The new house is a story-and-a-half. We're down; they're up. One room is just at the top of the stairs and the other is around the corner down this terrifying - terrifying - hallway. (It is actually not the door that you see, which is to the attic, but rather just at the end to the left. It is doubly terrifying because the door to the attic is right there. I think.)
With the light on is only slightly, well, worse. Eerier somehow. I practically skip down it. None of the boys have mentioned that they think it is scary, but I very nearly had to medicate the night I painted the room by myself while the house was still empty.
And while they haven't seen The Shining,
they have seen Harry Potter and, goodness knows, nothing good every happens in a long stretch of hallway like this. At least in the movies.
And, to finish off this series (and you have been incredibly game this week) here is my kitchen sink. It's lovely. The entire kitchen is lovely, if not exactly as I would have designed it, really lovely. Nothing to complain about. Yet, I never fully realized how much I need, and love (yes, love) my sprayer until I didn't have one.
Now, I can see myself as the kind of girl who would say, "I'd rather have a clean counter. No sprayer. They're silly."
But what I'm finding during clean-up is that I am chasing things around this increasingly large bowl.
The flow of the faucet and the slope of the sink are insufficiently corralling the ick (the same stuff that was delicious just five minutes before) and I am left chasing it around with cups of water. Pouring and sloshing first this side, then that side. For what seems like minutes, at least.
Hmmm..? Use my hand? Well, yes, I could, but, you see, I don't like to get my hands messy (maybe this is why I don't like to cook or garden) and, I hate to get wet.
Go ahead, Dr. Freud, and draw all the conclusions you want. Harken back to the shower post if you must, but these are just the facts, Jack.
My list of the things I love about this house (wait until you hear about the microwave) will play out over the next year. These things are minor. Tics. We're just getting acquainted.
We are long on closets, lucky with closets, lousy with closets. Not only are they numerous, plentiful and many, they are big. Cavernous, yawning, monumental. Two, here in the entry.
Another in the family room.
This one in the den. And they are all, perhaps, within five to ten giant steps of one another. Kissing cousins.
Our closet, too, to the left, is ample. It's a complete and total disaster (they all are, which is why they are being so dodgy with the paparazzi) but I think it will suit us just fine.
So, my beef? My bitch? My befuddlement? No linen closet. Nothing. Nada. Nowhere.
And here is where you will think I am bizarro and not the house. This stackable washer/dryer hook-up to the right of the master closet? Yeah, I think I'll skip that. Who needs that hovering nag there every day just as I get home from work-out and coffee? Why be confronted with constant guilt before I am out the door for lunch and a hc/hilite? How could I enjoy a pre-carpool cocktail haunted by the thought that I could so easily be doing laundry?
Shelves is the answer. A respectable linen closet to save these wayward sheets and tablecloths. Washer and dryer firmly knowing their place in the basement. Visitation on Sundays. As it should be.
We have been in the house for two weeks. In that time we have moved all our worldly possessions, sorted some, put a few away (fewer than I would care to admit), set up a Christmas tree, had visits from Santa and a few relatives and cooked some meals. Any and all remaining brain cells have been focused on trying to remember which of the one-thousand-and-one light switches turn on the one-thousand lights. The light switch, above, turns on these three spots in the living room.
But this switch, very close by and logically a candidate for the living room lights,
turns on these very small spots in the pseudo-hall which appear to do nearly nothing.
This switch in the hallway by the kitchen
turns on this can light.
While this switch at the other end of the three-foot hallway
turns on this can. Also, three feet away. Because, seriously, there might be a situation in which you would want one end of the three-foot passageway lit, but not the other.
These three switches control the lights in the powder room. Yes, three switches. In the powder room.
One controls this fixture over the sink,
while one controls this can light over the toilet. (Get it?) The other controls the fan. In the powder room.
This switch controls the light in the closet to the right that is set up for a stackable washer and dryer that would fill the entire closet.
While there are no appliances in this closet currently, it appears I will be able to read clearly when sitting on top of the dryer.
The switch, below, is for the master closet which is pictured, above, to the left. It is inside the closet and is the second switch I flip every single time I want to turn on the master closet light.
It's like a game of Concentration. Still, it has only been two weeks. Surely by Spring I will have it all figured out. I know Mr. Blandings is hoping to find the light switch that turns off the outside lights by then. The neighbors are probably hoping he will, too.
This week between Christmas and New Year's always seems a little Twilight Zone-ish. Not this, not that, and we are all biding our time until the next day off, wandering the halls, not getting a whole lot accomplished. In honor of this, though the only halls I wander are my own, I am posting bizarre things about the new house.
We moved about ten days ago and a few times I have said, "I think I might love this house," like we are on our third date. But there are quirky things about it. Like our shower. Our bathroom has no door and our shower has no door, and is open at the top on two sides. It's chilly. It's also amazingly, amusingly big.
The shower itself is five feet by four feet, ten inches, which is larger by about five square feet than one of my first apartment's bathroom. It has, as you might have noticed, two shower heads. When we decided to make an offer on the house Mr. Blandings, standing just outside the shower non-door, said, "I am embarrassed for my mother to see this." "Well. It's not as if you designed it, then you really would be in a spot where you would be saying, 'See what we like to do?' This is just coincidence."
Still, as I am standing, shivering, I am wondering the rationale behind the design. Honestly, it seems utilitarian above all as the water, even if aimed at the same spot, seems to hit about mid-calf. I wondered with Mrs. Grizwald if she thought it was really just a time saver, so two people could get ready simultaneously. She mused, "Really, in the hopes of maintaining any appeal, the last thing I'd want to be doing in front of Mr. Grizwald is daily maintenance."
