Monday, September 21, 2009

POST 100 ] Starting anew

IMG_2148My working desk at home--on a good day.

Written for my last issue at Metro Home & Entertaining.

It took a long time coming but last July, at 35, I finally moved out of my sister’s house into a place of my own. She has just given birth, you see, and suddenly the house has been taken over by cribs and toys and feeding bottles, and this being the first grandchild in the family, my parents have been visiting the house more frequently than usual and sleeping over. Suddenly, there was no place to write and be quiet, and drinking at home just got less fun when sober people are looking. So I moved. A couple of blocks away. Baby steps.

My new space is a one bedroom flat in a lowrise condominium unit in Quezon City. Nothing fancy. Comfortable size. Far from the shoeboxes I found around the area which seemed just enough for one bed and a chair. I planned to have a waking life in my new home, not just sleep and eat Lucky Me Supreme. I planned to cook, have space to do my exercises, walk around, dance. I planned to invite friends over for dinner and drinks. But then you learn that starting a new life can take awhile. Acquiring even the most basic things can cost you, from the fridge to new locks and keys. Introducing another piece of furniture, no matter how small, eats another fraction of your much-valued space. Lessons that only really hit you once you put down work for this magazine and start building a home of your own.

I learned that you can’t just go on ahead and paint your floors in black enamel and not have it look like you spilled grease on it the night before. I learned that it only takes one fag to screw on a lightbulb. And that the one kitchen item you need to introduce to the house first is not salt or uncooked rice—because your parents said it’s for good luck--but a bottle opener. And everytime I walk up the two flights of stairs to my unit, and get a peek of my neighbors’ homes through their windows, I am constantly reminded of the simplest decorating adage: “Edit, edit, edit.” I realize that what’s keeping a lot of ordinary homes from being the nice, relaxing, visually pleasant coccoons they’re supposed to be is their owners’ mindless acquisition of things, things and more things.

'And the one kitchen item you need to introduce to the house first is not salt or uncooked rice—because your parents said it’s for good luck--but a bottle opener.'

Creating a lovely home sometimes doesn’t have anything to do with taste or the number of interior design magazines you’ve read. It’s about listening to ourselves, looking at our space, and deciding what we really need. Most people, me included, do not have money to hire designers and are left on our own to furnish our spaces. I look at my white space now and think I know that I need a few things but they would hardly amount to ten. “Ang kailangan lang naman natin kama at internet,” an artist-friend told me yesterday. He exaggerates, of course, but he has a point. I still need a small round table and maybe four dining chairs. I need a small steel table with racks to put my one-burner stove on. I think I can dispense with having a coffeetable but an accent chair beside my two-seater couch could accomodate another guest.

For the moment, however, those can wait for the next paycheck. For the moment, I’m good with what I have. A beige sofa bought many years back from a second hand store. A 5x4 painting of a doll submerged in a swimming pool by Keiye Miranda Tuason, the color of water matching the kitchen sink tiles across. There is a floor lamp covered in a white paper material, a moving-in (or moving-out?) gift from my sister. An old school sound system under a glass window that frames the sky. Piles of my old Vogues are now a sort of a low holding table for a Venetian mirror from the Kamuning vintage shops. A few pieces of art lean on the wall next to it. All other walls are empty, and I tell myself there’s nothing wrong with an empty white wall (because really there isn’t). In the morning, since I have yet to put on curtains, the light from outside is a good waker-upper. In the evening, in yellow light, even my crudely painted black floor works, and the place looks, dare I say it, hip yet elegant, like a small-time art space.

As I write this, I am also preparing to start anew in my career. This is my last issue at Metro Home and Entertaining. When I started in this magazine, I was coming from the highly stressful world of showbiz reportage, and Metro Home was a magazine that welcomed my resolve to slow down a bit. I learned a lot along the way: from the designers and stylists we worked with, the homeowners whose fabulous homes we featured, and from Carlo, my boss, whose exacting standards and superb taste is something that I believe is unique to this magazine. He is a relatively new homeowner as well. When I started working with him, he has just moved in to a house he built. From the very first dinner we had there in May of 2007 to the last get-together in July, very little in the house, simple and white all over, has changed. Each dinner, it seems, we are greeted only by a new addition, either a coffeetable decor from a friend, a custom-made piece from a furniture shop in Pampanga or Kamias, or a framed work bought from one of those kitschy art stores in Ermita. Each from a special provenance, each precious-looking in its own way. The house hardly ever looks complete, but it never seemed lacking.

Creating a new life is a lot like like creating a new home. Change eventually happens and when it does we wait some more to fit into it, to make it our own. And while we wait, we live and think and discover things we’d like to take in, bring home, little by little. Nothing special was ever made in a rush. Baby steps. Why hurry? Rat races are for the ordinary.

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