In an attempt to avoid the parts of life that aren’t going as planned, we’re redoing our bedroom. (See, You’ll Need To Escape, circa just last week). This is less the product of a grand design and more because #2 Cherub fell down the stairs last week. The stairs are covered in a gross, slippery carpet (carpet shouldn’t be slippery, right?) and this was the third or forth fall we’ve had. So Steve pulled up the shaggy gray/brown slip & slide to uncover the original oak treads underneath.
That’s when we discovered that not every home renovation gives you a Nicole Curtis “look at these beautiful floors!” moment.
When we moved in to this house four years ago, we did a fair amount of renovation: The kitchen featured peeling, bright green formica countertops, broken 16″x16″ tile that I think was supposed to evoke thoughts of Tuscany, and a charred plastic sink that at one point may have been set on fire. We got a remodeling quote for $25,000 that didn’t include cabinets, flooring, or appliances, after which Steve (in one of my favorite moments of our marriage) decided we’d demo it ourselves. He was like, “Want to save $25,000 tonight?” and out came the crowbar. It was SO. MUCH. FUN.
Six weeks later, when we were living out of a dorm fridge in our dining room and every single surface was covered in a thick haze of drywall dust, I was over it. Even I can only eat so many baloney sandwiches. And, redoing a kitchen is an angsty process. For a brief period of time that I’m not proud of, I was deeply convinced that the drawer pulls I chose were supposed to say something about who I am as a person. It was ridiculous.
We took a breather after the kitchen was done, but soon other things beckoned.
The entire main floor was this brownish yellow color a friend’s son described as “what it must look like inside a hamster,” so we painted. We redid a back porch/sunroom space Steve is now afraid to furnish because the Cherubs are fast approaching the dating years. (He doesn’t want any of that boys & girls sitting next to each other going on. We may set up some nice stools.)
The house needed a new roof, and then a coat of paint. A squirrel chewed her way into an eve and had babies, and she needed help moving. Over time, we developed a philosophy of home repair that more or less says, “If it doesn’t involve a three story ladder, we’ll try to do parts of it ourselves.”
We never did anything to the upstairs space because we weren’t sure what to do. It’s a bit wonky, with slanted ceilings and storage eves. The slippery shag carpet continues throughout, and was clearly peed upon by several large dogs prior to our arrival. As gross as THAT is, we haven’t had the budget or the motivation to rip it up and figure out new flooring. We cleaned the carpet as best we could and just left it.
When the Cherubs came, we moved our bedroom stuff up to there and just kind of dumped it. There were so many other things to do to get our house ready for the kids, who cared about our room? Everything looked nice enough so long as you didn’t really look (or fall down the stairs). It was fine.
Except not really.
If not for the bed, this long triangle of a room could easily be mistaken for a yard sale: there are tables & bureaus in three different finishes, a random fan in the corner, a $5 mirror from Target propped up against one wall, and a odd modern leather chair my Dad gave us that he warned us wasn’t very comfortable. There’s a treadmill covered in dust & clothes in front of my closet. Oh, and we have a humidifier, which I’ve yet to see “incorporated into the look” when I flip through Traditional Home or Architectural Digest. I live in New England and the air is dry all winter, so if I don’t want to look like a lizard, this is a key item in my decor.
Last weekend after #2 fell, Steve ripped the slippery carpet off the stairs to reveal the original hardwood.
Rather than being a “Look at how beautiful!” moment a la HGTV, this was instead the moment where Chip & Joanna Gaines would call their client to say, “We’ve got a problem. Please get out your checkbook.” The treads are splintered, chipped, dented, and DRY. Did I mention that they squeak??? Our next door neighbors can hear us going up and down the stairs. It’s quite the thing.
We looked into redoing them, which is totally an option so long as only one of the Cherubs wants to go to college. Since that seemed like more than we could decide in a rock/paper/scissors shootout, we decided to paint the stairs. I went after the crazy orange stained sides & risers with some Kilz:
Steve is buying black paint for the treads tonight after work, along with some sort of kit that promises to deaden the squeak. Then we’ll put a runner down the middle and call it a day.
Because now we have bigger problems:
Ripping up that one strip of rug has stirred up in us a fervent need to get every single fiber of that disgusting dog pee shag OUT OF OUR HOUSE. I can’t believe I’ve been sleeping over it, my kids have been wrestling with THAT DOG on it, that life has been going on as if we’re not living in the midst of a Superfund site. It’s like we’ve just now realized that our bedroom floor is the carnivorous island from Life of Pi.
(What a blessing that I’ve been too busy for the past four years to be down there doing sit ups!)
We’re ordering a click floor, pulling paint samples, and I’m asking Stitchfix to send me a bedazzled hazmat suit for when we pull up all that shag.
In all of this, I’m trying to remember: changing this room will not change me. No matter how many pictures of traditional bedrooms in serene, neutral colors I pin to my Pinterest board, paint and flooring cannot make me more serene. They just don’t have that power. After the redo is done, this room will still look more or less like this picture I just took this morning:
There will still be piles of things waiting to be put away, and cords to charge devices, and books that always sort of spill out over the shelves. But now it will all be set against a different color scheme, and without the pee from someone else’s dogs. That’s enough for me.
A couple of weeks ago, I read The Magnolia Story, loved it. One scene in particular stood out to me. It’s where Joanna describes how early in their marriage, Chip would buy run down houses without telling her…and expect her to move into them on short notice, then renovate & flip them. He would literally come home and tell he they were moving. Chip admits this wasn’t his best strategy (he even says that if they ever write a marriage book, Chapter 1 will be called, “She Cried…“)
I’m a little in awe of how Joanna handled this. Yes, she cried. But she shares how she thought through this – how she realized that if she ever wanted to be successful as a designer, this was the only way she could grow, by taking on these new projects. And that she needed to find a way to manage disappointment and the pain of letting go. She talked about how Chip doesn’t get attached to anything that doesn’t have a heartbeat. He holds it all loosely, which gives him a tremendous amount of freedom. She decided to build her capacity to do the same – to enjoy the process of design and decor and how it allows her to grow, and not get attached to the outcome.
I’m not sure exactly how this applies to my life, but it does.
My real challenges aren’t about what my house looks like. That’s just a hobby and a distraction (and a EPA level cleanup project, but whatever…) But sometimes I try things in other areas that do matter to me – not necessarily because I want to, but because circumstances play out so that it’s what needs to be done. I love her attitude about all of these frustrated tears leading to growth in things that matter, and increased capacity to do important work and make a difference in the world.
I’m off to the paint store to made hard decisions about colors with names like Linen, Air, and Moonbeam.
I’ll post pictures of the carpet pull-up. That will give you something to look forward to :)