So over the last few weeks, I added a new piece of furniture, rearranged some things and painted my living room orange. Yes, orange. It was a long decision by my standards, as I had first decided on green, the new hot color of the year. But I kept coming back to orange in photos from online and my many home magazines.
The more I thought about it, the more sense it made. In a way, I had come full circle. I had painted my very first living room orange. Decorating is like fashion. Wait long enough and Capri pants come back in, just like orange is now becoming a hot mid-century modern color choice.
My first apartment was in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, just off Brady Street. Brady Street was Milwaukee’s version of Haight Ashbury in the 60s and at 18, I thought that was the coolest place in Wisconsin you could possibly live.
I had graduated high school in January, having spent a summer in typing class to make a mid-year graduation a reality. I had started working at a factory, inspecting printed circuit boards. It was boring and tedious work, but the money wasn’t bad. Besides, I was in my first band and of course we were going to be big stars soon, so who needed to go to college? I was sick of school and ready to start my life as an adult, moving the 25 miles from the little town I grew up in to the big city. Well, biggest city in Wisconsin that is. If I had it to do over, I would have gone to college. Not for the education or a better job, but for spring breaks, late night dorm discussions and a group of guys I never got the chance to meet. I didn’t quite make the connection that I would be working, paying rent and utilities for the next, possibly, 60 years!
I still remember when I first saw the apartment. It was a lower flat, in the back of the building. You entered through the kitchen, which was actually not a bad size. To the left was also a sizable bathroom and then off the kitchen, a very small bedroom. To be honest, not even sure that bedroom could hold any kind of bed, but it had a closet and a window. The living room was next, not very big and off that was another bedroom. You could fit a twin bed in the room and a dresser, but nothing else.
When the landlord had first talked with me on the phone about the apartment, the first thing she said was, “I hope you don’t have a lot of furniture.”
I didn’t. A brown loveseat with a pull out bed from my bedroom at home, a couple of crates I stood up on their sides as end tables and a dining and bedroom set from my great aunt who had recently passed away. The place didn’t get much sunlight because it was in the back, but there was a little side yard and Brady Street was one block up!
The day my father helped me move in, we discovered cock roaches and no hot water. When my mother heard, she wailed, “You moved out of a perfectly nice home to a cold water flat with bugs!” I guess cold water flats were something they had in the 1940s. I hadn’t realized that you needed to call the utilities companies for things like electricity and gas to be turned on. We took care of the cock roaches with some insect spray.
I painted the living room orange shortly after I moved in. Brown furniture and beige walls made it feel even darker than it already was. I remember when I first started painting, I cried. It seemed much darker that what I imagined. But I grew to love it. Even when the landlord said, “Interesting. I won’t be reimbursing you for it, but if you like it…”
That apartment was the beginning of my adult life and when I think of it, it always makes me smile. It was the sight of many parties and great friendships. I did a lot of singing in that apartment, practicing for every gig like it was going to be the biggest one ever. I never realized the audience I had, until one neighbor said to me, “You really are sounding a lot better! I like the way you sing some of those Heart songs.” I had a couple of really horrendous dates in that apartment, but I also lost my virginity there to someone who was I incredibly attracted to who made me feel special. Even if we weren’t going to be a forever type of thing. Yes, corny as it sounds, I became a woman there.
So not surprising, my new living room also makes me smile. It is a more modern orange than the one way back in the day, warmer and not quite as in your face. The DMan was not crazy about it, but he mentioned the other day he noticed it actually glows at night. Almost like the glow I remember from my first place. Even if that glow could only be seen by a young woman, thrilled with the thought of being on her own.