What we did on our winter vacation

We did a lot of things, actually.

This (sorta) Old Life: winter break collage

We played games, and cut snowflakes, and read books, and snuggled up, and visited family, and went skating, and slept in, and window-shopped, and took long walks in beautiful places, and sipped so many pretty coffees and hot chocolates that we lost count of them.

And we also worked on our house.

This (sorta) Old Life:  Entry with ladder

See the gray line above the door?

We didn’t mean to work on the house. We meant to take a break during our break. But in mid-December, while out shopping on my birthday celebration day, we found this lovely piece of embroidered art that became my birthday gift.

This (sorta) Old Life: Embroidered art detail

And we didn’t hang it up and didn’t hang it up because we didn’t know where to put it, and then, right after Christmas, I was able to move a mirror that had been displaced by the advent calendar, and the perfect space opened up.

This (sorta) Old Life: Embroidered art in hallway

Except that it wasn’t the perfect space–because the wall behind our brown/gold/copper art was minty green. This is the same minty green we eradicated from our living room one wall at a time, but the hallway leading from our living space back to our bedrooms has not been a high priority. It’s just a hallway.

This (sorta) Old Life: minty green hallway

In fact, we’ve been saying that if anything is going to get painted, it’s the tall walls in our entry. The big column there has been a dark green since we moved in, and the walls have been that minty green. Ever since painting the living room walls (and even more so once we finished the make-over of our split-entry stairs), we’ve been itching to paint them.


But the art is the reason we found ourselves pulling out the paint brushes and paint tray and painter’s tape the day after Christmas. I just couldn’t hang that lovely embroidery on a minty green wall, so we decided to paint the hallway.

And then–because everything was already out–we decided to go ahead and paint the entry walls, too.

This (sorta) Old Life: Entry walls

While everything was kind of all disrupted anyway, we decided that we might as well paint the trim around the window in our dining room/library.

This (sorta) Old Life: Painting trim on window

We’d painted the windows flanking the fireplace back in November, and if we did the library window that whole wall would be done.

This (sorta) Old Life: living room fireplace

We spent two days happily painting. We filled the house with the music we like, and we worked easy, not hard, starting late each day and finishing early. It took hardly any time at all to finish those three projects (even the beastly column, which was a little tricky with the stairs and all).

This (sorta) Old Life: Entry wall painting

After we were done, I sat on the couch in the living room and looked back toward the stairs, and it made me so content to see all the walls the same soothing shade of greenish gray, from the doorway to the hallway and into the kitchen.

This (sorta) Old Life: Entry and hallway painted

(Pretend you can’t see that in-progress art gallery wall. More on that later.)

From that couch I could also see the length of the fireplace wall, with all the windows trimmed in the warm, chocolately brown we love (so much more than the cool white trim that’s still on all the other windows). That made me feel good, too.

This (sorta) Old Life: library with fireplace

I wondered, then, if the post I’d been working on was full of so much shit.

You know, the one where I drew a big, fat line in the sand that connected violence to an overabundance of Pinterest decor porn.

And wrote all that stuff about loving your house just as it is, and not getting all caught up in superficial decorative things that don’t matter.

I mean:  Does it really matter what colors the walls are?

This (sorta) Old Life: Living room toward stairs

In this shot from last spring, you can see where the gray wall ends (behind the orange bookcase) and the green begins (on the tall entry wall). I think you can also see that the green walls didn’t keep this from being a comfortable, cozy space.

And in this one you can see how it looks after paint.

Here is how it’s looking today. (We’re really hoping to be able to put that ladder away soon.)

The answer is both no and yes, I think.

No, it doesn’t really matter.

All those months we lived with muddy green and minty green, the color of those walls didn’t impact our health or happiness.

And, if tragedy were to strike us, I would get no comfort from our grey walls, soothing as they now are.

This (sorta) Old Life: entry wall and hallway

And yet, yes–it does matter.

The aesthetics of our surroundings do affect us.

There are restaurants I simply won’t go to, much as I like their food, because I cannot tolerate their lighting. My head is more likely to feel cluttered and crowded when I’m in a room filled with too many things. Jarring colors and patterns can make me feel cranky.

The more we transform this house into what visually pleases us, the better we feel here.

This (sorta) Old Life: library then now

Are we happier, better people because of the changes we’ve made to our dining room/library? No–but this space does feel better to us today.

When it comes to creating our home, we think this line between no and yes is one we have to constantly walk.

If we go too far to the side of yes, we risk losing sight of things that matter much more than how our home looks. Too far toward no, though, and our home is not the source of comfort it could be.

No, the two colors of window trim don't really matter. But yes, the room will feel better once we finish the trim painting project.

No, the two colors of window trim don’t really matter. But yes, the room will feel better once we finish the trim painting project.

We had a lovely time on our break. It was delicious to sink into a luxury of days where we did nothing but sleep, eat, love, and rest. It helped us heal from fatigue we didn’t even realize we’d been living with until it began to lift.

This (sorta) Old Life: Rita with her mom on Puget Sound

It also felt great to get a little work done, to be sore in a good way at the end of a day of painting, to feel the satisfaction that comes from completing a long-desired project.

Staring at the newly-painted walls and contemplating both our break and my possible hypocrisy, I came to the conclusion that it’s possible to simultaneously love our house just as it is and to want to change it. Just as the presence of different kinds of days made our vacation richer and more restorative, so, too, can these different ways of being in our home. Both are necessary to the peace we’re seeking.

And if Pinterest can be a productive part of helping us create a comfortable and comforting shelter–a big if, but one that I must acknowledge is possible–maybe even it can be a force for good in the world.

It's such a small thing, but I really like the way the dark trim echoes the dark base of this lamp. It creates a kind of cohesion that the room didn't previously have.

It’s such a small thing, but the way the dark trim echoes the browns in this lamp makes me feel good. And when I feel good, I’m more likely to do good.

 A quick word about our posting schedule:

In response to our (still open) survey, one reader expressed the wish that we’d post on a regular schedule.

We wish we did, too.

Our goal is to post twice a week, once toward the end (Thursday/Friday) and once near the beginning (Monday/Tuesday). This is our first post in more than a week, and it’s coming out on Wednesday, so you can see how that’s working for us.

My work schedule is on overdrive through the end of March, and so is one child’s extra-curricular activities. We’ll do the best we can.

If you want to make sure you see all our posts and don’t want to check back here all the time, our  best advice is to sign up for email notices or subscribe in a reader. You can do both things using the buttons at the top of our sidebar.

If there’s anything else you’d like us to know, or if you want to chat about the ideas in this post, please drop us a comment. Responding to you is one of my favorite forms of productive procrastination.


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