My lifelong best friend Amelia came up with a theory of relationships in junior high. Using the logic of the color wheel (specifically, the part that says that colors, when paired with their compliments, become their brightest and most vivid selves), she decided that every romantic pair has a Blue and an Orange. A chill person and a firecracker. A neutral and a dynamic, or, if you like, a yin and a yang. And those identities can change depending on the day (or the moment), but at every point, she claimed, on average, each person in the pair will swing toward one of those sides to keep the balance.
It’s been over 10 years since Amelia told me about this theory. I’ve never been able to prove her wrong.
If you haven’t spent much time with a color wheel, or really paid attention to art or advertising images, you might not have noticed just how true it is. Complimentary colors, when put immediately next to each other, almost seem to vibrate off the page. Blue, placed next to orange, becomes so blue that you almost have to wonder if it’s the same exact hue you saw a minute ago on a different page. The same becomes true of orange. They push each other to their brightest, most intense limits. They compliment each other because they are so different. It’s true of people, too. Not always, of course – not all opposites can work happily in relationship to one another. But I do think it’s true that in a romantic relationship, the partners seem to work best when put in complimentary opposition. Complimentary because they’re a pair moving towards the same ultimate good. Opposition because they’re different from one another, and being in a safe and supportive environment where individual growth is encouraged actually makes you better together. It’s like an acting professor of mine said once: you can see that someone is a good actor because he or she will make everyone else in the scene look even better. The same is true of dancers. Your goal should be to make your partner look as great as possible. If you concentrate on doing that, and actually succeed at it, the dance will be flawless.
I think of Amelia’s color theory of relationships every time I see the combination of orange and blue. And I have quite a few opportunities to do that, because that color combination seems to follow me pretty much everywhere I go. Different shades, different hues, different intensities – but the basic colors are always there. They were present (very brightly so) at our last home, and after a few hours with some paint brushes and rollers yesterday, they are present in our home again. Galen came home yesterday while I was working on my second room, and without even stopping to take a nap or check his email, he grabbed another roller and started on a different wall. We met in college while working on our theater’s set crew, so doing renovation/carpentry/painting/detail work together has always been special. It’s a commonality between us, something we share equally.
Not everything we do is like that. A few hours later, Galen was pulling out some of his favorite board games – things I’ve refused to play with him for years because I hate board games as a general rule – out of the closet and we were sitting down to play on our living room floor. On Thursday I told him that if he gave an evening over to help me with a project, I’d give an evening over to do whatever he wanted. That evening was last night, and the “whatever” ended up being board games. Blue and Orange. Opposites. And you know what? I still hate board games. But we had a great time! In fact, we had such a great time that we’ve decided to give each other one night of the month, every month, with those same guidelines – whatever we really want to do, and the other one can’t complain about it. And even if we sometimes have opposite interests, activity-wise, as long as we’re focused on the common good of having a fun evening, I’m pretty confident that we’ll succeed. Complimentary opposition. Differences that push us to be our best and brightest selves.
I said goodbye to our last home with a photo-tour post, and I’m going to say hello to our new home with a similar post. I hope you’ll think about complimentary opposites while you look. One couple, two lives. One trajectory, two methods of getting there. Blue and orange. Opposites. Equals.
This is our new apartment on the day we got our keys. Nothing’s been moved in, everything is bare, and the walls are several various shades of beige due to some lazy jobs on the paint crew’s part. I remember feeling suddenly very glum when we walked in to this. It’s funny how no furniture makes a place look so small.
Same day. Last “Before” shot.
HELLO! Welcome to the Nicol Apartment. This picture and all the rest that follow were taken this afternoon after we got things back up on the walls. This is what you see immediately on entering – our lovely little cubical bookshelf and a burnt orange wall.
