Remodeling or Watercolored Blues


Remodeling. This is where the surf almost literally meets the sand – where the east coast meets the west coast. This is what will test the Jersey Boy/California Girl solid-as-granite marriage.

Eight years ago, after the hot water tank flooded our place with an ocean of water, we moved into this space-challenged condo. As small as it was, like some crews’ quarters below deck, it did have almost everything I’d prayed for. It came with a two-car garage, a fireplace, two bedrooms, and hardwood floors. But alas, there were no granite counter tops. (Had I forgotten to pray for granite counter tops? Would it have been too much to ask God for them?)

While I love the ocean almost as much as my husband (does) – he’s a surfer and a Retired Coast Guard Veteran, 31 years — I’ve had to draw a line in the sand when it comes to his taste in décor. Not that I’m so evolved, but until now, I’ve tried to keep my mouth shut about certain knickknacks and such because we were “only renting.” Items like conch shells, ship wheels, lighthouse memorabilia, hula skirt lamp shades, brass signs pointing sayings like To The Life Boats or This Way To The Beach are all ways for him to feel like it’s home. But some of it is really a little much, especially the spray-painted masterpiece he purchased in Rosarito Beach. “The artist is a genius,” he says of the picture of two silhouetted dolphins leaping over a lighthouse under the light of a silvery moon.  As a compromise, I let him hang it in the bathroom as long as I can keep Hippolyte Flandrin’s framed poster of the  “Young Man By The Sea” hanging over our bed.

And then finally last year after an almost a nine-year engagement, we got married and this year we were able to buy the little condo. This modest love nest is officially “our home.”  Will I finally get my granite counter-tops?

We both love nostalgia and antiques and each of us had even brought some of our collections into our new relationship. But seriously, I’m ready to purge all the old junk; stuff like my ornate engraved Chinese furniture and furnishings, a huge French oak writing desk where I don’t write, gold-gilded mirrors and my collection of Lladros. Not only his gear, but even my crap, he’s having a hard time letting go. “But those chairs are solid wood and that’s a really expensive Persian rug.” “We can put it in your storage unit,” I reply having recently discovered that he rents a storage unit nearby for all of his surfboards, other nautical possessions, and God-knows-what else. No more secrets and now that we’re married I’ll have a say in getting rid of that, too. More money for my granite counter tops!

In addition to simplification, our small condo needs illumination. It has no light, only a couple of windows in the bedrooms and one sliding glass door toward the back. Now when it comes to the flooring, he wants hardwood, knotty pine, mahogany-stained teak or a dark oak. Finally, after convincing him that his floor choices are something you’d find in a 50’s bowling alley, a 70’s disco club, or the Love Boat, he seems to be coming around to a whiter flooring.  “Just not marble!” he says. “We’re not living in a castle.” But then, a knock on the door, on a whim he’s made a purchase. “Surprise, you’re gonna love it.” He rolls out a new nine-foot by twelve-foot area rug. “I know how you love sea turtles and see, it has all the colors.” (Storage unit?)

And then there are the kitchen countertops. Have I mentioned I want granite? Unfortunately, there aren’t many white types of granite out there and so the only answer seems to be some sort of quartz or new Formica like what’s peeling in the galley. As for the backsplash in the kitchen, I’ve found something a little bolder — an abalone glass tile off which the light might ricochet. But is it because I love it?  Or is it because I’m doing it out of some sort of maritime compromise after I’ve harpooned his suggestion for some rattan furniture with big red hibiscus flowers and orange birds-of-paradise seat cushions straight out of the Golden Girls Florida retirement home. I know he’s trying to meet me in the middle, but seriously, I’m not ready for Cocoon.

When I close my eyes at night, I can’t help but see strips and swatches and swathes of color and miles of tiles and wood variations on the back of my eyelids. During the day, I see shapes and colors everywhere like yesterday out on the water when I worked as my husband’s first-mate during the transport of a client’s 66-foot Azimut from Newport to Marina Del Rey.  As we cruised along, I couldn’t help but notice our rippling Pacific Ocean’s glittering shades of blues and greens.  Above, the sky was an ominous grey — not a good sign for a sailor. At that moment, even though it’s currently one of the more popular colors, I decide I don’t want the “Watery Grey” by Behr after all. For the living room walls, I’ll narrow my choices to either “Key Largo Bay,” “Sea Spray” or “Tropical Surf.”

Home after a day at sea, we settle in to watch a movie. Too many movie choices — more than paint colors – but we decide on a flick I’ve already seen at least three times. At least it’s not “The Finest Hour” for the umpteenth time or another episode of “Deadliest Catch.” All caught up in the intrigue and corruption as we watch the “Departed” (I’m half watching, half surfing the net for tile/wood samples) but I can’t help except to notice the shades of blue on the walls in DiCaprio’s upgraded pad (before the splatter of blood red). And then in the next scene, in the psychiatrist’s apartment, my husband asks, “What do you think of the yellow on her walls?”

Finally, a visit to the granite warehouse. The next morning, as we walk through what seems like a green mile toward the back of the shipyard-sized warehouse, we see it. Splashed across a white rock canvas are iridescent shades of turquoise and teal, like waves crashing down somewhere along a sandy golden Pacific island shore. Not quartz, not marble, not granite, but quartzite – a material even stronger than granite (more expensive, too).  It’s called Aquarela. We look at each other, both smiling now, and then we buy it – our first purchase for the remodel– our first solid compromise.

In the end, we’ve settled on the abalone-looking glass tile backsplash for the kitchen, the “Sea Spray” for the accent walls and for the floors, a Pergo Timber Craft, “Ocean View Oak.” I break down and purchase some new Tommy Bahama style wicker club chairs that I think will be a nice touch in the dining room where we’ve also agreed to hang onto a small glass table with a white Mediterranean marble base.

Now we can sail along this ocean called life, floating above the gentle waves, we’ve learned that we don’t have to drown in the sea of life’s many choices. After all, we now have a marriage as solid as quartzite and if we can pick out a paint color together, then we can ride out any tempest that might be lurking on the horizon or better yet, take shelter in our newly decorated little port in the storm.

One thought on “Remodeling or Watercolored Blues

  1. I love this story. It is indeed a story of a shipwrecked couple on the sea of love. The colors sang out to me at every turn. I could just imagine the green -blue of the sea on her walls. Now that she has her sailor, she will get her granite top.


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