LONDON–Can we digress? Oooops, too late. One of the joys of buzzing back and forth to Italy is having the Wiley Traveler in residence in London. So, we use her as an excuse to swoop down into Londontown coming or going to Italy. “It’s right on the way” we nod sagely to each other and Bam! Just like that: we’ve rationalized a trip.
Flowers all around us in Italy last fall (especially roses) made me doodle down notes of a happy, somewhat flower-related adventure that we had in London, on the way to Italy. First, a bit of context: did I mention we bought a new house? We love our house in Italy. It is so not on the market. And I thought we loved our house in Maine that much too. We do love it. We’ve put our hearts and souls into it for 22 years. Raised our three children there quite contentedly. It’s a walk to work, walk to church, walk to cappuccino kind of home. It’s a four story Greek Revival captain’s house overlooking the harbor in our picture postcard New England hometown. Like our Italian home, we found our Maine home abandoned and gently, over the years, brought it back to life. And yet, here we are with it finally, finally finished and we are moving out to the nearby Maine countryside. And renovating an old brick farmhouse, surrounded by woods. Are we insane? Project obsessed? Using the restlessness that comes with onset of the empty nest syndrome as an excuse to scratch a “mid” life crisis itch? All of the above? Who can tell. That is the thing about Love. And especially Love at First Sight. You can’t always get it to make stone hard sense. It just is what it is. And now that we are into it, what is it is an adventure. My sister Gin is doing the painting and papering and decorating. Her partner Jim did our first house and is doing the demo and reno here too.
Anyway, I’m getting to a fun part. We’ve had the usual metric ton of daily decisions to make on that new house as we were running out the door to London and Italy. If we could just pick the wallpaper in the front hall my sister said. Then we could play all the colors in all the rooms around it off that or at least not be in conflict with it. We’d been through stacks of those heavy wallpaper books and weeks later we were still thinking about this one photo in a house magazine. It just shimmered off the page. What the heck is that about? So we called the people listed in the back of the magazine and they sent us a lovely sample. Exotic birds and fantasy flowers, hand painted on pea green silk! They are in downtown New York, at a place called de Gournay. We had just received that nice sample from Melissa while we were in the midst of last minute trip packing details. And she had emailed pages and pages of pdf details to us. I printed them out. Stuck them in my computer bag. And ran out the door.
A few hours later, somewhere over the Atlantic, I was showing de Gournay’s paperwork to Midge and noticed the official address on every page: London. You mean the London where this plane is headed? That one? And the showroom appeared to be a block from the first stop on the Wiley Traveler’s itinerary for us: Victoria & Albert Museum. Kismet or what? That is exactly what we thought.
We worked our way there, surprised how close to our hotel it was and knocked on the locked door to be let in. They knew who we were and let us in anyway. I don’t know if they were just trying to make us feel at home or not, but they had one whole floor under renovation – and it was as noisy as our project in Maine. We quickly tuned that right out and like kids in a candy shop just ate this whole showroom right up. How fun it was to see rooms of these wonderful papers in situ. They are mostly flora and fauna done in a Chinese style and based on classic papers in old English manors. Very other worldly and dreamy/exotic stuff. The sample we have makes us feel like we have brought a shimmering piece of the outdoors directly into the house.
This is something from the art and renovation world that I so did not know about. They paint these papers to order. In China. You can see pencil marks where they have roughed in the design. They make the design fit your exact walls. Allowing for doors, windows etc. Can you believe that? Neither could we. It is like interactive wallpaper. It is not free and if you were doing an entire Manor House in it you could just as easily find yourself in the Poore House instead. But we were just thinking of a bit of it for part of one wall, in one hall and small as that is, we may decide give ourselves a house warming present. Thinking about it and learning about this whole new world of design possibilities was very exciting.
We now return you to your regular Italian programming.
See you in Italy,