Detail shot. On top of the entryway bookshelf, we see some fancy metal welded candlesticks from my sister Kate, a beautiful vase that my dad made, a doily made by a lovely woman at Galen’s home church in Urbana, and our wedding vows in the white photo frame. The vow-frame was a late addition; I put it there because I wanted it to be somewhere where we’d see it frequently, not just decorative and out-of-the-way. I put it there and jokingly told Galen, “It’s like a Rules Of The House sign.” Not sure how much of it was a joke.
Another detail shot of the bookshelf. I love it because, whoa, hello marriage! Beautiful books and some Lego minifig Us’s. It brings me joy.
Enough of that, though. Let’s get to some layout shots.
This is what you see to the left on entering. The bedroom is on the left and the bathroom is up to the right. We’ll get to those later. I think the most important thing to say about this picture is: Hello, Señor.
Señor is this wonderfully hideous painting here. It was probably donated to Wheaton College’s student co-op center for free by a crummy down-on-its-luck hotel, and during Junior Year, Kimmy brought it home to our apartment gleefully crowing, “LOOK AT IT! Isn’t it HORRIBLE? Where are we gonna hang it?” Over the years, Señor developed a mythology all his own, including (but not limited to) a story of an amorous Spanish goatherd, a sordid scene of squalor working as a hotel art painter to make ends meet, and a herd of ghost-goats who may or may not live in kitchen cupboards. During that year, Galen would barely set foot in the same room with this painting, he hated it so much. Fastforward three years, and he’s the one who has asked permission to bring this painting from apartment to apartment, and he’s the one who hung it on this wall on the day we moved in and who now refuses to take it down. Like actually refuses. I’ve asked several times, but even I know when I’m licked in these cases of Galen’s decorative euphoria.
This is the view to the right on entering. This part of the apartment is all one room. Isn’t it lovely?
A little further to the right, just so you can see the end-wall. Here we see our dining room table (given to us for free by my aunt’s sister – you can’t beat that), our gigantic armchair/ottoman (unfortunately not given to us for free, but definitely worth every dollar of it’s 70 that we spent on it), and some fancy wall decorations. Oh! Also our owl napkin holder. It’s kind of my favorite.
This is our Blessing And Curse kitchen. We love that it’s in the same room as the living room; most dinners only require one person to be in the kitchen, but we still like to hang out while we’re cooking, so it’s nice that one of us can cook and the other one can sit in a chair somewhere else and we can still chat, share wine, karaoke to Queen’s “Find Me Somebody To Love,” etc. It’s a deep misfortune, however, that it is such a darned tiny kitchen. There’s not even a pantry! You can’t really see it from here, but to fix that problem, we ended up transforming a small bookshelf into a food-shelf on the far end of the island. It still fits under the countertop, and it’s pretty much out of the way, so it just ends up being some handy extra shelving.
Speaking of extra shelving, that piece down at the end of the kitchen aisle didn’t come with the place. That’s part of a dismantled shelving unit that Galen and the TD of Arena Theater, Andy, took apart some months ago. Andy ended up giving us a whole bunch of lovely cherry wood scraps, in addition to two separate pieces (this one, and the one that we keep in our living room).
Another kitchen shot. May I draw your attention to the tiny images of our three nephews/niece, and the baby shower invitation of our FOURTH, on our fridge? That yellow piece of paper is a letter from our niece Kayleigh from this past Christmas. In it, she asks if my new job is “sweeping up the snow.” I can only imagine that this was a large concern of her little four-year-old, Southern Californian brain. I like to think that she would have seen it as heroic of me, were it true.
From the far-side of the kitchen island. Center, please find Galen’s famed monkey lamp. I believe it was a present from his parents once (but feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, Elizabeth). This is a piece that I have learned to love; I think it helped once I turned him to face the window rather than the rest of the room. Also, among our spice racks and flour/sugar canisters, this part of the island also holds our knife block. There is literally a wood block full of knives in the middle of my home. This was the part of set-up where I thanked God that we don’t have any children. It also does bring me joy that sharp blades are at the center of my home. It makes me feel exciting and dangerous.
