When I was ten we sold the little house I was raised in and began bouncing around town into various and sundry condos and rental homes. In the next eight years I moved six times, and that’s just counting my mother’s houses. The thing I remember most vividly about all those places is the white paint. Back before grey was the new white, white was the new white, and every room of my adolescence was coated in it. I learned that landlords charged you for holes you put in the walls, so hanging pictures was a major commitment. I was a commitment-phobe.
By my early twenties my “style” had become generic meets thrift store chic. Sans chic. The years of whitewash had resulted in someone terrified of personalizing anything. Besides, I suffered from that oh so common ailment called, Tryingtopleaseallthepeople that often afflicts twenty-somethings. I barely knew what my personality was.
But now, as of last week, I am THIRTY NINE. I’ve reached the age of Officially Don’t Give a Damn, and I celebrated by hanging some stuff on my walls. We will ignore the fact that I have lived in this house for two years and just focus on the fact that I actually (eventually) got it done.
massive bit of a voyeur. My very most favorite thing about living in Boston was going for walks at night and looking into the lit windows of brownstones, trying to get a glimpse of how other people lived. So, just in case any of you share my slightly creepy obsession with other people’s houses, I thought I’d offer a (very curated) tour of my home, complete with editorials about how a self-diagnosed generic-addict developed what might generously be called a “personal style.”
This is my foyer. After a decade living in a house where the “foyer” was basically the back of the living room sofa, having a room dedicated to walking in the front door has taken some getting used to. It’s a tiny hallway, but it suits our needs. That white thing is a shoe cabinet from Ikea (generic hangover) that’s filled with so many pairs of kids shoes and dirty socks that it whines at night, calling to the washing machine. But there is a redeeming bit.
That little Edison lantern (actually a scented wax melter to hide the aroma of aforementioned dirty socks) is sitting on top of my grandmother’s Dictionary of Musical Terms. My grandmother was a professional cellist until she had to sell her cello to help support her family. She cried for a week. The book was given to her in 1939 by her brother (according to the inscription) and I grew up with it sitting on our piano. Yes, those are Scrabble tiles, straight out of the box. No worries, I know where to find them when we play.
This is my living room, as seen through the foyer doorway. I can take no credit for this, though I’d like to kiss the person who added all the trim and built-ins. You have NO.IDEA. how much crap is hiding behind those doors. Our art budget is basically zero, but we do have a couple of prints we purchased from the Tomato Art Festival in East Nashville over the years. Psst… the TV my children spend WAY too much time watching is hiding behind those cabinets on the left.
This is the living room wall behind the couch. It’s the “I swear, we used to be musicians,” wall. That’s the piano I grew up with, the first piece of “furniture” my mother ever bought. There’s the accordion given to us by Ms. Margaret, the best surrogate grandma in the history of ever, and over in the corner you can see a tiny piece of the upright bass I gave to Mike as a 28th birthday present. It was cheap on account of the word “Revolution” that is carved into the body. The Nashvegas sign was hand painted by a friend and given as a housewarming present, and that kitchy oil painting of the little girl with the bun… that’s me, circa 1980 Sears. There’s also a much more tasteful portrait of my step-mother as a child, as well as wedding photo of Grandpa George and Grandma Alice, our own Alice’s name sake. The Bluebird print was given to us by a lovely friend, and also happens to remind me of one of my best gigs ever. But the coup de grace is the moonshine bottle on the piano. The one with the gold trim. You can put lipstick on a pig but…
This is the reading nook by the fireplace. Those are milk glass plates from a luncheon set I picked up at an estate sale. But my favorite bit here is this:
That little picture under the lamp? It’s my dad’s (5th? 6th?) birthday party. He’s the shrimp on the left. The one pulling the face that looks exactly like my son Grey.
Above the TV cabinet I’ve got a collection of things: the rose bowl given to me by my best friend’s parents on my wedding day, some cool Victorian-era flowers made of painted sea shells, and these:
Those are vintage skates I picked up at a flea market. I had this therapist who asked me what I liked to do for fun and the absolute only thing I could come up with at the time was, “Look at old stuff.” So she sent me antiquing.
Yeah, I like the skates (and their Minnie Pearl price tag) but the reason that they are displayed in my living room is this: It took me 3 hours to buy those stupid $8 roller-skates. I liked them. I wanted them. But I was plagued by the idea that buying them and putting them in my house was just too Cracker Barrel. A waste of money. Tacky. I was only thirty-five then, you gotta cut me some slack. Now, every single time I see those skates I’m filled with joy. Those skates were my turning point. I bought them without having a nice generic wall to display them on. I bought them not because they filled some need, covered some blank space, but simply because they spoke to some childhood part of me. I look at that corner of the bookshelf everyday and am reminded that joy doesn’t have to make sense. It doesn’t have to be practical. It doesn’t have to match. It’s enough that it just IS. Whimsy, I think they call it.
My living room opens into the dining room. The furniture is pretty much straight out of Ikea, but I like it and it works for our large family.
We do all of our homeschooling at that dining room table. Also all of our eating. I regret that I cannot show you the beautiful view out of those windows on the right, but doing so would expose you to the crazy amount of clutter piled up on the table over there. We also have a kitchen off to the left, but it’s filled with dirty dishes. Alas.
I will share a special secret I have hiding in the dining room, right above the wet bar.
This little beauty was a gift tag on a birthday present last year. It sits above my coffee maker. Right next to the box of wine. You never know which you’re going to need. Whatever. The sentiment fits anywhere. Feel free to print it out and hang it where you will. You deserve it.
Now, before you start thinking I’ve become that kind of blog, I’d like to share one final picture with you. You may have guessed that with five kids, and a piano teaching studio there must be more rooms in my house. Yes. Yes there are. And there is a reason I haven’t featured them here. It’s because they are very disturbing. Especially the one that my three littlest girls “live” in. I warn you, what you are about to see is not for the faint of heart. I know because no matter how many times I clean it, I wake up to the same thing every morning.
Somewhere my mother is rolling over in her urn.
Whatever. I’m thirty-nine now and I’ve got skates. I can handle anything.