As I sit here in the dark, battling my insomnia with a cup of hot tea and the sixth episode of Netflix’s The Iron Fist, I find myself looking out the window and admiring the stunning view from our living room. Of downtown Bergen and the lofty mountains behind it.
It’s been our view for these last 3 years and I’m going to miss it when we finally make that momentous move to the suburbs in a year’s time.
We bought a house a few months ago and as a result, I found myself officially graduating into adulthood. The kind with a 25-year mortgage.
Never in my life did I even think I’d be able to buy a home. Well, not entirely on my own since my husband has a larger stake in the investment than I do. Nevertheless, it’s a brand new one and twice the size of our little near century 2-bedroom apartment. Goodbye cramped living-slash-dining-slash-TV room. Goodbye non-heated floors. Goodbye shifting walls that have to be repainted each season in order to hide the gaps between the boards. Goodbye view.
Our apartment has undergone a series of make-overs since my husband first bought it in 2014. It was his welcome present to me when I moved to Norway, which was in fact, also a non-romantic prerequisite for me to be able to move to Norway (not the part where he bought an apartment, but the fact that he had to ensure I had a place to live in before I moved).
But I digress.
We’ve put a lot of work into our first home, so much so that it looks nowhere near how it did when my husband first bought the place: Old flowery wallpapers painted over with layers of apple green, TARDIS blue, ox blood red and finally — eggwhite. Chipped and uneven wainscoting. A haphazardly built flatpack kitchen. Single paned windows that let every manner of dampness and draft into the already poorly insulated house. And uneven rickety old floors.
It became our project as fiance/fiancee and as new husband and wife, turning the old-fashioned and run-down apartment into our modern, colorful and cozy home.
Now, before my momentous move to Norway, I had never really lived on my own in the sense that I had my own apartment to keep. The only other time I found myself “living independently” was when I went to London to take my postgrad. Before then, I was your typical middle-class Asian kid who lived with mum and pops until marriage beckoned. So I never really knew how it was like to live outside my cushy bubble, moreso be faced with the daunting task of furnishing and decorating an empty apartment that would make my mother — who was known for keeping a stunning home with impeccable furniture and decor — proud.
Minimalism has been the key element to living in a small apartment. We had to find smart solutions and we tried to make the most out of every usable (and even dead) space available. My husband even went as far as tearing down a section of the living room wall so that he could make a built-in TV shelf, thereby removing the need for your typical home entertainment bench that would have otherwise taken a third of our little living space. It was a genius idea, and the fact that he made one without any previous building experience was impressive.
Even the kitchen took some rethinking and after tearing down the old one and building the new one from the ground up with only our basic Ikea building skills to guide us, we managed to double the workspace without sacrificing any space.
More importantly, it was being clever with the interiors — which, I’ll be honest, hasn’t been an easy journey for lil’ flakey ol’ me. As my husband put it, I would change our furniture every month if I could, and we have our nightstands as proof (for a small apartment with two bedrooms, we have two too many nightstands). And goodness only knows how many times I’ve bought thingamabobs and whats-its to decorate (and redecorate) the apartment. Impulse buying is minimalism’s worst enemy, and I’ve had to remedy the situation by continuously purging the excess.
So, over the course of our 3-year journey as homeowners, I’ve learned to be prudent about my buying decisions and looking past the latest trend in interior design. We have already started visualizing how our next home is going to look like, with me going as far as internalizing the character of every room. What inspires me, really? And what aesthetics please me the most? Am I really the earthy colorful mod-hipster (sans the glasses and hair fringe) that i think I am? Or am I its streamlined and modern antithesis? I’ve been building mood boards for the new apartment and needless to say, it’s turning out to be a little bit of both with just the right touch of good ol’ Americana Hamptons living.
How I’m ever going to pull that off — remains a mystery.