If you’re at all given to speculative thought, you’ve probably mused on the sad fact that many — perhaps most — brilliant notions wither in the blighting light of reality. I’ve whiled away many a commuting hour reflecting upon why Stalin gave Marx a bad name, Microsoft turned computing from a delight into drudgery, and the spare elegance of Modernism ended in an architectural wasteland devoid of proportion and ornament. Philosophies, technologies and aesthetic movements that promise liberation all too often end in bitterness and destruction.
Update to Jennifer’s Nest: Jennifer decided she’d rather nest with someone else, so there won’t be anymore posts in this series. But her articles are still worth reading. — Ken
After a lifetime of sacrificing domestic life on the altar of Labor, I am finally reveling in baking pies from scratch, arranging weekly bouquets of flowers, and treating delicate fabrics with something other than my usual impatient brutality.
If you bring a good deal of confidence and experience to the task of choosing colors, it’s the most enjoyable part of decorating. If you tend to agonize and worry about others’ opinions, you’ll find it painful. And if you’re like me, and alternate between bold decisiveness and painful self-consciousness, you will alternate accordingly between pleasure and pain. In fact, if you end with the former rather than the latter, the process of choosing and implementing a color scheme becomes practically erotic.
Emboldened by the excellence of our bedroom results, I turned my attention to the entryway and living room, both of which presented design features that my company’s Risk Review Board would name “challenges” or “opportunities,” which mortals like me tend to call “problems.”
When Ken and I began dating, he showed me his portfolio, and I marveled at how he had transformed tract homes into jewel boxes. I also instinctively felt that such grandeur had nothing to do with me. In gradate school I’d absorbed the Marxist notion that, since I relied on wage labor, I shared more with the proletariat than the bourgeoisie. I assumed that remodeling and redecorating were the province of the rich, on the order of an Ivy League education, a trust fund, or place settings involving chargers, napkin rings, and shrimp forks. If you’ve read this site’s basic principles, though, you know how wrong I was. Homes just like my small modernist condo cry out for vivid paint and bold moldings.
|The proletariat contemplating paint chips.|
When Ken suggested that we paint the bedroom, I was certain the process would expose the vicious taste and fundamental idleness I’d cleverly concealed with well-cut clothes, cute shoes, and a surface knowledge of such substances as spackle and grout. More than anything, I felt unqualified. I was pretty sure I preferred bright colors to muted ones, but then I’d been burned so often! Why, when I was 12 or so, my parents let me pick paint for my bedroom, and I’d been chastened by the result: horrid flamingo-colored walls and a concrete floor the color of dried blood. In my 20s I bought innumerable compacts of eye shadow in bright jewel tones — not disposable drugstore trash, but compacts that closed with a sound reminiscent of a Mercedes door — only to discover that bright eye makeup on hooded brown eyes reliably lends me a jaded, haggard look more suitable, as the Victorians would say, in an entirely different class of female. I nourished a secret fear that I couldn’t be trusted with color.
Ken gently suggested green, and chose paint chips from the neighborhood Sherwin Williams. He extolled the virtues of a matte finish, and described how color would turn everything from a common switch plate to a brick wall into a distinguished architectural detail. He propped two paint chips behind my beloved painting, and invited me to live with them, which I dutifully did. After a few days, I chose one more or less at random, consoled by his promise to repaint the whole thing white if I didn’t like it.
He applied samples to the wall, and I nervously admitted that they were pretty, particularly around the artwork. We set aside a weekend, and while I read aloud from the first volume of the Aubrey-Maturin series, The Painter transformed our bedroom.
|After a weekend well spent.|
It’s funny to reflect back on my introduction to paint. The rules he expounded were absolutely correct: the matte green looked like velvet, particularly with two precisely-applied, lavish coats. Far from making the room seem poky or cramped, vivid color rendered it intimate and elegant. The project proved inexpensive, too — about $150 for four different shades plus samples. By the time the first wall was complete, I was scheming to create the gallery walls downstairs.
I would never be as timid and compliant again. I bought samples with abandon, explored bizarre color combinations, and made a whole series of silly and instructive mistakes. As Ken has put together his website, I’ve wanted to tell our own story, since, as promised, paint and moldings changed first our home, and then my life.
I thought clever people like me didn’t end up underwater in a mortgage.
It seems downright unjust. Far from buying at the top of the market, I bought more than a year after the crash. At the time, I and everyone else marveled at the bargain I snatched from the wreckage of the economy: a totally remodeled two-bedroom, two-bath condo in a pleasant midtown neighborhood for a monthly payment less than the 25% of my take-home pay recommended by conservative lenders. I’m only moderately bright with money matters, but combined with $8,000 back on my taxes, my decision to buy seemed brilliant. In my hubris, I pitied the creatures who paid half again as much for it at the top of the market. Two years later, I look like a chump.