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  • Writer's pictureWendy Elizabeth

"Would you tell me, please," said Alice timidly, "Why are you painting those red?&quo

Years ago, when my daughter was 2 years old, I decided to remove all of the carpet in my house. My motivation was to make it easier to clean up playdoh, and to accommodate an old, incontinent cat (no explanation needed). It was probably not my wisest decision; it took weeks of hard work, and tackling it with a 2 year old was difficult to say the least. Suffice to say, I can now verify that my daughter used to be the exact same height and width as an enclosed shelf on a very heavy hutch…

After I had pulled up the carpet (and the lining and the tack strips and the nails and the staples) I was left with a floor that was old, but beautiful. Thank goodness. Unfortunately, the floor was laid about 60 years ago, so it was not polyurethened like the modern floors we have now. It had a thin layer of wax on it, which has gradually worn away and is now a haven for every spill and puddle that falls upon it. Disregarding the puddled messes, I love the floor and know that one day I will get it finished, but for now it doesn’t bother me at all.

When I removed the carpet on the stairs I found that the risers (the vertical bit that you kick your toe against) were painted white. I immediately redid them in cream to match the living room. Several years later, and it seems that our home often has 10 year old girls running up and down the stairs. Their feet are growing, often still clad in the sneaker of the week, and they have not yet become as graceful as they are destined to be. My stairs are a mess. The cream is covered in scuffs and smudges that no amount of cleaning will remove. Painting them cream, again, seems like a waste of time. I decide to paint them red.

As I began painting the steps I knew it was the right thing to do. I needed a creative diversion in my home that would not be too time consuming; it would be just enough to keep me happy and content throughout the worst Winter month. And, it would hide the scuff marks.

Like a lot of things in life, the steps looked worse before they looked better. My daughter returned from school (when I had just done one, streaky, hastily brushed coat of paint) and stood there with her mouth open. She mouthed “oh mom” in a loud, slow motion way that indicated she was not too thrilled with the stairs. Which was unusual because she has often come home to unexpected decorating “surprises”. After she had calmed down, I told her to be patient, and I promised her it would look good when it was finished. When I suggested writing inspirational words on each step I almost lost her completely! I could see she was very kindly thinking I had gone insane.

Painting for me is very zen-like. I don’t enjoy painting entire rooms with a roller and a fistful of tape, but I do love the repetitive calmness of using a brush and transforming a surface into something beautiful. I think part of it is also that it is very transitional, it can be changed and adapted to suit what we want. It is not permanent, which makes it open to all sorts of possibilities.

When I look at the finished steps, it appeals to my childhood. It looks special, and I feel that it is leading up to something magical. Really, it is just our bedrooms and my office, but I like the surprise of it when I turn the corner to go up them.

To me, this is what decorating is all about; transformations that are personal, that provoke an emotion and always make us wonder at the possibilities.

For more by Wendy and the Blue Giraffe, go to:

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