When the deal was underway to buy my new condominium loft, with its exposed pipes, stainless-steel fixtures, soaring ceilings, and white walls, I was ecstatic.
I was a single, first-time homeowner and wanted every square inch of my 800-square-foot dwelling to be an expression of my own taste and individuality. But I wanted to emphasize its basic loft features as well. I consulted books and magazines that specialized in loft décor. I found what I wanted in page after page of loft interiors with acres of bare hardwood floors, aesthetically unadorned walls, and shelves with a scattering of costly objects that had been carefully chosen and artfully placed.
When there were colors, they were splashes of reds, oranges, yellows, and blues. The kitchens were visual poems of stainless-steel appliances, sleek maple cabinetry, and slate countertops. And what more did you need in a bedroom than a crisply made bed - unadorned by head- or footboard - and alongside it, a nightstand with a lamp, a book, and a perfect orchid in a vase?
I immediately "got it," philosophically. Less really is more. Visually plain, stripped-down, and spacious surroundings signify a freedom from material possessions. Once free of outer clutter and distraction, you are free to explore the inner spirit. You could stare at the empty walls and project your imagination's own creations and inspirations onto them.
I'm signing on; I love this idea, I thought.
I began my journey into minimalism by getting rid of everything I didn't love and find essential - and the process was liberating. Out with all those long-unworn items of clothing. Out with the two rugs and lamp I bought on sale and never liked. Out with my worn, hand-me-down velour couch. The few pieces of new furniture I chose for the loft were plain and had clean lines.
After all of this ruthless paring-down, I knew I would be arriving at my new address armed with only the bare bones of my existence - but what more did I need?
When I got everything moved in and in place, my new residence was as bare and white and rectangular as a fresh bar of soap. But then I began to live in it.
The paperback books that began to collect on my bookshelves were the first signs that I might fail at pure minimalism. There were too many of them, and they were stacked way too high to be considered aesthetically pleasing.
My family photos were all wrong, too. First of all, they were in color and not the stark black-and-white compositions with the six-inch-wide matting favored by the loft dwellers featured in magazines. They were, instead, kind of corny, kind of gauche, unloftlike.
I also had too many plants, and none was big enough, leafy enough, or treelike enough to perch in a corner and create shadowy drama.
As much as I wanted to walk into a place as clutter-free and cavernous as a skating rink when I got home from work, there were tell-tale signs that wasn't going to happen: a teapot and cup on my dining room table, two comforters on the couch, a scattering of catalogs that I'd fallen asleep reading the night before - all signs that showed me my style was probably more cozy than contemporary.
Also, a fact I must reluctantly face is that most loft-dwellers are younger than I am and do not spend as much time in their lofts as I do in mine. They are probably out dancing in crowded clubs or backpacking through Nepal - not watching reruns of "West Wing" or messing up their kitchens making tortellini soup. I imagine their lofts to be functional way stations to house them for brief intervals between adventures, while mine is home sweet home (but no cross-stitched samplers, please).
Even though it's not a state-of-the-art, austerely cool gathering place for urban hipsters, I love my home. I love the light that streams through the high, wide windows. I love the small deck off my bedroom. I even love my over- burdened shelves, overstuffed organizing baskets, and the marvelous mess on my desk.
All this stuff makes me feel that, this time, I really did carry out my original goals. Even though I had to ignore - and sometimes outright defy - the sacred codes of loft design to do it, every square foot of this place is me.