by Val Difficult
As a designer, I have been hired many times by homeowners who have purchased a home that is perfect in all but one respect. good site? check. reasonable price? check. The right number of bedrooms? check. same house? Well… remember that part about the reasonable price?
I love this type of task because of what it can show.
To illustrate, I’ll explain how a couple in upstate New York checked the last square—not by scraping (or leveling) the structure. Instead, they re-imagined its interior, in small steps. The house is quite literally and figuratively removed from Northwest Philadelphia, but the same principles can be applied anywhere.
A few weeks ago I was invited to spend the weekend in Andys, New York, where hosts Nikki and Lauren bought a cookie-cutter log cabin. It was the kind of suburban pine cabin we’ve all seen dotted along the highway in many parts of America. No surprises there.
Until I entered.
Instead of trying to completely renovate what they have, Nikki and Lauren leaned on what home could be – way in. All the items that might have reminded you of comic America have been replaced with beautiful, timeless finds—vintage pieces that imply “rustic” without a trace of “cute.”
The result is very charming and attractive.
The pine double-louvered cupboard doors have been replaced by patterned curtains hung casually on brass grommets. The bathroom fixtures have been replaced with these perfect pieces of high quality. In the kitchen, a practical, themed wood drying rack, circa the 1920s, is set against the kitchen island. The pegs on the opposite wall held a constellation of pots which together gave a sense of striving in the space.
Just looking at it made me excited at the prospect of going back and spending three whole days in and out of this house – something I didn’t immediately think of from the driveway.
I also realized two important things.
Unconventional spaces can often be improved upon by bringing out their best qualities rather than ripping everything out and starting over. Replacing the countertop and repainting the cabinets could potentially save you $50,000, for example. Compare that to the cost of wielding a sledgehammer and having to replace what’s there now with something new.
Then, I got a new appreciation for the fact that there’s also a fine line between old and great, old and really belonging in a landfill. And I bet most of us probably already have at least one of the former that is now not so prominently displayed in our home, and it could make all the difference.
Of course, I realize that for most of us, there are probably several things in our homes that really need the Marie Kondo treatment. The trick is knowing the difference. Because what if? What if this thing gets the attention it deserves? What will that do to the character of your house?
In Nikki and Lauren’s cabin, I’ve discovered that when you allow your imagination to remain unfiltered, you can see the space as perfect in its own way. This is a sure path towards creating a place where nothing interferes with the process of existence.
Even better, I think, is that once we make this experience for ourselves, we can share it with others.