Or so goes the saying, and trust me when I tell you, I find comfort in that truism. After all the furniture is removed, the television ripped from the wall revealing a series of fits and starts in finding the appropriate height for the set, and a misguided cobalt blue paint patch – stained carpet, a series of defunct telephone jacks, picture hooks that were painted over instead of removed and patched, a few lonely dust bunnies and a mess of wires and PVC pipe begging the question, why?, no really, why? After the slate is cleared of all distractions, it becomes just that – glaringly clear – I cannot move into this place without doing some serious work.
In an effort to make me feel better, or send me straight to the loony bin (the jury is still out on which), my father suggested that the floors were is perfect condition (they are not) we’ll get to the fact that they are the parochial thin oak boards in natural aged yellow later, and that the stair runner need only be steam cleaned, and that there might be a more inventive solution to running the electrical wires through a piece of PVC pipe and shoving it up again the baseboard heater (hate those too), and that while the staircase to nowhere took a lot of space from the small cave like lower bedroom, it was indeed practical, and if we ripped it out we could be subject to a code violation. Trust me when I tell you – there are violations happening in nearly every inch of that 671 SF condo, the least of which are to my design sensibilities.
So you see, the only sensible thing to do is to get ripping and ask for forgiveness later. When the envelope isn’t clean, when the walls are not smooth and free of dimples and dings, and the baseboards have been painted over so many times they sag, and they wrinkle like the ancient, evil face of some storybook character, and nothing matches, and nothing makes sense, well then, the practical thing to do is start over, don’t you think?
I’ve been into stores that are staged and look great despite their surroundings, but a home is a unique situation. When you sit on the sofa to watch a favorite show, despite your most diligent efforts, and your most attentive attention to the engaging characters, your eye will wander and will find its way to that built-in bookshelf that was so thoughtlessly cut off by the insertion of a wall. What the heck? It’s like a car accident whose debris was never cleared from the road. Trust me when I tell you, no matter the actor, or the drama that unfolds on the screen before you, it will not be compelling enough to pry your eyes from that car wreck of a design decision.
This is the reality of a home. We pay attention in a way that we don’t when we are eating a delightful meal at a restaurant. A home is a sanctuary, a place to be quiet and calm and the loveliest, most serene part of you – you can be – so it simply cannot be screaming design disaster while you are trying to be lovely. Am I right?
I will start with the HVAC. Now some of you may think that HVAC isn’t sexy at all. I happen to love heat and cooling, and think nothing is less cool than not sweating your ass off in a hundred degree weather. I’m not even going to ask if you think I am right, because this is an immutable truth. It’s simply uncontested. Having lived in a number of condos, specifically No. 2, and No. 3, where the heating was ill suited to contend with the size of the space, let alone sub-zero temps, heat ranks right up there with cool. You see what I’m saying? Heating and cooling are practically the definition of sexy, one allows you to keep from looking like you have scarlet fever and the other from looking like you are auditioning for the leading role as Michelin Man in the next TV advert. Another major benefit of this infrastructure upgrade will be a less than delicate insertion of these systems into the space. Make a mess I say – I’ll clean it up, and rip out all the baseboard in the process if you must. I like my clams in my pocket or on the beach, not tacked to the wall in the form of a baseboard. This is Boston – not Cape Cod.
Then I’ll tear down that little half wall by the front door. Who are they kidding, it doesn’t provide any “visual separation” from the rest of the room, and if they think it will block the cold air from entering the space when the front door is opened, then we are dealing with some serious delusion here, and the only cure is to get a general contractor to make a house call.
Next I’ll fill in that hole in the kitchen wall, erase the bookshelf, make that electrical closet disappear, spit, polish and shine those floors into one seemingly contiguous expression of a surface. I’ll blink my eyes shut and a new solid and worthy front door will appear, and at the very same time that ceiling fan will disappear. The cabinet doors and counter tops will find their way to the recycle bin, the sad little fridge will be donated, the powder room papered, the shelving at the base of the stair will go, and a new bridge to terabithea will appear for use in the event of a forest fire, and just like that – magically – it will become a home.