Ayumi and Chloe’s Peaceful Home in Maine

Ayumi and Chloe's Maine Home, Design*Sponge

Ayumi and Chloe’s Peaceful Home in Maine

When potter Ayumi Horie was looking for a new space, she decided to return to her home state of Maine to settle down. Ayumi wasn’t searching for just a home, but for a property that would also accommodate her studio and kilns. She’d lived in other homes on the East Coast and knew winters could be brutal, so finding something with a studio building close to the home (to prevent long, snowy commutes) was a huge priority. When she saw this house, a brick Greek Revival with a crabapple-lined driveway, she knew she was home. “I’ve lived in many places and knew that this move would be my last — that I’d grow old in this house and would invest in it in more than just a material way,” she explains. And now, along with her fiancée Chloe Beaven and their dog, Clover, Ayumi has worked to not just restore their family’s historic home, but to invest in their home city of Portland, ME in a way that more deeply connects them to their space, community and the history of the town.

“I firmly believe that warm homes come about through years of looking, collecting, and gathering, just like identities take shape over time,” Ayumi says. “Nothing matches because nothing is more boring to me than matching sets. Things ‘match’ because we like them. Every object has a story to tell, whether the story is instilled by the maker or by an anonymous past the object has carried for years.” When asked about the best part of living in an old home, Ayumi says, “You can ask me again when I’m 80, but the rewards of living in an old house are worth it. The wavy way that early morning light is refracted through leaded panes of glass and the groves of massive, old lilacs and crabapples make an indescribable scent around the house when they bloom. We get a little piece of country pie while being able to get into the middle of Portland in 10 minutes.”

Read on to see their full home tour and hear more about the renovations and history of Ayumi and Chloe’s beautiful home. xo, grace

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Life & Business: Hana Getachew of Bolé Road Textiles

Life & Business: Hana Getachew of Bolé Road Textiles

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“Dwell in possibility.” These words from an Emily Dickinson poem sit in a frame on Hana Getachew’s desk. For Hana — and for many entrepreneurs — the very thought that her dream could be made into a reality was all she needed to launch Bolé Road Textiles. Though leaping into the unknown world of becoming a business-owner was scary, her vision was clear and carried her from the start: to pursue her love of weaving and textiles, all while supporting and celebrating local makers and her home country of Ethiopia’s culture.

All of the ethically-sourced, modern home products by Bolé Road Textiles are crafted with love using ancient weaving traditions that pay homage to Hana’s roots in Addis Ababa. And though her business has flourished, she admits it’s a marathon, not a sprint; a continuous process of learning, tweaking and improving, and one that requires plenty of heart and openness to feedback. Today, we’re thrilled to have Hana join us to chat about her business, the two biggest lessons she’s learned (patience and agility), why feedback is important, and a phrase she repeats often: “remember how Martha started.” —Sabrina

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San Miguel de Allende, Mexico City Guide

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico City Guide

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Although Montserrat Cardona was born in Mexico City, San Miguel de Allende has been a close-by and second home for as long as she can remember. A small town with “a passion for beauty in almost every corner,” she has lived in SMA for nearly half a year now and continues to fall in love with its soul, diverse culture and genuine Mexican heart.

For over three decades, this inspiring Guanajuato’s area has attracted artists far and wide — from painters, sculptors, musicians, writers and gallery owners — and continues to draw young expats and entrepreneurs who’ve launched boutiques, hotels, spas, bars, concept stores, gourmet restaurants, and interior design firms. From the moment you check-in at your hotel, to the ingredients local dishes are prepared with, to the cocktails on one of the hundreds of terraces with a magnificent view of the Cathedral, San Miguel is known for its customer service and friendly locals. But perhaps Montserrat says it best: “All the people that live here love this Mexican jewel that (not by chance) is considered one of the best places to live in the world!” and today she shares with us a taste of that. –Sabrina

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Fine Art Focus: Welcome Ana Na

Fine Art Focus: Welcome Ana Na

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Well, it happened. I blinked and it’s suddenly September. This summer flew by like no other summer ever has. I remember my birthday party in June and then the next thing I knew we were traveling around the country to finish up our next book and working on expanding and improving DS. Now after a week off, we’re back and ready to start sharing some of the new content, columns and writers that will be joining us. I’ll write more about our bigger goals here next week, but for now, I want to introduce you to one of our new contributors, Ana Na.

