The Excitement And Anxiety Of A New Start
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The Excitement And Anxiety Of A New Start

Transitions can be tough—here’s how to embrace them in this moment of change.

Tue, Aug 23, 2022 9:17amGrey Clock 4 min

Bill Holdar, a father of two in San Antonio, is starting a new chapter this month—this time for real.

He’s going back to work, after three years as a stay-at-home dad and one ill-fated attempt to return to his job as a teacher right before the pandemic hit. His 2-year-old daughter, Nora, recently wrapped up a year of chemotherapy treatment. She and her brother got vaccinated against Covid-19 this summer. The whole family is heading back into the world: school, daycare, a prekindergarten program.

“It’s all starting to get really different, really fast,” Mr. Holdar told me after watching Nora settle in next to her new classmates during circle time. He felt relief that normal life seemed to have arrived, and trepidation about the possibility of the kids getting sick or having trouble adjusting to an unfamiliar rhythm.

“I’ll definitely miss those other days,” he said of time spent at home doing arts and crafts or catching bugs with the kids on the trails out back. “But it’ll also be freeing.”

After some false starts, this fall is a moment of transition for many Americans. The halting, tenuous shifts of the last couple of years—half-empty offices and halfhearted return plans, kids home again thanks to another mandatory quarantine—are dwindling. We’re returning to our uninhibited lives, whether that means restarting old routines or taking the plunge on big life changes, with all the accompanying excitement and terror.

Lissa Jean Ferrell says she feels like she’s starting a second life. After two years in which school was disrupted for millions of American students, the lawyer and divorced mom finally saw all three of her daughters graduate this spring—the youngest from high school, the middle from college, and the oldest, a law student, belatedly celebrating her 2020 commencement with a rescheduled Georgetown University ceremony. Now Ms. Ferrell is selling her longtime home in New Jersey and moving. Where is up in the air. (Top contenders include Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and California.)

“The world is open to me,” she says. “I feel like I’ve done my job and now I’ve earned the right to sit back and live for myself.”

Our modern lives have been filled with more and more transitions over the years, says Bruce Feiler, the author of a book on the topic. We have more autonomy and options than the generations that came before us, he says. People are seizing on this moment to swap jobs, partners, regions and religions.

“Nobody can cope with this much change,” he notes. Some of us launch into multi-item to-do lists, determined to ace the transformation in a weekend. Others “lie under the covers in a fetal position with their cat and they say, ‘I’m never going to get through it.’ ”

Both paths are wrong, he says. Instead, take time to mark the transition. Commemorate it with a ceremony, a trip, a special meal. Talk about your feelings, instead of blocking them out.

Then try something new. Things were upside down for so long anyway. Now is the moment to embrace your creativity, he says, launching a personal project like woodworking or poetry-writing. Shed things you don’t like about yourself, from extra pounds to your people-pleasing tendencies. Finding a community to go through it with you can help.

Of course, it’s almost never easy. Ms. Ferrell, the new empty-nester, says she wakes in the middle of the night sometimes, heart heavy with the surreal realization that her girls will soon be strewn from Los Angeles to London. Will Pryor, who moved to Raleigh, N.C., last month for his first job as an attending physician, worries about how welcoming his new community will be to his same-sex relationship.

“We go where we have to, where we’re needed,” says the 35-year-old, who finds it thrilling and strange to be done with a decade of medical training.

A few hours away in Charlotte, N.C., Christine Schmid is marking the days until her Sept. 17 wedding with an iPhone countdown and daily love notes from her soon-to-be husband. Forty-five years old, she never thought she’d marry, opting instead to focus on her career in human resources.

She can’t wait to wear the off-white gown that makes her feel like Cinderella and be reunited with extended family coming in for the occasion. But grief is ever-present too. The dear friend who helped set her up with her fiancé passed away from cancer last year, as did Ms. Schmid’s beloved dog. The friend had been set to perform the wedding ceremony; the pup was going to walk down the aisle.

Now both are gone, and Ms. Schmid is reckoning with losing a part of herself, too. She’s changing her name, becoming a stepmother, losing the ability to do what she likes without asking or informing anyone else.

“I wanted to make sure I wasn’t giving up ‘me’ to become ‘us,’ ” she says. Taking some time for herself each workday—an hourlong break, no interruptions allowed—has helped, along with supporting causes she cares about, like animal rights.

Even the happiest of changes can come with some stress, says psychologist Joshua Coleman, as we grapple with the future and all its unknowns. Plus, many of us were promised prior fresh starts that didn’t materialize. We had to reschedule the bat mitzvah again because of a new Covid-19 variant; we had job offers rescinded due to a swinging economy. Holding our breath through the uncertainty, exhausted after so much back and forth, can make transitions even harder, says Dr. Coleman, who is a senior fellow with the Council on Contemporary Families.

