The roots of design... and a new blog is born

My first foray into the world of interior design was in 1992 at the tender age of 12, when I realized that I’d outgrown the hearts-and-rainbows wallpaper that my mother so lovingly hung.

I covered the paper with a wall-to-wall mural of posters and magazine cutouts of all my favorite things: Christian Slater, astronauts, Wayne’s World and... Hannibal Lecter. Not a visible trace of that wallpaper left to be seen. I loved it. It was the first time I really got a chance to express my personality in my space. It wouldn’t be the last.

The stuffed pig is Hen Wen from The Black Cauldron, which was released in 1985. God, I'm old.

The stuffed pig is Hen Wen from The Black Cauldron, which was released in 1985. God, I'm old.

If you look really close, you'll see a news article about Ali and I going to Space Camp that was in the local paper.

If you look really close, you'll see a news article about Ali and I going to Space Camp that was in the local paper.

A few months later, my mom either got tired of the crazy mural, or finally realized how much I loathed the paper underneath. I came home from a trip to camp and the mural and kiddie wallpaper were both gone, replaced by freshly painted white walls. I was sad to see the mural I’d so laboriously created gone, but relieved to see a new, clean white surface. A blank slate.

As my teenage years continued, the walls were covered again with posters, these more artfully arranged, and featured the Beastie Boys, Smashing Pumpkins and Jimi Hendrix. I also expressed myself by writing quotes I loved from poems and songs all over the place. In Sharpie. I give my mother a ton of credit for not strangling me for that one. Eventually, I painted the white, drawn-upon walls a vibrant yellow (again, a patient mother). The posters, more carefully selected. The thrift-punk accessories artfully placed.

I'd gotten a bit better at wall collages by then. I even made the clock from an old Flaming Lips album.

I'd gotten a bit better at wall collages by then. I even made the clock from an old Flaming Lips album.

My first real decorating overhaul came at 18, when, after finally finishing high school, I did away with childish things. I pulled up the carpet, revealing classic oak floors, put up chair rail (yes, I put up chair rail at 18), and did up a two-tone paint job. The busted futon and magazine cutouts of Courtney Love and Bjork (this was ‘98 after all), were replaced with, well, nicer posters of Courtney Love and Bjork. I don’t have a picture of it, but in my head I can see it: my first real grown-up space. More than just the look of it was the feel of it. I felt like mine. Now, as an adult in my (early,early, early) thirties, each time I build a new piece of IKEA furniture, or thrift an old one, I chase that feeling.

After leaving mom’s house at 19, I entered a long and somewhat rocky series of relationships with rental units. Eight different apartments, houses or flats to date. All decorated to be “mine” in vastly varying degrees.

My 21st birthday in my Chicago apartment, 12 days after Sept. 11th, 2001.

My 21st birthday in my Chicago apartment, 12 days after Sept. 11th, 2001.

The longest relationship I had with a rental was six years. I moved into this large, high-ceilinged upper flat in 2008. This was the first time I ever really settled and made a place “mine.” I changed light fixtures, painted, bought a grown-up sofa and begun to grow my fledging collection of original art prints, paintings and photographs.

The living room in my old flat (featuring my grown-up sofa).

The living room in my old flat (featuring my grown-up sofa).

An early incarnation of a rotating art display in my last bedroom.

An early incarnation of a rotating art display in my last bedroom.

The view of the living room from the dining room. Man, I loved this place.

The view of the living room from the dining room. Man, I loved this place.

I loved this flat. I really did. So when I was told by my landlady that I needed to move out so she and her new husband could move in, I was devastated. But in this devastation, I also saw opportunity.

I’d been planning on buying a house for the last few years, something that Alexia (or Ali as I call her) and I talked about at length (and would eventually lead to the creation of this blog). I think it began as a byproduct of the rental fatigue we shared in our late twenties and continued to increase for Ali when she and Michael married and for me when I grew tired of slogging groceries up the steepest of stairs. Ali made good on her goal and became a homeowner in May of this year. Amazing!

Of course, there were many rivers to cross before I’d be ready to own a home myself. And though my attempts to repair the pitiful credit I’d acquired over years of carelessness with my finances went into overdrive (much, much more about this in future posts), it simply wasn’t in the cards. No bank would give me the prerequisite mortgage preapproval I so desperately needed. So instead of buying my own house, I was forced into yet another landlord-owned flat.

At 33, these tenuous rental relationships had reached their tipping point. I decided to make this temporary situation truly transitory and gave myself a goal with a deadline: to be in my own home by my 34th birthday. And the good news is that I’m getting closer each day.

So here we are. Ali’s now in the gritty stages of homeownership, slogging through paint bucket after paint bucket and tending to plumbing nightmares--and I’m now in the uncertain, super early stages of buying a property. 2 Sisters 2 Houses will serve as both a how-to on home buying and decorating as well as a record of this important time in both of our lives. Ali, already a seasoned blogger with an incredibly insightful blog of her own, will write about settling into her split-level mid-century house with her husband and two adorable daughters. I can’t wait for you guys to see the awesome projects they have in store.

I’ll be writing about the low-down, nitty-gritty process of homebuying from the ground up, repairing your credit the DIY way and, hopefully, settling into a home of my very own.

Both of us will be sharing easy, do-it-yourself projects and tips on thrifting--our shared fave pastime--we’ve picked up along the way, our fave design spaces and Pinterest picks (make sure to follow us!) and much, much more.

We hope you find that by reading our experiences with the crazy awesome and completely terrifying  adventures of homeownership, your own experience will be that much more informed. We’d love to hear about your homebuying journey and we welcome your thoughts and ideas of what kind of content you’d like to see. 

So, it's nice to meet you. I hope to see you again soon. Ali will be posting an introductory post of her own very soon. In the meantime, pour yourself a glass and tell us about when you first discovered your love of design.

-Tracey

Cheers from the 2 Sisters, Alexia and Tracey.

Cheers from the 2 Sisters, Alexia and Tracey.