The Dapper Guide to (Not) Taking Decorating Seriously (And Still Doing Fine.)
Between the ages of 12-19 I moved about 6 times. When I was 22, I packed up and moved to Istanbul, only to pack up once again two years later to move across the ocean to Minneapolis. In 2011, now that we were five with Tim, Jiggy, Henry Kittinger, and Catherine, we moved to a two-bedroom in the building I was living in Downtown Minneapolis. Then a year later, and for reasons I don't remember now, we moved to a suburban two-bedroom.
Why did we do that? Probably because we were stupid. Both Tim and I like walking anywhere and everywhere, and we have our spots Downtown where we like to eat/drink - and that "Well, Downtown is only 15 minutes away, we can go anytime!" argument did not pan out. Plus, it constantly felt like we had missed the memo on the zombie apocalypse as we walked through dead suburban streets on a Friday night. So, in 2016 we came back Downtown, to a one-bedroom in the exact same building we lived through 2008-2014.
Despite evidence to the contrary, I don’t enjoy moving. In fact, I am very, very tempted to put a divider on the living room and call it a nursery when we decide to have a baby rather than move back to a two bedroom. I seriously do not care at this point.
Moving not only makes me disoriented, it makes me depressed. I find the whole thing just emotionally taxing. And every time we moved since 2011, I have spent the first night in our new house on the sofa instead of the new bedroom - despite the bed being the same bed I have slept in for the past 8 years. For some reason staying put on the sofa calms me down - which I think isn't too different from my girl cat spending the first night sitting on her litterbox every time we move. I'd like to think the sofa is more comfortable, but obviously, I can't be sure.
Moving often also requires you not to be too obsessive about where stuff goes. I mean, half of our artwork was on the floor when we moved out from our last apartment because I had not put them up in the first place. Plus, when I get obsessive about home decor I positively become a woman possessed - and that kind of crazy is a nonstop, insatiable, insomnia-inducing endeavor. I can’t stop thinking about where each print goes on the wall. Whether I put them in the best arrangement possible. Whether I need a pillow with a pop of color. Whether we need new side tables. Just ultimately frivolous things that should not induce anxiety for a normal, sane person. It is kind of a vicious cycle that starts with wanting to love your house and ends with hating yourself.
Believe me, I am perfectly aware that this is absolutely and utterly ridiculous. Engaging North Korea in nuclear proliferation talks, it is not. It reminds me of the time when I briefly worked at a home decor/furniture store, when there were several customers who went off on poor in-house designers about their dining room sets not arriving on time, or going berserk about various furniture emergencies. Those 5 brief weeks made me firmly believe that there are in fact no furniture emergencies in the world, especially when it involves a reclaimed wood dining set.
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE decorating my house. I absolutely love home decor - hell, I make my living doing just that. I sincerely believe the small details in one's living environment it affects one’s mood. Even The Sims get depressed when they live in an unkempt, empty apartment - a programming detail which I found to be genius as I grew older, and realized how much my surrounding actually affects how I feel about myself and my life. Having an apartment that visually pleases you is a damn source of joy.
That is why this time around, I really wanted to make it count. I knew we could move again relatively soon, but I just wanted to let go and give in to the crazy, and see how far along we could walk hand in hand. And I also really wanted all the artwork on the walls for a change, and stop Tim from reminding me half of our artwork lived on the floor in our previous apartment. We could see the art regardless, okay? It had like an postmodern art gallery quality to it. If the art gallery was run by a lazy-ass curator such as myself, that is.
And I ended up doing it. I decorated. I hung everything. I moved furniture around, and decided where everything should go. Do I want to do it again? No. I am also not a person who moves stuff around all the time, once I like it, I keep it that way - mostly because I can’t live with the constant obsession over whether I could make it perfect. I have myself to obsess over for that.
But it was still a process. This is where I started:
(The photographs and editorial is from Living Etc. Magazine's March 2013 issue. You can find more about the editorial on SF Girl Bay's blog as well. The house is owned by the interior stylist Hillary Robertson, and it is GORGEOUS. Just incredible. The color palette, ambiance, windows, and the trims/moldings of my dreams.)
As you might have guessed, I like my neutrals. The color spectrum of my wardrobe goes from beige and powder pink, to beiger, and more powder pinker. My friends mock me because every makeup item I gush over is either nude, brown or a darker brown (I have had a platonic relationship with Bobbi Brown since I was 17. She gets me, okay? She gets me.) But since I was “taking it seriously” this time, I even selected a color theme - pink, black, and beige with light gray, gold, and white accents.
I know, frickin groundbreaking.
I first painted the walls a light grey color (Behr Marquee Park Avenue MQ2-55). To be perfectly honest, that was not fun. I realized my color selection is on point, but my painting is mediocre at best. I mean, who likes to put tape around the whole room, prep the floor with tarp, start painting, and keep stepping on pain splotches for two days for a 7/10 grade paint job? It is discouraging, but not finishing it was way worse. And it looked so much better than white when I finished it. When you spend a day painting the living room, you kind of don't give an eff about the tiny faults here and there when you're done.
