Saturday, December 19, 2009

From Scratch

Most of us start our adult lives with little to nothing. We find our selves in an empty apartment with a few basics from our old room and maybe given items from our parents and friends. We work to build it all up, buying the big items as we can afford them. Eventually your bare white walled apartment becomes a little more like you. Your personality is starting to come through instead of just the hand-me-downs.

I've done this more then a few times. I moved out when I was 18 to a tiny bachelor suite in a heritage building next to a homeless shelter and behind a casino. The place had character but it was definitely lacking in curb appeal. But I didn't care much, I was saving to move to the states. My futon, my sewing machine table, my meters of pink and gold indian sari's used as curtains, the sage green satin back crepe quilt I made and my pea soup green rug filled this empty little place up quickly with colour and my style. I was happy when I got home, despite the neighborhood, because it was my little place.

When I moved to Colorado I only brought the blanket, some pillows and some pictures to decorate with. Here was another place to add too. This cabin style furnished bachelor style condo conspired against me. I took down the paintings of horses and cowboys. I put scarves over the generic cast iron bedside lamps to soften them. I slowly filled it up with used store pieces that pleased me but the country cabin furniture overpowered it.

Then, suddenly, I was back in Edmonton. I was back in a white walled apartment all alone.

I had a few items still stored with various family members and began the task of collecting hand-me-down pieces of furniture and buying my own. It was boring, bare and bland.

This time, at least, I had hard wood floors and walls I could paint.

I was getting use to these small places, they were easier to fill, easier to be at home in. A coat of paint, a few peices of furniture and accessories and suddenly I had a home...again, for the third time.

But eventually it becomes stifling trying to live in a place that offers no room to go. I couldn't fit a wing back chair in there, let alone a couch. I loved my little apartment but I wanted so badly to have a living room and a place to dine.

So I upgraded. I got a 1 bedroom in the same building and enjoyed it in a lot of ways. I painted again (an aubergine bedroom, a half finished green living room). I had enough furniture to fill this place though I wasn't quite happy with the awkward lay out. I was not use to have a living room and a bedroom. I had only ever had a living space that had to pose as every room. This time around, I wasn't alone either. My boyfriend moved in with me and we played house.

The El Mirador, my bachelor was the second set of windows, ground level from the left. My 1 bedroom was within the courtyard with my own front door and back door.

I had plans for every room. What colour they were going to be, style, wall paper (bought and paid, just not applied) until I found out that area of the building was infested with bed bugs. That feeling of disgust you just felt overtook me like a wave. I complained to the landlord, but a solution was never enacted, despite health codes. We ended up sleeping (if you can call it that) in the living room on an air mattress. I had gotten use to having a bedroom and now I didn't even use it. All my furniture became repulsive to me. I couldn't sit anywhere that was upholstered without feeling like running out. Which is exactly what we did. We spent as many hours a day away from the house. Visiting my sister, going out to dinner, going to movies and working. And when we came home to sleep, it was the minimum amount that we needed. We took the first apartment we viewed and moved in half way through the month.

My heart broke as I threw out all the furniture I had collected. A new couch, a bed, a new head board, a wing back chair...most everything that I knew would most likely carry the problem to our new place, was thrown out.

And again...starting from scratch. We've been in our place now for 9 months and again I take on the role of the furniture phoenix. Rising up from the bare walls and the empty rooms and filling them with each piece. And as I was doing the dishes the other night, putting away the forks I thought to myself, "Dear god, I hope I don't have to buy another set of you again." It was a fleeting thought but it left an impression. I'm completely over starting from nothing. I think I've done it more then enough for my lifetime. I can appreciate the excitement of a bare canvas but to have your hard work destroyed each time you start a painting is more then I can handle.

This current place I've hardly decorated as we can't paint the walls (which is frustrating for me). I love that it has the conveniences of a new place (dishwasher, in-suite laundry) but, in a way, I miss my creaky wood floors and imperfect colourful rooms. I'm trying to find a middle ground. But it is hard to find a new building with the charm and heritage of a 70 year old one.

I suppose, like most things, apartment hunting is a thing of compromise.

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