Freakish Overlap

We need objects to remind us of the commitments we've made. That carpet from Morocco reminds us of the impulsive, freedom-loving side of ourselves we're in danger of losing touch with. Beautiful furniture gives us something to live up to. All designed objects are propaganda for a way of life.

-- Alain de Botton

'Too green," David said, shaking his head at the slip of paper I was holding against the wall. "How 'bout this one?"

"Too brown. I hate brown." This he said calmly, as though stating a simple, known fact -- brown is bad.

"And this?" I pointed to a grayish green color swatch. It was the only one left.

"Hmm. Huh. You know? I'm almost positive there are some colors we missed."

"Then let's go back to Home Depot! While we're out we can stop by Copenhagen and Plummers to see if anything else catches our eye," I said, slipping on my sandals in anticipation of David's assent. I've always thought that home-improvement television shows, magazines, and conversations were exceptionally boring. But now that we've moved into our new home (or, as I like to call it, our "clean slate"), I've become a fixture at local furniture and home supply stores.

My interest, however, takes me only so far. I'm enjoying the process of choosing colors for our home, but I'd sooner lick the ground than lift a finger. Only once have I helped paint a room and, by no coincidence, that was also the only day David and I have ever had a heated argument. The argument ended when I accidentally sat in the recently refilled paint pan -- I learned from my sage-green behind that mere clothes are no protection against liquid pigment.

But even though my darling and I worked out the core issue (I am selfish and demanding and when someone offers to paint my bedroom I wrongfully assume that manual labor on my part is not required), the lesson remains -- I do not "paint" well. The word "paint" can be replaced with "move," "clean," "cook," or anything else that sounds either domestic or proletarian in any way.

Yesterday, nearly two years after my unintentional experiment with body paint, David suggested that every wall in our new home be colored. It did not take long for me to convince him that it would be best to hire someone who could get the job done right, sans drama. The only thing better than having something done, in my opinion, is having someone else do it for you.

The agreement we made before moving was that we would get rid of our respective furniture so that we can create a new home environment together. I told David his red leather chairs had to go. He nixed my framed print of Bouguereau's Birth of Venus . I refused to suffer his four- by six-foot painting of complex, geometrical lines, and David said there was no way in hell he would wake up every morning with my collection of fairy statues staring at him.

So that we would not come to resent giving up everything we once held sacred, David and I agreed that we could each keep one chair from our previous lives -- David's, a mid-century contemporary number with harvest gold fabric and sleek wooden legs; and mine, a claw-footed, velvety, flower-printed chair worthy of any French grandmother's tearoom.

While shopping for our new decor David and I were pleasantly surprised to discover -- considering how much our styles seemed to clash -- that we have a huge overlap in taste. For the first time, I am beginning to find joy in the process of conceiving and implementing ideas in home improvement.

David likes to do things differently. "I want to rethink every single thing about our new place," he said when we first began to look at the blueprints a few years ago. "I don't want to be constrained by what is commercially available. I want to try and put our own personal imprint on the space by taking the time to be creative and bring in materials and ideas that we love. I think our home should reflect our own unique vision rather than that of some corporation."

There are no boundaries for his brainstorming. Our bed is being custom made to David's specifications by Wood FX, a gallery on Park Boulevard, and just this morning, David suggested that we could line the four walls that surround the toilet in the master bathroom with Scrabble tiles.

It took a few peeks into our new neighbors' homes and several trips to IKEA and West Elm for me to realize how much our choices in furniture, paint colors, and things that go on shelves reveal about our personalities and experiences in life. As we "nest" together, David and I are not just choosing an Italian-leather sofa, we are choosing a new lifestyle.

While considering the many choices available to us, my thoughts turn to friends' homes, every square inch of which must have been the result of careful consideration. Kip and Renee, a creative couple who staged their wedding at Burning Man, surround themselves with original pieces of art they purchased from talented friends. Ben and Grace, ever the entertainers, focused on building areas in their home and yard that would be conducive to their guests' comfort. Jennifer's home looks like a combination of India, Thailand, and other countries she has visited; and Nathan, who is going through a Zen-like self-improvement phase in his life, chooses to sleep on the floor next to his desk in a room painted red.

Until now, David and I have held on to objects that reflected our personalities before we met each other. As with any two friends or lovers who spend all their time together, we have influenced each other and have come to think of ourselves as a single entity.

We're both curious to see the result of this work we're doing to create a home that reflects our freakish, counterculture personalities. Whether it's the color of the walls or the firmness of the mattress, every aspect is a collaborative effort.

That is, everything except for the kitchen, which falls into the "domestic" category. David was quick to intercept when he caught me trying to unload a box of silverware into the "spice drawer" and put glasses where the dishes, as he said, "should obviously go." Though we stand united as one, we have not lost our individual charm. At least this is what David will discover when he opens the cabinet above the oven tomorrow and is greeted by a formation of little fairies on bejeweled flowers.

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