I came home from work today, I buzzed into the front lobby of a building in Arlington, one of the counties next door to Washington D.C. I live in North Arlington, amid pleasant if not unremarkable urban landscape. There are streets with bars and restaurants, shops and offices, and then neighborhoods full of homes that easily would fetch over a million dollars, with colorful Christmas decor going up, and colorful front doors. This opens out into apartment blocks. These were the blocks and houses that once made up the relatively modest neighborhood beyond the Federal Government, “Washington’s Bedroom.” I happen to live in one such block of flats. It’s a relatively large building overflowing with midcentury style. Many of the residents have lived in the building either since its construction in the early 1960s , or very near then. It has a bright awning with the address scrawled on it, and the name of the building in lettering nearby. Each apartment has a balcony, a small bit of Northern Virginia air to call their own. Behind the building is a parking lot, and a patch of grass where the many canine residents poop and play. D0uble layers of front doors open up on a modest, very impeccably clean front lobby. On one way hangs a garish piece of hotel-style “art” and on the other are the postboxes. The carpeting in the building is a treasure. I suspect it was replaced in the mid-to-late 1970s as it is magnificent in its garishness. The doors are all neat and beige.
My apartment is at the end of the third floor corridor. It was a family home when it was first purchased. With a galley kitchen, built-in book shelves, a large living room, hall closet, two bedrooms, and a Mamie Eisenhower pink bathroom, as well as the aforementioned balcony there is plenty of space. It then became a lease. I don’t know who lived her before my roommate and the roommate who lived with her when she first moved in.
The apartment has a beige carpet we’re eventually going to rip up, furniture from various places, a smallish TV. There’s also a plant eaking onto life, and in one corner there are packed bookshelves to the ceiling. The living area is organized into a small living room, a little reading space, and a dining room. The apartment is dove gray all through the living room, most of the furniture has a country, beach house kind of feel. With navy blue, turquoise, grey, and yellow dominating the color scheme. There are cushions on the couch, books and DVDs on the shelf , decorative items, a set of curtains which were painstakingly selected. There is even a table light, and a DIY tape Devil’s Trap a la “Supernatural” on the ceiling over the front door.
The bathroom is one of the best parts of the apartment. With all its original fixtures and tiles it remains relatively unchanged since the building was constructed. The tiles are pale pink, the bathtub is low, while the sink has that classic mid-century marble with a little wooden cabinet beneath, the medicine cabinet is also wooden. The shower curtain, carpet, and knobs are different. Decorative knobs from Anthropologie and the carpet and curtain come from Target. We picked out items to flattered our little old school bathroom.
You may be wondering why I’m telling you this about the place where I live. I moved into the apartment in Spring 2012 after a nasty experience with some rather gnarly bedbugs. I had been moving from hotels, sleeping on the floor, I was stressed and effectively homeless. I found the apartment on Craigslist and moved in with almost nothing. I slept on a futon from Ikea for the first 10 months, with a peculiar assortment of objects around it. It was some of the most difficult time of my life, and the little apartment served as a real haven. It was a safe space.
Nearly 2 years later, I walked in the front door today and felt like I was at home. Not a place I might move away from, not somewhere temporary. Somewhere I genuinely consider home. I plopped down my purse, poured a glass of water, sat on the couch and thought, this is a great place to live. It’s difficult to imagine that I would’t eventually leave this pleasant little home, but as someone already far from home, it’s important to come back to something everyday and feel belonging.