In 1999, my mother and I went to visit my uncle in West Philadelphia. He had a gorgeous, three story twin with all the original hardwood, floors, windows, and all the tiny architectural details that I now drool over. On the second floor of his home, he had a formal sitting parlor. It was painted a beautiful, lush yellow with windows that looked out on the tops of the cherry blossom trees. Ever since then, I wanted a yellow room. And it was a place to sit and think, to read, to simply stare off into space if you wanted to. Growing up, my bedroom had provided that comfort for me. Sunlight, warmth, photos, safety. My parents house was always a place I knew I belonged.
When we bought our house, we decided the smallest of the four bedrooms would become a writing room for me. It was one of the first projects I tackled in the house. We knew the house needed work – or love – when we bought it. I somehow figured that because I had watched my father restore woodwork that I could figure it out on my own. So I wasn’t shy jumping into it. My husband and I had hastily tackled the dining room already, and that had gone pretty smoothly, albeit messy. (I’ll save that project for another day.)
Considering the condition of the rest of the house, my small sanctuary to be was not in bad shape. Once the carpet was removed, we revealed wood floors that, while in desperate need of refinishing, were solid. Being on the back corner of the house, the room gets some fabulous light throughout the day, something that I crave. The color it was painted was a soft yellow that over the years had become stained and dirty. And the ceiling wasn’t much better. The textured plaster was riddled with spider webs, smoke stains, and dust. Let’s not even talk about what was living behind the radiator.
And let’s not talk about what they did to the doors either. That problem has yet to be fixed.
With palm sander in hand, I jumped in. My parents had done a lot of heat stripping to the house I grew up in, but being of the “less than graceful” persuasion myself, i wasn’t willing to try it. But I also didn’t anticipate the amount of sanding that I would have to do. As I began sanding the door frame, the paint began peeling off. The same happened on the baseboards. And so the project began, and rapidly grew. After a solid 2-3 days of taking the surfaces down to bare wood, the transformation really began. And I heard my father’s voice as I worked. His voice had been present when my husband and I tackled the dining room. Then, I could hear him criticizing that we weren’t taping the woodwork right, or that I was applying to much putty to the sunken areas in the window wells. Now, when I began to rush, I would hear a soft German “uch”, like a tsk, telling me to slow down, that the paint was going to drip, that I had to be more careful. And I would sigh, smile, and slow down.
After all the painting, the true joy began. The bookshelves were assembled (purchased courtesy of my mother), and as I began placing my own personal library on the shelves lining the wall, I realized that I finally had a space. That safe space that I missed. I loved our old apartment, and my husband and I had personalized it as much as we could. But a space in a house is different. You own that space. A space where there was sunlight streaming in the windows. A space where I could sit and be surrounded by things that I loved – books, prints, old notebooks, photographs.
And of course, a space that the cats adored.
So now, when you walk up the stairs, and get to the second floor, there is a warm, inviting room. A space I created.
The color is Wildflower Honey by Behr. A couple of people have said it’s over the top, and before all the furniture began going into the room, I agreed. But at an estate sale, we found a beautiful shabby chic mirror that inspired the direction the room would take – a collection of present and past. Two small prints, found at an antique store, hang to the left of the mirror. The one is a photograph that could pass for one of my grandmother, or as I always called her, Oma.
As my husband likes to call it, an “I love me” wall, with my Master’s diploma, my independent study certificate of merit, my Writing Studies 2008 Writer Award and baccalaureate honor medals and pins, and my International Baccalaureate plaque with my high school tassel.
A bureau from my childhood bedroom serves as extra book space, and finally a room where my Bob Masse signed Tori Amos poster can hang.