Whew, what a month. In the midst of the continued coronavirus lockdown here in Algiers, back home there’s yet another police killing of a black person, and now protests all over the country in response. It feels like the start of a major public reckoning on racism in the U.S. and it’s a wild time to not be in America. One, because I don’t like to be away when my country is going through so much but I also know by virtue of being away, I can perhaps more easily escape mentally when I feel like it’s too heavy to think about. But then also, here we are, overseas, representing the USA as diplomats and it’s a different thing to think about how foreigners see America and our issues than to be an American experiencing these changes firsthand. When I think of how foreigners are seeing America in this moment, I am so proud of America I could cry. I do cry. Americans: Please know that most countries in this world do not talk openly about their horrors and transgressions, their casual and overt racisms, their small fissures or massive breaks in public institutions, their participation in public protests in front of the house of the President. Most countries in the world don’t have a fraction of the racial diversity that America has. Know that that very diversity is one of the things hundreds of diplomats tout as a strength of America every day in our lives abroad. As a representative of America, I admit to the ingrained history of racism in America and acknowledge that it persists today. I point to how protesting in America and screaming for change on the streets is legal and not only protected by a constitutional amendment, but by the very the very first amendment.
But I’m not just an American abroad. I am an American and I want America to be safe and just for all its people and I know it is not that now. I’m doing lots of reading and thinking about racism in America and having many conversations with Adam about how we use our privilege and changes we can make to strive toward being anti-racists.
This here blog is not strictly a home design blog, but because this post is about home design, you might be interested in other home design blogs/Instagram accounts by black women. Here’s some folks to follow on Instagram who produce content I know I like, and I think you would too. (And as @sgardnerstyle said in response to all the new white followers she suddenly has, while it’s not her job to educate people about racism, maybe it’s good for white people to see pictures of black people’s stylish homes, creative and clever home design projects, lush gardens, and beautiful families to know that these are not white things.)
I know sharing some black Instagram accounts is a less than a drop a in the bucket to dismantling systematic racism, which I’ve been trying to educate myself on this week. It’s been humbling. I know so little. I don’t proclaim to be any more woke than anyone else, but I am so open to learning more. Last night, a few bourbons in to my nightly rabbit hole of reading the Internet, I came across an Instagram video from @HalfpintMaggie, an expert in distilling who apparently has gotten some criticism for mentioning slavery every time she lectures on the history of rum. Maggie, who is white, said that last month when everyone (at least on my Facebook and Instagram) was spending quarantine making sourdough bread, no one would have dreamed of trying to make bread without looking up five recipes, watching several videos, perhaps even reading an essay on the history of sourdough starters. You don’t just dive into doing the thing. (I know this. I researched compost for days, which wasn’t long enough, and then I did it and it was an epic smelly disaster.) You admit you have something to learn, you do the work of learning. What I’m saying is right now I’m learning. But I am willing and eager to make that bread.
And now insert awkward transition to sharing pictures of our master bedroom. I’m aware that lighthearted home design content can feel out of a place at a time like this, although I am still scrolling Instagram for pretty homes. Maybe you are too?
So, our master bedroom. I knew I wanted something light, clean, and serene. This is not my normal aesthetic. I’ve tried for a light, somewhat minimalist bedroom once before, in Madrid, when I painted our bedroom walls mint green and had very neutral bedding. It lacked oomph. I tried again here in Algiers.
We kept the bed the embassy gave us (it’s shockingly super comfortable), but have our own upholstered headboard that we bring around with us. The two-tone yellowish dresser and mirror combo is Drexel from the embassy, and I don’t like it, but I’m hesitant to buy a new dresser because they’re heavy and we’re already pushing up against our weight allowance for how much the State Department will pay to move to our next posting. The armoire in the room is also government provided, and it’s nice wood and not bad at all.
For bedding, I really love just plain crisp white sheets and a simple duvet. In theory. This is what I love about nice hotels – how clean and crisp the sheets and duvet cover are – and I love this in home design photo spreads. In practice, the white bedding felt whatever the opposite of extra is. So I got a blue velvet quilt from Target, at the recommendation of my design icon Emily Henderson, and the rich blue added some needed depth – in both color and texture – to the bedding situation. I’m still in love with my Moroccan-looking throw blanket, that is actually from Anthropologie. The jute rug gives in a natural, beachy feel and so does the World Market wooden beaded light fixture, and the wooden bench I had custom made in Morocco. Those Ikea drapes date back to my DC apartment, but I still like how pretty and playful they are. So below is the picture of how our room was up until a few weeks ago. Over the bed are two paintings Adam bought in Yemen by the artist Mazher Nizar and we still wanted them to be in the room. They add a little darkness to an otherwise very light room. Also, we love them.
But even after the bedding, the chandelier, the jute rug, the bench, I still felt the room was lacking something. This is probably because I am historically not a fan of white walls. I considered painting them, but figured a pale pink would be too feminine for a room I share with a man, pale blue would be too nursery, beige would be too beige. It was sometime at the beginning of quarantine that I got the idea in my head for a wall mural above the bed. Some online searching brought me to the Blushing Expanse mural based on a painting by Texas-based artist Kati Ramer, sold by Minted. It captured the feeling of what I wanted in the room: beachy, but not the piña colada and sweaty cleavage and hot-sand-in-your-picnic kind of beachy. A clean, slightly moody beach, at dusk perhaps, maybe when a storm is a few hours away. Not too hot. This mural was the perfect way to bring in all the colors already – blue, cream, beige, mauve and pale pink – and really draw attention to them.
The four-panel mural went up pretty quick and easy. After it was up, I immediately loved the drama of it, but I waffled for a few days over whether a mural was maybe not sophisticated enough for an adult bedroom. Is this more suited to a teenager’s room? But after a few days of living with it, I realized I did indeed feel a little calmer every time I saw it and I do think it’s sophisticated. I’m now firmly pro-mural for a grown-up room.
Hope you enjoyed these pics and that you’re all staying safe and sane.
To beachy bedrooms. To Black Lives Matter, protesting for real change, anti-racism, learning, growing, changing.