My husband and I recently experienced a freakish anomaly, an outlier event, an aberration of epic proportions . . . we cooperated over home decor. Odd, disorienting even. It all has to do with a problem that’s been plaguing us since we moved into our home two and a half years ago: what to do with our huge living room wall that is also home to our flat-screen TV.
From the very beginning, I knew this wall would be an issue. For one thing, it’s a big room (by my standards), 17 by 18 foot or so. The wall in question is one long expanse of white, and painting it would mean committing to painting the whole downstairs. (We have one of those newfangled open floorplans, which are groovy unless you are fond of painting one room a different color than the next; there are no distinct walls—just uninterrupted stretches of drywall.)
This was our first opportunity to mount our TV on the wall, since our last house was a rental and had so many windows that mounting it wasn’t an option anyway. So, I thought, excellent, a nice TV on the wall, that will look fantastic! Except . . . once you get the TV up, what do you do with the rest of the 18 feet? That’s a lot of feet.
I thought for forever, searched online for longer, and the only idea I didn’t reject outright was this: the TV would hang in the middle of a bunch of art, all hung gallery style, so that the TV would look (if you squinted your eyes) like just another piece of art. The more I thought about it, the more I thought it might work. Problem solved!
Wait, hold on a sec. I forgot about my husband. It’s his TV—his baby—so I must ask him. And he said [pause for suspense] yep, you guessed it, NO WAY IN HELL. Something like that. Probably worse. There was this whole thing about light needing to come out of the back and not wanting to crowd and . . . I faded out but snapped back to when he said, “two feet of space on all sides.”
Two feet? Was he crazy? There goes gallery style. This was not going to work.
We found ourselves at a standstill, which is where we and our white wall stayed for quite some time.
Until one day, when he said I could maybe, possibly, hang a few—just a few!—things up. As long as I left a foot of clearance on both sides. Well, I figured, it’s progress anyway.
And so it was that I first hung a few things up on our TV wall. But they were just a few, and the foot of clearance restriction meant I had to trade out my gallery of art concept for a modified, “two small groupings of art” concept. As a result, I only hung art to the left and the right of the TV, not above. So it did nothing to emphasize the height of the room, which is something that our living room desperately needs since its windows are oddly low. In fact, hanging the art where I did made the ceiling appear even lower than it is. It was better than nothing, I told myself, but it bugged me. I would never have admitted to it, but deep down I wondered if my vision of a wall of art was really so great after all.
My husband’s response? With a shrug, “Eh.” (But then again, that’s his response to a great many things. A man who is even-keeled is often . . . even-keeled.) But with time, it grew to bug him too. To my surprise, instead of demanding it come down, he finally gave me the green light for my wall-full of art.
But you know how these things are. I didn’t do a thing, lazy person that I am. Until one day, when the threat of impending house guests finally lit a fire under me hot enough to move me from the couch. I called my mom in a panic, and she came to my rescue, up on a stepstool, hanging whatever I threw at her while I said this way, no that way. By the end of the day, art was up on walls all over the house, including the TV wall.
After the flurry of hosting was over, and after my husband and I sat and watched innumerable episodes of The Daily Show, and he watched English soccer, and I watched Mad Men, and we watched all the seasons of Battlestar Gallactica on Netflix, at the end of all of this he concluded that the spacing was wrong, wrong, wrong. And what’s more, I didn’t have enough stuff up there. Nothing was close enough together. And, get this, none of the art was CLOSE ENOUGH TO THE TV.
Well, how about that. I was blustery for a second, until I realized he was basically restating my original vision. The thought crossed my mind, if I hadn’t been able to execute it, maybe he could. Because if I was really honest, I wasn’t totally happy with version 2.0 either. My spacing was bad, but even worse, the colors were too drab. I had for some reason boxed myself into this brown/metallic/black/white theme. The rest of the living room had color, but the TV wall was a snoozefest. So I said, OK, you change it.
More months pass. Then one Saturday afternoon, I’m about to leave for the coffee shop to write for three hours, when my husband casually mentions that he’s going to redo the wall while I’m gone. You’re going to WHAT?! But it’s either micro-manage the wall or go write, so I go write.
When I get back, he’s two-thirds in and I try to protest about four pieces in a row that are too similar for my taste, and he almost swallows my head. I’m too focused on the trees! Step off and wait to see the forest! OK, OK! Yeesh. So I retreat.
When I come back, hours later, guess what I find? My original vision, except better than I had been ever able to execute it. I can’t even tell you how much I love this. For one, it fixes our problem of boredom on this wall. Look at the color! And the height! The art extends almost all the way to the ceiling. (An added bonus, he covered up the awkward speaker wire holes that used to glower at me from above.) Now, with the room height emphasized, I don’t even hate our blinds as much as I used to (I still hate them, just not as much).
And then there is the art itself. If you were, right now, in my living room, and I had consumed enough alcohol that I was no longer concerned about your guaranteed boredom, I would describe for you in detail each item, where it came from, who traveled where to get it, and (if I bought it) how much I paid for it (which was not much let me tell you). I love that each piece has a history that is important to one of us, and occasionally, both of us. Like the picture made out of banana peels my husband found in Tanzania before he climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, or the plate that says “Give us this day our daily bread” in Norwegian passed down through my family, or the wooden masks my husband brought back for me from Korea long ago when we were just friends, or the scrap of a shopping bag I brought back from a trip to Paris and stuck in a frame.
But I think the thing I love the most about this wall is how it is a symbol of us, together, working. It is him, and me, and us—not merged, exactly, because that implies the obliteration of our original selves, but overlapping, intersecting, augmenting, and improving. The wall displays a history of our lives before we were married and as we are now, both in terms of the items displayed, but also in the path (sometimes rocky) we took as a couple to get all that stuff up there.
That’s one of the big tricks with marriage, isn’t it? Striking that balance between the two unpleasant extremes of 1) being two entirely separate individuals who just happen to live together, and 2) oozing into each other to the extent that the two lose their separate identities.
My husband says our wall isn’t done yet. He wants it to extend farther down. Why stop at the bottom of the TV? That’s an arbitrary ending, he says. So there you have it, a beautiful work in progress. That sounds good to me, and right—in so many ways.
© Amy Daniewicz