Twenty years ago, a so-called friend came into my house and announced, “It is hard to believe an architect lives here. It is impossible to believe a gay architect lives here.” His comments stung, but only a little. I knew that my shabby Victorian with its plywood paneled walls and fluorescent fixtures would be featured in Architectural Disgust before they’d ever grace the pages of Architectural Digest.
Over time I made improvements. The paneling vanished, so too the wood stove and the wagon wheel chandelier. The old place has nice rooms now and a soothing, unified palette. The architect in me brought out its good bones. But as an integrated piece of design, it’s nothing special. I am too fond of found objects, from my dining room table to the rock I dislodged from our RV in the Grand Canyon, to create any sort of unified interior.
That’s all going to change.
This week, my long time housemate Paul is selling his house in Vermont and moving his belongings here. For six year’s he’s kept two Spartan rooms, but come Thursday his fine antiques, cut glass, claw-toothed tables, heirloom china, and wingback chairs will spill into the rest of the house. While he packs boxes up north, I have been strolling through my airy spaces imagining how different, and how elegant, our house will be. Many of my curbside finds will go back to where they came from to make room for his finer stuff. I can only hope their next keeper gets as much sturdy, silent service from them as I have.
My reverie has revealed something I never knew before; that there is a strong theme to my home’s interior. That I am in fact, an interior designer, with a style so straightforward it can be described in one word – toys.
Anyone who visits our house knows the obvious toys. My living room has only two furnishings – a pool table and a piano, sentinels to the full range of high-brow/low-brow adult play. But so many more toys have accumulated over the years: the shelves of games that decorate the den; the chinning bar in the back hall that fits between two jig-sawed moldings; the lead soldiers on the living room window sash, ever alert to the non-existent threats of passing Cantabridgians; the in-line skater bendee entwining the kitchen chandelier; and, of course, the wind-up nunzillas that I crank up when I’m stressed.
Over the years, the big, garish, plastic toys have fallen into the basement; Little Tykes has no claim on the living spaces any more. My children’s best art has moved off the refrigerator and into frames, while their lesser oeuvre has settled into flat files (Architects have things like flat files in their houses). The toys in my house have become more refined, but still the place is defined by toys.
I am confident all of Paul’s beautiful objects will fit in our home, although – despite my being a lousy pool player – the pool table is definitely staying put. I’m hoping the other toys will be able to stay as well. With so many more actual treasures, my soldier guards will have to be more vigilant than ever.