The room breathes gently around me like a person. It feels even quieter than usual. Hushed, like it’s remembering.
We’ve just finished putting up the handpainted wallpaper* on the wall that faces the bed. I can tell the room approves of what we’ve done. As if it’s reconnecting to its past, to what it used to look like. The melancholy of an elder, looking at its younger refection in a mirror, courtesy of a piece of jewelry or clothing bringing back memories.
You know how you can feel that there has been happiness and laughter in a house? How it seems to have impregnated the walls? In this room it was the exact opposite. Rain and unhappiness had been pouring in throughout years of lovelessness and neglect. In the fifties, a feeble attempt to cover the sorrow with a brash yellow paint had only made matters worse. This year, we made our own breathable chalk paint with local earth pigments. Hand- and bucket-mixed. The once-wretched walls are now a gentle cream colour with a tiny hint of pink that provides real warmth. It’s all natural and, of course, still perfectly imperfect.
The room’s mantelpiece from the 1900’s is missing, so we put in an antique cast iron radiator instead. We also finally got around to restoring the broken fireplace tiles, using old red tomettes or terracotta tiles, which I coloured with a pigmented oil. Again, a home made mixture.
Still, the real centerpiece of this room is the floor to ceiling wardrobe. I restored it to its original integrity, removing stains from the original coat of paint with alcohol to reveal the most beautiful blue-gray. And Thomas made new shelves for it from a tree in the woods.
I am determined to nurture and restore all the rooms in this house. Over the years, Thomas and I have been adding texture, objects and emotions, each adding a layer of depth to the story. Art and design, objects thrifted, or gifts from friends. Laughter and many a tear. Warmth, love and lunacy.
Oh, this house. This demanding French mistress for whom we live our lives. Who has tested us and our love for each other in unimaginable ways. Of a certain age, but always grand and graceful. And I wouldn’t have it any other way, because beauty – however achieved – means everything to me.
*'Orangery - grey' by wallpaper artists Marcelo Gimenes and Jaap Snijder, Snijder&CO.