My parents are not what you would call fancy people. They are real, much in the same way that Jenny from the Block is. Except, you know, for real real. They are frugal, to say the least. They also just have a very simple way of living. They grow a lot of their own food, it would never enter their minds to have a fancy car even if they could have one, and they don’t go in for deluxe vacations and such.
One thing that they do go all out for? Their house.
By that I don’t mean that they spent a ton of moola on their house. I just mean that they put their all into it.
By the time my parents went from renting to owning a house, they were well on their way to 50 years old. And rather then just buy a house, they decided that they wanted to build, because they had a vision for what the design of this house should be. They didn’t want a run-of-the-mill house. They wanted something artistic, something that expressed who they were and the lives that they dreamed for their kids, who had spent their lives up until that point living in sad apartment complexes and cookie cutter rental homes, and who (besides me, the baby born in the US), had had a kind of harrowing immigration experience so far.
My parents couldn’t really afford an architectural firm fee for this artsy fartsy house of their dreams. Instead, they went to an architectural firm and asked if they had any entry level architects in the hizzy. They did. My parents took this young architect out to dinner and talked to him about their dream design. And totally inspired this dude. Inspired him enough so that he drafted up their house plans for them on the side, outside of his work for his firm. They became close friends in the process. He said that my folks totally spoke his language. It was a meeting of the minds, a happy partnership.
After the house was built (and how they accomplished that little miracle is a story in and of itself), my parents designed every room themselves. None of the rooms in our house growing up was ordinary. There was art everywhere, and unexpected palettes of color, and nothing looked like my friends’ houses. The only thing that wasn’t meticulously, thoughtfully designed by my parents? The kids’ bedrooms. In those rooms, my parents let us have free reign. Express yourself, kiddies! And boy, did we. My brother had blood red wall to wall carpeting and a wallpaper mural. My sister had a crazy canopy bed that seemed 5 feet tall and walls and floors the color of Mylanta. I had a severe looking white bed, the frame of which was shaped like a cube (I was a big weirdo minimalist even before puberty). My parents, so simple in every other way, wanted us to live in spaces that we loved, and that we had a hand in creating.
I am so grateful that my parents instilled this love of design and creativity in me. They are the least extravagant people I know, and their house is not the largest or the fanciest that you’ll ever see, but it feels like it is to me. The design of their house is open and airy, which makes it seem so much larger than its actual square footage, and the art is just everywhere, from the items on the walls to each piece of furniture to the structure itself. More than anything, that house symbolizes to me that they wanted our lives to be beautiful, right where we were, and that you don’t have to go on a fancy trip or have a ton of money in order to make your life feel special. My parents’ house feels like an oasis. It always did, even when I was a kid. Why have the need for a getaway when your own house is the place that feels the most getawayish?
I aspire to have this same kind of beauty in my own home. Small, expressive, true to who we are, special.
Here is a small sampling of photos taken at my folks’ place. Thanks moms and pops for bringing me up in the middle of so much imagination.