Hopeful days

Window sunset

When Spencer bought his home two years ago this month, we began moving him piece by piece — bag by bag — until the rented home he shared with roommates morphed into his brand-new condo filled with all his belongings.

Even in the moment those hot June days, I was already hit with a wave of nostalgia. What’s the term for missing something that hasn’t even happened yet? I knew the place would never be that empty again. And in my still-sort-of-a-new-girlfriend-but-hopeful state, I couldn’t shake the feeling that his home would someday become our home.

As we inch closer and closer to that happening, I’m the one moving in shoe by shoe (literally) these days. The early evenings when we’d collapse on the living room floor are long gone, but last week still found us huddled around the open windows watching the end of a dissipating summer storm.

That was our entertainment in those early days: without a couch or TV or cable (eh, still no cable), we’d talk over cold sodas in newly-set-up camp chairs near the windows after all the work was done.

In the midst of wedding planning, moving and arranging a thousand other big and small upheavals, I needed to remember those simple, hopeful days.

That sunset was truly beautiful.

The Great Schlepping of Things ’11

We’ve been through a battle.

After two months of packing, moving and relocating, Spencer is finally — like for real, for real — all moved into his new condo. We spent yesterday cleaning out the very last bit of stuff in his old garage at the old house, sweeping and dusting and packing in 100-degree heat (with 100 percent humidity). And little air conditioning.

Since my boyfriend became a homeowner in early June, the transition between old home and new home has been exhausting and daunting and scary. We were eternally grateful for his mom and dad’s help in the moving process when they visited in early July, but so much still lingered in no-man’s land between the two residences.

But it’s done. DONE. No more cruising between both places. No more dry cardboard-box hands or sweaty lumbering up staircases with random heavy objects. No more collapsing on the floor at the end of the night because I can’t physically move another moment. My arms and legs and back will be glad for the break, let me tell you — but I fully acknowledge that for every box I moved, Spencer moved four.

So I know he’s happy, too.

After the Great Schlepping of Things ’11, you’d think I’d be thin as a reed by now . . . but not the case. Of course, I tend to reward myself for a job well done with a well-timed trip to Dairy Queen, so . . . you know. That doesn’t help the Moving Weight Loss Plan in the least.

But it’s done. Done. After taking the final truckload of belongings to the condo and enjoying the working elevator’s ability to get us from the first to second floors, I’m thrilled to say that Spencer’s home sweet home is home now. Once and for all.

I’ve also gone from hemming and hawing about bathroom color schemes to breaking down and investing. In the end, I think the scheme I chose is a good balance of both masculine and feminine: dark brown and Tiffany blue. The plain bathroom has morphed into something slightly more visually intriguing, though I still have a long way to go. (I love that art on the wall, though.)

But the living room has gone from this . . .

. . . to this:

That’s right, my friends: no more folding chairs. That’s good old-fashioned furniture and an honest-to-God vintage-style New York City poster to hang on the wall. Plus? Chairs and other decorations. Actual decor.

There’s also a repurposed ice chest in that nook. You can’t actually see the ice chest, but it’s green and made of wood. We’re using it as an end table, which makes it a bargain; Spencer picked it up at the Salvation Army last year for $10. I forgot he even had it until he and his parents brought it up from the basement. Win!

And I’m super excited about an Eiffel Tower lamp I found at Christmas Tree Shop. Spence likes Paris the way I love London, so we already have a travel theme developing. (We have awesome London and Paris black-and-white dinnerware, too, but I keep forgetting to snap photos of the dishes.)

Life has been very chaotic, of course. I’ve been slammed at work and trying to keep my head above water, so dressing the ol’ nest has gone by the wayside the past few weeks. But as summer winds down and life returns to a normal level of insane, we can get back to fixing the place up and just relaxing.

Then maybe I’ll stop making this face.

Masculine vs. feminine

So we’re still busy moving Spencer into his new home in a neighboring town, but things are definitely coming along! Elevator or no elevator, the boxes are stacking up in the living room, the kitchen is stocked and the fridge is no longer emptied of anything but cherries, wine and Pepsi Max.

And now comes the fun part. While I fully recognize that this is Spencer’s house and Spencer’s stuff, I’m the girlfriend who enjoys prancing over and decorating. I’ve never had a blank palate with which to work or my “own” space outside of my bedroom. That might be why I’m so obsessed with decorating my office — choosing artwork and furniture; spicing it up just so. It’s mine.

Spence has been very good-natured about letting me organize things. While I would never be so bold as to wantonly stick stuff where I would want it, he hasn’t been micro-managing where I put every little fork or pair of scissors or shirt. It’s been a collaboration. And I’m trying to remember that Spencer is:

a) A man; it’s one of the things I like most about him.
b) Not interested in anything pink;
c) A man; and
d) A man.

Also, that he is living there full-time and will thus be subject to my whims . . . and I will not.


I’m being good. I’ve resisted the urge to order every print from this Etsy shop and paper the walls with them (though I’m in love with everything there, especially this). The only pink item in the condo right now is a cherry blossom soap dispenser, and I’m not going to lie — I love it. The fresh scent. The girlie bottle. Everything.

I’m terrible.

And I’ve decided that, rather than subject my sweet guy to my eclectic decorating fancies, I’m going to have one pet project: the guest bathroom.

Not the main bathroom, I should note. Not Spencer’s bathroom. But the secondary bathroom, the one reserved for visitors and, you know, me.

