This weekend I emptied my little apartment into boxes, bins and borrowed pickup trucks and, with the help of a few wildly underappreciated friends, moved into my next home.
I think a lot about place these days. Location. Where I stand and what I can see has a great deal of influence over how I think, what I feel, how I act.
It’s why grocery store designers carefully orchestrate their indoor pathways to take us past most of the merchandise (and all the cheap candy). It’s at least partly why old cathedrals were built as they were: soaring towers and arched ceilings draw your eyes up, tilt your head back. It’s why interior decorators sometimes take a ridiculously long time to select the exactly perfect shade of cerulean mid-periwinkle sparkle blue, or whatever — they’re aware of how the details of our surroundings influence us.
My new place is an apartment in an old house, with high ceilings and tall windows. It’s small, with no hallways: the rooms are connected to each other. The kitchen is a pale sunny yellow, and the floor slants a little toward the heating vents.
On Saturday, as we unloaded furniture, my new landlord was still wrapping up construction; my friends were, I think, a little surprised to see the toilet sitting on plastic on the bedroom floor as hammers pounded in the bathroom.
I wasn’t worried.
My old apartment was a practical place — functional appliances, squared corners, a window in each outer room. It was a reliable apartment; I think someone else has already taken it.
My new place, though —
Late last night when the temperature dropped, I tried to shut a window that had been propped open all day. The wood was stiff and started to squeal as it scraped against the outer frame — and kept squeaking, in one continuous, painful noise, for the full twenty seconds it took to force the pane by inches all the way down.
I opted to close any other open windows in the morning and bundle up for bed. I can only hope my neighbors are heavy sleepers.
The place has a sprawling feel about it, like the architects set a solid foundation and then let the house decide how it wanted to grow.
I keep trying to talk about the house like it’s alive — it decided, it grew. It has character — and believe me, that’s a good thing.
It reminds me of the college I stayed at in England, the last place I’ve felt at home — history and quirks, space for bookshelves.
When I tried to explain the house to my friends — particularly the kind ones who saw the toilet in the bedroom and said, um, listen, will you be OK — I felt a little like a ship’s captain, expounding on the merits of a sea-weathered tub.
Some, though — some get it.
I think the place you live matters — it’s where you spend the most time, where you wake up, the first thing you see.
My old apartment was consistent, utilitarian, efficient. It was a place you stay.
The new one, though — this is a place you live.