Sunday, June 5, 2011

Sprucing Up The Place

This was the view from our kitchen while I was making coffee early this morning. I couldn't resist the green outside the window after looking at bare grey branches all winter. You can see the ghost of my reflection in the window in the next picture.

So, inspired by Mark, I thought I'd do a process piece to document our efforts of the past two weeks. The main challenge with apartment living is clutter. There is never enough storage space, so objects eventually begin living out in the open, piling up in corners, on chairs or against walls. Our son took a stand against the pile-up when he cleared out his room before leaving for England. We have been trying to follow his lead—and do a little sprucing up—since. 

This was my son's room after the great purge. He got rid of practically everything, but for his medals and bed and desk and dresser and a few books and sports equipment that he stored in the closet. The room looked pretty empty and dejected when he was done, which was not helped by the fact that the walls hadn't been painted in almost a decade.

This is how the room looks now, after my daughter and I got finished with it. The walls are freshly painted in decorator's white (it's what we had in the hall closet), we got a new bigger bed for my man-sized boy, and brought in a new chair and shelf from Ikea and wall decor from Home Goods. We debated whether that wave-patterned comforter from Crate and Barrel looked too feminine, then I saw it was reduced from $159 to $40 and decided it went with our beach shack inspiration nicely. The orange and green painting on the far wall is one my son did back in middle school.

My husband says the room looks like someone who watches too much HGTV got hold of it. I beg to differ. If I had painted that wall behind the bed in an accent color, as I wish I had, then he might have a point. The lifeguard painting is supposed to symbolize my son's core desire to guard life. It's a good metaphor for him, and it works literally, too. He is not only a certified lifeguard, but this spring he also got certified to teach life-guarding, for which he will earn extra this summer.

Not much changed on this side of the room. That's the faithful old desk at which I wrote my first book, and where my son later dawdled over hours of homework, often falling asleep there with his head on his books. The pink and green stick in the corner is a pole vault pole he broke during a track meet. For some reason he is attached to it and brought it home from college. He told us that when he fell from that great height, he lay on his back for a while thinking, Okay, are you alive? Check. Can you move your torso? Check. Okay, dude, you're going to be okay.

His dresser is still a repository for myriad medals and trophies in track, soccer and basketball. Below are a few photos from the day when everything was thrown out, which was also prom day for my daughter.

My son managed to convince his sister, cousin and best friend to help him with the decluttering. The atmosphere was almost festive, with music on Pandora pounding in the background.

My son's best friend, a neighbor who has been a regular in our home since both boys were toddling around in nursery school, scored the navy blue chinos he is wearing in this picture. He declined the brightly colored shirts, however. My son generally introduces his friend as his brother, which confuses people and causes them to look cross-eyed at my husband. But really, we do think of him as our other son.

The clearing out unearthed a wood-shop bowling alley and movie theater mall that my daughter's five best friends made for her in fourth grade to cheer her up on a day when she was moody. Here she is showing her cousin the levels of the construction. The bowling alley is in her hand. Underneath it is the movie theater, carefully crafted seats and all.

The mall continued to delight my girl all afternoon. But it's a challenge to store, which is how it ended up in her brother's closet. It has now found a new home in her room.

Food break. My daughter is holding up the boutonniere that she would later forget to take for her prom date. Her brother and cousin had gone to get it for her the day before. Her brother even paid for it. And now it lives in our freezer, with my daughter conducting an experiment to see if it will last indefinitely, maybe even till next year's prom.

The preferred snack of the day was grilled cheese panini on organic rye with butter and extra sharp cheddar. For some reason, this really hit the spot for the workers. The bags held clothing and toys to be donated to our church. Many more bags of stuff went into the dumpster behind our building.

My daughter later got inspired and decided she had stuff to clear out of her room too. She winnowed her stuffed animal collection by half, not that you would notice the difference. There is still a small country of them hanging out in her room. Below is my daughter's room before we rearranged it to fit the twin bed that used to be in my son's room. Yes, her space was crying out for attention.

