There’s a Right Way and a Wrong Way. Then There’s Our Way.

Passing the milestone the other day of removing the LAST of any rotted framing got me thinking about the scope of this project and how it grew. How at every point — including the very beginning, when we were assessing what looked like passable wallboard and paneling — we’ve tried to push our imagination into what each space would mean for us.

Here’s an example: In the “original” kitchen, before ANY demolition, there was a strange niche in one wall. We couldn’t figure out why it was there — our best guess was that the guy who built it had started from each end of the room, and when the wall sections didn’t meet — voila! niche.

(Clearly we recognized early on that there was a lot of dysfunction under the surface.)

Regardless, we treated it — at least for the sake of argument — as a fait accompli. We talked about making the niche into bookshelves, or a closet, or a space to run plumbing.

But now, any trace of that niche long since erased by complete gutting, it seems absurd that we should have taken time to imagine its uses. Done “right” — i.e., by a builder, say, who professionally buys distressed properties, rehabs and flips them — countless of our discussions about this beam or that niche would be considered an utter waste of time. The house would have been thoroughly gutted within a couple weeks of purchase; only then, with all its rot and structural problems exposed, would goals and ideals be discussed.

Mark, our pro builder friend who advised and helped us early on and loaned us many tools, told us this. But though I heard his words — “then you’ll have the nice weather of summer to replace the siding and get it weather-tight” — I didn’t, couldn’t, absorb their meaning. A summer-long project? Buy it in February, move in after September? Inconceivable.

That word did not mean what I thought it meant.

And yet — were we wrong? We are NOT experienced flippers, rehabbers. We are US. We tackled this thing, having made a commitment based on a kind of faith, and pushed toward a goal as well as we knew how.

What goal? Shelter. Home. At times we’ve talked about grandkids visiting the land. We worry about nails and glass. We have no grandkids. Are we wrong?

We weren’t going to have a bathroom upstairs. Partly because the previous owner had, and it was a bizarre and unsettling thing. And partly because we were concerned about floor space — the upstairs would be bedroom and two offices. But everyone disagreed with us. We came around, especially after deciding to remove the inside staircase, which regained us some floor space. Were we wrong?

I can’t even begin to count the numbers of things we’ve decided or surmised or taken-as-a-given, which have later changed. Are we wrong?

This project is an object lesson in process, in adjusting details while remaining focused on a goal. Sometimes we had to work to understand the underlying requirement — when it became clear (this beam needs to be replaced, these posts are inadequate, this eave is leaking), we developed tools for adapting the new knowledge into our reality.

One must have such tools, in life. They’re not often needed, usually. But in periods of change — when, by definition, one is not yet expert in the puzzles that new circumstances will throw at one — put on your thinking cap helmet, get ready to learn and grow, and hold tight to your principles, and, if you’re lucky, your partner.