Ana lives in France and has an all-consuming passion for fine art, jewelry and digital art. I’ve been following her on Facebook for months now and this summer I realized every single thing she posted was something I wanted to share on DS. So I reached out to her, asked if she’d like to join our team and, to my delight, she said yes.

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Each week Ana will introduce us to a talented artist and share some of their work, then tell us where we can find and learn more about their work online or in person. The goal will be to expand our world a bit each week with someone that we perhaps haven’t heard of before or an era/style/type of fine art that will inspire and excite us. This column won’t be about where you can shop/buy/replicate something, but instead about sharing something beautiful and meaningful that will hopefully lead to a moment of inspiration, a desire to keep reading and learn more, or maybe even a weekend excursion to find out more about an artist, a movement, a style or another artist connected to the one we show here. So let’s meet our first artist! xo, grace

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Artist: Yuko Nishimura
About: Yuko is a Japanese artist who studied in the Architectural Design program at the School of Arts at Nihon University in Tokyo.
Work: Yuko works primarily with folded paper, creating precise and elegant sculptures that have a strong architectural presence. The texture and shadows created by her intricate folding work are stunning and her work has been featured in advertisements and film, as well as shown prominently at galleries and museums across the globe.
More: You can read more about Yuko’s work here, read about her upcoming exhibitions here and watch an excellent film on her process here.

*Images courtesy of Yuko Nishimura’s website. Portrait still from Keiko Art International’s video, above and below.

D*S Essay Contest Winner…

D*S Essay Contest Winner…

Last week’s essay contest was one of the most moving things I’ve experienced here at the site so far. The emails — not to mention the essays themselves — we received were some of the most thoughtful I’ve ever read. First and foremost, thank you to everyone who took the time to share their voice and their story with us here. Every single entry was a joy to read and I look forward to reading much more of all of your writing. To the finalists, thank you for having the courage to share your stories here in front of such a wide audience. You did so with open hearts and open minds and I think that was exactly how they were received.

Now that the voting has come to an end, I’m happy to announce the winner of our first-ever essay contest…

Liberty Lausterer!

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Congratulations to Liberty and everyone else who was a finalist this year. Liberty will be receiving a $500 prize and we will be sure to continue reaching out to all of the amazing writers who entered to hopefully contribute more here at DS in the future.

We will be back tomorrow with regular content. Until then, please take a moment to check out all of this year’s finalists if you haven’t already! xo, grace

D*S Essay Contest: VOTING! [Now Closed]

D*S Essay Contest: VOTING! [Now Closed]

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After a week of wonderful essays, it is now time to vote for your favorite! First, I want to thank everyone who shared their amazing stories with us. It was an honor to hear about all of your lives, your adventures, your struggles and what home means to you. From all of us here at Design*Sponge, we thank you for sharing so much with us.

Starting today, you can vote for your favorite essay. The winner will win $500 and voting goes through Tuesday, September 1st at 10am EST. Vote below! Thank you to everyone who shared and everyone and took the time to read and vote here today. xo, grace [Image above by Pamela Jaccarino via #dscolor]

[UPDATE: Normal DS posting will resume TOMORROW, SEPT 2ND! We needed one extra day for catching up after the break. Sorry! -grace]

CLICK HERE to read all of the essay finalists here before voting (in case you missed any!)

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D*S Essay Contest: Stacey LaFayette

D*S Essay Contest: Stacey LaFayette

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[Editor’s note: All week we will be posting the finalists for our first D*S Essay contest. The theme was “HOME”. Voting will begin on Friday after all finalists have been notified and posted. Thank you so much to everyone who entered this year’s contest! -Grace]

When I was young, my family would spend every 4th of July at our beach cabin in Manzanita, on the Oregon Coast. Even though we drove west to get there, we always said we were “going down” to the beach, as though we were descending into a simpler world, one with no phone service or wi-fi or cable. Everyone would go down there; aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents – more people than could reasonably fit in a two-bedroom cabin. I don’t even remember where we all slept. We must have been lined up on the floor in sleeping bags, crammed onto couches and bunk beds. On the morning of the 4th we would all walk the five blocks to the main street, set up folding chairs, and watch the parade. It was a small affair at first, with homemade floats and Manzanita residents driving in their cars and throwing candy to the kids. Gradually it morphed into what it is today, a huge ordeal with dozens of floats made by businesses from up and down the coast, an impressive array of vintage cars, more candy than a kid knows what to do with, and a main street flyover from an F-15 jet.