Examine your anxieties up close, he recommends. Are they rational? Parse what you’re afraid of and figure out which problems are solvable. Then solve them. Talk back to the worries that are irrational, reminding yourself of past transitions that worked out well.

Emily Hulthen’s transition to parenthood earlier in the pandemic was so trying she considered not having any more children. Working until 1 a.m. while watching her son during the day, she felt exhausted and irrationally angry, she says.

“I thought I would be a natural at this,” the 32-year-old in Columbus, Ohio, remembers thinking.

Eventually, she was diagnosed with postpartum depression, and found relief with therapy.

She still feels guilt and sadness over her son’s babyhood. But pregnant with a daughter, she told me she was grateful for the chance to try again. Watching her son get vaccinated recently, thinking about the pumpkin picking and tailgating to come this fall as a family of four, she cried.

“It felt like it was a light at the end of the tunnel,” she says.

Her daughter, Nora Lynne Birnbrich, was born on Friday.

Reprinted by permission of The Wall Street Journal, Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: August 22, 2022


This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

35 North Street Windsor

Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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Retro Kitchens Are Everywhere—and the Ultimate Rejection of the Sterile Luxury Trend

Playful 1950s style spotlights details like coloured cabinets, checkerboard and mosaic tile patterns, vintage lighting, and SMEG appliances

Mon, Apr 22, 2024 6 min

The 1950s spawned society’s view of kitchens as the heart of the home, a hub for gathering, cooking, eating and socializing. Thus, it makes perfect sense that the same decade could inspire today’s luxury kitchens.

“The deliberate playfulness and genius of the era’s designers have enabled the mid-century style to remain a classic design and one that still sparks joy,” said James Yarosh, an interior designer and gallerist in New Jersey.

That playful style spotlights details like coloured cabinets, checkerboard and mosaic tile patterns, vintage lighting, and SMEG appliances—all of which are a conspicuous rejection of the sterile, monochrome kitchens that have defined luxury home design for years. One of the hottest brands to incorporate into retro-style kitchens, SMEG is turning up more these days. But the question is: How do you infuse a colourful refrigerator and other elements from this nostalgic era without creating a kitschy room?

“The key to a modern, fresh look in your kitchen is to reference, not imitate, signature looks of the 1950s,” said New York-based designer Andrew Suvalsky, who often laces retro style throughout the rooms he designs. He said using the period as inspiration will steer you away from imagining a garish space.

“When it comes to incorporating that retro-esque look, it’s a fine dance between looking beautiful and looking kitschy,” added Lisa Gilmore, a designer in Tampa, Florida. Gilmore suggested balancing contemporary pieces with vintage touches. That balance forges a functional yet attractive design that’s easy to live with while evoking a homey atmosphere––and ultimately, a room everyone wants to be in.

Colour Reigns Supreme

Suvalsky said one way to avoid a kitschy appearance is to mingle woods and colours, such as lacquered base cabinets and walnut wall cabinets, as he did in his Montclair, New Jersey, kitchen.

“Mixing colours into your kitchen is most effective when it’s done by colour-blocking––using a single colour across large areas of a space––in this case, zones of cabinetry,” he explained. He tends to lean toward “Easter egg colours,” such as baby chick yellow and pale tangerine. These soft pastels can suggest a starting point for the design while lending that retro vibe. But other hues can spark a vintage feel as well.

A mid-century-inspired kitchen by Blythe Interiors.
Natalia Robert

“Shades of green and blue are a timeless base foundation that work for a 1950s vintage look,” said designer Jennifer Verruto of Blythe Interiors in San Diego. But wood isn’t off the table for her, either. “To embrace the character of a mid-century home, we like a Kodiak stain to enhance the gorgeous walnut grain,” she said. “This mid-tone wood is perfect for contrasting other lighter finishes in the kitchen for a Mid-Century Modern feel.”

Since colour is subjective, a kitchen lined with white cabinetry can assume a retro aesthetic through accoutrements and other materials, emanating that ’50s vibe.

“The fun of retro designs is that you can embrace colour and create something that feels individual to the house and its homeowner, reflecting their tastes and personality,” Yaosh said. He recommended wallpaper as an option to transform a kitchen but suggested marrying the pattern with the bones of the house. “Wallpaper can create a mid-century or retro look with colours and hand-blocked craftsmanship,” he said. “Mauny wallpapers at Zuber are a particular favourite of mine.”

