When you have an affair, don’t automatically assume it’s HIS fault. It may just be you’re deeply bored with your window treatments, wretchedly unhappy with your skirting, inconsolably despondent over the state of your soft furnishings. You long to see surfaces again. You pine over walnut. You can’t sleep, choosing instead to trawl blogs, scrolling through perfectly designed interiors you crave a hook-up with: the floor-to-ceiling glass of the Ellsworth Residence in Phoenix, leering at lush desert vegetation; the modern vernacular of a San Francisco high rise loft, so clean it’s dirty; the pleasing manner of an intimate conversation area in an El Segundo Retreat, a pleasure quarter as impeccably presented as an 18th century geisha.
For my tired floors, I want a rich brown stain to tame the vibrancy of a red throw. My walls crave a complex khaki, not just any khaki, but a color that transcends itself to coordinate with a plethora of different colors yet still retains its warmth! In the boudoir, I’d risk anything for the right bone black to pair with deep gray Daydream wallpaper. But I draw the line at replacing the kitchen cabinets. When we bought this cottage, it needed work; my Northern Irish stepdaughter was horrified at the state of the place, crayoned walls, peeling vinyl tiles, stained sanitary ware. “Daddy, we can’t live here. It’s a disgrace.” Wallpaper was lovingly stripped by in-laws and aunties, bathtub and toilet replaced, and a new oak kitchen installed. For a while, I was happy here. We struggled. We thrived. We struggled to thrive. We struggled to survive. We threatened to leave, together and separately. If not here, where? If not you, who?
When I wailed “I hate it here”, I meant “I hate me here.” My fixtures and fittings weren’t getting any younger. I grew up on Long Island in a model home. In 1968, my parents bought their dream home in an estate in a suburban New York community populated by couples like themselves, more or less – more wealthy, less wealthy, more educated, less educated, more Jewish, less Jewish. Both worked, entertained, attended the local synagogue once a year, joined a book club (my mother), played the Stock Market (my father), and fought. What set us apart from the rest of the development was that we lived in the Model Home. It came with wallpaper and furniture and sconces. It had wall-to-wall carpeting and bay windows with bay curtains. It had Formica – Formica bathroom units, Formica counter tops, even a Formica chest of drawers. Formica outlasted my parents’ marriage. When my mother and father bought the Model, they knew exactly what they were getting. When they got married, they had no idea.
My husband is a do-or-DIY kind of guy. He wants me to love it here again. He’s volunteered to paint, to hang wallpaper, to refinish floors, to vacuum under furniture. He’s even feigned interest in paint chips, lugging buckets of color home, which I return, then rebuy. He has agreed to paint perfectly good solid oak kitchen cabinets, in any color I like: Sherwin Williams Emotional, a vibrant brick orange? Or Dorian Gray, soft and subtle, like mist – it’ll never get old. How about Milkshake, a warm taupe, the color chocolate goes when you stir in the whipped cream, reminiscent of drive-in movies and baseball games. I decide on Benjamin Moore’s Cheating Heart, a deep charcoal with a steely cast. But for the inside of the cupboards, I choose Going to the Chapel in a washable, easy care finish. The color? A comfortable, livable light gray, with just a hint of blue.