Saturday, April 30, 2016

Aspirational Sconces

For so many of us, apartments are just boxes we live in but for others, they're adorned with the trimmings of a non-transient life. Not just a poster on the wall, for example, but sconces. Not just a couch, but an armchair and matching side tables. I found that I've always been somewhere in the middle myself. I have framed and unframed artwork on the walls, a smattering of tchotchkes on my bookshelf, a weird shortening tin that I use as a side table.

As much as I love New York and I don't foresee myself leaving ever, I notice there is a detachment to the way I approach decorating and perhaps thereby living my home. I have never had champagne-colored chiffon curtains or sculptures or painted my walls like SD; I do not have a mirror decorated with sheet music or a spice rack or a mug rack like M & S do. I don't have incense waiting at the ready or teas displayed in glass jars or the pale white of Christmas lights warming a dark room like S & J. I tell myself it's because I don't have the patience to get in-depth into interiors when I've already hung all my stuff I've wanted to hang on the walls--vintage Rolling Stone magazines and my Marilyn canvas and my photos from backstage at Fashion Week--but really I fear having to uproot myself from a place that doesn't actually belong to me.

Yes, of course, I have wanted to paint an accent wall a deep crimson like Pantone 3546 C  so my home resembles the titular character's bedroom in Along Came Polly, but I always think about how long I might stay in one spot. What if, after spending all of this money and time to paint my wall red I have to move because of something out of my control like the rent going up or my building going condo like last time? I wonder if I stopped spending time thinking about what my dream home would look like because I am already in my dream city and that is enough? 

I was talking with HanOre recently about what we might like our apartments to look like. Her dining room table departed with one of her roommates last year, so there has been a big, open space in her apartment for some time. I mentioned SD's sconces to her as something I aspired to. Not necessarily the same style, but to live in a home where sconces looked like they belonged. Aspirational sconces.
"What kind of sconces would you have?" she asked. I paused to consider.
"Something a 1930s lesbian in Hollywood would have, I think," remembering photographs of homes of stars like Alla Nazimova and Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo, metallic art deco accents lining the walls.
"I understand. We will have these when we are roommates," she promises me. Then I wonder, how does one even decorate with a sconce? Are there nails and hammers or drills involved? Do you space them evenly or just do whatever the hell you want?

But I also wonder if my home really does look like a place where a non-transient human lives, and I'm just in it too often to see otherwise? Or I'm just not all that into clutter besides that brought on by books and magazines which populate probably far too much surface area of my home? I sit on my couch as I write this, staring at my bookshelf. When I moved into this new place, I knew I had to get settled quickly or it would take me months, if not years to do it (I was not wrong...a piece of artwork I got probably two or three years ago only at the beginning of this year finally found itself a home in a frame) so I set up my apartment the exact same way as the last one. This time, though, I decided to change up my bookshelf a little--wild, I know. What will she think of next?? I arranged the books by color instead of just randomly by size. I have more tchotchkes now than I used to, too--a piece of wood from Norway that SP gave me before she left that smells like an entire forest; a bag of coffee from Guatemala given to me by a nomadic writer from my reading series; a 35mm Nikon film camera my aunt gave me that once belonged to her beloved boyfriend. In many ways, my bookshelf feels like the most homey part of my apartment. It looks like something that holds life.

But there are also the bears, Randolph and Matthew, the two four-foot long, massive creatures who keep the living room safe; and Mistress Veronica, a pillow handmade by artist Al Benkin from a screenprint of her friend, a dominatrix of the same name. A poster from the legendary City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco,  a photograph gifted to me by the artist Elaine Hargrove of a couple kissing in the ocean, and so much more that I've brought in here or has in some other way entered my living space that makes it my own, this box I call home inside the city that is more home than any box could be. I still aspire to sconces, but perhaps in the meantime I need to give myself more credit.