To another friend I said, "I could water my plants while I shower. Or do my hand-washing." "Or you could have group sex," she supplied. I could, I suppose, though in forty-five years I haven't and it seems a little late to start. Plus, there would be all the towels to wash. It occurred to me that my children would likely beat me to it. And would be unlikely to wash the towels. Both thoughts were concerning.
I have, jokingly, said to friends that we could have coffee in there sometime. I set it up to see if this were, indeed, a possibility, and while it is, it seemed a little chilly. Wine and chintz and upholstery seemed a better solution; you're welcome to join me anytime.
It has been a flurry of activity readying this white Christmas. The boys are placing their usual demands of cookies and Christmas Eve bowling (a Blandings family tradition) so things must seem even to them. My office, and the basement, are piled high with boxes, but no one seems to think piles of boxes of books are any different than rows of shelves of books, so all is well.
My husband, and our contractor friend, assure me that the click and rattle in the ducts is just the way they are responding to the heat and not the rodent infestation that I suspect (what house of mine would be complete without mythical mice?) and I am sleeping easy assuring myself that not a creature is stirring.
"Could you stop at The Dime Store and buy white lights? I can't find any."
"Hi. There are packages of 50 and 100. Should I buy two?"
"I'm confused. Two what?"
"Two packages of lights."
"Wait. Two hundred lights?"
"Um. No," and she considered telling him one-thousand, but knew that in relation to his assumption that two hundred would likely be more than enough that this would lead to a conversation for which neither one of them had the energy, "get eight hundred."
"OK, six. Six hundred."
And in the year of scaling back and not making a fuss, of only putting up the tree and hanging the stockings, it was fine. Though she knew, every evening at dusk, that two hundred more lights would have made all the difference.
You know what I was thinking yesterday? While I was surrounded with children and boxes and mess? Wouldn't it be dandy if one could have Paul Smith stripe wallpaper? No, no, I know, there are things that are similar. But not quite this.
A special thanks to Lonny for including me in their holiday issue. I bet you've seen it already and it is chocked full of terrific images and inspiration. If not, you can click over here. It was such a treat to work with Robert Leleux and Shawn Gauthier, thank you, thank you, again.
p.s. We are actually moving today so things may be a little spotty for a bit.
Things are looking up as my Del Toro shoes have arrived. I was hoping they would be able to get out and about in all their velvety goodness. Especially as my boots could use a rest. Especially as I could use a rest talking about my boots. Shut up.
They are, really, beautifully made, I just wish I had some Go To Hell socks or pants to wear with them. Don't miss that little piece of red grosgrain ribbon at the heel. Onward.
Things should seem a little upside-down and you would think that I would be repacking the things at the in-between house, but I'm not. It could be denial that I have to finish the second half of a quite unpleasant task or it could be the wine. Still, I am passing my time going through tear sheets culling inspiration for the "new" house. The house whose move's only appeal is its past tense. The as-yet-unnamed house.
So while I look one more time for my evening shoes (they were here, I swear they were) we can consider Mica Ertegun's Ellsworth Kelly (I do like Ellsworth Kelly) and sparkling silver (oh, I do like silver) and the William IV table. Yes, I have a thing for William IVs, too.
Image, House & Garden, March 1987 (Oh, March, 1987 I remember you well. My friend and I were skating through our last, light, semester in college with many big nights out on a small town. Even as I was gathering my rosebuds I wished I'd picked a few more. Fraught with manufactured stress I did not realize that that was the last of my freedom.) design by Mica Ertegun; photography Oberto Gili.
There is a lovely picture (which I've cropped badly) of a Windsor Smith project in the January issue of Architectural Digest. The minute I saw the room I remembered it from a post on Corbu's Cave, painter Scott Waterman's blog.
That subtle, luminous chinoiserie shimmering on the wall is not paper, rather painting. But the really remarkable thing about it is the process. You can read how the project was conceived and executed here.
Image, top, Architectural Digest, January 2011, design by Windsor Smith, photography Erhard Pfeiffer; next via Corbu's Cave.
We close on the house on Wednesday, take care of some unfortunate mold, and move on Saturday. (Assuming all goes as planned. Knock wood. Throw salt. Spit.)
I've had a few friends say, "You're not putting up a tree, are you?" "Surely you are not decorating for Christmas?" Heavens. Of course. We have a seven-year-old for the love of Pete (and a 10-year-old and a 14-year-old.) Some things are non-negotiable. Christmas is non-negotiable. (There is also talk of a puppy and I'd like to say I am the voice of sanity, but I rarely am and, in this case, I absolutely am not.)
But as much as I love making our holiday cards, as much as I dig a paper craft, it may be the one thing that I skip. The current plan has two card sizes, a printed sticker and a couple of stick-on jewels to accompany the picture. "It looks like a truck, right?" To which they responded, "Um. Sure. Sort of. Maybe you could paint on a grill. And wheels. Could you make the wheels turn?" Darling, I can make holiday magic the likes of which you have never imagined. But maybe not this year.
Images from Harpers Bazaar, December, 2010. Photography by Lacey and this really amazing paper art by Su Blackwell. I thought these shots would be included in a larger story in the magazine, but they are not. Just like a little something in your stocking that you might overlook if you didn't reach all the way into the toe. You can see more of her work here. Other, completely unrelated paper art at Mondoblogo.
I wandered into one of my favorite shops eight years ago to buy a dog ball and, through a very indirect route, ended up here writing about decorating, my family and life. My posts are not as frequent as they used to be, but you're welcome to drop in anytime.
What's that? Why "Mrs. Blandings?" Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House is a 1940's movie starring Cary Grant and Myrna Loy chronicling their adventures in renovating. In the movie, Loy delivers an iconic description of paint colors that nearly every design aficionado knows by heart. She is my muse.
Email me directly at blandings . dreamhouse @ gmail.com or