It Costs Money To Make A Home

I thought I was done spending money, but I guess I’m not.

Image: Nadja Robot CC BY NC-2.0

For the first time in a long time, I had nothing to do over the weekend. My apartment was echoing and empty, the rooms devoid of furniture in the absence of my last roommate’s departure. The hours of HGTV I’ve watched have left me with little actual skill or knowledge to decorate a house that doesn’t look like it was the work of a recluse. So a friend came over on Saturday and helped me drag furniture around the living room, bearing witness to a temporary and brief decorating-related breakdown — the kind you see on a particularly juicy episode of Property Brothers, when a person walks into their new open-concept living room and has a meltdown over the placement of a beam.

“Please push the furniture off the wall,” he told me as he dragged a sofa a few inches towards the center of the room.

“It looks small in here,” I said. “It looks too small. There’s no space to move.”

Open space doesn’t need to be filled. Bare walls are acceptable if the walls are painted a quiet, hushed, expensive grey. Windows don’t need shades because natural light adds value. It seems my ideal home is one that is large but mostly empty, save for a bed and piles of books everywhere I turn — all the better to showcase the space I’m paying for, not the additional objects I’ve bought to make the space feel not like a warehouse, but a home.

We reached an impasse and finally, a decision. The couches moved from the wall a few inches; the TV went on an opposite wall. I argued in increasingly panicked tones about feeling hemmed in. In New York, spaciousness affords you bragging rights. In the end, he was right. The living room was fine.

Applying thought to my own home and how it’s decorated means admitting to myself that my situation is no longer transient. I’ve lived in this apartment for six years and have bought nothing beyond the very basics I need to survive. Decorating intelligently and with any semblance of taste has always seemed a task both insurmountable and extremely expensive. I understand the need to have something on the walls but I’m certainly not interested in spending any sort of money on it. Everything that hangs on the walls right now has been free or very cheap, like the common space of a dorm room that you just keep living in well past its expiration date.

I never saw the point of buying things for the home that were nice because living with other people inevitably meant that someone would ruin it. Why spend money on a rug that can’t be hosed down and hung out to dry? Someone’s going to spill red wine on it, anyway, so what’s the point? I bought two rugs after a frenzied day of decision making, weighing cost versus appearance. Ideally, finding a rug that isn’t hideous shouldn’t cost more than $200. Negotiating with the taste of other people and reaching a compromise is much harder.

The time it takes to make a house feel comfortable is longer than I’d like. TO be able to throw money at the problem is not in the cards. But living somewhere that feels incomplete doesn’t feel quite right, either.

“You don’t have to do it all in one day,” my friend told me, watching me scroll through endless coffee table options, drinking a beer. “No one does it all in one day. Take your time. It’s going to be fine.”

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