Feature wall with little girl.As the daughter of immigrants, my story is emblematic of many. My grandparents left their homes seeking a bright future for their families in Canada. My parents worked hard, believed in the merits of higher education, and within a short while, our family was welcomed into the middle class. Mom and pop encouraged their own children to continue this march towards progress. We were supposed to be doctors or lawyers – anything, as long as it was perceived to be a step up from what they themselves had achieved. An acceptable alternative was for us to marry up. It took a feature wall for me to truly understand that I had.

The next generation of our family, didn’t achieve this proverbial step up. I didn’t marry a doctor – I married a house painter, a designation befitting a recently arrived Italian Canadian in days past. But in creating something beautiful, something with his own hands, my husband has made me revise and reinterpret what we have achieved.

He recently painted a feature wall in our daughter’s room. It was important to us both that she learn to love a space undefined by gender and, for us, the chosen design inspired a sense of freedom from traditional gender constraints. The wall, however, has had an unexpected effect on how I perceive my own life. Every time I pass it, I’m reminded to think outside of the box beyond the choice of my daughter’s clothes, toys, and activities; it’s become a personal touchstone, calling me to reflect on my own notions of progress, both as a mother and as a daughter.

My arts education has left me vulnerable to the romantic notion that good design can change lives, but it is my practical side that sees my husband as an innovator. In the Bauhaus school of design, workshops were taught by two classes of people: the artists and the craftspeople. The former worked with ideas, while the later worked with their hands. My daughter’s mural encompasses both of these achievements. Imbued with symbolic value, it reminds me of the power that lies behind unconventional and imaginative choices, be they the breakdown of gender stereotypes, or those associated with upward mobility and progress.

I may not have married up in a social or an economic sense, but I married an innovator: a loving husband, father, entrepreneur and one hell of a good house painter. The whimsical wall is a welcome reminder of these very characteristics.Emilia in her room.

– Jessica Rovito
Photo by Jessica Rovito

If you’d like to contact Jeremy Mulder, Jessica’s husband, he can be reached at:

Restoration Painters of Toronto

This article is part of our issue OUTPOSTS: Ventures Beyond the Box.


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