When we toured our rental home, we'd just come from a dinner with our hosts at our local Airbnb where our host has perfected the art of the wine pour, hosts that would become friends later on and a few weeks ago, spent a lovely evening in the company of. As I tipsily walked through the house we'd call home for the next eighteen months, I stepped foot in the bathroom to find the original 1930s glass tile, in varying shades of pink: some like a sparkling rose, others richer like velvet, and still others swaying into a near-peach shade. The bordering pieces, where the wall met the tile, were jet black.
I didn't like it. The walls above the tile were too white, with a near blue tint, sterile. A matching shower curtain, hung in the style of a roadside Holiday Inn - curved rod, too-high. We painted every room in the house upon move-in, selecting a shade of white for every space - with the exception of the bathroom, where we painted the upper walls in a simple black. We hung a soft, natural fiber of a curtain.
The pink has grown on me throughout our time living here, and it's far more than tolerance, or even acceptance. I see it, and I love it. I later purchased a rug with a shade of pink in the wool, and lean in to see pink shades on various objects on my thrift excursions for the shop. I thought I hated pink, or perhaps that I was supposed to hate pink. My tomboyish tendencies, my childhood bedroom - deep blue walls and a tribal print bedspread from Walmart - were seared in my memory. My younger sisters shared a pink bedroom with floral spreads and a pink rug, and were often seen as far more girly and demure in our younger years. My short hair, my t-shirts, these things deemed me less than feminine.
I was interviewed recently for the Fireclay Tile blog, as part of their ongoing series, 'Installation Stories', in regards to the straight-set tiles I chose for our latest Airstream renovation, and while I'm certain my responses weren't quite the norm, I wanted to share honestly about the way I approach designing a space, whether for myself or for others, as it's been quite the journey to understanding my own sense of style.
In childhood, before the onslaught of adolescence and peer pressure, I was far truer to self. Young me, void of inhibition, did not yet know the boxes society can trap us in. My blue walls were simply what I loved, and though my room looked nothing like those of friends, I only knew that I felt safe there, safe to play and read and draw, to sit at the wide windows and stare up at the night sky long after my parents thought me asleep. A place to be the dreamer I was even then, with grandiose ideas about the life that stretched before me, and what I might be and do when I grew up.
Yet as I moved through the various stages of life, I felt that safety slip away. My early teenage years were reminders that I was different, that my cropped hair confused my peers - my flat chested, t-shirt clad frame often a source of confusion or ridicule. I mean, admittedly he was correct on one of those points - that boy on the school bus that day and those words: are you a boy or just a dyke? That day - the day I went home in tears and vowed I'd grow out my hair.
It was easier, I suppose, to cave. To let go of the things I held dear to simply fit in, or at least, some semblance of fitting in, for I was still a round peg trying to shove myself into a square hole, no matter how many trendy things I begged my mother to purchase for me at Target or JCPenney, simply to avoid the taunting.
I would strip off my low-slung flare leg jeans and striped shirts the minute I arrived home, swapping them for comfort, listening to the music my young, cool-to-me aunt and uncle taught me to love, The Beatles and Led Zeppelin and so many others, pulling out my book or sketches and my room, thank goodness, was always still my room. A young person's version of home and respite.
It's an unfortunate thing, the pressure we feel as a society to be or do or look or decorate - live - a certain and prescribed way, to succumb to trends that come and go, to listen to certain songs (I'll admit it right here and now - I could give two fucks about Beyonce or poppy indie bands), to dress a certain way, to decorate our most sacred spaces, depending on our stage of life and fellow demographic. The onslaught of social media, which we're all largely attached to, has born a way of adopting trends like we've never seen before, a formula for likes and follows, and with it, a lack of love for ourselves and what we want.
These words, which I wrote for the interview, I feel are vital:
"The homes we inhabit are where we spend the majority of our lives, and where we do the most intimate living: where we love, cry, break, scream, laugh, get sick, learn to parent, where we cope, where we create and learn and grow. When folks come into our home, it’s most certainly not grand or perfect - yet time and again, no matter the space we are currently calling ‘home’, our guests routinely speak to the way the space makes them feel - that it’s special, peaceful, that they can feel that the life lived in it is a genuine one. So if I were to sum up my design philosophy, it would simply be that I create spaces that allow life to happen, transformative, creative, real and raw life. No pretenses, instead, intention. Warmth, acceptance, and approachability define my design work, a gathered life: pieces that have had lives before us, and wear their stories in the cuts and imperfections and worn, unraveling threads."
This is our home, whatever form it may take - from the home we owned in Kentucky, to our Airstreams, to the rental we're in now. It is most certainly not a prescription or set of rules to follow, it is simply an offering: know yourself. Live for self.
The idea of following a trend doesn't sit right with me - recalling my eighth grade self begging my mother for those popular jeans, the jeans I wore publicly, yet ripped them off the minute I was home, feeling outside of myself and my own comfort. In designing our spaces, these places of shelter we call our own, shouldn't we already feel that we've changed into our sweatpants? That we can select pieces and colors and fixtures we love, not something someone else loves, damning the popular choice, or what's expected of us?
The pink glass in my bathroom, or the pink handkerchief sent by an online friend are most certainly not what I selected for myself, but I love them, whether or not its expected of me by those around me. While I'll always be drawn to neutrals as my base, I love a surprise element, the color, the infusion of actual self into my spaces and my designs.
Call this an encouragement, a prompt, to ask yourself what you really love and what you're drawn to when no one is looking: the corners of your home or closet or life that you are afraid to share on social media, for fear of ridicule or lack of affirmation.
What do you love? What makes you tick?