Then we’d walk back to the cabin, where we’d have a barbecue and eat the biggest steaks known to man, my grandpa’s splurge for the family. In the afternoon we’d walk two blocks to the beach, stopping to try our hand at running up an impossibly steep sand dune. It was nearly vertical, or felt so as a small child, and we would have contests to see who clamber up the highest before giving in to gravity and sliding back down. Then there were sandcastles to build, and seashells to collect, and we’d run away screaming and laughing whenever mom would pick up giant pieces of slimy seaweed and chase after us with them. The nighttime firework show on the beach capped off the holiday, the booms reverberating in my chest and the smoke seeping into my clothes and hair.

Our cabin was built by all of us, bit by bit, over the past thirty-seven years. My grandpa bought the lot for $7,800 in 1976, when Manzanita was just another sleepy beach town whose main draw was the sand and the golf course. It was a quarter acre of tough, windblown trees and scrubby salal bushes. He laid the foundation in 1978, with the help of my dad, my uncle, and my grandma’s uncle . For three years they worked on it. My grandpa saved up for each new piece of the cabin so he could avoid debt. He and my grandma would stay down there on weekends and work on it, living out of a tiny travel trailer until the cabin finally had walls and floors. Even then, it didn’t have any carpet – just rugs and carpet remnants, laid out like patchwork on the rough wooden floors. The basement bedroom and bathroom only had bare sheetrock walls for about twenty-five years before we got around to painting them. It was one of the least stylish homes I’ve ever seen – and yet, no one cared. Our experiences down there were so much more interesting than the decor.

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D*S Essay Contest: Susanna-Cole King

D*S Essay Contest: Susanna-Cole King

Susanna-Cole King, Design Sponge Contest
[Editor’s note: All week we will be posting the finalists for our first D*S Essay contest. The theme was “HOME”. Voting will begin on Friday after all finalists have been notified and posted. Thank you so much to everyone who entered this year’s contest! -Grace]

Home is sleeping in on Sunday, sun squeezing tangerine past window shades and blanketing the bed, womb of warmth. It’s a temple for prayers, and late-night eurekas, as much as for brushing teeth, and puttering around in pajamas. It’s barefooted on worn, wide planks of oak that bear the birthmarks of a hundred and thirty years, mottled with eggshell and crimson dribbles of paint; sun fading.

Home is for books, a wisp of cotton clothed flesh in a cocoon of quilts, paperbacks dog-eared on pillow cases, the fragrant aroma of apples in the slow cooker in autumn, the crescendos of cicadas seeping into the marrow of bones in summer. Home is dust jackets dappled with sun spots and toothy tears, cloth-bound, plastic sleeved, the ghost of a coffee cup on one, marbled endpapers on another, faded slate gray annotations in pencil, embraced in cedar bookcases or precariously teetering on window ledges in diamond-edged stacks, guardian angels of sleep. It’s guts and grins and rhythm, and a lump in the throat.

*Photo above by Lindsay Anne Belliveau

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Home is the harbor, the beacon of light plunging through darkness, the anchor on the ocean floor when tossed by tempests and tumultuous seas, that waits when eyelids are drooping into crescent moons, waxing, waning, when feet ache, hearts ache, head aches, never betraying the hiccuping sobs into the pillow, fists pounding, soft echoes on mattress springs. It’s walls that will listen with rapt attention; never say can’t, never laugh at outlandishness, brazenness, unbridled dreams.

Home is healing a bad day, a decade of illness, beating eggs until arms ache, snail trails of clover honey on the table, the hum of cooking wholesome food, and slowly, slowly, a small hope growing. It’s the humble theater for old floorboards aching in their joints, heart pounding, dancing doldrums into joy, always a beat off, never a damn given.
Home is messy-headed, eating cake for breakfast. It’s legs folded on braided rugs, paper tides in a sea of ephemera browned softy as a bruise, faded snapshots swimming at the knees, pulled into pleasing arrangements, and hung bespoke from clothespins. It’s rummaging through desk drawers, heavy with letters and rumpled poems; sweating out everything at a buttery yellow typewriter, in wicker-bottomed chair, tap, tap, tap, ding!

