Friday, May 6, 2011

Wrapping the Room

Not My Home*
Growing up I disliked the color green so intensely that I dreaded (and quickly dropped out of) the Girl Scouts. That ghastly dress, you know.

While I still can't wear it, my home is filled with it. Not blaring girl scout uniform green, but the lovely garden shades of trees and shrubbery: Our living room is green, the kitchen cabinets are green, the master bedroom is green, the ceiling in the upstairs bath is green. We just (more-or-less) painted the front of the house green.
What rooms are left (there aren't many) are filled with greenery, like the black and white solarium-wintergarden-aviary with its palms and the (rarely flowering) hibiscus and my free-flying parakeets Shakira and Vinnie (Vinnie's the girl, by the way. Who knew? And now it suits her. She's such a thug).

But then there's the foyer. Over the last 28 years the walls and ceiling grew a network of cracks and peeling chunks from traffic in the alley alongside the house; from construction of a collection of very expensive townhouses in the old schoolyard behind us; and from 100 years of sloshing water out of the claw foot tub in the bathroom overhead. 

The foyer has been my most prominent example of hanging a little ivy -- diverting attention from an eyesore. To obscure the damaged walls I sponged burnt sienna over baby shit brown in random daubs (I could have written dabs but isn't daubs lovely?) Up the walls I went and over the ceiling and up the staircase to the second floor landing. More cracks? More paint. It really was quite theatrical. Visitors thought I had deliberately created the look of a long ago ruined Italian villa.

The Foyer Walls at Christmas
This is the sort of thing that gets me into trouble.  So clever was my temporary patch-together that instead of fixing the damn walls and ceiling The Prince actually boasted about it.

(Have I mentioned that he recently won an award from the city's architectural review board for a house restoration? He did. Restoring homes is his business).

Then, a few weeks ago he's bitten with a sudden and inexplicable industriousness (which does not, I note, extend to anything I've ever asked him to do. Like, as a totally random example, a dimmer switch for the dining room). The foyer is being renovated -- the plaster walls and ceiling have come down and gone up again.

Now the walls are raw white with new plaster over some magical mesh material that's supposed to hold them in place for the next century or two. And we're about ready to paint. But what color?

He wants his frescoed walls back but I'm tired of this particular cheat. He argues for at least a fire shade, something that announces that you've arrived when you open the door. A dramatic transition from one world to another. I see his point. But I want a restful glide, a merging of outside and in, a room wrapped in nature.
I want an indoor garden. 

I want to (nearly) wrap the room in green. And you know I will win.

The front door to the house is mainly glass, very old and heavy glass with little waves that distort the outdoors just the wee-est bit and frame the giant elms that line the street. These are some of the largest and oldest in the city, I'm told.

If you look to the left as you enter the house, French doors frame the living room, all silvery grey green. Swivel again and you look down a narrow hall into the kitchen and out the kitchen windows to the porch and beyond to the garden with its fences draped in tangled vines, the towering cherry, the mock orange and the overblown hydrangeas (which will bloom pink, but not yet).

Wrapping the room is an actual term. Our artist friend Jill has done this in her rambling pre-war (do people still understand what this means? Which war?)  apartment on Connecticut Avenue. Her walls are a fresh green, the color of new spring leaves. Her woodwork is as well. Much of the year there are great and ancient trees outside the window and perched on a living room sofa one feels among them. There is a virtually seamless transition from the outdoors; in daylight the room is bathed in green gold light.

Though I cannot imagine painting out our darkly varnished woodwork--the staircase, the front door, the French doors--I can imagine bringing in a deep green with about the same depth and tonality. This, I'm thinking, will have the same effect of wrapping the space, echoing the branches of the trees and the leafy canopy outside the door.

The big gold-framed mirror hung just inside the entry should look wonderful.

In my imagination, this is so damn chic I'm kvelling.

*Serendipitously (or not so) I was going through my photo files looking for something to illustrate my direction and came across this one of Mark Twin's house and realized (!) that I've been unconsciously  incorporating bits of this enchanting room into my life for years and captures the mood I want in the foyer.  Damn. I just realized I have white Chinese lanterns in the solarium.

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