sideways.
A pause. “But I just bought them!”
I feel for her but if I don’t stop the hemorrhaging we will lose the limb.
“For less than $200 bucks, you should get those white garden stools from Ballard. A pair. There is proportion power in pairs,” I tell her and hang up.
I know she won’t buy those stools.
We talk for another hour later that day and she’s at her lowest point.
“Your father….he thinks I’m starting to lose my mind. And I don’t blame him,” she says quietly, slowly deflating.
My voice is hoarse from coaching.
I hang up, willing myself to let it go.
So what if she bought a skinny brass lamp with a white shade where these should have been a pair of wooden-based ones with ivory shades?
Maybe it is unsolvable. Between her stubbornness in what she wants to keep and what she refuses to buy, I can’t make the ends meet.
What I would give to move that stuff around until it made some kind of sense. But it’s blocked, like that puzzle game where you have to move the red car through the maze of other cars to leave the grid of the box.
I grab a piece of paper. I am no artist, my handwriting is worse than a three year olds.
But I suddenly have an impulse to make this work, even if I am two hundred miles away.
I draw the room. The sofa. The white garden stools in front.
Put a pair of lamps behind the sofa.
A pretty console with some books goes where my father’s desk used to be. Granny’s chair tucked in for decoration.
And suddenly I have an idea that breaks through the red car through the grid: that damn ottoman goes against the bay window, out of the way of traffic and the ideal seat for guests.
I call her excitedly and describe my sketch.
I can feel her staying with me as I lead her through the new room
in our imaginations.
When I get to where the ottoman goes, I can hear her smile.
“Can you mail me the sketch?” she asks.
I don’t wait until the morning to send it.
Stay tuned.

A Dash of Whimsy
Saturday, April 12th, 2008

This morning I searched for a to-go container for my green tea but all I could find amongst my shelves was a Starbucks Christmas-themed cocoa mug. Being in a rush I used it anyway but confess I felt funny all morning. It worked to keep my beverage perfectly piping hot but the design was all wrong. It wasn’t that it had the typical tacky snowman and gingerbread theme I’ve come to abhor come the arrival of December. It actually had an elegant almost Matisse-like rendering of snowy trees. And even though it was April, it was 32 degrees out. So what was my problem?
Because I couldn’t ignore the fact that I wanted a sleek, silver vessel to match the elegant, Asian-inspired contents that lay within.
And without it, I’m a little ashamed to admit that the tea tasted the lesser. (I ended up dumping it out my car window on a deserted country road if you really want to know.) This is a long winded way of saying: presentation counts.
It doesn’t have to be fancy. Tabletop has come a long way from the days when you registered at Tiffany and put your gold-rimmed plates high up on a shelf until Thanksgiving. Now the options are endlessly affordable and inspirational. At the recent Table Top Market which I had the pleasure of troving on behalf of Bon Appetit magazine, there were patterns that were so gorgeous, I wanted to accessorize them with food the way a great dress makes you want to find the perfect necklace to match.
When Bob Appetit asked me to become a Contributing Editor I first worried that because I’m not a “food expert” that I didn’t have a delicious enough dish to share at the proverbial table. But then I realized that the days of categorizing our passions are over. I care as much about what colors the walls in my kitchen are as what’s inside my refrigerator. And love choosing my ingredients as much as which plates I will ultimately present them on. Silverware to me is as crucial as spice. Flowers finish the environment as deliciously as dessert. And don’t we all look to combine our guests like a vegetable, starch and protein?
Since cooking is no longer just for chefs and entertaining not just for Martha Stewart, we can all partake of the bounty and stir the pot to get the most eclectic mix possible. Rosemary shrimp with mint pesto on chic bamboo plates from Target? Perfect combination. Peanut butter and jelly on Villeroy and Boch salad plates? Why ever not. The world is our oyster now and deserves to be presented with panache, practicality and a dash of whimsy.


