Monday, June 21, 2010

Tear It All Down and Start Over? No Problem!

Surely I’ve told you about my house before, haven’t I?

My husband and I bought our current house just about four years ago. Great location. Truly. The house itself? Ummmm, yeah.

What can I tell you about it? It's brick, it was built in 1945, it's pretty big. It was just what we needed to shelter our brood of girl children. We bought it through an estate sale. More to the point, we bought it in “as-is condition." For those of you unfamiliar with real estate parlance, "as-is condition" means “sublimely crappy.”

Did I mention the good location?

One of the many, many things that needed addressing so that our home might look just a little less like a mid-century crack house was the wallpaper. This house was filled with old wallpaper. I'm talking acres of the stuff. The former owners of our house – well, let’s just say the wife must have been BIG into wallpaper and the husband must not have given a damn what the little woman was up to.

Let me tell you, they put the stuff everywhere. Nearly every single room. And what wasn’t wallpapered was paneled with dark brown paneling (alas, the horror of paneling is a diatribe for another day). They put wallpaper not just on the walls but also on the ceiling. They put it INSIDE THE CLOSETS. Yes. Madness. Wallpaper madness. On two occasions – in two different rooms -- we have removed a layer of wallpaper, only to find another layer of the exact same pattern beneath it.

It goes without saying that all this wallpaper was atrocious. But, please, definitely do not take my word for it. Here, let’s just take a look at two wallpapers that we haven’t yet gotten a chance to remove:

Why, yes, those are kitty-cats in a shower!

And, no, you are not mistaken; those are dogs dancing in a speakeasy.

This is but a sampling, my friends. But a sampling. The only reason these two wallpapers haven’t been taken out yet is because of their kitsch factor.

Oh, did somebody say kitsch? Let's see. I'm sure I’ve got some flamingos around here somewhere. Ah, yes, here you go:

Of course, all this wallpaper is old and crumbly and requires a combination of harsh chemicals and maximum-strength elbow grease to remove. The living room alone took my husband and me SIX WEEKS to de-wallpaper. That was working side-by-side each evening, scraping it all off -- centimeter by centimeter of gold foil and grass cloth. Sounds fun, eh? They don’t make chain gangs do this kind of work. That’s how bad it is.

OK, so obviously anyone who knows us, knows about our house “situation,” as we call it, like it’s an acute mental condition, which, you know, kinda it is.

I made a comment to someone the other day about how I want to re-do this or that room, maybe someday tear the horrible addition off the back of the house and start fresh. This person then said to me, “Oh, my God. How can you even think about that after all the work you’ve put into this place?”

I just shrugged and said, “Eh. I could do it in a heartbeat.”



She was shocked to hear this, and I, in turn, was shocked at her dismay. I mean, just because you’ve worked your butt off on something doesn’t mean you can’t improve it still. Then I realized, haven’t I had the best training in the world for this sort of thing?

Let’s see, years on end of thankless, horrible grunt work only to rip something all apart and start all over again? That sounds a lot like something else I do.

We writers – we’re made of tougher stuff.

Now, as your attorney, I’d be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity to advise against ever buying a fixer-upper. If you are determined to ignore the advice of counsel, however, I do urge you to read this questionnaire to determine your fitness for such pursuits. Consider this just one of many cautionary tales. I’ve got so, so many others, one of which involves a runaway belt sander.