Best of Boston, Life Lessons, The Brownstone

Opening a Door

All of my artwork has been removed from the walls, and I stand in a pared-down version of my living room, knee-deep in bubble wrap and packing tape.  Tomorrow when the moving truck comes, I’ll be leaving my home of the past 24 years.  This small brownstone apartment has been a haven for me, as well as a source of pride.

Built in 1888, my condo is rich with Victorian details, from the wainscoting and ornamental fireplace mantle, to the ceiling medallion in the living room.  A young woman has bought my place.  My realtor tells me she fell madly in love the moment she walked into the living room, awash in sunlight from the large curved bay window that overlooks Beacon Street.  The new owner is me, twenty-five years ago, and I am grateful that someone who loves this space, just as I have, will be living here.  To you, my younger self, who is about to cross this threshold with all your hopes and dreams, I say this:  each time you make yourself a cup of tea in your kitchen, watch the sunset from the roof deck, open your home to friends, know that one has come before you who knows exactly how you feel.  If you are half as happy as I have been here, you will be truly blessed.

As for me, I am ready to open a new door. And my new home has unique features of its own.  Two years shy of being a century old, this two-family house has retained much of its original detail and character.  Warm wood trim adorns each window and doorway.  Both the living and dining rooms boast bay windows.  The dining room’s built-in has lovely period leaded glass, and a butler’s pantry adjoins it with the kitchen.

This house needs no time, no holidays, no new memories to become my home.  It already is…  Like many older homes in the Boston metro area, this is a “family home” – with my brother living on the second floor and me on the first floor.

My arrival has my Italian-American next-door neighbors nodding in approval, “That’s nice,” they said, “keeping it in the family.”

“Yes,” I agree, “La familia!”

Girl Talk, Life Lessons, Pop Culture, The Brownstone

My House, My Rules

When you live alone, you can do whatever you want, whenever you want.  For instance, you have complete 24/7 control of the remote.  You always get to eat the last piece of cake.  And you can decorate your bathroom red – which I did.

My friends who are married are limited when it comes to home decor.  They paint their walls “mushroom” and choose stripes and solids for drapes and upholstery.  I can use colors and patterns no man would ever agree to have in his home.

I inherited a kitschy 1970’s styled bathroom when I bought my condo.  Picture a man cave.  Now picture the polar opposite.  The tub, toilet, sink, and even the floor tiles – pink.  Calamine lotion pink.  But since the fixtures were in such good condition, instead of gutting the whole thing, I decided to keep the pink.  Remember the number one rule of living alone: you can do whatever you want.

That’s when those iconic red poppies came to mind.


“This is either going to be the most brilliant thing I’ve ever done,” I confided to the Marimekko salesgirl, “or else it’s gonna clash so badly that it’ll make me dizzy.”  She assured me I could return all of it: the shower curtain, the matching storage tins, the accent towels, if I passed out.  Once I knew I was on to something, I bought an armful of solid red towels and a lipstick-colored soap dish, tissue box, and waste basket set.  In the end, the pink ran and hid under all that red.

As a single woman home owner, I took on a big responsibility.  But with that responsibility came great freedom.   Recently, I looked with new eyes at the kitchen counter tops I also inherited.  Then I took a trip to that big home improvement store just to look around.

red poppy

Girl Talk, The Brownstone

Closet Space

Should I invest in a nanny-cam?  Maybe that’s extreme, but how else can I catch that mischievous little closet fairy in the act?  For years, she’s been subtly shrinking the dimensions of my one-and-only closet.

Walk In Closet of my dreamsLike most city-dwellers, I daydream of the perfect walk-in closet; however back in 1888, my brownstone apartment was designed with eleven-foot ceilings and no closets.  Years later, a tall but narrow closet was built into one of the bedroom walls.  So oddly shaped is this closet, I’ve yet to find an organizing system to fit.

Hangers touching, my garments weigh down a closet rod that’s starting to buckle.  My shoe boxes not only cover the closet floor, the extras are piled atop the sweater and hat boxes on the overhead shelf.  Not your typical closet, I need a six-foot wooden painter’s ladder to reach most of what’s stacked on that scary high shelf.  Like playing dominos – one false move and it all comes crashing down.  Over the years, I’ve been pelted with purses and stabbed with stiletto heels.

So cramped for closet space, I’ve guilted my mother into letting me keep off-season clothing in my childhood bedroom closet.  Having some of my apparel two-hundred miles away is unsettling, but it beats paying the neighborhood loan shark-dry cleaner to store my belongings off-site for an absurd monthly fee.

Last weekend, while in the midst of my seasonal closet switch-over, I found evidence of the closet fairy’s latest prank.  In addition to my clothing no longer fitting in the closet, some of my favorite garments actually shrunk during their winter hibernation!  the closet fairyI imagine the closet fairy hiding in a pocket, giggling as I lie on my bed struggling to zip up a colorful pair of summer Capri pants.

I give up.  It’s time to weed out.  Donate some of my gently used clothing.  Maybe that’s what the closet fairy intended all poppy