Suvalsky suggested Scalamandre wallpapers, for their 1950s patterns, and grass cloth, a textile that was often used during that decade. He also likes House of Hackney, a brand that “does a great job reinventing vintage prints in luscious colours,” he noted. “Many of their colourways invert the typical relationship between light and dark, with botanical prints in dark jewel tones set over light, more playful colours.”

Materials Matter

Beyond wall covering, flooring, countertops and backsplashes can all contribute to the 1950s theme. Manufactured laminate countertops, specifically Formica, were all the rage during the decade. But today’s high-end kitchens call for more luxurious materials and finishes.

“That’s a situation where going the quartz route is appropriate,” Gilmore said. “There are quartzes that are a through-body colour and simple if someone is doing colorued cabinetry. A simplified white without veining will go a long way.” She also recommended Pompei quartz Sunny Pearl, which has a speckled appearance.

A kitchen designed by James Yarosh that incorporates pops of yellow.
Patricia Burke

But for those who welcome vibrant colour schemes, countertops can make a bold statement in a vintage kitchen. Gilmore said solid surface materials from the era were often a colour, and quartz can replicate the look.

“Some brands have coloured quartz, like red,” she said. But keeping countertops neutral allows you to get creative with the backsplash. “I‘d pull in a terrazzo backsplash or a bold colour like a subway tile in a beautiful shade of green or blush,” Gilmore said. “Make the backsplash a piece of art.”

Suvalsky also leans toward bright and daring––such as checkerboards––for the backsplash. But depending on the kitchen’s design, he’ll go quieter with a double white herringbone [tile] pattern. “Either version works, but it must complement other choices, bold or simple, in the design,” he explained.

Neutral countertops with a bold backsplash, designed by Lisa Gilmore.
Native House Photography

Likewise, his flooring choice almost always draws attention. “My tendency is more toward very bold, such as a heavily veined marble or a pattern with highly contrasting tones,” he noted. Yarosh suggested slate and terrazzo as flooring, as these materials can make an excellent backdrop for layering.

Forge a Statement With Vintage Appliances 

As consequential as a kitchen’s foundation is, so are the appliances and accoutrements. While stainless steel complements contemporary kitchens, homeowners can push the design envelope with companies like SMEG when making appliance selections for a retro-style kitchen. Although Suvalsky has yet to specify a SMEG fridge, he is looking forward to the project when he can.

“I think they work best when the selected colour is referenced in other parts of the kitchen, which helps to integrate these otherwise ‘look at me’ pieces into the broader design,” he noted. “They are like sculptures unto themselves.”

“For our mid-century-inspired projects, we’ve opted for Big Chill and the GE Cafe Series to bring a vintage look,” Verruto added. Similar to SMEG, Big Chill and GE offer a vintage vibe in a wide selection of colours and finishes, alongside 21st-century performance.

Can’t commit to a full-size appliance? Sometimes, a splash is enough. Gilmore tends to dust her retro kitchens with a coloured kettle or toaster since her clients are likelier to add a tinge with a countertop appliance or two. “Mint green accessories make it pop, and if in five years they are over it, it’s not a commitment,” she said. “It’s a great way to infuse fun and colour without taking a major risk.”

Deck out the Breakfast Nook

Kitchen dining areas present the opportunity to introduce retro lighting, furniture, and accessories to complete the look. Flea markets and antique markets are excellent places to hunt for accompaniments.

“Dome pendants and Sputnik chandeliers are iconic styles that will infuse vintage charm into your kitchen while also easily complementing a variety of other styles,” Verruto said.

A retro breakfast nook desinged by Andrew Suvalsky.
DLux Editions

Suspend a vintage light fixture over the classic Saarinen table, and you can’t go wrong.

“Saarinen Tulip Tables are almost always guaranteed to deliver a home run in nearly any interior, especially a 1950s-themed kitchen,” Suvalsky said. “The simplicity of its form, especially in white, makes it nearly impossible to clash with.”

To really channel the vibe of this era, Verruto suggested local vintage stores and brands such as Drexel Heritage and Lexington. Dressing the windows counts, too. “Cafe curtains in a chintz pattern will make for a fabulous finishing touch,” she said.

Meanwhile, Yarosh delights in selecting tabletop items, including novelty stemware and other trappings ubiquitous in the 1950s. “Mid-century kitchens also need to have pedestal cake plates and maybe a cloche to keep a cake,” he mused. “I love the opportunity to curate these details down to the correct fork and serving pieces.”


Consumers are going to gravitate toward applications powered by the buzzy new technology, analyst Michael Wolf predicts

35 North Street Windsor

Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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