Anna Naphtali & Co.

SPRING THAW: A story of divorce, design and reconciliation.

Anna Naphtali2 Comments

Twelve-ish years ago, while killing time sitting at my non-creative desk job, I saw this house pop up on MLS. I flipped through the dark photos, noticing the lines of the windows, covered by heavy curtains, and the overgrown three-tiered decks, and somehow saw the potential of new design. And even now as I look back at these photos, I can’t believe what I saw in the bones of this house. But if there’s one thing I know about myself, one of my strongest creative skills has always been seeing. But what I didn’t know then, is how long it would take to see a dream come forth, and that this would be the state of its arrival.

Introducing the Rehab of 10101 Wedge Court.

Spring Thaw

When things were at the crescendo of falling apart in our marriage, I packed up the house and rented it out in a moment of desperation, until we knew what to do next. I became a landlord and had wonderful tenants for years, buying me the time we needed for that season, but in the end had to evict the last group who didn’t take care of the home… So five years later, after divorce, him re-married to a lovely wife with other beautiful children and me- happily independently surfing through motherhood, I returned to the home that was once “ours” to fix up and sell. I was overwhelmed by the burden of taking on the beast of a three tiered split level alone, with lots of decks and spaces beyond to deal with. I would pace the dirty halls, the disgusting carpets destroyed by dogs, and hold back the tears of not knowing where to begin. I couldn’t decide if I should do a quick-sell and move on, or take the time to restore the home I once loved.

I decided my daughter and I would move back in, immediately replacing the floors and ceilings, splashing some fresh paint on the walls to make the transition more bearable. I’d survey the back yard and see the path that my ex-husband created eight years ago, once a magical garden, now overgrown with weeds and dirt. Every where I looked there were memories… memories of terrible pain and sadness mixed with Izzy’s first birthday party held on the back deck… and then the bouts of anger looking at the torn screen where our then-neighbor ripped a hole, promising to mend, a decade later, still wafting in the wind un-hemmed. The plan was to spend a few months working on the house and turn it around quickly, but as I began to pick out paint samples, and direct a kitchen remodel, something unexpected began to happen.

I’d wander the back yard by the ravine, and recall an unpleasant memory, now noticing the peace and quiet in the trees as our friendly deer would heard through, and in the sun, in the safety of now, the recollections of pain became softer. I walked the paths that were monotonous in our marriage, but began to see them in a new light. I thought about that young clueless couple trying so hard to make it work, never succeeding, and I exude empathy toward them. As I painted the kitchen a once-hated, now-loved mauve color, and hung a neon illuminated French “Oui” on the wall, I began to creatively come alive, unfettered to design an external space filled with love, and in doing so, also began to rebuild the ruins from within too.

I was so mad when he spent his only Saturday home, making this garden edge in the back yard instead of spending time with me. He worked until sundown, and we barely spoke that weekend before he hopped on a plane out of the country, far away, while I sulked in the house with a newborn. But as I look at it now, the row of bricks he laid, I see it as a gift toward the future me, now admiring his work untangled by the grief of our relationship, appreciating the intention and the sweat. And I lay in the bed on the same side I always slept on, in the same room, now with freshly plastered ceilings and beautiful hard floors, staring at the expensive bohemian light fixture that I picked out, and I think of that girl who laid in that same bed, lifeless and sad. So I send her my love in a strange recycle of time, telling her, it’s going to be alright, as I am alright, and sometimes even filled with a sense of happy, something I didn’t know was possible then.

And moment by moment, I took my time, installing golden leggy light fixtures, and mid century globes… a working art studio for me, with a long white table to stretch out my creative ideas, and learn patience while my daughter gets generous with the glitter on her projects… a hanging chair out back on the porch to swing and listen to the birds, a fresh kitchen wall to reflect the morning light. Izzy made a friend with a girl named Molly over the back fence behind our home, and between the yards in the unowned territory claimed by the deer, they take “hikes,” and built pretend homes, walking the tiny bridge between us shrieking with joy and imagination while parents lurk mostly unnoticed. And I remembered sitting with the same little girl before she could talk, on a mound of dirt that she chose to play in, midday sun setting, my heart wilting, and I said to her big-eyed self, “what are we going to do?,” as I felt like disappearing into the earth like the saliva filled globs that dripped from her chin absorbing into the soil below. But now as she stomps on those mounds and directs the other neighborhood children in her games, I whisper, we found a way.
And so I painted the studio stairs white, and ripped off the curtain rods, and cleared the way for every single bit of light I could pull in, and gleefully watched it bounce and fill spaces when the winter sun would grace the day, and say “thank you” as it touched my face. And I created a morning nook for tea, and a station for coffee and bought and killed plants, and bought more and tried again, this time watering less moving them towards the sun. Misting the succulents that I ripped up from my grandmother’s California garden that I carried on my lap in a garbage bag on the plane, to re-plant in North Carolina.

And now it’s been over a year since moving back in, on the cusp of the new season as I pack up my winter snow clothes that didn’t get much of a use this year, in the in-between of March, I watch the dogwood buds as they softly emerge, knowing it will be soon time to list the house. I work on the final touches and clean out the closet, remembering where his pants used to hang, noticing only mine, and I see it now everywhere. I had given up on redemption long ago, but the absolution wasn’t lost when the papers were stamped and sealed with a judge’s decree, but in discovering that constructs and titles and labels are not where the mending lies. No, redemption is mysterious, soft and untamed, you can’t plan it or force it, or pray it or create it. It unfurls slowly during the photosynthesis of winter, recognizable in Spring. During the monotonous paint brush swipes, and the slow releases, and the choosing to let go, or let love, or even not. It just happens when you don’t know it, when you aren’t looking for it, when you’re even seemingly “over it.” And it remains mysterious that life is a constant regeneration even when relationships are not just as this home wasn’t restored to it’s former state, but rather re-created into something beautifully new.

I pull out the peculiar paint color I had picked out in a hurry when we returned. It was somewhere between white and subtle minty grey, reminding me of the pale lagoons in Iceland, and as I dip my brush I notice it’s tiny printed name, Spring Thaw. And as I am now so in love with this home I re-created, full of light, and laughter, and late night dancing with my little girl, all things I’d hoped for in the purchase of this home, finally arrived in a different form, I struggle to say goodbye. But as I paint, I relish in the waking from the depth of what felt like a very long hibernation of many winters, and I know it’s time: to let the snow drift, to utter my forgivenesses, to shutter the icy crystals of morning dew off the new florae trying to inch out of the dirt, and let go. 

For more information on purchasing the home go to: 10101 Wedge Court Charlotte NC 28277

Madewell Looks: Styling, Motorcycle Days + Farm to Flea

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Styled for Madewell 2014. My ideal Saturday is riding on the back of a motorcycle or farmer and flea market hunting, and then putting my fresh cut flowers in a vase and cooking something lovely with my bounty. I have a thing for tall boots, they make me feel invincible against any terrain. If I'm shooting outdoors, you can find me in this outfit. (scroll right)