It’s the end of January. A mouse that was scurrying around in our wall became a mouse that was scurrying around in our apartment. Now it is a mouse scurrying somewhere in the underbrush of Brooklyn. (That’s the idea, anyway.) Time has passed and the new year, unlike the mouse, has crawled slowly along. I’ve moisturized my feet. I have not repaired the hole in my mitten. I have not planted more bulbs or written a book proposal. I have brought home a bundle of mimosa and painted my old wardrobe yellow. There’s always next month for everything else.
We came into this wardrobe through our neighborhood Buy Nothing Project before moving into this apartment last year. In our place, it’s tasked with holding our family’s collection of outerwear, bags and backpacks, not to mention our stash of hand sanitizers and masks among other things that have become part of our “get out of the apartment” arsenal in the past two years. In other words, it’s the mudroom, the coat closet, the garage, and the entryway. It looks very much like the wardrobe that sat on my back porch as a kid and held snow pants and soccer balls and winter jackets that went musty every single year from so much time out in the salt air.
Maybe you have one of these wardrobes, too. They’re the kind of ubiquitous two-door wardrobes that probably once came from mail order catalogs. They’re not precious enough to be considered valuable antiques, but they’re old-fashioned enough to be considered charming, at least by me. This one, like the one I grew up with, isn’t built of fine materials or expertly crafted, but it is made of generally solid wood and so able to be moderately improved upon. If you’re lucky, you might find one lined in cedar. If you happened along my very street just a few months ago, you might have walked home with an unpainted specimen I spotted there one morning after the school run.
This particular wardrobe’s exterior was white when we received it. Somewhere along the line someone had painted over its dark brown stain (and all of its hardware too). Inside the cabinet were plywood shelves that I removed, and passed along to another neighbor. I put a fresh coat of paint on the interior—pink leftover from our kids’ desk—and touched up the white paint on the exterior with what I had on hand. The white didn’t match the finish or color of what was already there, but it made the rough spots slightly less so and so we’ve all managed to live together just fine. Still, during a January that feels interminable, I decided to toy with adding a bit of color into our lives (and to finally fix a hinge that’s been broken for the past year and a half).
Farrow & Ball was generous enough to provide paint samples and they arrived at my door on the last day of a 10-day quarantine with Silas, which is to say, right on time. I painted swatches of Cane No. 53 and Yellow Ground No. 218, before settling on the mid-ranging hue, Sudbury Yellow No. 51. It felt like a nod to the ochres I’d grown up seeing on the cabinetry and floors of old rambly New England farmhouses, and it’s not so dissimilar from the yellow paint that lies underneath layers of white paint in our kitchen. If a color can be warm, then this is. Warm, not showy; cheery, not overpowering. The perfect thing for January and I have a hunch I’ll like it just as well come June.
The candlestick and pitcher are made by Notary Ceramics.
The beeswax taper here was mixed with a chunk of bayberry wax to make that perfect color.
And for good measure, here’s everything you didn’t realize you wanted to know about painting a canvas floor cloth.