I will start this story off with a nod to my parents, whose mantra is:
“If you really want to get your place cleaned up, schedule a meeting.”
The last time we had a foray with this way of thinking was a few years ago when our son Jordan graduated from high school. We hosted a little reception here on the farm, we didn’t even bring anyone into the house, instead we tidied up Rob’s semi truck bay, put some paper down on the workbench to house a mini buffet so folks could get a bite to eat, and hang out for a bit.
The whole family worked hard for days – we were still working on the morning of the event – a tired and sweaty Rob dashed off to shower as the first guests were arriving. It turned out great, but I had no interest whatsoever in doing this sort of high-pressure home improvement ever again. It’s a little embarrassing to say I am too old and tired for it – as my parents pull it off on a regular basis.
At any rate, I was unsuspecting when I sent a note off to a magazine article author. He’d written a lovely piece about preserving a home’s history. In it, he included his 1830’s Victorian home; a photo from many years ago with the then-current residents posed in front of the ornate porch, juxtaposed with a picture of his family in front of the very same porch in a similar arrangement. In the article, he invited readers to share their stories, so I sent him a link to this blog post that shares our own old house story.
Imagine my surprise when I get a reply to my email; the author of the article is wanting to feature some pictures of our fireplace wall in a piece he is working on about utilizing reclaimed wood. The wall had turned out great and I am thrilled that he wants to feature it, so I set up an appointment for him to come here and see for himself.
Then, in horror, I start to actually notice what the rest of that room looks like. And it is not good. After the masons left, we’d painted the adjoining walls, and that was it. I was already into busy season at HoofPrints.com, and decorating was the last thing on my mind. Actually, decorating is ALWAYS the last thing on my mind. As this all starts to sink in, I realize that I have committed to allow someone from a major publication to come in and show my house. To. The. World.
At this point, my unsuspecting husband is blissfully unaware.
While I wait for the perfect time to break the news to Rob, I set about formulating a plan to whip the rest of the room into shape. When we painted, we took down all the pictures, and the curtains. None of these items had made their way back into the room. Who wants to make new holes in freshly painted walls? “No problem”, I thought – “I’ll just find some new horsey curtains on the internet and that part will be solved.”
Wrong! After hours of looking online and finding nothing I like, I am desperate to put that behind me so I can move on to the next thing.
But like my folks’ philosophy says – scheduling a meeting brings out motivation and resourcefulness that a person doesn’t know they possess. A trip to Wal-Mart, and two bottles of Rit dye later, my 25+ year old curtains are now colored a deep shade of red – ready to accent our living room windows for another 20-some years.
On to the next problem. And it is a big one. When we tore out the fireplace wall to insulate and prep for the masons to do their magic, our ancient, refrigerator-sized television was ousted. It sat in the corner and once the wall was finished the behemoth would cover up a lot of that beautiful stone that we paid to have put up. Once the masons finished, we replaced the old TV with a less obtrusive flat screen model, and mounted it to the wall with a nifty swiveling bracket. I don’t remember for sure, but I am guessing this installation event culminated at around 10:00 pm, after which all we wanted to do was sit down and watch a show or two before going to bed. I dragged in a crappy pressed wood printer stand from the HoofPrints warehouse, and we stuffed all the video accoutrements in there temporarily. Temporarily turned into a year.
Rob was on to more pressing projects, and from time to time I’d look for a suitable media stand to replace the crappy printer stand that had apparently dug in its heels and was there to stay. A year is a long time to take to buy a media stand. It never plays out like that on the HGTV episodes.
Once my husband sees me dyeing ancient curtains for no apparent reason, I’m forced to spill the beans about the magazine article. He takes it better than expected considering my lack of housekeeping prowess.
The curtain success gives me momentum and I press onward. But I can’t solve the crappy media stand problem alone. Commercially available cabinets are too big for the space. Amazing cabinets can be procured online – custom sized to fit our space – but the price is prohibitive and it doesn’t solve the problem of the upcoming-soon appointment. I look around the warehouse, seeing the aftermath of beam scraps left over from the big room project, and I come up with a hair-brained scheme. I ask Rob if he would pleeeease just cut some leftover beam chunks to specified lengths – and also cut some planks of salvaged barn siding to use as shelves. I have seen enough thrown-together stuff on Pinterest… In desperation, I’d convinced myself that I can perhaps pull this off by myself with pre-cut wood. Rob will have no part of it. Cobbling things together half-assed is NOT how he rolls. The answer is “NO.” Discussion over.
I contemplate other options: Can I get a giant doily and cover the whole thing up? Unplug all the stuff and take the whole works out of the room temporarily? I take the ostrich approach and immerse myself in my HoofPrints’ work for days. My nights are spent online, trying to solve this intractable media stand problem.
