Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Southwest in the Northeast

Yesterday I admitted that I had dabbled for a moment with the Southwest trend back in the late 80's. I did resist until it was just about over, but the end of my first marriage and a resulting empty office/guest room space (he took the desk and computer - I took the car), left me with an opportunity to make a fresh start in that room. 

You will recall, I did not have a solid grip on choosing paint colours at that stage, so what ended up on the walls was a bloody awful salmony version of terracotta that was an epic fail, however, I lived with it as I was too lazy and in too big of a hurry to transform the room to re-paint. There was also the question as to how much longer I would be living in that apartment now that he was gone. Most older apartment buildings in those days (a 3 story walk-up) had the old 2 inch strip oak hardwood floors that were stained a sort of orangey-gold, so the paint colour did not work at all with the floors. I remedied that problem with an area carpet in a toned down shade of the room creating what could only be considered the equivalent of living inside a giant acorn squash. 

A fold out Ikea sofa bed was purchased and since the colour choices were limited, I went with the most unoffending of the lot. It was a taupey stone colour - khaki brown at best and the most likely colour one would find in New Mexico or the desert where this decor trend must have originated. The thing with colour schemes that work well in other parts of the world is that they don't really translate all that well in an apartment in Toronto. I persevered. Next I would need some actual terracotta pots. The room did boast a fairly large north facing window which meant it kept fairly cool in the summer, but was not the ideal location for the row of cactus that now graced the windowsill. Nor did it do much for the grouping of larger cacti in the corner of the room. 

The jump off point for the colour scheme was a Mexican blanket I had carted home with me from Mexico a few years earlier. It had never really found itself at home anywhere at the time, but now it was time for it to shine. It hung on the wall adding some much needed texture and doing double duty as a cover-up for the paint mistake. The art that I hung over the sofa was a watercolour of The Hooker Track in New Zealand that I finally had framed after many years rolled up in a cardboard tube. I chose a rather rustic looking wood frame, and the painting was a moody grey and cloudy version of that landscape, so it worked perfectly.

On another wall, I hung a framed Tapa cloth from Fiji that I had found on that same South Pacific adventure in 1979. I also hung a hand carved wooden bowl and a pair of cannibal forks creating a bit of a sculptural element in the room. A bentwood rocker (remember those?) sat in the corner by the window. The frame was painted black (every room needs a hit of black!) and it became a reading corner where I devoured self-help books by the truckload on my healing journey through heartbreak.  In the end, it did not look too bad considering the minor mistakes and looking back, I can see that creativity was my therapy. The devastation I felt at the collapse of my very short marriage left me wondering who I had become and feeling I had lost myself in the 6 years we spent together. 

The arranging of all these elements of  my past travels and the expression of the solitary new me got me through those first few months of grief and reminded me how far I had come versus dwelling on the failure of the marriage.  I did not live in that apartment for much longer. Eventually the cacti that had been over-watered started to long for a sunnier spot at about the same time I was ready to move forward. Or sideways as it turned out. 

Vancouver. The west coast. It was there, that I really started to pursue interior decorating, as well as an entire new chapter in my life. 

Stay tuned.

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