Here is her room after some tender loving care. The second bed will come in super handy for my niece, who always opts for the living room couch rather than the trundle under my daughter's bed. Somehow they were always too lazy to pull it out.

One thing is sure. We have a lot of space for company now. Which is good, because company arrives today. My son and his friend are in flying from London to New York as I write this, arriving this afternoon. My cousin who lives in Trinidad, will be staying with us next weekend. And our friend from Antigua, the woman who introduced my husband and me, arrives the week after. We need as many sleeping spots as we can get in this house. 

We still have half a wall of cluttered bookshelves to tackle in my daughter's room, but we'll get to that when she finishes final exams next week. Come to think of it, she is always doing final exams in the midst of a major household chaos brought by the college kids coming home. I wonder what her grades would be like if she had peace and calm during finals every year. Okay, I'm off the tidy up the rest of the place and get some flowers to greet our guest. Later, y'all. 


  1. I love this post and read each and every charming word. Both rooms are worthy of Apartment Therapy -- do you know that fantastic website? So much better than HDTV!

    I'm still marveling that your son would have the wherewithal and skills to do such a fabulous job organizing -- you've raised him so well, Angella! :)

  2. OH MY GOD, this is spectacular, the metamorpheses, the descriptions, the photos, the bloggingness of it all, it's just so cool and great and did I hear you say 'your first novel' - what the hell? Who are you? what are you hiding?
    You are amazing. Thank you for this, as you are maybe feeling like you're visiting Paaris, this makes me feel like I've got a cozy beautiful NYC apartment.

    Wonderful. \
    I hope this comment goes through...
    Damn, it's got that select profile again, which screws me up for some reason...grrrr...
    okay - I will have to be anonymous again.
    love Deirdre

  3. And I love what you did with your son's room, it's perfect.

  4. Elizabeth, i love apartment therapy. i used to have it linked but i spent too much time on it at work! my son did an amazing clearing out, it shocked us, too.i feel like he helped us unstick the gears. my room will be the mountain to climb, because i have to motivate the husband. wish me luck! or magic.

    Deirdre, come on over! As you can see, there is space for you to rest your head. And I'm nobody you ever heard of, just someone who wrote a couple of books that very few people bought. Glad I got that out of my system. Blogging is much more fun! i get to visit Paris with you!

  5. I had no idea either!!! You secret author!!! How very wonderful, Angella! Can I use any more exclamation marks!!

    I loved this post and took my time with it. So relaxing to read/look at!

  6. Wow your son's room is awesome, I really like what you did with it: the colors, the fabric, the lighting... And then how great of your you and your daughter to create sleeping quarters all around! I'm sure your niece will love having a special place in your daughter's room! Your house is beautiful and cosy and inviting! No wonder everyone seems to drop by all the time! Have a great sunday!

  7. Wow, the place looks so GREAT! Now I'm psyched to get to work on our new apartment in London! (As soon as we find one, that is.)

  8. Loveliness all around. I wish I could get the inspiration to do something with my old house. This is almost enough....

  9. Ok, I know I *always* say this but you and R make the cutest babies. You have one seriously gorgeous family.

    Also, I love your apartment and I'm moving in. Your niece and I can share, right? :-)

  10. Fun to see your place! Love your red KitchenAid.

  11. Maggie May, i love your exclamation marks. And your story just published is brilliant!

    Miss A, thank you thank you thank you. I showed your comment to my husband!

    Steve, there is nothing better than moving into a new place and getting to set it up anew. Be sure to take pictures! I'm so excited for you.

    Ms. Moon, just start with one corner. Just one. Somehow, it builds from there. On the other hand, it took us years to finally get here. My son really did take the lead.

    Koshercritter, you can say that as often as you please! Haha. And yes, there is always a place here to rest your head.

    Tess, it was our daughter's Christmas present. She uses it all the time and thinks it may be her best present ever.