Ever notice how things around you start having your essence without you even trying? Okay, that sounded weird. Let me rephrase. In Chinese, there’s a saying that sounds vaguely similar to the American one of “birds of a feather flock together.” But more specifically it means something more like, “Things tend to look like their owners.” The most common example used to illustrate this concept is how dogs often look hilariously similar to their owners (whether it’s in that same chubby face or wire-like hair). It wasn’t until I moved into my studio apartment in NYC that I realized how true this was, because everyone who ever visited always remarked, “Wow, this place is so…you.” I’ve gotten that vague, I guess, compliment many times before. I’ve given it out several times myself, and most often in the context of shopping with a friend, as she drags out a frilly blue and green splashed dress hanging pitifully on the hanger and beams eagerly at me for my approval. And I say, “It’s very…you.” Which translates to, “I’d rather be shot than seen wearing it but it sure looks like something you’d wear.”
After my fourth trip to the most crowded IKEA in the world (Brooklyn), I still wasn’t sure that all of these boxes were going to somehow magically become my dream apartment. It was the first time I ever got to design a whole apartment by myself (granted it was just a studio). Up until now, I had only gotten to stick dozens of photos onto a blank dorm wall or buy the purplest sheets I could find to brighten up the tiny room I rented during my last stay in NYC. I had spent hours poring through Pinterest for “Tiny Studio Design Ideas” and even had my boyfriend use a farncy software to digitally recreate the space, so I could imagine all my furniture in it and assign colors. I was determined for it to be more mature-looking. No more paisley purple lamps or roll-up Audrey Hepburn posters. It was going to be mostly cream and grey (that’s adultlike right?) with pops of my signature purple (which is more like a deep magenta). I grabbed and heaved furniture into my cart, mentally slapping my hand away from the less “mature” items (no, I don’t need that pink vanity) along the way. And a week later when my apartment was furnished, thanks to my boyfriend who is now an expert at building IKEA furniture, I finally got to see everything at once. And I noticed that sure enough, paisley and more than a few pops of purple, managed to sneak their way in. When I complained to my boyfriend that maybe we need to exchange that furry purple pillow for something a little plainer he said, “Why is it a bad thing that your apartment looks like you?”
Then I realized, it isn’t. Try as I might to decorate my apartment to look like something out of Pinterest, the hand and mind behind all the decisions still belonged to me, and that could never be ignored. As I took another look around at the cozy gray couch, soft cream carpet that matched the curtains, faded gold coffee table and dark purple pillows, I realized that more than just any individual item, the whole apartment had come together to reflect me. When I began furiously pinning inspiration on Pinterest, I just clicked whatever appealed to me on the whole, based on whether the picture of that room felt comfortable to me, like a place I would want to lay down in. What I hadn’t realized was that I had a very specific “feel” in mind that I wanted to recreate, and it penetrated every furniture decision I made. Cozy was definitely a priority, but I was never one for antique-y, rustic-looking things. I did, after all, grow up in a big, bustling city, and so modernism was a close second in priorities. I realized that I was largely influenced by the home I grew up in, a living room with lots of light and cream couches with moss-green rattan chairs and wooden accents. Then my second home evoked modernism with its sleek corners and interiors, but every item was either wood or cotton so that the apartment never felt cold. So subconsciously, I too veered away from cool grays, black and white designs and blinding white lights.
My apartment simultaneously paid homage to my parents’ aesthetic while staying true to my personality. I’m someone who is at once lazy when it comes to doing anything that requires physical strength and yet am very anal about my surroundings being just the way I like it. This is why a rustic, thrown-together kind of apartment would never work because part of its aesthetic requires the “not trying too hard to stay neat” feel. Lazy as I am, I can’t stand a mess as much as any anally retentive germaphobe, but the other hand of the spectrum, I can’t bear a sterile, modern apartment that only maintains its look by having everything be just so, and in its proper place. These uptight environments often give off a cold, touch-me-not glare that I also don’t like, because, well, what’s the use of throw blanket if you can’t use it?
On a marginally related note, sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever be able to make that unique, indelible mark on the world that most writers worry about. In a myriad of writings and blogs and voices, why would anyone ever want to hear what I have to say? Apparently, this is a fear that goes through most people’s minds who ever considered starting a blog. A lady at my office who now is the proud owner of a super successful super-foods blog said to me, “Don’t be afraid to start one just because you think there are already thousands of them out there. What makes yours unique is you.” At the time I thought it was very kind of her to comfort me but it wasn’t till I looked around at my apartment that I understood the validity of that statement. No matter what I do, me, myself and I will always catch up to me, my quirks, my flaws, my talents, my voice, and for that, I have never been more grateful.