Two days before the appointment with the magazine guy, Rob marches into my office and starts asking questions about my previously proposed stand idea. We go to the warehouse and drag out box after box of beam scraps, looking for just the right ones. He is on board with my thoughts to use these as supporting pillars, but the flakey-paint barn siding idea is NOT going to fly with him. I don’t have a Plan B but apparently he does and I don’t know it yet…
He produces from the annals of All-Useless-Things-That-Are-In-The-Way-But-Too-Good-To-Throw-Out, a six-foot plank of rough-sawn wood. An unknown species, it was brought here by my son – given to him by a friend to use as firewood. It had water stains on one end, a big crack on the other, and a creepy alien face in the grain in the middle:
This plank was the exact length and width needed. After careful measuring, Rob made a single cut to produce a top shelf and a second one with absolutely no waste. He found some beam scraps that spoke to him; they were coincidentally exactly the right width, too. By the end of the night, a beautiful media stand was born. I put a coat of clear finish on the plank, and turned a fan onto it to hasten drying.
At midnight, the new media stand takes it’s rightful place below the TV. It’s just thirteen hours before the appointment when we go to bed. Rob has to leave before daybreak to move some machines for clients, so finishing up the room is my responsibility. And there is still a LOT to be done.
I must have been channeling some inner Martha Stewart personality, as I still can NOT believe what got done in those few hours before the photographer showed up. Family heirlooms that sat dusty and unappreciated throughout the rest of the house, as if by magic, presented themselves into my mind as candidates to wrap up this room. A laminated wood lamp that my uncle made, a framed computer printout picture of the barn that the beams were salvaged from, an ornate Middle Eastern horse figurine that was a gift to me from Rob’s grandpa, a trotting horse plaque given to me by a neighbor after I admired it in her house, a old-fashioned looking photo of my parents taken in Deadwood, South Dakota, a vintage engraving of the famous Thoroughbred Macaroni, Macaroni’s actual hoof made into an ashtray (photos of those are here), a tattered copy of Gene Stratton Porter’s Girl of the Limberlost that belonged to my Grandma, an early edition of Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty thoughtfully purchased for me at a car swap meet by my (at the time) teenage son, a battered pine night stand (now doubling as a lamp/magazine table) made by my dad in high school shop class, a lighted globe that was a gift from Rob’s mom, a tapestry throw from my aunt, and more. Every single thing in this room has a story. Maybe not an Antiques Roadshow-worthy story, but a special one to this family nonetheless. The rug is an Overstock.com find, it was a bargain all those years ago when I bought it and it still looks pretty good after outliving more than one dog. The sofa is/was our biggest furniture purchase in our entire marriage – the dark red leather still looks classic and beautiful after 25+ years.
As a final HGTV-esque finishing touch, in a fit of decorating creativity that I didn’t know possible for me, I dashed out to the garden and picked up a huge stainless steel mixing bowl full of apples. These made a lovely focal point on the kitchen counter, and diverted the eye away from some other not-so-clean areas of that room.
The appointment arrived on time and there was no more work to be done. Our guest was empathetic as we apologized for the unfinished room he had to pass through; his own kitchen is in the throes of a remodel, so he was not of a mind to judge our lack of perfection here (whew!). He snapped lots of pictures, asked some questions and then there was a bit of a pause…
He asked about the little white dog that he saw pictured in my blog. I’d taken Lucy to my office in the warehouse; she’s not that friendly to visitors and I didn’t want to take a chance on an unhappy incident. I explained to him that she wasn’t always a good hostess, but he assured me that as a dog lover himself, he was good even if she was naughty. We brought her in, and even though she was nervous about this strange guy with his big bags of gear and cameras, etc, in her house, she tried her best to pose in front of the wood stove that she loves so much. The photographer (a pro with 28+ years experience in the newspaper industry) patiently waited, and clicked, and clicked, again and again as I lured her with cheese to relax in front of her fire. One of these pictures ended up in the online article Create A Pet Paradise in Your Home.
What an interesting experience. All of it. The article is supposed to come out some time next year. Stay tuned for updates.
Want to see what else happens?
Fun on the Farm Part 1 is here
The Epic Mess of Fixing the Fireplace is here
Tearing Down an Old Barn to Repurpose the Timbers in the house is here
The adventure of utilizing the first few timbers as a Fireplace Mantle is here
Utilizing more timbers in a big room upstairs – Of Trials and Strong Backs is here
No One Will Ever See It – an Adventure In Remodeling is here
We are still not finished, but you can see “The Aftermath” of one barn beam project here
Sometimes you have to look back… at scary pictures here
More looking back… Scary pictures, recycling and repurposing here
The surprise that shouldn’t have been a surprise is here