That will be my baby.

I will not do anything pink or feminine or crazy. I will not put a vase of fake flowers on the counter. I will stick to neutrals with punches of color and I will not, under any circumstances, put something that my boyfriend hates in my boyfriend’s own condo.

But other than that? Well, I’m going for it.

And we have a blank slate. The tile is light brown with a faux marble finish; the walls are a very light beige, almost white, so compatible with just about anything. The cabinets are a dark maple (see photo). I’d like to stick in the brown/cream range with an accent color — maybe red? turquoise? blue? I haven’t decided. I think I’m waiting for the right shower curtain to appear in my life, introduce itself and then hop into my cart at Target.

We were there on Sunday evening after a long, hot day of moving boxes and furniture with our friend, Eric. Spence pushed the cart as we wandered through the bathroom fixtures area, taking note of the different patterns and textures (and price tags). Everything that caught my eye — because it was pretty; because it was feminine; because it was unique — was not something that pleased my boyfriend.

I’ve never had to marry styles before. I’ve never dated a man who had his own place before. And, more than anything, I’ve never been instrumental in the establishment of a home before, so this is all totally new to me.

And I don’t want to think this is totally masculine vs. feminine. I would like to believe that I’m evolved enough to enjoy a tastefully decorated room even if it hasn’t been dipped in pastels or bright colors, florals or a fleur-de-lis. Though I know Spence would never go for a neon-pink bathroom, it’s not like I would really want that, either.

But I want this to be awesome. Classy and simple but lovely and put-together. I want it to be a grown-up, uncluttered and adult space.

Yes, I realize it’s just a bathroom. And it’s not like I’m being tested on any of this.

So why does it feel like such a paramount decision? Why am I spending so much time looking at shower curtains and minute details that, in the grand scheme of things, are probably not a big deal?

Because I like projects, I think. And because I love him. And because I want this space to feel like home.

So my search continues.

Hey — seen any cool shower curtains lately?

Beginning the move

Spencer is moving.

After months of planning and prep, my boyfriend is beginning the process of relocating to the new condo he now proudly owns — and that means I’m dusting off my never-done-a-day-of-hard-labor-in-her-life hands and pitching in.

We’ve been talking about “The Move” for so long now, it’s hard to believe that we’re actually . . . you know, moving. Spencer has been diligently packing boxes and preparing his life for transit, a process I find overwhelming. I’ve never moved. At 25, I still sleep in my childhood bed in my childhood home, a place I’ve shared with my parents and sister for decades. I didn’t even leave for college, choosing to stay close to home and commute.

I don’t know what it’s like to dismantle your world and start over somewhere new — which is just what Spencer did when he moved here from New York. That sort of transition terrifies me, but it’s something he seems to embrace — not always, I mean. It is scary, too, even for someone as even-keeled and rational as my boyfriend. But Spence doesn’t let things bother him to the degree that I do . . . rather than shunning change, he tries to keep moving forward. Always.

It’s one of the things I love about him.

When I arrived on Sunday to start hauling boxes, I made sure I was in shorts and a loose top — necessary garb for the Maryland heat. Spencer was crouched over a stack of stuff when I walked in, labeling the outside of cardboard boxes with Sharpie. We jumped on in.

You know, I wouldn’t call myself a lazy person — I like to get out in the world and do things, even if that doesn’t always involve things like “exercise” — but the idea of schlepping heavy boxes between his two residences was daunting. The muscles I developed from carrying hardcovers during my bookseller days have gone soft, leaving me a sleepy shell of a woman. I’m not energetic. And on Sunday? Well, I was still recovering from a friend’s awesome bridal shower and my grandfather’s birthday party the evening before . . . not me at my sunniest.

But I perservered. Even when we arrived to Spencer’s new building to learn the elevator was broken (really, Universe?). Even after we’d scampered up and down the stairs at least a dozen times, panting more with each step. Even after I lost my grip on the new set of pots I’d gotten Spence for his birthday, which sent them smashing into the concrete floor (they were miraculously undamaged).

By the time 9 p.m. rolled around, we’d made two trips between homes and unpacked most of his kitchen items. The empty pantry shelves are now crowded with pasta and macaroni and cheese, and we’d had the foresight to grab a few cases of sodas to put in the just-turned-on fridge for later. Exhausted from the work, all we wanted was to sit and sip a little caffeine.

But we had no furniture.

It’s funny all that we take for granted . . . from having a couch on which to perch to paper towels in the kitchen. Scissors in a junk drawer. Toilet paper in the bathroom. Never before have I started a home from scratch — and never before have I loved someone who was doing just that. It feels so exciting, an adventure — a location that has no memories attached to it beyond the ones we will create; a free place to explore and convert and create from the ground up. We can paint it. We can tile it. We can hang whatever we like on it.

But even without furniture, we made the best of it — above, Spencer sprawled out on the floor to check the strength of his Wifi signal. (You know — important things first.) We used the windowsill as a “table,” propping up our lukewarm drinks. We had no television or radio. Nowhere to sit; nothing to do but unpack.

But it stilled my mind, you know? Eliminated all distractions. When the final boxes of the day were brought up from the car, we opened the windows on a starry, quiet night and collapsed on the carpet. From one of his new windows, a sliver of moon was just visible behind the trees. Though so tired, I felt . . . so happy.

And though we have several weekends of much more intensive moving ahead of us, it will only get better from here.