Opinion

The North Salem Bathroom That Made Me Say WHOA!

"Dear god – what is that?" I asked our realtor.

We got closer to the walls to take a good hard look at the wallpaper. It was a pattern that showed horses and their riders in all different directions. Sprinkled within the design was a terrified fox trying to hide. This faded brown and tan wallpaper covered the walls of the downstairs powder room.

"Oh, it's a fox hunt," she said while studying it carefully. "Don't worry, though… the fox probably survived."

When we decided to move here from Brooklyn, New York, I knew it would be a transition. I used to be able to walk to Starbucks in five minutes flat. Now, I have to drive fifteen minutes. Trust me when I say this was the biggest hardship for a Venti Mocha Frappucino addict. Still, I was prepared to make the sacrifice.

However, I didn't realize how much "horse décor" would be a part of that transition. As we toured the house we were considering buying (the one with the horse wallpaper), we noticed that the front door knocker was a stirrup to aid in mounting a horse. Mind you- I would never have known this if it weren't for my husband, Mike. After years of being a woman and having two children, the only stirrup I had ever seen was in my OB/GYN's office.

It has been said that North Salem has more horses than households, but it's unclear how accurate that is. According to a 1986 New York Times article, North Salem is the same size as Manhattan - 22 square miles - but the town's population numbers only 4,700. A 2021 Forbes article has the population at roughly 5,200. The horse population allegedly ranges from 400 to 1,000.

Until 2020, my only real experience with horses was when they tried to get me to ride one when I was a Girl Scout (I politely declined after a panic attack) and riding the horse carousel at the Bronx Zoo. It's not that I have anything personal against horses. I just feel the same way about Robert Mapplethorpe's photography. I know people appreciate his work, but that doesn't mean I want his pictures adorning my walls—especially not the guest bathroom. I want people to feel welcome. Not look at a fox fighting for his life. The only drama I want happening in my powder room is one that Tums can easily address.

When we decided to buy the house (stirrups and all), I told Mike that the very first thing I wanted to do was change the downstairs bathroom. Understandably, when we looked at the "nice to have" and "need to have" columns, de-horsing one of the rooms wasn't a top priority.

Mike suggested a temporary fix. Since there were so many horses you could see from all different angles, he suggested we draw a phallus on one and encourage guests, much like Where's Waldo, to Find The Phallus. Despite being thoroughly amused at the thought, I vetoed it mainly because I didn't feel confident in either of our artistic skills.

So instead, I created the nicest, most decorative sign I could that said: "FYI: The fox escaped and is now retired with his wife and family in Boca Raton." It wasn't much, but it least helped me rest easier knowing that the fox's narrative was at least settled.

Even though I DID keep the stirrup on the front door, after around two months of apologizing for the wallpaper, I connected with a handyman I hired (and begged) to somehow exorcise us of the Horse/Fox Hunt demons. His suggestion was to paint over it, and that's exactly what we did. Its current décor is Starbucks/Coffee-themed, with some creative signs and funny towels that aim to be both humorous (intentionally) and welcoming. True – not all who use the powder room may love the change, but at least they can walk out horse-free without the "long-face."


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