Color Me Everything
Monday, March 24th, 2008

As I prep for an upcoming Today show spot on color, I am indulged with color wheel upon color wheel from many of the the top paint companies.
As I spin out the hues with delicious names like Violet Driving Coat, Sage Sweater and Cymric Silver, I wish I had a hundred rooms where I could give these colors a proper home, the chance to shine in the ever changing light that comes with four fabulously fickle seasons. And it’s not just the luxury of coating entire walls in shimmery Atlantic Winter or pragmatic Starch Apron or naughty Temptation that gets me. The potential combinations all these colors could have with one another make me as hungry to pair as a matchmaker. A chocolate brown with Tiffany blue? Dreamy for the girl’s room I’ll never have. A tangerine orange with palest yellow? Makes me long to escape somewhere warm and provincial. Aborigine with glossy black? A luxurious library filled with all the Russian novels I never have time read.
These colors seem to link me as much to potential feelings as they do to rooms: nostalgia, happiness, confidence, desire…I span out all the colors again and again: they’re like intriguing strangers you see across the room at a crowded party. Tempting to judge them by their appearance but of course looks can be deceiving. Besides: we all thrive and change from proximity and relationships with others. That cold white simply blossoms when snuggled next to a chartreuse green which seemed a little overwhelming on its own but has calmed itself due to its rightful matching.
Someone once said there’s no right or wrong when it comes to what color “goes” with what. You only have to look outside to nature to understand that. Pinks with reds, browns and greens happily abound. Perhaps it is best to not look at colors as risks that could alter a space negatively, but as a mood that waits to find its rightful place both inside a home and a soul.

Real Estate Envy
Wednesday, March 19th, 2008

Should it be the eighth deadly sin?
Lusting after someone else’s abode makes you feel strangely guilty and elated at the same time: i.e., how can we want more than what we are lucky enough to have over our heads and wouldn’t it be amazing to have a closet the size of a fire station?!…
Last week my good friend and I stayed at a mutual friend’s Florida home. Our hostess lives in London and Connecticut and this is just an occasional winter pit stop for her, so she was kind enough to lend the keys to us for a few days. The place was a spacious, sunny light box and completely ideal for our young boys to run back and forth to the community pool and tennis court on scooters. We were very happy.
One night, we drove to Palm Beach to our other friend’s new ocean front mansion.
To say the house was gorgeous was an understatement.
Every ceiling, wall and floor had been hand painted/carved/stenciled or flown in from some remote village in Italy. There was a karaoke room with a hand carved wood stage, 84,000 song play list and stunning burgandy antique curtains flown in from Morocco held back with stunning silver-scaled fish tie-backs.
I snuck away from socializing and swam lap after delicious lap in the pool which was decorated with millions of iridescent mother of pearl. I’d look up and water would be spewing out of a marble fish mouth against the perfect blue sky. I’d look down and be lost in a maze of intricately patterned blue and yellow tile. My son couldn’t stop walking past the sensor activating the secret door that spun around to reveal a wine and cigar bar where I’d happily spend hours puffing and imbibing away while gazing at the turquoise water that appeared strained for sea weed and undesirable debris.
I walked out to the putting green-like lawn to admire the beach far below. A man walked by and looked up enviously at me. I wanted to cry out: “this isn’t my home!” but for some reason I just waved back.
As we left, our host pressed a hidden button and instantaneously bathed the entire house in warm peachy light. We walked past their twin Lamborghinis to our rental car (with its roll down windows) and headed back to our condo. As we drove into the driveway I joked, “welcome back to the slums.” Of course I didn’t mean it. But it is amazing how our comfort /desire bar jumps up and down, sideways and backwards as easily as he flicked on those lights.
We must always appreciate and cherish what we already have. And yet aspiration is always a healthy thing…isn’t it? I am old enough to know that having everything only makes you want more things. Many of which you can’t ever have. And I need more quality time with my husband more than a Lamborghini.
But gosh those fish tie-backs were gorgeous.

