Photographs can sometimes lie. Or at the very least…they don’t always tell the whole truth.
Having secured a number of rentals over the last several years, whether for family vacations or for our daughter’s use while working, we’ve come to realize that photos don’t necessarily represent the total picture.
Take for example the 1 bedroom condo we rented on Waikiki Beach last year when we returned to Honolulu for my mother-in-law’s funeral.
The unit photographed beautifully, including the balcony with 2 chairs. What the photo did NOT capture, was the fact that we’d be sitting with our knees touching the rail. That’s if we could even squeeze our way onto the narrow balcony. What the picture also didn’t show was the view of the enormous parking lot surrounded by wall-to-wall high-rises. I’ll give the owner credit though for correctly identifying the peek-a-boo mountain view.
Then there was the rental my daughter and I recently occupied in San Fransisco‘s Mission District. It looked like a charming enough studio. There was a queen-sized bed towards the back of what seemed a somewhat spacious living area with a couch and television. I liked that one could watch TV while facing the balcony and the Zen-like garden beyond. Unfortunately any thought I might have had of spending time outside, disappeared upon arrival.
The area was a mess. A year’s worth of leaves had accumulated. Spider webs had taken hold. Plants were dying. Chairs were in disrepair. It was obvious that outdoor maintenance wasn’t a priority. Thank goodness a regular service handled the indoor cleaning. Or I’d have been out of there in a hot San Francisco minute.
Two other factors about the apartment were a little more disconcerting. One was that it shared a common wall with the owners’ garage. I sometimes wondered if we’d wake up under a car if one of the drivers stepped on the gas instead of the brake. The second was one of hygiene. The bath towels felt as though we were wiping ourselves with chenille bedspreads. You know, the kind grandma used on her beds. They were so thin. And sometimes we’d find strands of hair embedded in the dark fibers of the brown towels. Yuck! Yuck! And yuck!
I was reminded of these experiences after helping our daughter settle into her current digs this past weekend. She’s in Houston rehearsing the female dance lead in The Grand Opera‘s AIDA.
The best I can say about the apartment is that it’s spacious. It had been a detached garage in a former life. Now it’s a bungalow…living and bathroom/bedroom separated by a narrow breezeway-turned kitchen. Funky is the best way to describe the decor. I expected that from the online photos. What I didn’t expect was almost nonexistent lighting and dirt beneath the surface…not dust, but grease and grime.
My spirits nose-dived when we walked into the dimly lit living room. I could barely see the furnishings once we’d switched on the 2 over-sized, recessed ceiling lights. And it was only 6:30 in the evening! Some natural light shone from the kitchen windows, but not enough to make a difference. In fact, the overhead track lighting in the kitchen wasn’t the best light to prep and cook in either. The bathroom light was better, albeit haphazardly assembled. The light bulbs above the medicine cabinet were mismatched or missing, and only one of the mismatched lights that were part of the ceiling fan worked.
The bedroom lighting was a disaster.Light from an old-fashioned desk lamp shone like a spotlight on the wall next to the bed. With dark wood flooring and black bed covers, it was difficult to find comfort in that dingy room as well. The closet was an alcove to the left of the bed. There were enough shelves and hanging space for sure, and at least the ceiling bulb with pull string shone a good deal of light. Fortunately there was an overhead light with ceiling fan in the bedroom, which lit up the space.
Family and close friends know I’m never deterred by less than desirable accommodations. I’m always up to the challenge of making things work, and I was determined to instill happiness in this apartment with a few dollars, and a whole lot of elbow grease and creativity.
Imagination is my middle name. Growing up poor in the good, old days meant having to dream up much of what I needed…whether it be play things or just pretty things. And at a very young age, I also learned the art of decorating.
Charged with the task of cleaning and straightening our small upstairs rental each Saturday, I became extremely proficient at arranging and rearranging our thrift shop furniture. I took pride in making worn out furnishings look good. Over the years, first as a college student and then as a wife and mother, I have honed my talent such that I could do it in my sleep. Which, in fact, I often do…imagining how I would make over a room so that when day break arrives, I can “hit the ground running.” It also helps that my passion for hand-me-downs, in the form of antiques and vintage items, has only grown throughout the years. I’m now surrounded by what feels like…very dear, very old…friends.
So while our daughter followed her heart to the dance studio, her dad and I did a little sprucing up around the apartment.
Rolling up our sleeves, I scrubbed surfaces that looked like they’d not seen a sponge and disinfectant for some time, while hubby worked his magic on the laminate floors with a Swiffer mop. He went through half a box of replacement sheets, before we felt we could walk around the place with bare feet.
Once we sanitized the place, I proceeded to give it a face lift with bargains gleaned from a nearby TARGET. Thank God for TARGET! In no time the apartment looked more upbeat, cheerful, and cozy. The transformation brightened not only the apartment, but our spirits as well.
With a little imagination such items as greeting cards, gift bags, colorful throws, bargain bowls, bag clips, rag rugs and towels, can turn any eye-sore into a warm and inviting space. Add to that a fresh set of linens complete with pillowcases, shams, sheets and comforter for $40, and a set of 2 table lamps and one standing lamp for $49…and our daughter was home…at last.
Returning home to the comfort of cozy surroundings has always been a priority in my life. It’s been a haven wherein my family and I can rest, recuperate, and re-energize for the next day’s adventures. And regardless of where my daughter’s career has taken her, I’ve always wanted the same for her…a home reminiscent of the one in which she’s grown up.
Memories are made no matter where we are…