When I lived in California, I redid a series of houses in a more-or-less “graduate student’s dream house” style. I had an English cottage phase, where I stood over my husband while he sat at the drawing board — yeah, it was a long time ago — and chanted “steeper roof on that addition, steeper roof,” until he said “Lynn, any steeper and we won’t be able to shingle it.” Then I made him help me hang British racing green wallpaper with little pink roses on it — a plumb-and-level pattern on crooked old walls. We shingled the outside and planted old-fashioned roses. The fireplace mantle piece was supported by plaster casts of those little winged angels that were so popular a couple of decades ago. The house was adorable but the marriage fell apart and we sold to a philosophy professor at USC. I hope she is still there, still enjoying it.
Then I moved on, way on, and eventually settled in a Victorian that I rescued from renter-trashed oblivion — a little reminder that real graduate students have torn paper light shades and cage-free cockatiels — and put in period and repro light fixtures, mainly, before I fell wildly in love, enough to move out of San Francisco and across the bay to bland suburbia. That place went to a very nice couple who both work at SF General. They can walk to work, so I am pretty sure they are still there.
Fortunately for the next house, I was finally over the 19th century. Thanks to the patience and bank account of my endlessly indulgent husband, I was able to turn a rather drab post-war Wrightian ranch house mashup into a pretty nice place. Bless his heart, after every project Robert would pronounce himself well pleased. Year after year we’d do a little more. Finally the house was done. We had one January with no hammers, no saws or drills. In March he had his heart attack. There is a cheap or maybe ironic joke there but I’m still not in the mood to look for it. I couldn’t bear to stay, so the house went to a handsome hedge-fund guy and his pretty wife. I hope they had the baby they said they were trying for. I think it would be a great place to raise kids.
Now I’m back in the 19th century, up to my ears in it. When I chose my paint colors I went for grays and grayed greens — except for the haunted bedroom, which demanded to be painted pink. When I saw how the color choices were playing out, I had a moment of panic. Where was the denim blue? Every one of my homes, every rental, even, has had some spot, at least, where the denim blue flag is planted and my mind can rest. At this house, I don’t know. I don’t even know why it is important to me, it just is and has always been. It could just be one little corner, the one where I place the blue velvet chair and ottoman that I brought from California. We’ll have to see.