PS. Our spoons and spatulas, etc. are in a huge beer stein next to the sink.
These are a few of my favorite things.
Now we get into the living room space. My fancy happy decorative shelves are back, which is in no small way thanks to my brilliant husband, who figured out how to get them up even though the wall behind them is actually made entirely of brick.
From left to right: some favorite humor writers (Mallory Ortberg, Allie Brosch, and Sarah Anderson), a porcelain bird statue from Amelia’s sister’s wedding (they were giving them away for free at the end, I think – otherwise I accidentally stole one), a vase (lacking a flower at the moment) that Galen made for me on our first Valentine’s Day, some Anthropologie teacups that I loved and so registered for last October, a watercolor of Prague that my brother and his wife gave me, a tiny white shadowbox frame full of blue seaglass, and one of Galen’s many cool old clocks.
This wall just makes me so happy. It’s an orange that actually came out looking exactly like its paint chip! The exciting thing about this wall, though, is that its lighting changes dramatically throughout the day – so in the mornings and evenings, it’s a pretty deep burnt orange. But through the late afternoons and right around sunset, it becomes almost neon. It’s very exciting.
Anyway! The pictures above the couch are about to be swapped out (especially the one to the right, which should actually be vertical). They’ll be fancy wedding pictures. The bookshelf to the left is our fiction shelf, the blue blanket is a Peruvian gift from Galen’s uncle’s wonderful family, the hanging window is an old set piece from a play that I wasn’t actually in… detail on that in a second… and below it is the other cherry wood piece from Andy.
Our fox wedding-cake toppers are back in action! Also here can be seen the stack of our “books we’re reading right now and are too lazy to put back on their shelves” – which, from the looks of it, seems to be comprised of Twelfth Night, King Lear, Peter and the Starcatchers, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Devil in the White City, Sounding the Seasons: Poetry for the Christian Year, and a New Atlantis journal from 2011.
My FAVORITE corner! Right next to our tall fiction shelf, we have this tiny little butcher-block table (it was in our other apartment when we moved in; we may or may not have taken it anyway) full of favorite children’s books. Also, a very fantastic fox bookend set from our dear friend Katrina.
Also, our plants! But more on that in a second.
This is on top of our tall fiction shelf. The print is a gift from my dad to Galen, and I think the iguana statue is a gift to Galen from his sister Caitrin. I like the two of them together because it feels like the iguana is dreaming of flight.
I have always wanted to be a plant person. I used to go to the dollar store with my dad in junior high and buy up all of their plants – pretty much every month, because each month I’d accidentally kill the ones I’d bought the month before. I am determined to do better now. We don’t have kids, we don’t even have pets – I should at least be able to nourish a thing that grew of its own device, right? (I will probably eat those words in about three weeks when they suddenly wither and die because I overzealously watered them. But anyway.)
I requested that we buy this palm because, historically, I have always hated palms – I mean, they’re everywhere in California, and I got spoiled, plain and simple. Plus, they are pretty funny looking, and it cracked me up to no end how tourists would take photo after photo of palm trees on the beach, like they were some freakishly beautiful phenomenon. Anyway. I used to complain about and mock them without mercy. But now I kind of miss them. And I think that if anyone should have a tiny weird palm tree in their apartment in the middle of Chicago, it should be an ex-pat from California.
I named him Clark because the tag on his pot said “PLANT OF STEEL.”
This is our oldest plant by a week. I named it Cthulhu (which I can never remember how to spell!) because of its tentacles. I’m already mildly concerned that I may have killed him, though, because I had conflicting instructions as to how much water aloe plants need in his first 24 hours of life here. Meanwhile, we watch and wait.
This is our yucca plant, which I love. I think it may need a bigger planter soon, and I’m not sure where to put that, but we’ll cross that bridge later. He is nameless for now because Galen hasn’t chosen anything yet. I love his pinstripes and think he’s very fancy. If Galen doesn’t choose a name soon, I may start calling him F Scott.
