(appeared on thehautemess.com)
10 Things to Have in Your Home by Age 30
Perhaps the most defining characteristic of my home is that it is never completely clean. I keep it arranged and tidy but am quite certain it would never pass the white-glove test. I have chosen to ignore the dust on top of the ceiling fan, my dog sleeps (and sheds) on the couch and I would much rather spend my downtime in bed with book than in shower with sponge.
But for what it lacks in spick and span, my small one-bedroom in Venice Beach triumphs in treasures. In my nearly 10 years of apartment-dwelling I have amassed a well-honed collection of items that are wonderful in every way - to me.
I moved to Los Angeles in my early 20’s with a twin bed and a wicker chair from Pier One Imports. I bought a crummy desk and moved in with a guy found on Craigslist (not advised) who contributed a folding table (no chairs) and a television. Luckily a neighbor gave us a couple things and, well, it doesn’t take much to just get by. I’m not saying we were destitute, we had jobs and no outright drug problems, but we didn’t exactly have vision when it came to creating a nourishing living space.
Soon thereafter I moved on, lived with a couple different roommates, (friends, not the kind found on Craigslist), and, quite naturally, acquired more furniture as I grew. I had always loved the concepts of interior design, though skillfully mixing art with utility felt like utter fantasy. I struggled to find harmony in my amalgam of cheap purchases and back-alley finds. Around 2008 I thought it was a grand idea to spray paint a bunch of old frames and hang them on the living room wall as a focal point (this must have been a then-timely “shabby chic” attempt). In its conception the idea had seemed so promising, but once I finished carefully measuring and mounting I stood plainly in my living room viewing the kitsch masterpiece and felt altogether empty.
I have learned that the things in my home must hold some sort of meaning. Of course there are appliances and rolls of toilet paper and ice trays that don’t carry as much significance as others, but even they represent my lifestyle choices in small ways - a waffle iron for Sunday splurge breakfasts, scratchy recycled toilet paper which I tolerate because it alleviates a minuscule portion of my waste-era guilt, and extra big ice cubes for whiskey/sodas to alleviate my yet-unsorted guilt.
Beyond this tier of serviceable items is the marrow of my surroundings, my personal assets. These are the kinds of belongings that evoke feelings and facilitate growth, the stuff that gives me something good. I have put together a list that speaks to you, the reader, and comes from me, my home and my heart.
Artwork you love. One of my favorites is a framed charcoal drawing found at the Goodwill in Santa Monica. It is an abstract scribble, but I have always sensed sophistication and point of view. It isn’t signed, and I am glad to showcase a stranger’s lost creation.
At least three books you have read and just knocked you out. I feel empowered after finishing a book. The act of immersing myself in the words, mind-melding with someone else’s consciousness, seems to bring me levity. Though I may be a bit ideological in my lit-love, I have to believe that every young woman, by age 30, must have felt moved by a book here or there. If not for just the sheer accomplishment of having finished something you have started.
A piece of furniture not bought new. I am sucker for vintage finds and realize not everyone gets their kicks antiquing. But I think owning something that is living a second (or tenth) life has some sort of undeniable merit. So often we buy things that are not necessarily meant to last us (I’m looking at you Ikea ______ ) while other pieces are built to endure generations, both physically and aesthetically. My kitchen table was made in the 60’s out of solid walnut wood and is chicly designed. Though modest and small, it has presence.
Good lighting. I am still renting but have found subtle ways of bettering the bones of a place, starting with the lighting. When I moved in, my apartment had exactly one overhead lighting fixture: a 1990’s brown and brass ceiling fan reminiscent of my childhood home in Missouri. I worked with my landlords and they allowed me to buy and install a more modern fan. I have brought in floor and table lamps ranging from mid-century to industrial modern, each unique and artful. Lamp additions can be delightful opportunities to add flavor. My sincere advice: get rid of any ugly lamps. If you have one, you are nodding.
An area that isn’t device-centric. I choose not to have a television in my bedroom and I also try not to bring my laptop into the kitchen nook; it serves as an eating and occasional Sunday newspaper-reading zone. Prioritize delineating a space that facilitates calm and doesn’t call you to “like” or scroll or type or swipe or even click “play”.
A collection of some kind. I can’t say I have any fully developed collections, no Precious Moments figurines in the display cabinet, but I do have a few burgeoning pseudo-collections. I have about 35 vinyl records, most of which I remember the time and place acquired. My mismatched coffee mugs represent a similar link to personal history and were chosen individually for their character (the orange one is terribly contemplative). A collection may be a simple grouping, an aggregation of things that are linked to one another and hold substance for the collector. It could be tiny, it could be many.
A piece of cookware that makes you want to cook. After some Canadian sub-letters left behind a very nice chemical-free fry pan I found myself coming up with excuses to use it. Find inspiration in a spatula, a pot, an oven mitt. While I don’t advocate concerning yourself with whether or not you’re a good cook, I urge you to enjoy your kitchen and find glory in feeding yourself.
Plants. A plant. Something living to greet you. I started with succulents.
Window coverings you have specifically picked out or DIY’d. In other words, unless you absolutely adore the window treatments that came with your place, start fresh. Unfortunately, vertical blinds seem to be the gold standard in LA apartments. I have found that taking them down is a manageable task and installing a new treatment is often low-cost.
A bedside table or two. My nightstand makes me feel like a grown-up. I have gone without for years (must have slipped my mind) and now have a resting place for my bedtime book or magazine and have removed my phone from under my pillow. A day’s-end semblance of organization resting within my messy world. Also works for emergency hangover water glass.