Wednesday, January 16, 2008

La Casa Mia (e di Paolo...)

For those of you that know me, and for those of you that have had the good fortune of being my roommate over the years, know that I am pretty much a freak about where I live. My mom is a decorator by trade, and apparently it's in the genes. I can be a little fanatical, I'm learning (sorry, Erin--you lived with me and "I want my dorm room/apartment/house THIS way" for six years...the agony...). Basically, I don't stop until it's exactly the way I want it, given the restraints I have to work with (space, money, time, etc).

So, when I walked into the condo that Paolo and I are living in for the next 4 months, I saw a georgous blank canvas. Nevermind the green tile floor, old beat-up royal blue futon, green wicker furniture with a floral pattern that at one time could have been ivory but were now a dullish grey or the completely sterile white walls. Forget that the kitchen is so tiny the refrigerator is in the dining room area, and who cares that the bathroom has 4 different types of tile-they are all some shade of blue, right? What I saw was a beautiful fireplace, FIVE floor to (almost) ceiling doors with a view overlooking the city and the sea, a huge great room with a great shape, and two good sized bedrooms. Bellissima!!!

After watching much TLC (not only do I learn loads from Stacy and Clinton) I've taken a lot of helpful tips on how to decorate on a shoestring budget from "Trading Spaces" and "While You Were Out." And much to Paolo's delight, have decided that some paint, and a few pieces of furniture...and rugs...and flowers...and more paint...and art....and the place will be in top shape in no time.

Now, normally, I wouldn't barge into someone elses house and decide to redecorate it (unless asked), but, this is one of a few rental houses that Paolo's family owns, and the nicer it looks the more they can rent it for. And we've been careful about what we've chosen. The new couch is a micro-suede that folds down into a bed, so the place can accomodate more than just the bedrooms, the chairs we bought for in front of the fireplace are papasan-like (smaller, with arms), so the cushions can be easily washed or replaced. The rugs are great--all seasons, big, and were only 40 euro each. (We spent a total of 550 on furniture--couch, 2 chairs, 2 footstools, coffee table, baskets to hold wood for the fire)--not to shabby.

There was some furniture already here, that is very, uh, circa 1973. The armoir that the TV sits on is wood with the cupboard doors covered in orange felt. Yeah. But, we've managed to work them into the color scheme, and now it *almost looks like we bought the piece on purpose. We've painted the large main room in a really pale orange, and the hallway, entryway and bedroom in a sandy color (best to go light, since it's mostly a summer home). It is amazing what a coat of paint can do for a place! Slowly it's transforming from a mish-mosh of forgotten furniture, to a cohesive, fucntional, warm space. I love it. And so does Paolo--now we can only hope his mamma feels the same way.

We took down her curtains, which were very pretty, green linen with panels of sheer floral patterns. I could tell they were very expensive and good quality. We are replacing them with simple off-white ones with a embroidered pattern along the top in a neutral color. The green was pretty, but with the orange walls it kinda had an easter egg effect. It's been the only thing she seemed a little adverse to...but, Paolo said when we leave she can put her green ones back up if she wants. (Hopefully when they see the place completed, they will love one except his brother Vincenzo has seen what we've done to it so far).

So, basically, most of my time so far in Italy has been working my ass off in the condo. I could write about it as though it's a romantic comedy--young couple has a dream house that is a fixer- upper, and they turn it into a masterpiece. However, this is reality, there is no music montage of paint and construction and 5 minutes later--viola! it's done. Good Lord, don't I wish. My whole body hurts from painting, sanding, moving furniture, hauling things up two flights of stairs. But it's well worth it, because I can see Paolo falling more and more in love with it (mind you, this is his first "home" outside of his parents house--yep. It's Italy, that's how they do it. Mamma's house to wife's house) He's trying to break from that mold slowly, and when I leave, I think he will continue to live away from home. Which, in my mind (and in general in America) is a good thing.

Because of the work at home, I haven't been doing much exploring yet. I've had 2 Italian lessons, and it's overwhelming. I feel like I will never be able to learn it. I'm taking private lessons 3 days a week until classes start in mid-February. Hopefully, I will have a good handle on the basics by the time classes start. My classes for my Master's program start tomorrow, and I don't have my books yet (as usual), but my parents got them yesterday and so I should have them early next week.

Next blog, I will write about Otranto, and our life in this little town. But, for now, Paolo just got home from work and we are going to make lunch, do a bit more painting, and study.

Ciao a tutti!

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