Home is the ecstasy of losing all sense of the hours ebbing and flowing, of no longer being beneath the heel of the small hand that ticks in its dictatorship. It’s belly aching, side splitting laughter swallowed in a breathy silence, when muscles go slack, and not a soul in the room can sit straight anymore, clutching the table, plates of home cooking, devoured over animated conversation. Home is for the loudness of company, and the quiet of solitude.

Home is for the beloved; anything is art, everything on the walls. It’s for the beautiful, the useful, the storied, worn, and already loved. Home is mementos of those who voices once husked warmly around, a fading memory of generations who have come and come to pass, but not been forgotten.

Home is the view from the windows, neat rows of houses squeezed so tightly together that not even a murmur let out in drowsy sleep, could pass between. It’s rowhouses of grand pizazz, neoclassical, Parisian bohemia, red-bricked or glazed in white and robin’s egg blue. Rowhouses hatted with roofs of coal black fish scales that shimmer when it rains, faded cedar shakes, and sloping eaves. Home is rows snaggletoothed, here or there, a house punched loose from its crooked grin, vacantness, abandonment.

Home is where paradise collides with anarchy, gunshots splitting the night over the lull of moonlit fountains, where presidents once roamed, where slaves fled to freedom, where the war on racism roars on. It’s aristocrats and junkies, prostitutes and policemen, doctors and drug dealers, heirs and starving artists; the strange juxtapositions of a small town, big city.

Home is an uncertain world, it’s growing together, as neighbors, as humans, unafraid to put roots in shaky ground, to plant the seeds so that one day there might be a better hope, a future as luminous as golden sunlight through the kaleidoscope of trees grown tall.

Home is folding myself, a head taller, into my mother’s arms after a long time. -Susanna-Cole King

D*S Essay Contest: Kate Schaefer

D*S Essay Contest: Kate Schaefer

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[Editor’s note: All week we will be posting the finalists for our first D*S Essay contest. The theme was “HOME”. Voting will begin on Friday after all finalists have been notified and posted. Thank you so much to everyone who entered this year’s contest! -Grace]

Eight years. Two thousand nine hundred twenty days since I sat on the edge of my bed with a cloudy head.

“I have something to tell you…”

My heartbeat began banging an uneven rhythm in my chest, in my ears, behind my eyes.

BAM. BAM. BAM. A percussionist inside of my ribcage.

I don’t even think I responded. I tensed up, ready for the blow. Sat down. Prepared.

“I have cancer.”

Then some talk about treatment, probably some tears from the other end. To be honest, the conversation is a hazy mist that hangs in the recesses of my memory. It’s the low-lying fog that is only detectable from a distance; stand in the middle of it and the tangible quality it has seems to dissipate. All that to say, I really don’t remember the conversation when my mother told me she had cancer.

Truthfully, it almost never crossed my mind that I could lose my mother at forty-seven years old. I never thought this disease would kill her. She was the most capable person I had ever known and I strived to be half of the person that she is.

But then the chemo began. Generally speaking, she felt fine. But there were days, unnerving days, where she would cry on the phone. Where she would complain of feeling ill. Where she sat on the couch and said she just needed to feel bad for herself.

And then I saw her. Home from photography school for a visit, I saw my newly afflicted mother; cancer-ridden, bald, skin pale & crepe-y.

What happened to the powerhouse I had always known? Where did the strong, able-bodied woman go? The one who had reared two kids like it was effortless? The one who maintained a marriage, a household and an increasingly successful career? She was frail. She was still positive, still herself, just a little bit weaker. She was shadow of herself, the same shape around the edges, but all of the details were a bit dark and blurry.

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D*S Essay Contest: Domenique Osborne

D*S Essay Contest: Domenique Osborne

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[Editor’s note: All week we will be posting the finalists for our first D*S Essay contest. The theme was “HOME”. Voting will begin on Friday after all finalists have been notified and posted. Thank you so much to everyone who entered this year’s contest! -Grace]

Home Is Where You Lay Your Fork

My grandfather was a bricklayer and a baker.

One by trade, the other by passion.

His huge, work-scarred hands would massage and knead and stir, as though he were working a massive drum of mortar. No dough or frosting or sweet, berry filling was safe from his constant ministrations.

Each family gathering starred one of Nonno’s creations: a shimmering blueberry tart. Tins of powder-flecked cookies, piled high like jewels. A kugelhopf, studded with bits of dried fruit. But the grand dame of any gathering was his tiramisu with its extravagant layers of espresso-soaked ladyfingers luxuriating on feathery beds of egg and mascarpone.

