|Maybe it's just me, but perhaps instead of painting bizarre hedrons on the walls, maybe they should have opened that little door and noticed that rodents had eaten all the insulation off the wiring for that electric radiator, like I did|
Ah, beloved of shelter shows, fave of DIY videos, the inamorata of second wives that just shooed the last disreputable contractor off their property after the granite countertop/laminate flooring/stainless steel appliance remuddling orgy was over in their snouthouse kitchen: Before and After Photos.
But I've already shown you before and after photos. You just weren't paying attention. It's not your fault. I'm weird and broke, so my After photos are really all During photos. There is nothing permanent in your house. Your house is a direction, or more accurately, it's one of two directions. Getting better or getting worse. There is no stasis in houses. Nothing is "modern," or "updated." Newly installed, maybe. But the hideous stuff you ripped out, usually barely a decade old, was all modern and updated when they put it in, too. What it really was, was a fad.
Fads rule in everything in American public life. There used to be fewer choices for everything you used or owned. There were only three TV channels when I was young, and yet people had a more varied outlook than they do now, even though basic cable has three hundred. Everyone had to have Corian counters when Clinton was President. Everyone had to have granite counters when Bush was President. Everyone wants repossessed granite countertops in Obama's second term, which is almost continuity, but my point stands. In two years every one will sniff at your granite and say quartz is where it's at, dahling, and you'll tear it all out again.
I didn't do anything in particular to my $25,000 house, though I'm always doing something. A Home Depot brochure didn't explode in there. I really only did one thing: I reversed its direction. The period before 1968 is shrouded in mystery, but I know pretty much what's been going on here since then. It was all bad. Everyone had their own version of bad to visit on the sticks and bricks, but like most people, they were all human termites. They ate at the fabric of the house, and pooped in it. The poop of a human termite isn't sawdust. It's ceiling fans and wallpaper borders and sheets of paneling and dozens of tin barnacles on the window headers for curtain rods and shutters and shades and drapes and sheets of plastic and venetian blinds. I began to suspect that this house has only had one direction since it was built, and then, in a moment of inspiration, looking at some substandard thing or another, I wondered if it was going down the shitter even before it was finished. Did the original occupants move in before it was completely built and start the cavalcade of entropy before the paint was even dry?
It's very likely. The house was built in a very unusual way for 1901. It's timber framed. The outside is standard-issue Queen Anne, with wrap-around porch, a curved and a turreted roof, a mix of siding textures, big windows, public rooms enfilade. But it's framed like a barn: big timbers socketed into one another, and not enough framing between them. I would have expected balloon framing, maybe, and there is some mixed in, but this house wasn't a palace, ever. It was for regular folks, or the just slightly better off than regular folks, and it was built by people that were used to having horses for customers. It's a testament to their innate good sense and the quality of even below-average building materials and methods from the turn of the twentieth century that the house is still standing after a century of people trying to wreck it.
When we moved here, I think I spent over two hundred dollars on window glass. Window glass is cheap. If I gave you a bag of baseballs and a half an hour, I doubt you could break two hundred dollars-worth of window glass. But when the direction of a house is south for a century, all sorts of tabs can be rung up. All I did was stop this Lusitania of linoleum and turn it around. I try not to make anything worse, and if my wife and I ever lay our hands on twenty-five dollars and thirty minutes, we can improve our lives in a demonstrable way, just by pushing the shingled rock up the entropy hill one more inch.
So here's a picture of our dreary living room, leading into our shabby dining room, just as we found it, replete with a moronic ceiling fan where a light should be, purchased with money that might have fixed -- oh, I don't know, a broken window-- in a room that faces north in a climate that has shown me twenty below zero in recent memory:
Remodel your house in the only meaningful way possible. Turn that ship around. Turn that frown upside down. Find a mate and have some kids and put some life back in your house. But Just between you and me, I'd skip the trombone. It's like brass bagpipes.
(You can see more Unorganized Hancock videos here. The drummer's only nine years old in that video. He's ten now, and a lot better. No, really)
(to be continued)