We’re heading back to the front hall now. Again, bedroom straight ahead (coat closet to the left of that), and the bathroom to the right.
Don’t be concerned about the bathrobes up ahead. I know they look like ghosts, but they’re not.
This is our funky bathroom. It looked very modern and fancy until we put our wonderful shower curtain up. Now it looks more like us.
I put this picture of Calvin and Hobbes up in here because it reflects behind you when you look into the bathroom mirror, and it reminds me not to take myself too seriously when I get ready in the mornings.
This is our bedroom! (Sans bathrobes.) Galen assembled our Ikea bed in like an hour. I assembled our Walmart nightstand in like four. Yes yes, I know that big impersonal brand stores like Ikea and Walmart are lousy and we shouldn’t own many things from them. But for apartment living (aka, transitioning about once a year and usually having to move things up and down a million staircases, aka, having easily-disassembled-and-reassembled pieces are a major plus) they can’t be beat. Plus, I think they look pretty nice. And that BLUE. UGH. I am obsessed with it.
This is a panoramic so you can see our whole room. It is definitely not finished yet, by which I mean mostly not unpacked (see: boxes everywhere), but to have just this amount of unpacking left after having lived here for only two weeks? Not bad.
Hey look! Bathrobes are back!
My favorite thing about this picture is how the panoramic view wreaked havoc with our ceiling fan. It’s like a swirling vortex of space and time and light and Home Depot wood.
I have never lived in a place with this much closet storage. It is a godsend.
Speaking of which: this is my very grown-up closet.
Hey look! It’s my year in a shoebox box!
PS. Yes, that is the crocodile from Peter Pan, and that is a crown on top of my shoeboxes. I was once crowned Set Crew Captain and I don’t plan on forgetting it any time soon.
I sometimes remember (and subsequently only sometimes find it funny/strange) that the only set pieces from Arena Theater that I have are from plays that I wasn’t in. You can’t see them here, but the cupboard doors I painted for Dancing at Lughnasa are on top of our bookshelf under the window, and these hanging windows were put together for Middletown. Both were plays I worked hard to build, but not plays I was actually in. Neither was Galen. In any case, though, they were part of the creative journey, so they are just as worth remembering.
My board of jewelry, which has followed me to various homes for the past five years. Unfortunately, I used to bring nearly all of it with me from place to place as I traveled; in my senior year of college, I went home for Thanksgiving, and somewhere along the way, all of the jewelry I’d brought with me (read: my very favorite pieces that I wore daily and thus brought with me everywhere) either got stolen or fell out of my bag. I had them when I left California, and they were gone when I reached O’Hare. My jewelry style hasn’t been quite the same since then; some of these pieces are new, but most of them are things I wore in high school. Beyond a monetary loss, it’s quite a blow to lose something so personal as jewelry. It’s an extension of you. It takes time to build it back. It’s still sad, but I’ve come to terms with it by now. Things get lost along the way sometimes. You can either sit and cry about it, or you can decide to start again, piece by piece.
I told my sister I’d take pictures of our view. We’re surrounded by at least 8 huge condo/apartment buildings, which is a brand new experience for me. You never quite feel alone at night with hundreds of windows blinking various shades of yellow at you.
Window view part 2.
I’m so interested in things that travel; what we bring with us and why. It’s been one of the most fascinating things about moving in with another person. Galen’s monkey lamp. My case of blue seaglass. Why? Each of these things is tied to a story. All of these pieces of our individual collages get thrown together into a completely new piece, and the messy process continues until two collages become one giant collage or mosaic or who even knows what to call it? And maybe you eventually forget who brought what to the scene. Maybe in forty years I’ll be asking, “was this your lamp or mine?” Maybe not, of course, but maybe. What an adventure, mixing your history with someone else’s. Blurring the lines of my life and your life and our life. It’s fascinating, how different – even opposite! – elements can be joined together to create something completely new. How blue and orange, side by side, can become electric.