E. and I have owned our Miami apartment for quite a while now, since 2004. The apartment is in an older building and had never been renovated, so after we bought it we hired a contractor, gutted the place, and started from scratch. The work was completed in January, 2005. Shortly after, we moved in with our furniture, set up our computers, plugged in the television, and we were home. Or almost.
Our walls, painted off-white, remained bare until the following year, when we were able to bring paintings created by E.'s father back from California, where they'd been stored. Once we'd hung the paintings, the place really felt like ours. After adding a few decorative odds and ends, including a Chinese red ceramic jar and an Indonesian window screen, we considered ourselves done. For the past several years, we've made virtually no changes. We've simply lived here. And after a while, we stopped really seeing the place. It was just home.
Earlier today, a friend came to visit. Though we've known her for almost as long as we've lived here, she had never seen our apartment. She had no idea what to expect, what our taste in furniture would be, whether we liked clutter, austerity, or something in between. She's something of an expert, since she renovates houses for a living, so I was surprised and pleased when she said she loved the apartment. She commented on things I'd stopped thinking about—the dark wood we chose for our kitchen cabinets, the way we'd laid out the master bath, even the soffits we'd had built over the windows to hide the shade mechanisms. But she also said she loved the artwork and the way the place looked lived-in and not over-decorated.
Before my friend's visit, if I noticed anything about our decor, it was the negatives—all the wires visible beneath our desks, the way the ebony dresser shows dust five minutes after I dust it. Of course, my friend, being my friend, accented the positive. But her praise did more than make me feel good. It helped me appreciate anew the environment E. and I have created, which reflects who we are and how we like to live. It took seeing the apartment through another's eyes to remind me of that.