The oddities of the house, for me, add to its charm. It is ideally suited to the way I live my life.
One of the strange features of the house when I bought it was the absence of overhead lighting. I’ve since installed ceiling lights in two bedrooms and my office. I’m now well lit.
I spend most of my waking hours on the lowest level, where my office is. My best stereo rig is there, providing me with music while I write. All my books, musical scores (I hold a BA in music and composed), CDs, DVDs, tapes, and record albums are in shelves around my desk, within easy reach. The office is especially well lighted, with four powerful floodlights over the desk and dictionary stands—like most writers, I’m surrounded by oversized dictionaries in English and the other seven languages I have worked in. My deck, accessible through glass doors at the end of the room, is furnished with a picnic table and a variety of chairs where I can take a break from my work and view the pond at the back of the house.
One of the surprising features of the house is how well all my decorative art fits in. I have paintings and art objects from all over the world, reflecting my years of working abroad. By the fireplace in the sunroom is a ceramic temple dog from China. Throughout that room and the piano room are ceramic elephants, a specialty of Vietnam. On the wall next to my reading chair in the sunroom is a copy of the head of the virgin from Michelangelo’s Pietá in the Vatican. Next to the piano is a wooden nutcracker, shaped like a soldier, from Moscow. On the walls are paintings from a variety of countries, but Vietnam predominates—I spent the most time there.
My decorative pieces look like they were designed to be displayed in this strange house. Its quirkiness and décor mirror their unconventional owner: a spy turned writer with a long and bizarre secret history.