When I finally left home for a lovely college on the other side of the state, he was so disappointed that I hadn’t chosen something closer to home.

To him.

The man who had packed up his wife and baby and left his parents, siblings and the sugar-capped peaks of Northern Italy for a new life in the creeping sprawl of Detroit was upset that I was going to college 130 miles away.

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D*S Essay Contest: Liberty Lausterer

D*S Essay Contest: Liberty Lausterer

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[Editor’s note: All week we will be posting the finalists for our first D*S Essay contest. The theme was “HOME”. Voting will begin on Friday after all finalists have been notified and posted. Thank you so much to everyone who entered this year’s contest! -Grace]

Mary Oliver’s poem, “Magellan,” begins:

Like Magellan, let us find our islands

To die in, far from home, from anywhere

Familiar. Let us risk the wildest places,

Lest we go down in comfort, and despair.

I used to think home looked like the 1950’s ranch on a hill in the lush, green suburbs. Man, I swooned over that house. I still do. It had pocket doors, corner windows, a fifteen foot fireplace made of Bedford stone, hand laid from local quarries. There were the thin red oak floors that gave off the most wonderful smell on the first warm day of spring, and the original seafoam green tiles in the bathroom that mimicked an island oasis. On a wall in that bathroom we hung a giant poster of the Susan Constant, one of three ships on the voyage to the Jamestown colony. We were pilgrims after all, this being our first home, colonizing our own bit of land in southern Indiana.

A local doctor had the house built, and I imagined he had a hand in its design. Either because of his sense of humor, or a desire to make something utterly unique, the layout of the house was  topsy turvy. Friends, family, and the local Sears guy would all get lost in it. What’s not to love about a house that invites you to make use of your internal navigation system?

After we moved in we immediately set to tearing up the old carpet, pulling out a million and one staples, and scraping up the linoleum floor in the laundry room using a spackling knife. We tore out a row of yew bushes along the front of the house that hadn’t been trimmed since the 1970’s, unearthing one of two built in planters. Huge stones were dug up and hauled around the yard.

In a short time span we purchased an ax, a shop vac, the world’s largest screwdriver, an industrial sized ladder, not to mention countless rented implements. When we think back to those initial weeks and months we recall feeling superhuman. The adrenaline that coursed through our veins, having acquired our own bit of Eden, was so intense we accomplished near heroic feats.

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D*S Essay Contest: Louisa Purchase

D*S Essay Contest: Louisa Purchase

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[Editor’s note: All week we will be posting the finalists for our first D*S Essay contest. The theme was “HOME”. Voting will begin on Friday after all finalists have been notified and posted. Thank you so much to everyone who entered this year’s contest! -Grace]

One sunny morning this April our friend, Gerard, pulled up in our driveway. A professional plasterer by trade, he had come to skim-coat three rooms in our house. Just as he was opening the door to his van, his phone rang. Gerard wondered, he told me later, whether he should answer – after all, he’d a long day ahead of him and needed to get started. But he picked up the phone. The news was so unexpected that it left him stunned, sitting in the driveway, clueless about what to do next.

Rewind 18 months and, after a year of marriage, Ian and I purchased our first home together. Located on the south west coast of England in Exmouth, Devon, the house is a pale yellow 1930s semi-detached, very common in the UK. It has three bedrooms, a small back garden, and is plain, solid and well-built. A big draw for us when deciding to purchase the property was its proximity to Ian’s work as a science teacher at the local secondary school, and to a beautiful, wide, sandy stretch of beach, which we loved. The house was just the kind of project we had been looking for. It had been owned by the same elderly couple for over 40 years, and needed cosmetic, rather than structural, improvement.

For Ian, buying the house meant fulfilling a lifetime’s ambition. Early on in our relationship, he told me that all he really wanted in life was to get married and live simply, somewhere by the sea, with a baby and a dog. Buying the house was a significant step towards making this dream a reality, and we fully expected the baby would arrive in due course (maybe even the dog, too).

