02.14.02: Maybe a box of chocolates would have been wiser

Eight years ago today, Mr Vix and I met our realtor in a pizza joint.

That jolly get-together set in motion a train of events that would involve me spending quite possibly WAY too much of my life with some kind of…implement…in my hand. Usually one that could be used with greater or lesser precision. [Demo, painting, sanding, staining = yes; measuring = oh hell no.] Unfortunately, it wasn’t until I was nearing the end of my 30s that I realized Mr Thoreau was an untrustworthy proto-hippie, and that in fact one should beware of all enterprises that involve the farthest thing from new clothes:

Endless love-hate...taking up a floor in Mar 03 and chipping off tile in May 08

But eight years ago, the idea of giving some TLC to a rode-hard-and-put-up-wet house seemed very romantic to both of us. Had either of us BEEN romantics we might have understood that throwing time and money at trips or life-affirming hobbies engenders passion and tender feelings, while throwing time at scraping woodwork and money at old plumbing is terribly non-sexy for anyone in their RIGHT MIND. Though admittedly it does beat running OUT of money to throw at old plumbing (which is why the upstairs shower is currently off-limits).

It also must be said that back in ’02, Mr Vix and I were transitioning from dating to renovating. Guess that’s how in almost 2 years of togetherness, we’d each missed that the other was a control freak. Whoops-a-daisy!

Luckily, back in the dark ages there weren’t tons of cutesy-pie couple-run blogs detailing blissful young love amidst the ruins and reconstructions. Instead, there were forums. Forums full of subject lines like “Help! 30-year marriage headed for divorce over kitchen reno!!!!” These were my people, even if they were ancient. And putting up grape-strewn wallpaper.

Three things every control freak renovator will mutter/think/say--especially if co-renovating with another control freak

So since everyone knows gloating is what keeps a relationship strong, I present a few house-related issues that involved that most tiresome of elements—compromise—but mostly went my way.

The Banjo-Dueling Over Wall Colors

I’m sorry, but when it comes to living in an oft-dark house in a frequently rainy climate, I think love means never having to say, “A gallon of ecru, please.” Mr Vix, on the other hand, saw no reason to stop living la vida vainilla. Once we had a negotiated Color Direction, I was all over doing test splotches, which he found wasteful and obsessive. But I was damn well going to let my inner Mrs Blandings run amok. Despite the fact that I lacked a Mr PeDelford and was doing all my own painting, I had plenty of internal conversations along the lines of:

I want it to be a soft green. Not as blue-green as a robin’s egg…[B]ut not as yellow-green as daffodil buds. Now, the only sample I could get is a little too yellow. But don’t let whoever does it get it too blue….It should be a sort of grayish yellow-green.
….
For the powder room in here, I want you to match this thread. And don’t lose it. It’s the only spool I have and I had an awful time finding it. As you can see, it’s practically an apple red. Somewhere between a healthy Winesap and an unripened Jonathan.

I have color, he has a tree table in the living room. Ain’t love grand?

The Inconvenient Kitchen Hutch

This beleaguered, old-by-PNW-standards house had only ONE built-in left when we moved in, and though it sported many a coat of paint over wood and hardware, I loved it immediately:

Kitchen hutch, pre-house sale/with former occupant: ~7 coats of paint lurked below the surface, most of them quite vivid in color

Mr Vix loved it less, because it took up prime wall space in a small kitchen with 4 doors, 3 windows, and limited time on this earth. Wall space that would  be perfect for a refrigerator when we started our (ever-goddamn-lasting) budget reno. But I couldn’t bear the thought of dismantling the site-built storage, even though it was made of paint-grade wood and was missing its original glass doors.

BECAUSE (I REPEAT) IT WAS THE ONLY REMAINING BUILT-IN. USED BY GENERATIONS BEFORE WE GOT THERE.

Layout-wise, it totally screwed the pooch to keep it. But it stayed.

DIY'd kitchen hutch (etc) after budget reno

About 2 years after the kitchen was functioning, the hutch finally got replacement glass doors...though the open shelves were actually more convenient!

