When a Millenial goes Colonial: Apartment Living in a 300 Year old Newport Home

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This past summer, in between working on stories about people and places in Newport for Puddingstone Post, I had the chance to photograph my own apartment for an article written by editor¬†Meg O’Neill.¬†Although my¬†attempt to remain an objective photographer for this one failed spectacularly, the project evolved into a¬†loving¬†documentation of the place that has been at the center of my¬†life for most of my 20s, so I thought I’d share¬†some photos if you’d like to see.

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Aesthetically, my apartment,¬†which occupies the upper¬†floors¬†of a 300 year old colonial house in the Point neighborhood of Newport, is a steady experiment that will never really be finished.¬†Every¬†corner¬†has fallen together slowly – many a morning coffee was had¬†while contemplating¬†the light and the feel of each¬†room.¬†Over many years, I got to know the house and my own routine within it, buying or changing things only when I felt I¬†knew what the house truly needed.¬†I mixed family heirlooms with pieces gleaned from travels abroad, or my neighbor’s trash pile¬†dressed with a¬†fresh coat of paint.¬†Ever conscious that I was working in a very traditional space, I opted for white on the walls,¬†and¬†a few choice¬†modern pieces, to keep things from looking too frozen in time.¬†

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Psychologically, my relationship to¬†this space is¬†not so easy to describe. In all seriousness,¬†I’m turning¬†3o¬†next week and¬†I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the last decade of my life.¬†I don’t think I would have¬†grown into the person I am¬†without¬†the steadfast, welcoming walls of this dwelling place. It has been my anchor and my creative bubble, it has been light-filled and cheerful even when I have not, it has stood by¬†patiently when¬†I have left it¬†to explore the world, and it has held me through raging hurricanes, tearful breakups and the mind-boggling pain of chronic illness. Yet, despite the years that I have filled the house with¬†friends, roommates, lovers¬†and pets, our time together is no more than a blip on its long history.¬†

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I recently heard¬†something intriguing on NPR (I wish I could remember what story it was a part of, please tell me if you know!): ¬†we frequently talk¬†of¬†the ephemerality of objects. Yet, if you consider that good design and well-made structures have the¬†tendency¬†to persist beyond our lifetimes, then in¬†a¬†sense, we¬†are the ephemeral ones.¬†We barrel into¬†the quiet lives of these houses¬†and¬†these things, and then¬†one day we leave them sitting and¬†waiting for their next occupants or possessors. I rather love this idea. Here I’ve been thinking that this space was mine these past 7 years, when really, I have¬†been¬†its guest all along.

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If I can share¬†one piece of homemaking advice, which I read somewhere once, to anyone¬†kind¬†enough to have made it¬†this far, it is¬†to¬†take the time to truly know your space before you¬†do anything.¬†There¬†is a¬†bottomless rabbit hole¬†in space-making today: pinterest, home decor stores, magazines, and blogs (this¬†one¬†included),¬†offer a limitless¬†blue sky for the imagination to ponder,¬†but you¬†shouldn’t¬†lose sight of the space that you actually have. For example,¬†drooling over sparely furnished¬†Swedish apartments with soaring, 20-foot ceilings is something of a pastime for me, but what works in those spaces¬†does¬†not necessarily translate to the more intimate proportions of a New England colonial. Embrace ¬†your reality and its inherent parameters, such as budget, regional¬†history, sustainability, and the quirks of your home: they will help you wade through endless¬†possibility and hone in on a design¬†that makes sense for your life, while honoring the space¬†in which you are, for a time,¬†a guest.

Celestial Company

Winter light is precious, yet it has a habit of leaping into our homes with startling abundance. ¬†In my living room, the sun feels like an important guest each afternoon. ¬†Sometimes a foot must be put down, however, when it comes to getting a proper late morning’s sleep.

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