Throughout Ian’s life his parents had purchased properties, renovated them, and sold them on. He had always been keen to pitch in with the rest of the family, but had been hindered by his health. He had developed a problem with his kidneys at a young age, and in the course of his life had undergone three kidney transplants. Now in his thirties he was relatively fit and healthy- more so than he had ever been. This was his chance to get stuck in, manage his own project, and prove to himself and everyone else that he could do it. Whilst Ian had remained coolly non-committal throughout the course of our property search, his response when I showed him the online listing for the house was decisive: ‘Yep, that’s it. That’s the one we’re going to buy.’ It seemed that it was meant to be.

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D*S Essay Contest: Leah Pellegrini

D*S Essay Contest: Leah Pellegrini

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[Editor’s note: All week we will be posting the finalists for our first D*S Essay contest. The theme was “HOME”. Voting will begin on Friday after all finalists have been notified and posted. Thank you so much to everyone who entered this year’s contest! -Grace]

Home Is Where the Hum Is

My upstairs apartment neighbor vacuums only at sunrise. I sometimes wake to the soft hum passing across the floor over my head. I’m not sure who she is, nor even that she’s female, but I envision her with tired hands like leather laced with wrinkles, wearing a sweet and sleepy sort of smile. Behind my shut eyes, I see her shuffling in the same slippers she’s kept for years, embroidered with tiny roses across the toes, as she tangles the thick cord of the vacuum around her ankles.

If it’s not the vacuum, it’s the shower, and I hear the water rushing gently through the pipes in the walls. I imagine those slippers waiting just outside her bathroom door, still warm, and her teapot steaming on the stove. I stand slowly from my twin-sized bed and draw up my sheets, tucking them into the sides of the mattress and fluffing my pillows, while above me, there’s that gentle purr of solidarity in the shared ritual of a fresh start.

I make my breakfast to the shrill of the next-door toddler’s tantrums. I flip my eggs while she flips furniture, sending board games and books flying helter-skelter into the walls. She stomps, and the floors shake, and the butter bubbles frothier around the edges of my pan. By the time I’m sitting at my Ikea dining table, sipping coffee, her mom or dad has managed to wrangle her unwillingly out the door. “I don’t want to go,” she shrieks. “No!” I think about human inertia while I stare into my mug, willing the billowing swirl of almond milk to translate into some sort of motivational message.

I do my novice yoga routine in my kitchen-cum-living room with the window wide open, listening to a distant jackhammer (somewhere, someone is always constructing something) and a mob of kids entering the school across the street. They sob their goodbyes to their mothers and squeal their hellos to each other as I rest in my own Child’s Pose on my hardwood floor.

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D*S Essay Contest: Ashley Hallmark

D*S Essay Contest: Ashley Hallmark

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[Editor’s note: All week we will be posting the finalists for our first D*S Essay contest. The theme was “HOME”. Voting will begin on Friday after all finalists have been notified and posted. Thank you so much to everyone who entered this year’s contest! -Grace]

Mud brown walls.

Beige carpets that are in dire need of a shampoo.

An offensive odor coming from the kitchen sink and dishwasher.

Generic spec home layout.

Our new home.

An abundance of morning light that streams softly through the windows.

A large backyard.

A defiant, struggling, beautiful rose bush with sherbet orange blooms.

Our new home.

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I have lived in four different houses in four different states in the last year.

The white-washed walled rental in Mesa.

The beautiful, poorly insulated old cabin on nine acres in upstate New York.

The comfort and relief of my sister’s house in Missouri.

And now a die-cut and stamped suburb variation in South Carolina.

With each move, the meaning of home shifted and became more and more elusive. I found myself squinting at its fuzzy outlines in frustration, and when I got tired of squinting, I crated the idea and shoved it into a corner. Home was more of a physical structure with empty veins than a haven with a beating heart.

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D*S Essay Contest: Gabi Menezes

D*S Essay Contest: Gabi Menezes

The White Bed- Gabi Menezes
[Editor’s note: All week we will be posting the finalists for our first D*S Essay contest. The theme was “HOME”. Voting will begin on Friday after all finalists have been notified and posted. Thank you so much to everyone who entered this year’s contest! -Grace]

What Home Means to Me: A Nomad Unrolls Her Carpets and Unties Her Shoes

After ten years of traveling to more than 90 countries, covering war, famine, and refugee movements as a reporter and film maker, I began to dream of a white bed. The bed would be nothing like the beds that I had become accustomed to: grubby, mismatched sheets in cheap hotels. The bed would be crisp, and clean, and smell of fabric softener. Most importantly it would be a stable and constant. The bed was a sign that it was a time to stop. That the life that I had chosen was no longer the life that I wanted. Some might call this period in life a crisis, but I knew it an acute form of homesickness. I was unsure whether I was capable of finding the cure, which had to be building a home.

