Dulce Domum.

I guess it began when our TV blew up — after a dozen years of faithful service. I suddenly had to reconsider how our living room would look, find a new TV  and a piece of furniture for it to sit on, making changes to our apartment that we haven’t had to think about in years. And I’d have to do it on my own.

At first, the prospect filled me with dread and a big sense of obligation — one more hassle to deal with.

Then a pipe broke in our neighbor’s radiator and ruined the ceiling of Jack’s bedroom. It’s all been patched up but because we don’t know how to exactly match the color, I realized we’d have to paint the whole thing. All of which made me look at the disaster area that is Jack’s bedroom — a dense archaeological  collage of all of the stages of his childhood carelessly layered on top of each other, a room he really only uses now to sleep in — and thought it would be a great thing to rethink, and a creative project we could both get excited about.

So Phase One was to research HDTVs and cabinets (that took the better part of a month) and then pry open the wallet and get all the elements into our house. I worked stealthily alone so it could be a surprise for Jack (who had come to accept that we would probably never have a TV again) and  last night we flipped the switch and basked in High Definition mindlessness.

Next up is to make a plan for Jack’s room. He doesn’t seem to have much of an opinion about it yet, but I imagine a cool book-lined studio perfect for knocking out masterpieces and impressing girls.

Redecorating is like solving a Rubik’s cube and as soon as I consider Jack’s room, I start to think about turning my office into a proper studio too ( Patti and I had often discussed fantasy plans to put in counters and flat files and stuff but never did). And maybe redoing the living room. And rethinking the kitchen while we’re at it …

I spoke to a man who lost his wife around the time Patti died and he told me he developed  a strong impulse to redo his home too. He started rearranging furniture, painting walls and making his nest his own. I don’t think that’s what I’m doing. Instead, I am inspired by Patti’s example and aesthetic and am thinking of the  sort of place she would have loved. Patti had big dreams for our home but the limitations imposed by her wheelchair and disability frustrated a lot of those plans. Accessibility was always a huge factor in what we could do and even though she made our home a lovely place, a lot of the decisions that went into were limited by whether a wheelchair could get around it easily and whether everything was reachable from a seating position. Now I have carte blanche and a lot more freedom to create the home we both wanted.

We collected  a lot of tear sheets and catalogs over the years to inspire us but I decided to start from scratch and just pull images that felt like home to me. When I look at this collection (and you can see some of them below) I learned quite a lot about where my head is at these days.

The fact is, when I lie in bed at night and think about what I should do in our home, it’s mainly about pruning, chucking out a lot of dusty-gathering tchotchkes and stuff that fills the closets that I’ll never use again. Honestly,  I won’t be putting up decorations this Halloween (though we have two boxes full of strings of jack o’lantern lights and felt ghosts and stuff) and I won’t be hosting big dinner parties and using the dozens of tablecloths and doilies and aprons we have jamming our drawers. When you live in a place for a long time you just accumulate crap that has outlived its usefulness and I feel an urge to shed that skin.

What would I end up with if I did all that? A blank, minimalist place with empty closets and big, bare surfaces punctuated by the occasional Eames chair? Is that what I want?

I think I thought so, but when I look at all the pictures I chose to represent my definition of home they all have the same themes: lots of objects, lots of color. They are busy, energetic places. Granted they look a bit more organized and freshened up than our place, but they’re also not that different from where I live, and, frankly, from the art I make too.

It is interesting to do this sort of exploration, to challenge my assumptions, purge the cobwebs even if it seems daunting, and see where I am and where I should go.

Sometimes, like Frodo, I yearn to leave home and seek adventures; usually, like Bilbo, I think they are nasty disturbing uncomfortable things that make you late for dinner. But when change is thrust upon me and the world becomes vast, it is comforting to come home, to tuck in one’s tail and curl up under fresh, fluffy new blankets.

The weary Mole also was glad to turn in without delay, and soon had his head on his pillow, in great joy and contentment. But ere he closed his eyes he let them wander round his old room, mellow in the glow of the firelight that played or rested on familiar and friendly things which had long been unconsciously a part of him, and now smilingly received him back, without rancour. He was now in just the frame of mind that the tactful Rat had quietly worked to bring about in him. He saw clearly how plain and simple—how narrow, even—it all was; but clearly, too, how much it all meant to him, and the special value of some such anchorage in one’s existence. He did not at all want to abandon the new life and its splendid spaces, to turn his back on sun and air and all they offered him and creep home and stay there; the upper world was all too strong, it called to him still, even down there, and he knew he must return to the larger stage. But it was good to think he had this to come back to; this place which was all his own, these things which were so glad to see him again and could always be counted upon for the same simple welcome.

— The Wind in the Willows

19 thoughts on “Dulce Domum.

  1. Dear Danny,

    I find myself in a similar position, having just spent 5 months with my dying sister, realizing that I MUST clear out and make MY space my own, the way I really want it. Thanks for sharing your ideas; when the dust settles, won’t it be nice?

