People keep asking me if we're getting settled in, and until today I was getting pretty tired of it, because I really didn't feel all that settled. Today, though, we moved a bunch of boxes out of the living room and laid down the rug, cleared the upstairs landing, and unpacked a couple of big bins, and now it finally does feel like we're getting settled, like this is really where we live and not just where all our stuff is.
Of course we still have a million things to unpack, but we have been cleverly hiding boxes in the basement rather than face them, and we are managing quite nicely with the forty percent of our possessions that we have unpacked. I have a grand plan for unpacking the rest which involves a large box labelled "Garage Sale"; Blake and I will dig into that project in the New Year.
It's a crappy little house (in some ways, and in others it's wonderful), and sometimes I wonder why we bought it. The kitchen needs redoing, the bathroom needs redoing (not to mention there's only the one), the basement isn't done at all... this house is a money sponge capable of absorbing every spare penny for the next two decades. Why didn't we buy one of the shiny, renovated perfect houses with the dug-out, finished basements and the second bathrooms and the nice kitchens?
Money, for one thing; we didn't pay much for this place. But we're going to have to put more than the difference back into it to get it up to snuff. The burning desire to be knee-deep in plaster dust for the next five years? A passion to express myself through interior design? That can't be right.
I don't think that's the reason we bought the house. I think we fell in love with the oldness of it, with the perfect trim and the retro cabinets, and with the challenge of taking this beloved old house and bringing it up to date without erasing its character; deciding what to keep and what to take away. Taking what is in a sense a blank slate and making it our own.
We've got some pretty good ideas about keeping the character while still beating the house into twenty-first century submission. We're going to rip down a bunch of walls, but save the trim and cleverly use it elsewhere: we're going to use the trim from between the living room and the dining room to frame a huge pass-through between the kitchen and the dining room; we're going to use trim from one of the doors to create an archway at the end of the new front hall; we're going to use two doors to make a headboard, and another to make a mirror for the top of the stairs. We're going to salvage the doorknobs and line them up on a board to hang coats and hats on. We're going to patch the floors rather than refinish (or replace) the hardwood. And of course I want to do the kitchen in a style reminiscent of the fifties; I almost want the kitchen to look like it was installed in the fifties and impeccably maintained, rather than to look like a new kitchen with all the latest fashions and gadgets.
I think when we're done this first phase of renovations, the house will be modern and comfortable, with an open living space, lots of light and air, a large, usable kitchen, and new wiring and light switches in sensible places, but it will still retain the patina of age that we love.