[a little sidenote: It has been a strange few weeks, punctuated by Friday’s amazing news from D.C. on the legalization of gay marriage. I am truly overjoyed that we’ve finally legalized something so obvious to me: that love comes in many forms, and in whatever form, it deserves to be seen and to count. I still believe in love and in the power of marriage and it’s nice to be in such supportive, excited, committed company.]
I’ve been taking a closer look at my blog lately, ever since I received the message that my comments were no longer working. (that’s fixed, by the way!) And this isn’t going to be yet another “what does it all mean?” post on blogging—although I can’t promise that there aren’t more of those to come. I bring up the blog mostly because I think often of this lovely post by Frank Chimero called “Homesteading 2014” in which he compares creating your own space online to visiting an architect’s house. Crafting your space, perhaps in more specific detail than most people might. The post opens
Have you ever visited an architect’s house, one they designed themselves? It’s fun to walk through it with them. They have so many things, arranged so thoughtfully, and share the space with such pride because of the personal reflection the house required to design (not to mention the effort it took to build). It’s really quite special. I think there’s a pleasure to having everything under one roof. You feel together, all of you at once.
Probably five or more years ago, I spent a Sunday afternoon going to open houses back in Missoula. I saw three houses that day, and I still recall them clearly, each for their own reason.
One was an architect’s house, I knew as soon as I entered. Something about the use of steel tension cables helped to give it away, a certain modern spin on Frank Lloyd Wright, but also because the whole house was built for its occupants. I could tell that they must have been tall, the kitchen counters higher than normal. The dishwasher was mounted close to a foot off the ground, requiring less bending over. The alcoves in the walls were designed around the cherished objects they would display. Even the layout of the master bedroom and bathroom, with a walk-in closet adjoining the two, was so clever. You could get ready in the morning without waking up your partner; you could close the door on a messy closet and still have one more bathroom available for parties. It just made sense. And yet I heard other people in the kitchen, saying it wasn’t sized for them, commenting to the realtor on how some of these details likely hurt the house’s resale value.
After this house, I went just a few blocks away to another. This one was far less grand, a pretty standard 1940s house, modest in almost every way. The house itself blends in with so many houses I’ve seen, awkwardly renovated over the years. But in the back, up a set of stairs above the garage, there was a studio apartment. Soaring ceilings, amazing light, a little landing before the main space that would have served as a wonderful little library for curling up with a good book. There was something about that place—probably the light streaming in and the blank slate feeling—that made me consider whether or not I could ever live in a studio, whether I could adopt some kind of loft lifestyle (whatever it is that really means…)
Truthfully, I am not well-suited to a loft, not at all. I am far too messy, I have too much stuff. But the biggest issue with that scenario is the lack of storage, that there’s really no place to hide things away. That place had one wall of low cabinets and nothing else, no other built-ins, hardly a perch for your shower necessities.
Yesterday, I accompanied a realtor friend to check out a house available for rent. It was outside of my budget, too big at three bedrooms, on a busy street, not in my ideal neighborhood—it was not for me. But I’m anxiously awaiting my lease renewal from my landlord, scared he’s going to jack up rent more than I’m willing or able to comfortably pay, so I was curious to see what else is out there. I’m weighing in my head what my limits are, what it would take to make me move out of this (already kind of pricey) place where I’ve lived for the last year. Because I really love this place. Perhaps loving a place too much as a renter is risky behavior. After all, it is not really yours.
It was good that this place yesterday wasn’t for me, because honestly, I was seduced by the cabinetry. Cabinets and built-ins everywhere. In the kitchen, the laundry room, the living room, the bathroom especially. A narrow cabinet between the two vanity mirrors for everyday items. Shelves (actually nice-looking, custom wooden shelves) behind the toilet. Two cabinets mounted below the sinks. And then an upper AND lower cabinet behind the door, perfect for sheets and towels.
What I wouldn’t give for a linen closet.
To some extent, I realize that storage is a little like purses—whatever size you have, you’re likely to fill it. I have a huge purse right now and the marks on my shoulder to prove it.
At this point, I live in a pretty big house, one that I sometimes think might be a little too big for me. I have a hard time keeping up with the cleaning, yes. But mostly, I ask myself, how can I have so much space and still not have room for everything? Why does it always seem like such a mess?
Well, partially it’s because I’m messy. And of course there’s no denying I need to get rid of some things. She who lives in an uncluttered house can be the first to cast stones on that front.
But also, this house has almost no storage. I’ve brought in my own to some extent, lugged from one rental space to the next over the years: cabinets and bookshelves and dressers and now an IKEA wardrobe. Still, the bathroom storage consists of those open wire shelves, covered in white coating, perpetually grimy. No matter what I try, all of the bottles look like a jumble. Downstairs, there are really just three normal-sized kitchen cabinets and only one decent closet in the whole place.
Wandering that house yesterday, opening and closing all of those drawers and doors (soft-close hinges! be still my heart!), I’ll admit that I got some ideas about my own place, things I might change if all goes as I pray it does and I renew my lease this month. A hammock and a BBQ and some better bathroom storage, dealing with my exploding bedroom closet.
But also, I couldn’t help but yearn for built-ins. Not for more storage, per se, but for feeling invested in a place, knowing you’re going to live there for long enough to make changes seem worthwhile. Maybe even knowing that it’s yours and then working to make it seem that way by adjusting it or even overhauling it to suit your needs. Building in those purposeful nooks and crannies. Asking what height the kitchen counters should really be, without worrying too much about the effect on resale value.
To be honest, I’m not even entirely sure who lives like that anymore. There’s a sense of nomadism (nomadery?) among most of the people I know. I find it simultaneously exciting and exhausting. Everyone seems to be mentally withdrawn a bit, anticipating the next move, starting over all over again. I’m not sure that it’s how I want to continue to live in the next 3, 5, 10 years. At some point, I’d like the pleasure of having everything under one roof, of “feel[ing] together, all of you at once.”
Right now, that’s just not in the cards for me, and no amount of cabinetry will help that.
So in the meantime, I’ll keep my fingers crossed that things will work out and I’ll be spending another year, at least, settling into this place—the place I’ve come to call home.