  2. Hi Danny,
    All of my yellow rooms with white trim have been wonderful to be in – any time of day, any time of year. The living room is my favorite followed by the kitchen. I’ve gone to a rosy terra cotta for the dining room.
    A word of caution for yellows: if the color bias is green the room is cold and nauseous. If the bias is red, the room changes from happy/calm to nerve jangling. I also had a north facing room where most yellows looked beige – except for a screaming competion car yellow that looked like butter!
    Changing things around is fun. Good luck.

    • Yes, much of my living room is yellow with white trim It’s chipper and elegant. We once painted a wall in our kitchen bright orange and it caused tension and weirdness. We covered it with framed pictures and things c]almed down.

  3. Love these rooms – I had to downsize and at first house was crammed with stuff of memories and daughter and me couldn’t move!!! But gradually, over 5 years I’ve removed many items and bought a few new bits. But its the books I can’t do without. I love books and paintings – to me they make it mine and spell comfort. So good luck and keep it yours – new or old or both.

  4. A lovely post and the Kindle remark made me *snort*!!….especially enjoyed the excerpt from “The Wind in the Willows”.

    Wallow in the possibilites. (I’m a blue girl, meself)….but yes I agree….MUST HAVE BOOKS! I am in desperate need of some shelves, but hubby conintues to insist “It can’t be done”….His standard response….ppttthh!!

  5. I’m glad to see you’re blogging, I’ve missed the updates. Funny, how complete strangers seem like friends when you’ve gotten to peek into their lives for a while. Best to you and Jack. Just wanted to let you know even though I lurk and don’t comment, I’m reading and caring.

  6. I am currently taking Jane LaFazio’s ‘Sketchbook & Watercolor: Journal Style’ class online. Jane mentioned you in the forums today and a friend sent me a link to your 07/18/2010 “You suck” post yesterday. Therefore, today I had to check out who the heck this guy, Danny Gregory, is as I thoroughly enjoyed the “you suck” post.
    Since you are sitting on a bale of hay, in the middle of a field with a sketchbook, on your homepage, it was a good start as far as impressing me since I am a farm wife in CO.
    I started looking through your post titles and went to the “Why Everyday is Important” post, read it and bawled through most of it and then your latest post, more tears. Sometimes one finds out some surprising things and more than they thought possible about someone.
    I lost my younger, and only sister, in June to cancer. It only took a month after I knew she had it, that she was gone.
    I haven’t “drawn” in 39 years. I believe I have ‘needed’ to come back to it because of her death. There were so many things that you wrote about in the three posts I have read that I understand.
    The loss of someone you expect to grow old with and share things with is very hard. My pain for my mom, my brother in law and my sister’s sons overwhelms me at times.
    Thank you for writing about & sharing your feelings about the accident and the loss of your beloved wife, Patti. I pray that you will find peace. My sympathies to you and your son for your loss.

  7. Hi, Danny,
    The decorating ideas were wonderful. I always have had tear sheets in a folder of things I wanted to do in my house. After 54 wonderful years with my husband I am now alone and have been trying to adjust for the past year and a half. One of the first things I did was start moving furniture and changing rooms around. It must be a normal thing to do, putting the past somewhat behind, but still clinging to the old. I loved your choices and was pleased to see the old and the new beautifully mingling in your choices. I’m Warren’s mom, by the way, and appreciate your input and influence into both our lives during the past year. I’ll be anxious to see what you do in your home. dee

  8. Hello Danny. I recently got myself back onto EDM, for the weekly challenges. It occurred to me today that it has been a while since I checked out your blog. I am shocked and sorry to hear that Patti has passed. My heart goes out to you and Jack. Just reading your comments caused an empty feeling in my heart. It’s good that both of you have art to help you thru this great loss and life change. My thoughts are with you.

  9. Just discovered your blog, and your truly AMAZING site, DannyGregory.com All I can say is: Wow! I have admired your work for a couple of years now; ever since I discovered you via your book “An Illustrated Life”. Everyone in that book has been such an inspiration to me. It was really because of that book that I started drawing again! I also want to say, I am truly sorry to read of your loss. I can’t even imagine such a thing, though I have lost both parents, and other close family members over the years myself. Thank you for sharing your work, and the work of so many others through your book. I can’t tell you how much I love it, and how it has, (and IS) changing my life.

  10. Hi Danny,

    Love this post! (It is impossible for you to disappointment such a big fan / admirer like me!!)

    I can’t believe i found this post so late…I thought that with all the feeds I have in my favourites i can keep the track with all your writings posted, but you are “running too fast” for me :0)
    Love all the pics you choose as inspiration. I do want in my home as many bookshelves as i can get… and thanks to ikea’s good prices it is not too hard to achieve that.

    Love also the way your apartment looks now! You have the colors (almost exactly the same shades ! :0)…as we have in our living ( it was my choice:)

    Have a great 2011!!

    PS: There is any interest in you to do a show on TV? We would love to see you more and hear your funny & smart jokes.

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