As the hutch is the first thing people flock to when they come into the room, I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t burn it down during my rehab efforts. And a better thing that Mr Vix surprised me with a pair of replacement glass doors and matching-the-original hinges a few years later.

The Mineral-Deposit-Laden Salvage Doors That So OBVIOUSLY Needed to Shine

If it’s wrong to stumble upon a pair of fabulous deco-era leaded glass doors and immediately start fantasizing about building a bathroom around them, then I don’t want to be right.

Salvage doors: the cart that drove the horse

Even if the house in question has no other fabulous deco-era touches, given its 1905 birth. Age difference aside, the house was a series of squares and rectangles. What could be more perfect than using such delightful, fate-brought-you-into-my-life doors for a linen cabinet?

Nothing.

So for 5 years the doors got more and more grimy, and I got more and more determined that they should be the DNA of our small-bath reno. Even when they turned out to need progressively more toxic chemicals to remove aforementioned mineral stains. Even when it turned out the price of building (unfinished, to-be-painted-by-me) cabinets for the doors meant even less fun in the foreseeable future.

Even when it seemed the bathroom–much like the kitchen–was determined to stay in an unfinished state until we hated all humankind.

No matter how deep in, technically one can always call the whole thing off

I needed the doors to help me tie together all the pattern I was adding to a smallish, 6 x 10.5 space. Pattern I was assuring Mr Vix would be just what we envisioned, even when I was saying O MY GOD WHAT HAVE I DONE IT’S A TEXTURE OVERLOAD to those who were following along. Or those who were forced to endure my updates.

I needed the doors, and I was pretty sure the doors needed me.

Triumphant! Salvage glass doors get a new home in reno'd bath

Bathroom-to-hall before/after. I was--o happy day--1000% right about the salvage door cabinet being AWESOME...er I mean, "I think the doors came out pretty well!"

However—it being Valentine’s Day and all—I should rephrase that. I was pretty sure WE needed the doors, just like we needed the hutch.

Because 8 years after we decided to be now-with-extra-serious, we find we’re still two stubborn people who prefer to lead rather than follow. So it doesn’t hurt to live in a space where we have things that are fragile enough to have been smashed instead of reinvented. To have things that are inconvenient, but still beloved. Because 8 years on it’s evident that for us, embracing endurance and imperfection is the only way forward.

For the curious, there are a few more pics of both big-for-us transformations here. The extra-curious can even read about Condé Nast’s interest in my kitchen backsplash….

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7 Responses

  1. I loved your phrase couple-run blogs detailing blissful young love amidst the ruins. Yes, how do they do it and don’t you want to throttle them sometimes!?
    Wonderful to see some more of your projects and I’m only a teeny bit envious that you seem to have triumphed in every case, when I’m sometimes left looking at the finished result wondering why something isn’t quite right 🙂
    Your home looks really fab!

  2. Thanks, Ms Struggler! Trust me, there are many non-triumphant things I could post (does the phrase “marshmellow sofa” make your heart flutter?) and many scary spots left.

    As we both thought we’d be a lot farther along at this point, I thought I’d try to cheer myself up with some of what we, anyway, consider improvements!

  3. I bow to you. Never in my life could I have done this.

  4. If you’d done it like me you’d have done fine!

    [For the first reno I was ignorant about how living in a torn-up kitchen for over a year (yes) would affect me; for the second I was delusional that things would go better. ]

    But many thanks.

  5. My He-weasel works in construction management and I am a therapist. He has always said we should go into business together. Most couples that do a major remodel could use a little therapy as remodeling can bring up some issues. If a marriage can survive a major remodel it can survive anything. Congrats on having a love that endures and a gorgeous house!!

  6. Thank you for posting this. It gives me hope.

  7. LBR — You two are sitting on a GOLDMINE business plan! We are torn between saving up to test our love on Bathroom #2 and leaving well enough alone and learning to love the 70s burnt sienna laminate (and the non-functioning shower!).

    Christine — Glad I can give someone hope. I thought I should focus on the positive to mark the signing rather than the many negatives that still await attention….

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