Sunday, February 22, 2009


I don't think of myself as someone who has trouble with perspective, but lately I've felt very easily overwhelmed and like things-- particularly my job-- could get away from me. It is a big job, and getting a handle on "current reality" has been difficult. In this time of high anxiety for me, Steve has undertaken a fairly major remodeling project. And I've found that rather than make things more unstable and chaotic, it's provided me with a great deal of calm and peace.
Watching my husband work is teaching me many things.

The project started out with one goal: install a hardwood floor in the living room. We made several trips to Menard's over the past six months, looking at bamboo, then hardwood flooring, knowing what we wanted and finally, at the time when it became important to get to the project (a lull in design work, and not yet landscape season), we found it. One evening I said I thought we really should replace the stairs with wood, too, and that became part of the project. That allowed us the thought of taking down the oak banister, which I don't think really suits the house, and putting in a metal and cable banister instead. For Steve, welding and metalwork is the end game (though he thinks it's making new furniture for the living room, but I'm resisting that). He's motivated by the thought of eventually getting to that piece.

Thursday night we moved the furniture and rolled up the old carpet. And by then it had become clear that this was the time to paint the room, so new colors were chosen to compliment the metal and the olive kitchen we want to keep. You have to understand that the room has vaulted ceilings, and there is a very open floor plan. But for now, the living room is what needs to be painted.

Steve bought pine planks for steps, cut and routed them, sanded and polyurethaned them, all in neat stacks in the living room. When I came home from work at night things were pretty clean and neat, spare and progressing.

Yesterday he built a makeshift scaffolding on the stairs and painted the high spots. It's now clear the ceiling needs to be painted-- after scraping off the popcorn. We settled readily on a color. I told him if I was doing the project and someone told me I really should do the ceiling, too, I would cry and give up. Steve isn't fazed.

Steve calls the work "putzy." It is systematic. He does one thing after another, all manageable tasks. And at the end it's clear we'll have a transformed living space. It will set the tone for the other living spaces. He's already having ideas about the kitchen island. Also, it has exposed the simplicity of the house's structure. The square of living room floor is pleasing, as is the open staircase. The walls are large, flat planes. There are relatively few lines or interruptions.

I used to feel this way as a teenager about sewing. One manageable seam after another. Cut and pin and sew and iron. In no time you had a shirt, in itself a complicated thing. I loved sewing, though in recent years it hasn't extended beyond curtains, pillows and tablecloths.

People have been giving me sympathy for living through a renovation. How can I explain that it's been the best thing for me?

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