14 August 2007


Where to begin, after so many days and so much work and fun?

Let’s begin with a color. Think of the worst color you can imagine. Specifically, the worst color possible for your new home’s entry, dining room, and kitchen. Then imagine walking into your house, a smile already on your face in anticipation of seeing the completed paint and the trim new kitchen, then wiped off after finding the walls painted exactly that color, that horrid color.

That color for me is a pale electric greeny-yellow, and if you come to visit you can still see it in the little guest bedroom. We could only afford to re-paint a certain number of rooms, so there it will remain until we someday take it upon ourselves to wield brush and paint. Actually, in an enclosed space, and one that I don’t tend to frequent (given that at the moment it serves as a storage warehouse for old furniture and dusty lamps) it’s even tolerable. It was the living spaces, the heart of the apartment, that I just couldn’t stand to see robed in that upsetting, nerves-on-edge tint.

The whole thing was more or less our fault, anyway. We tried to choose paint colors by computer, first carefully narrowing down our Pantone favorites, then through some complicated “translation” programs to get the color equivalent of the “Natural Color System” preferred by the painters. I don’t know how “almond cream” on our computer in Brussels translated to “pale electric greeny-yellow” on our walls in Barcelona, but so it did. (I would point out that the painters didn’t help much; we had described the difficulty we had of getting the color codes, and included a description of the color we wished for, and I’m sure I don’t know how they thought that the two were even remotely related.) To further add to our grievance, M. had actually seen the colors during a quick business trip the previous week, and had very much liked them, although they weren't exact. Turns out it was only the "tinted primer" that the painters had mixed up based on our descriptions, but they never mentioned the possibility that the final color would be different, nor did they remark to us that the color took a drastic turn between "description" and official "code."

The walls were repainted in due course, and are now a nice buttery cream. And in the weeks since that first rather shocking welcome, we have done a lot of hard work. I never expected the house to be as utterly dirty as it was, covered with thick layers of plaster dust, paint splatters (another gripe with the painters; did they not use drop cloths?), and wood particles, all on top of the decades of dust accumulated by the 97-year-old great aunt who lived here before us.

We moved in a couple of weeks ago, but it wasn’t until last Thursday, when the carpenter finally came in to put the doors and trim on the kitchen cabinets, that that things felt like they were coming together visually. (Also provoking another round of wood-dust cleaning.) The cabinet wood, a decision made so long ago I couldn’t remember what it looked like, goes fabulously with the exposed-brick wall, the rustic black stove hood, and the creamy countertop.

Meanwhile, we’ve been doing a million things, from buying curtain rods and doorknobs to dealing with the lovely and tangled red tape of electric, phone, and internet companies, from mopping and washing furniture to unpacking boxes, opening wedding gifts (like Christmas!), and trying to figure out where that box of bed linen went.

We’ve also managed to have some fun in the month since I last wrote; we’ve twice been up to the coast for a quick weekend beach trip, once out to the Catalan interior (the beautiful, sunswept Sagarra), and a good friend of ours came for a stay, prompting welcome respites like paella at the port, strolls in the city, visits to favorite restaurants, an afternoon in Sitges, and a ride on the cable car that sways its way over the water from Barceloneta to Montjuich.

What our quick Costa Brava trip this weekend (to celebrate our niece’s two-year birthday) told me, though, is how much I was looking forward to coming back to our breezy and serene apartment. I already love this place, knowing that it will be a home that we continue to build and live in, a place to come back to from wherever we are in the world.

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