Since I had left my childhood home at 18, my entire adult had been one of movement, living out of suitcases, and ready to pack them for the next country that promised adventure. As a journalist, I was always preparing for the next story and a new country.

The sparsely furnished apartments that I lived in were not considered ‘home’ but a ‘base.’ I had little experience in standing still. I kept wondering: Who was I without traveling? When in fact the question should have been: Who could I be?

My family had long since moved from my childhood home, which was just a memory. For a long time, I had felt unjustly deprived of something that was my right: a home that I could always go back to. But actually aside from feelings of nostalgia, the reality is that space was never mine, and not a true reflection of me. ‘Home’ as adult had the potential to be both. I began with basics. ‘Home’ had to be a place where I had friends and a smattering of family ties. London, with its grey light and sky-high rent was not a place I necessarily would choose, but it had ties that would keep me grounded.

I found a tiny one-bedroom apartment, in a neighborhood that combined London grittiness with sweet cafes and trendy clothing shops. After moving in, I felt overwhelmed by white walls and a sense of commitment. How did people commit to one place? How did they get over a heartbreak or disappointment without fleeing to a different country and immersing themselves in an emergency, literally an earthquake or a tsunami? But along with the fears and worries of creating a completely new life, I also was excited by the potential of the white walls. My parent’s basement was a ignored treasure trove of things that I had purchased with an eye to the future when some day I would be a real grown up. That day hadn’t quite come in the way I envisaged, but then does it for any of us? I did have some satisfaction of finally unrolling a fiery orange, red, and grey kilim rug bought in Afghanistan in the quick half hour that security permitted foreign aid workers to remain in one place in a market. I unwrapped a treasured black and white photograph by the wonderful Malian photographer Malick Sidibé, and framed a white beaded milk jug cover made by my grandmother for another time when milk did not come in cartons. I unpacked a suitcase of printed textiles from our former home in Zimbabwe. And finally my books! I was able to put on shelves books that felt like a physical part of myself. I realized that having prided myself on having lived out of two suitcases for so long, I am no minimalist. I love that objects also hold the traces of our history, show our personalities and reflect our desires. I feel that our homes are our personal museums of memory that anchor us to not only places, but also to people and our pasts. The small one bedroom apartment is an extension of myself as much as the clothes I wear.

One of the things that I searched for found was my white bed. It was curved and slightly decadent with an upholstered linen headboard. I made it up with Portuguese linen collected by my mum at various Lisbon fairs and plump down pillows. I felt a sense of relief when it was set up, and translated from a dream to reality. It represented not only commitment but also shelter. It was something new, but also stable. It was a space that I was beginning to define as mine.

One of the secrets for the cure for homesickness is that a home is also a community. For so long I had never been a part of my friend’s lives. I dropped in for a couple of days, met in restaurants for dinners where I tried to cram in a years worth of connection and catching up. Being at home in a place, made me a better friend. I have a space to host dinner parties, where my friends can discover that I am a fantastic cook. They can also come over, and catch up on drizzly, uneventful days with cups of tea. When I get invited to birthday parties, it means that I can show up, with cake! The act of standing still and committing to a place meant investing in much more: an extended community. Both deep and meaningful, and every day, my neighborhood includes the guys at the amazing fishmongers, who showed me how to clean calamari. I often say hello to the wonderful sisters who run the pharmacy down the road, and I make the occasional promotional film for the indie theatre company that plays in the back of the local pub. Travel carries with it both a sense of anonymity, but also the sense that you are always the other, the stranger. Now I am part of a community, something that I didn’t even know I had missed.

But of course things are never straight forward. I’m telling the story as if there is a tidy end, when of course there is only change. The act of transformation is not linear, but I imagine it more in waves with peaks and troughs. Of course, I still travel. I can’t imagine my life staying in one place. I’m told that I still travel more than most people will in three lifetimes. But having somewhere to come back to has given my travel a different quality. It is temporary. I am not always looking for the next country or story, but looking behind. When I miss something, when I am feeling homesick, it is not overwhelmingly sad, because I feel it with the comfort of knowing that I have a bed to go back to.

Gabi Menezes