Bridging the Beige

by sophiakartsonis

This morning I was lucky enough to have an exchange with the lovely and prolific Julianna Baggott.  She is in the midst of moving and I mentioned that I had recalled pictures on facebook of a fabulous room that she had changed from the formal dining room of its architect’s intention and into something livable in a Baggott/Scott definition of the term. The word that comes to my mind is: vibrancy. They are a family in motion,  from the blog and facebook posts that I see: books written, being written, acting, art being made, laughter, and in some scenes there is a wall of the most saturated indescribable blue in a room  meant to be formal.  Intense. I loved it and said I recalled that post, those photographs and that I hoped the move found her somewhere equally lovely.  Here is her response:

JB: We’re renting a house in downtown amherst, MA — the landlady very kindly sent me my paint choices for interior walls: beige, off-beige, taupe, off-taupe, gray beige and a beige gray.

I’m buying loud curtains and rugs. what can I do?

  • When I lived in Cincinnati, I had a tiny apartment with wood floors and a great balcony that I dearly-loved. I also loved my three cats and worried that they would not be welcome on the neighbor’s half of the balcony. So I had a trellisy partition thing installed. I promptly painted it chartreuse and then put down electric blue astro-turf and a magenta velvet old chair. It was Thanksgiving Day. I was avoiding a blind date with an allegedly sexy Bulgarian physicist and this was my eye-feast for the afternoon. By the next morning, I received a call from the manager of the building. Apparently, the owners (in their eighties) drove by their property and insisted the trellis be repainted. They gave me the option of beige, another beige: taupe or dark brown. I explained to the manager that I would obviously comply and because she is a wild, wonderful, kindred spirit, I added that I have spent my life dealing with The Beiges and would run right over to the hardware store for something with tan or quiet-death in its name (biscuit or bisque) and spray right over my carefully brush-painted masterpiece. I drove back to visit this weekend and if you pass the trellis on the side, you still get a shot of unapologetic chartreuse. That will be you  this summer: the eye-trick of the vibrant that does not go beige even in a beige habitat. (Plus rugs, pillows and the like.)

  • JB:  Love it. will take note!

    (I thought we were going to end with the sexy Bulgarian…)

    No. I went for a WASP at the end of the day. (Beige on the outside, but all kinds of chartreuse inside.)
    It was fun and light chat and I could end there, but the thinking back to those days and the end of the story which is not with a sexy Bulgarian but a sexy German-English extraction who is some days the flip-side of the me-coin and others, the opposition found in the word opposite, made me think more on the subject of a colorful, meaningful life. The brilliant way of living that is so easy for us to find (and sometimes so hard to remember) with one another. The hard days ahead are shared days. Just this past weekend when I walked across a bridge in Cincinnati referred to as The Purple People Bridge.  Memorable, because one darkest summer while in graduate school, that bridge had too silly a name for my Hart Crane fantasies and though I had no true intentions, I did have the right frame of mind. I also remember driving  to the Cincinnati side and walking back and forth across for a kind of solace, a peripatetic meditation. Some days found me joyful at the light on the water, the boats, the general wellness that being near water brings. Other days were made little more than bearable by that bridge. No days had me imagining that same purple bridge with its novelty-song-sounding name would find me so happy, having lived into a happiness I could not have then even begun to imagine where I finally had a published book (soon there will be two!) and not just a long wished-for reliable love but one with with a man who not only drives a hundred miles to help me see a baby gorilla that will feature strongly in my new project, but a man who gave me the book that started the project and has helped shape every part of it along the way.  (Including the part that had us just last month, driving nine hours each way to Madison, Wisconsin to visit primate labs there.)  There is neon in this here beige. There is a bridge and it is full of color even when it’s not. I have learned to mine for the vivid as I’ve learned to actually love those softer neutrals. Exhibit A: to my right, a wall called Mourning Dove. Exhibit B: the guest room wall will be a Copper Clementine. A tangerine going nearly metallic. Exhibit C: This technicolor weekday.