Editor’s Note: The idea of purchasing and renovating a home is a dream that many carry, but few of us stop to consider the complications and complexities of the process until we are already knee-deep in drywall debris. Lisa Przystup, a writer, florist, and frequent contributor to Front + Main has been kind enough to share her journey of home ownership with us. Check out the first installment here. Enjoy!
Illustration by Tallulah Fontaine
The scene of the first night in our new home was a predictably spartan one that echoed collegiate years of the past: the previous owner had kindly left us a mattress and box spring on the floor of the bedroom to the right of the stairs, across the way from what my husband has unexpectedly dubbed “the baby’s room” (no baby, not yet, just a sweet thought that precedes the terrifyingly wonderful reality of such a thing). After we sat on the front porch and toasted the ebbing fall foliage with the man who sold us our home—mugs filled with the cold contents of a bottle of wine we had brought for the occasion—we made our way into the empty house. This was the first time we had ever stood in it alone. Up until this point we were accompanied by an entourage of realtors, home inspectors, electricians, contractors, and AirBnB guests whose weekend was interrupted by our traipsing dream. Now, standing there the feeling was surreal and hushed. I felt the same reverence that one feels when walking into a cathedral: awe with a profound wanting to be a part of this big thing. Then one of us yelled “THIS IS OURS!!!!!! THIS BELONGS TO US!!!! AAAAAAAAH!” (We still shout some variation of this at least once every time we are up at the house like some sort of mating call to our home.)
We wandered the downstairs for a bit before heading upstairs to the bedrooms. Our hand-me-down bed floated in the middle of the room, looking like a barge in a sea that offered no visual anchors. It was dressed with fresh linens and a pair of marshmallowy pillows that rested on top, still encased in the stiff, plastic bags they were sold in. The thoughtfulness of it all killed me. Before coming up for the weekend, my husband and I had prepared ourselves for our first stay with the same level of fearful excitement that has been reserved in the past for grocery store runs in preparation for some extreme weather occurrence. We knew there would be almost nothing in the house, so we basically treated it like a camping trip. In truth, we weren’t exactly slumming it. We slept deeply and woke up in the room that, by merit of being the first one we slept in, would be the master bedroom.
There’s a third bedroom across the landing. It’s set apart from the other two bedrooms that in my mind comprise the “west wing” of the house. Being directionally challenged with a tendency to exaggerate grandeur (I also call the defeated entryway to our apartment building a “foyer”) this name is likely 98% inaccurate. The merits of the third room as a master bedroom were pointed out to us by our friends: it gets great light and it’s set apart from the other two bedrooms, which is ideal for guests and hosts alike. After much back-and-forth deliberation we finally settled on it as the one.
The biggest challenge of decorating an entire house is the sheer scale and wide possibilities of it. Coming from a Brooklyn railroad apartment where the biggest stylistic decision is whether or not to use your oven as storage, this sort of sprawling canvas can be pretty paralyzing. Up until now, we had lived in a space that’s basically the city version of a double-wide trailer minus the wood paneling. Our choices had been limited by space, which made decorating all the more easier—we really had no option but to put the bed there and the dresser there and a chair there and by then our bedroom was pretty much full up.
The focal point of our new master bedroom would be a four-poster dream of a bed that I found on Craigslist. Our bed (and beds in general) are already hands-down some of my most favorite places and this one, with its turned wood posters like pulled, twisted taffy made very real the threat that I might never leave the turreted universe it provided. The only thing was that it was green and not the inky black I wanted it to be. An issue remedied by Jonathon who was roped into painting the frame like this:
Me: “It’s beautiful isn’t it? ‘We’ can paint it black, right?”
Jonathon: “By ‘we’ you mean ‘me,’ right?”
Which leads me to the next chapter of the room wherein Jonathon decided to spray paint the frame indoors on the newly painted, perfectly glossy white floors. To his credit, it was too cold to spray paint outside, so we really had no choice but to do it indoors, but that choice felt like a really, really bad (stupid) idea—right in line with strapping cardboard wings to your arms and jumping off a cliff to see if you can fly or tweeting at 3:00 AM. But I wanted it black and I wanted it now.
He covered the walls and floors with tarp and a layer of newspaper but spray paint, being the pervasive thing that it is, found its way to the white floors like a moth to a flame and we were left with the imprints of misted borders of newspaper tracked all over our previously pristine white floors. At this point I decided it was a good idea to forget all about our mutual decision and take a more “I told you this wasn’t a good idea what were you thinking just putting newspapers down I can’t believe I let you do this I hope you have fun repainting the floors and the walls of this room now we’re two weeks behind where we even wanted to be.”
Somehow we recovered from that setback and the bed frame is dark as night, popping against the freshly painted (thanks to Jonathon) white floors and walls, which used to be a jaundiced yellow shade. Once that was in place, we tacked a piece of indigo fabric to the doorway of the closet and went on to take the same approach with our window treatments, tacking white linen tablecloths over the room’s two windows. We rifled through the stockpile of things we had ferreted away in storage all these years and found a rug that used to belong to his mother. It’s a beautifully faded thing that’s a dusty shade of sand with muted blue accents and it now lays at the food of the bed like a loyal dog. We added a dresser that was left for us and covered it with a piece of white linen—if you’re paying attention, this is basically my solve for everything, next to white paint. A coat rack fit nicely in the far corner of the room, we installed two wall-mounted lights and placeholder nightstands at each side of the bed, and viola, the room was finished (ish). It’s sparse, but after watching all our possessions and tchotchkes stumble over each other in our Brooklyn apartment for the past five years, it feels like a much needed deep breath. And as of now, from where I stand, the memory of the spray paint fiasco is a distant memory.