I was speaking to my mother-in-law a couple of days ago and she mentioned that I had a perchance for design. She admonished me for not considering it as a career choice. Frankly, I rolled my eyes. In a small Tuscan town like mine, throwing a blanket over the arm of a chair is considered high-end design.
But it did get me thinking about how I’ve changed and why I DIY. As a teenager, I had zero interest in DIY or craft making. Why would I when Target was a 10-minute drive away? Then I moved to country Tuscany and suddenly DIY became as essential as breathing. Saving money was a big factor. When we were designing our first home, we didn’t have the money to fill it with custom light fixtures and gorgeous art pieces. I saved thousands by DIY-ing the lamp that hangs above our kitchen table with three metal rings and some black and gold spray paint.
For me, DIY is about so much more than just that. I’m very much a product of the Melbourne minimalist design scene with its love for black and modern traditionalist mash-ups. It’s the antithesis of country Tuscany with its fabric sofas and hulking oak wardrobes dressed with more than enough cotton doilies. I couldn’t live in a house styled like that. It wasn’t me. So I turned to DIY as the only way to express a style that is completely left-field to this country town, but is, in essence, me. I get a lot of strange looks about the way I dress and design my home and office. Giulio and my parents-in-law are always chuckling at whatever new DIY idea I have. They don’t do it in a cruel way, but they, like the rest of my town, think I’m little eccentric.
It can be frustrating. So much about life as an expat is foreign, difficult and confusing. I’m not saying DIY or interior design is a cure for all that, but it’s nice to have one space where everything looks and feels familiar. I’d go so far as to say that DIY is my art form (pretentious alert!!) not because I think of myself as an artist, but because it’s my way of expressing myself when a lot of my day and my life is carried out in a language that’s not my native tongue in a place that I still don’t truly consider home.