“My space reflects the life I’ve lived so far, and it’s filled with stuff that has been with me for years, stuff that reminds me of where I’ve traveled, who I’ve loved, and where I want to go next.” -Nate Berkus
February 23, 2013, Washington, DC: Our home reminds me of travel, partly due to the things we’ve brought with us but also due to its bones, its structure and its details. I see New Orleans in the back alley from a narrow, second-story balcony abutting the next and feel cross breezes coming off San Francisco Bay through the high windows that swing open above the apartment’s inner door frames. Its imperfect hardwood floors and outdated stove and big old window that needs a book wedged in to stay open in spring are fit for a beach cottage. Walking out the front door to pick up cheese or yogurt or meat around the corner at Eastern Market is a routine that feels a bit Parisian.
The stuff we brought with us is likewise the stuff of nomads. My grandparents’ globe in the hallway speaks both of coming home to family and imagining getaways. The Andy Warhol poster of American Indian activist Russell Means reminds me of that trip to Montana when I first became a traveler and heard stories about the power of place. The coffee table hand-painted with quotes about artists and writers was acquired the day my mother and I carried it home from the store to my Chicago apartment. The bicycles in the dining room with helmets hanging from their handlebars are ready for the next outing, and the turquoise surfboard I found on Craiglist in California is now a work of art that complements the turquoise sign out the window, the one that lights up on Pennsylvania Ave. each night at dusk.
This is my belated Valentine, my love letter to home. I was inspired to write it after reading Nate Berkus’ beautiful book, The Things That Matter. In it, Berkus profiles dramatically different individuals who live in dramatically different homes and tells their stories through the stories of their stuff. He also divulges that after moving into a gorgeous, modern apartment himself, he realized the space did not reflect his story. “The apartment was cinematic and chic, pristine and perfect; it was the American dream come true,” he writes. “There was only one problem — it was completely wrong for me.”
“If this apartment did nothing else for me, it reinforced that I want hardware that’s been touched by many hands,” he continued. “I need to live in a more familiar, storied way, surrounded by stuff that has age and patina and tales to tell.”
His comments remind me of the many reasons I love our current space, from Its vintage doorhandles, thick moldings and high ceilings to the morning light that streams in through an east-facing window by the kitchen where I drink my coffee. But maybe what’s most lovable about it is that its bones complement our story. It highlights the things that matter in a place that matters. It contains our photographs and textures and tales of travel and provides the perfect backdrop for our stuff.
What are the things that matter most to you in your home? Share your thoughts with Neighborhood Nomads in the Comments section below.
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