When people look at our house I'm always afraid that they'll see this:

(that's a movie still from the movie SAW, for those who didn't know)

Or, heaven forbid, THIS:

(likewise, the house from the movie Fight Club)
..Which is to say, that I'm afraid they'll judge us from the outside, what's visible from the surface. I want to let you in on something that most people don't see. The ugly, crappy, undone parts of our home. The ones we see with future-goggles. The ones that people squint at and ask "...why aren't you just hiring a contractor?" or " sure you aren't going to just sheetrock it?" and the subsequent "...WHY??" when we explain that it isn't in our plans to "just" sheetrock.
A little shaggy around the edges. If you step back and close your eyes and think about what is important to someone else, you might see what we see:
You'll see the oldest house (with the biggest lot) on the block, built in 1897, by a first-generation American. You'll see a house with original woodwork, original floors, hand-turned ballusters and newel posts. What you'll see is that we have huge windows and a thoughtfully created floorplan to maximize heat retention (and rejection for the sweltering summer months). Additionally, you'll see giant trees, planted with these aspects in mind. Fiberglass insulation couldn't keep our house warmer than these thick plaster walls, nor could any air conditioner cool our house more efficiently than our massive maples, strategically planted on the south side to block "the heat of the day".

Some people might look at this scene and be appalled. You might see an untidy room with cords and cats and cycles. If you looked a little closer, you'd notice the ten foot tall coved ceilings, with gorgeous picture-rail encircling the room. You'd be amazed by the 9" baseboards, especially if you consider the new standard is about half as high. Sure, it's unfinished, but that alcove is going to be a fully-functional (and fully thoughtfully prepared) powder room with a period aesthetic. (Don't worry .. It's going to have running water) When the tools are moved into storage and our dining table is revealed again (and not just for vertical filing and misc. parts-holding) this room will be something to be admired. We admire it NOW, because we see it for what it WILL be .. not just it's present state.
(okay, even I admit that this scene is a little tougher to dress-up)
Still, we see the bare lath and wallpaper-stripped plaster with a hope that won't quit. Other homes might look like ours, but that's where any similarities will abruptly end. They'll never feel like ours. There's a family here. Sure, it's made up of a man, a woman, two hens and a couple of cats .. but we're a family. We love each other and we work hard for this house. If you look at it in the right light, you'll see the magic that we see. That magic is what keeps us up all night, scraping wallpaper until our knuckles are cracked, sanding the floor until our heavily-tattooed arms are so coated with powder that we look as unadorned as children .. It's what perpetuates this project through the distracting summers, filled with other obligations, camping trips, daycations at the lake. It keeps the fire burning though the dead of winter, when the only thing keeping us working is a seriously amazing mixtape from the archives, a space heater and the future. This house is our legacy, and we have to do it right. We live in a culture where houses are thrown up in a couple of weeks. This might be sufficient for some people, but I don't want MDF (medium-density fibreboard) and vinyl. I want 120 year, old-growth, VG fir floors with dips and divots. I want plaster walls with dents. I want double-hung windows with leaded glass as old as the walls (more on that later). I want this magical house that was pieced together by men who took pride in their craft. Men who weren't consumed with it's resale value. My house was built by the man who lived in it and I consider truly lucky to have a house as special as this .. come inside sometime. I think you'll like what you see.  
This house is magic. To us, it's home.


  1. And once you restore it to the way you guys want, it'll live on for that many more years for the generations to come. Now that is awesome.

  2. I think your home is charming and unique. Some folks (like your family) are just project people. We enjoy revealing the diamond in the rough. We do that with people as well. Others like a finished setting. Still others buy a house for its resale value. All are legitimate reasons.

    Don't second guess your journey. It doesn't have to work for anyone else. It only has to work for you. Lastly, if people don't see what you see, it may be that they lack your inner vision. It's the way of things from the outside.


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