But first, let me introduce you to a case of transport merchandising, and of course the world's worst idea ever of transporting paint:
I was so proud of myself until the craft supplies starting falling one by one.
This is what we started with:
And it took a while to get going since I went out and had several drinks as soon as we dropped off the boxes in the new apartment. Because that's why we had moved back to downtown, right? ...But mostly because alcohol is the best accompaniment to procrastination.
Later, I procrastinated some more by taking photos of my jeans while listening to podcasts and not painting. I listened to a lot of Elton John while painting too, and realized just how much of his lyrics I know by heart. I'm not talking easy stuff like "Rocket Man" either, I am talking stuff like "I Don't Wanna Go On With You Like That". Turns out that song is MY JAM.
Despite this being a rental, I absolutely loved the dark, dark navy color I had picked for the bedroom (BEHR Ink Black 490-7) - and I am sure it will be a breeze to paint it white when we move out (it won't.) I find dark navy and grey walls very appealing, even in small spaces. Maybe it is because I loved watching the sea at night since I was a kid, and used to do that a lot as 1) Our summer home in Bodrum in the late 80s and early 90s did not have a TV or a radio, which meant my vacation with my grandparents was rather "Old Man and the Sea" 2) Even more importantly, I did not have any friends to go out to play. So reading books nonstop by myself by the sea, and watching the sea and the lights at night on the patio was THE only two things for me to do. Possibly as a collateral, I find dark colors calming, and it makes me think of diving deep in a really dark sea. (Which is in fact scary to me in real life. I did it twice, and really, really freaked myself out. It is not as sexy as Leonardo DiCaprio's "The Beach" make-out scene makes it look, which might *also* be because I was just splashing around by myself at night.)
Apart from the painting, another huge part of this move was the books. THE BOOKS. They were EVERYWHERE. And there was A LOT OF THEM. Since we had an office before, our bookcases were dispersed between two rooms - and half of them were white while the rest were black. Hence, the "Great Bookcase Crisis of 2016" as Tim called it started, and dragged on...and on...and on...until I finally bit the bullet and got 3 white IKEA Hemnes bookcases with one IKEA Brusali to put underneath the kitchen nook. (Side note: There are also no "Bookcase Crises" in the world either.)
What you see below is what it looked like after I had been at organizing books for about three hours.
If you have even a passing acquaintance with me you'd sense that I am not a particularly orderly person. In fact, I am pretty nonchalant about order, literally and figuratively. But the only kind of disorder that drives me absolutely insane is not being able to find a book when you're looking for it. In fact, ever since I was a kid I have been clinically particular about my books. They need to have a specific order, which can allow me to find whatever I am looking for in the shortest amount of time, and with as little exasperation as possible. Being a helpful partner, Tim actually had placed the books on the shelves out of the boxes the day after we moved in. But I had to take them all back out as I am unreasonably obsessive about my books, which means an academic book cannot exist on the same shelf as a work of fiction, much less touch it (nope.) In the end, it took me three days to finish this objectively unnecessary task, and lots of book rearranging according to author, subject matter, and how much I liked the book. (I have three "Favorite Books" shelves - one for "General Academic/Social Science", one for "Feminist Social Science", and the last one for "Favorite Fiction" - just to give you a sense of what female nerd hysteria looks like.)
While I got the books in order in three (painful) days, the rest of the house took a while longer. In fact, everything was hung and put into its proper place right about 20 minutes before some friends came over for a game night after 4 weeks into us moving in. There was a lot of Etsy surfing (the BEST African mudcloth pillows and throws? One Fine Nest and Konkada, unless you want to shell out $150 more for Restoration Hardware versions), hours spent on Society6, Saatchi, and Minted for prints, lots of decisions at Craig Frames (the best online frame service, ever), multiple trips to West Elm, CB2, and Target, an IKEA hack, and almost a divorce - but it takes a lot to create a house to which my bestfriend and my mom's first reaction upon seeing was "I can't live in this place. There is too much stuff."
This corner is special to me, because it is where I perch. One of my absolute favorite belongings is the Restoration Hardware antlers I begged people to buy me for my birthday for five years straight, and ended up buying for myself because everybody thought it was somewhere between "ugly", "horrendous", "nightmare-inducing", "Exorcist-worthy".
1) It is not. 2) The Exorcist is one of my favorite movies, thankyouverymuch. I also have my Ottoman painting puzzle which took me one year to finish, and another year to frame. Fashion photographer Garance Dore's calendars are perfect for fashion illustration, and Janet Hill is the artist behind the multiple artwork I love that we have around the house, like this, this and this. (While I was writing this, I also got this. Because I can never say no to a drawing of one depressed/conniving housewife with a beehive. That stuff is my cocaine. Cocaine.)
Just like that pink sofa is Catherine's. She doesn't even get down from that to throw up, which is as disgusting and infuriating as you think it would be. (Performance velvet is a life-saver. Or a sofa-saver. Either way.)
Lastly, I hung on the door my diy pompom wreaths I rotate according to the season (left, Spring-Summer, right, Winter) because honestly I spent 100 hours making these damn things and I have no space left in the house to put them anywhere. As my mom and my best friend said, the house is too crowded to live already.
And that's the way I like it.