Category Archives: Uncategorized

Best Laid Plans

I returned home Saturday after being in five cities in seven days.  This is the sort of thing that I do to myself.  As I was making these plans – a two day driving trip to Bentonville to see the Stuart Davis exhibit (for the love of Pete – go! it’s fantastic) then to Tulsa, my hometown (to prove to someone that while the surface is a nice veneer, the construction is undoubtably builder’s grade) followed by a four day college tour in the Pacific Northwest with my middle – it occurred to me that this was insanity.  Then I said, “Oh, heavens, it will be fine.”

It was both fine and complete insanity at the same time.  By which I mean, the company was beyond reproach and each city was a delight, but it was a helluva lot of moving around.

I returned home to more of the same.  I know this will amuse some of you, but I forgot that a renovation takes a fair amount of energy.  I’ve wanted to do these projects since I bought the house.  I’ve planned for them.  I’m excited about them.

But I forgot the number of decisions, the “oh, we found something today and…” and the mess.  I did not forget the physical mess, but the mess in messing with old houses.  The contractor and the plumber are concerned about – I don’t know – pipes or something.

The upside of this concern and the ensuing destruction is that the second floor bath, which was one of my first priorities, but firmly on my contractor’s “Let’s do the third floor and see if we still like each other” list has now become part of Phase I. Which, while there is mess, means more tile, more plumbing, more fixtures.  More fun.

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Shower, Shampoo and Shine

This week has been all about the bath.  I’ve been thinking about this space as a whole for a long time.  In my head, the construction and design of it is in keeping with the 114 year old house, but with an updated twist.

(What? You can’t quite see the space coming to life from rodent-chewed window frames and decades old insulation? Funny, because I saw it from the beginning.  Though silk purse from a sow’s ear is not new to me.)

While I’ve selected fixtures and plumbing (more on that later) I’m mad for this tile.  We first met when I slid my index finger bottom-to-top on my Instagram feed and he appeared out of nowhere.  Perfect.  And perfect for me.

He has that free-spirited, off-kilter, edgy do-your-own-thingness about him, while being firmly rooted in that traditional-old-house-hex kind of way that has me entranced.  No surprise, I ran into him in one of my regular haunts.

 

I’ve been a longtime fan of Cle Tiles and am so happy to finally be ordering from them.  They have a lovely new collection appropriately named, “oh,joy.”

Just what I was thinking.

This is not a sponsored post and I have not received a discount on the tile I am ordering. 

 

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Ready, set, go!

I could see the room in my attic on the third floor the first time I saw the house.  When I brought my oldest son to see the house for the first time I said, “I think there could be a bedroom up here.” He said, “Dibs.”

I can hardly believe it, but that was nearly four years ago.  Construction starts Monday.  It’s probably good that I wasn’t able to start right away.  We have a much clearer understanding of how we live here and what we need.

My office will be in the front part of the house with the north facing window.  Because of a large tree that shades the back, it is the sunniest part of the room.  The back room will be a bedroom for my oldest son when he’s home and anyone else who may need a place to crash.  As with any 104 year old house, existing closet space is limited.  The storage under the eaves will provide space for Christmas decorations, off-season clothes and the bins of nursery bedding with which I cannot seem to part.

I hate to make generalizations, but I have an affinity for bartenders and contractors.  As my contractor and I have discussed specifics, I’ve started to talk about the second floor bath, my closet and, oh yes, the kitchen. When the project creep sets in he says, “Let’s just focus on the third floor.  If we still like each other after that, we can talk about the rest.”  Wise man.

I’m going to check in here once a week, but will have regular posts on Instagram if you’d like to follow along.

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A Clear Sight Line

One of the projects on my list for the house is a mild-modify of the kitchen. In the interim, I had an outlet installed in the pantry so that I could move my appliances off the counter. In order to do this, I had to do a little tidying.

I’m horribly messy, which no one believes because all my mess, domestic and emotional, happens behind closed doors. Jumbles of bowls, piles of knives, tipped over water bottles. Consistently, the more space there is in a hidden nook, the more mess.  This was the case the with the pantry.

In order to move the appliances I had to remove a shelf, which demanded some shifting. Few tasks have provided as much insight into my psyche. There was a box of crackers that had been down to the last four for months, but there they were still nestled tightly in the waxed sleeve. A shelf down and to the right, laying on its side was a box of the “wrong” Goldfish (whole wheat, good heavens) that has been there, opened, since last summer. And on the bottom shelf lived a pile of small cans of wet dog food samples that were a promotion in Rosie and Dexter’s dry food for well over a year.

These tins, smaller than any can of tuna, would not provide my Boxers a nibble. Rosie is sweet and feminine, but even she would be insulted by this amuse bouche. But each week as I opened a 20 lb. bag of kibble, I would carefully place another tiny tin on the bottom shelf of the pantry.

There is a spring of anxiety that goes along with starting these house projects  – the third floor, the kitchen, the baths – that comes from a deep and hidden well. After her divorce, through both her actions and her words, my mother began tattooing a phrase on my brain. “There’s not enough.”

How can I throw away three crackers, when I may need them later? How can I donate the simple, short-sleeved sheath that has never fit quite right when there may be a day that I will need it and have nothing? How can I discard these tiny cans of dog food when they may someday be all I have to offer my forty pound beasts?

But I am beginning to remind myself that not only does this mantra of lack not serve me, but it is not true. I have always had enough and in most cases much more than enough. So with some guilt I threw away the crackers and bagged up the dog food for the next person I saw standing on a street corner with a sign and a pup and moved on.

The toaster oven and the coffee maker agree that the pantry is cozy, and the countertops are blissfully clean.

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It is Spring

I must admit, November knocked me for a loop. As my world and my perspective shifted it didn’t feel right to talk about paint and fabric. I pulled in. I note how often things get larger and smaller at the same time. As I grasped my lapels a little tighter and ducked my head into the wind, I did what I often do in times of worry. I invited friends to the house.

The downstairs and my bedroom and the two younger boys’ rooms feel settled. Nothing is ever finished as anyone who would stop here would know. But three years in I finally bought the headboard that I wanted and, in nothing less than design gods smiling, found a pair to the vintage bedside light for which I’d been searching for ages.

The middle’s room hasn’t changed much since we moved, though he is bigger and so his desk is bigger. (He knows himself in all things and refuses most of my overtures to “improve” his space.) The youngest, whose ankles showed as he put on khaki pants that fit two weeks ago, finally – finally – has a double bed. We twin no more.

So all the space that must work, does work. But the rooms that function less well need attention. Even though my oldest is only here a few months each year, having his room off of the dining room has never been ideal and not only because he is the messiest and sleeps the latest, but because for all creatures privacy is as important as society.

The bathrooms function, but elements of both still make me flinch a little as I snap on the light. And the unfinished attic, which may be the most charming space in the house, has gone unused for the last one hundred years. All that is about to change. Probably not quickly and certainly not easily. (What project ever is?) But in the end I hope to leave this space a little better than I found it.

I am less and less often on Facebook (so noisy) but am obsessed with Instagram. You can find pictures of this on-going project (and other nonsense) @patricia_mrsblandings

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