Tuesday, March 11th, 2008

For the past two years since we bought a little lake house, we have rented out our main house for the summer.
As passionate as I am about my home and the things that are in it, when it comes to allowing strangers to sleep in my bed and sit on my sofa, I am strangely unpossessive. I clear closets but I don’t hide anything away. There’s nothing overtly valuable or delicate here: just very sentimental and therefore deserving of staying in its little hallowed place to be appreciated.
In fact it felt less taxing knowing everything stayed and waited for my return rather than having to disassemble my life only to put it back together again like some jigsaw puzzle.
For many years, I was so passionate about our home that I felt under a heady spell that soon felt albatross-like.
Just the thought of moving or leaving would fell me to tears. Wherever I looked I saw memories that brought intense nostalgic as though I was already an empty nester, (when in fact both my boys were still under the age of ten).
There was the sandbox where they had happily pushed metal Tonka trucks our painter (and soon friend) had given them.
Over there on the hill was where we had buried our Samoyed Omar, who we had bought as puppy back in Los Angeles and had been our beloved child until the real ones came along. There was the framed still life my best friend’s mother had painted one day when visiting.
It went on and on, the memory strands infinitely intertwined like vines, suctioned to my soul.
And then one day close friends made an unexpected offer on our house (in order to be near one of their parents who were our neighbors).
It was a high enough offer so that we would have been foolish not to consider it.
After a few primal shrieks of outrage from yours truly, I finally agreed to see what else was out there.
Surely nothing could compare to the house we had fashioned to our exact needs and style over ten long, expensive and exhilarating years.
My broker showed us a house high up on a hill (I’m a sucker for long driveways) which was in as disrepair as our current house was when we bought it.
And instead of feeling repulsed at the idea of starting over, I suddenly felt the familiar prickles of excitement and possibility.
Before long we were sketching out a new kitchen, family room and office, complete with barn beams brought in from Vermont.
The boys were running around the new lawn as happily as they did in their childhood home. How much kids can teach us about adapting to change, I thought admiringly. Although in truth I certainly wasn’t having as much difficulty as I thought I would. I felt like I was conducting an affair against my current house as I came home whistling with with color wheels and renovational magazine tucked under my arm. She had been so good to us, how could we just leave her for an upstart?
Then the deal fell through. We ended up staying. I didn’t know what to feel. I had forced myself to mentally move to the other house and suddenly I was back.
It felt good and disappointing. The worst part was how anticlimactic it felt not seeing our plans come to life in the new house: I had already had it decorated in my mid, every square foot. A virtual house was waiting for us to make it three dimensional. While a real one was waiting for us to come back with faith and commitment.
The good news: the vines now had been clipped and cleared.
I still very much loved my house but I knew now that if I had to leave it life would go on.
In some ways, renting it out, besides being a financial necessity that allows us to have a second home, is a way for me to keep a little distance.
The house on the other hand, tends to act out when we are not here.
Mysteriously just before our renter was to arrive, the kitchen ceiling started to leak even though there was no rain outside. As the paint began to buckle above I called out: “Relax, we are coming back!” Still had to call in major repair.
The mud room door suddenly swelled and the door wouldn’t open. “Why now?!” I called out as the renter’s emails thrilled into my Blackberry.
“Why not save it for when we’re back?!”
The house calls out to me to return or never leave, yet is ultimately patient for what I need to do.
She will always be my first love but if the time ever comes, I need to know when to turn the front door key over to someone else.


Friday, February 22nd, 2008

The word “change” is echoing an awful lot across our landscapes these days. There is the demand for the political: we read it in our newspaper headlines and hear it feverently debated on television and perhaps we even chant it at rallies.
Others often demand it of us personally: scan the New York Times bestseller list and dozens of titles call out to us to better ourselves: “You! Only Better. Younger. Sexier. Richer.” Sometimes we feel like waving the banner at the front of the Change Parade and sometimes all we can muster is to shuffle somewhere towards the back and hope no one notices us.
Amidst change we want, change we can’t have and change we need, there is always the comfort of the constant: what we have created inside our homes. We can count on the faithful grouping of furniture in our living room and the visual landscape of collectibles across our shelves that are as dependable as an old friend’s birthday card. We arranged it and it will all stay, until we say so. And often we never say so, because if it makes us feel good, it it makes us feel steady in the ever-bobbing ocean of change, than why on earth would we tamper with it?
Because of my job, where I am constantly styling, fussing and tweaking, I tend to do the same at home. I like there to always be an artful slant to all my rooms: it makes me feel cheerful, safe and loved.
So when my husband first gently pointed out that perhaps, in certain places, I was maybe….over-arranging a little…well you can imagine.
I close my eyes and half listened, clinging defensively to my domestic life raft: how could we not love what I had done? Wasn’t it pretty?!
Yes he said. It was all very pretty. But where could one put down a mug of tea? Amidst my army of frames and books and precious little groupings of little this and thats, there was very little elbow room. Not even thumb room.
Now I am not a pack rat. Nor am I believer in total Zen. Sometimes more is more, especially when it comes to fresh flowers coats of white paint.
But after I told him not to quit his day job, (Emergency Medicine), I walked (OK: stormed), around the house eying all my arrangements and realized some were as old as ten years. I had created them to be admired but I no longer really even saw them. They were just part of my peripheral vision. And Eric’s words kept echoing: “even if we just got rid of one less thing…”
So I took out one thing. Then another. After awhile, the act of removal was almost as satisfying as the initial creation. Sometimes my work left an almost-empty shelf. And I’m proud to say I left it like that.
And of course you know already that I didn’t miss any of what I took away. Even if they were replaced, I don’t feel unfaithful. Just a little reborn.
And at the end of the day, wasn’t I lucky he didn’t want room for a La-Z-Boy?