renovation

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On Rearranging

front room collage

I’ve made no secret of the fact that our house is never the same. I constantly rearrange the furniture, evaluate room function, play with storage. We live in a relatively small house with no closets and two children, it seems like our needs are constantly shifting. Last year I couldn’t get them out of the basement playroom, the swings and ladder were in frequent use and there was a fair amount of Wii playing. This year I can’t get them into the basement, everyone’s curled up in various chairs with books, playing with legos or board games, listening to music. There are dance parties too, but this year they must happen upstairs. So things need to shift. We need table space for games, floor space for legos and dancing and we need them in the living room. I need to think about how we will use the basement, because right now it seems to be a large wasted space. And that’s ok.

Homes should be fluid. I want my kids to be able to change how they use a space and to know that space will adapt to them and their needs. Furniture moves. Storage evolves. Walls, well they take a little more work, but they can move too. This, really, is why I keep showing you guys the ten million ways I rearrange our space. I think there’s a feeling out there that you have to get your house “right” and then it stays that way.  I disagree. Not just because I happen to like rearranging things (although, yes), but also because I think static is non-responsive. Every family I know changes at least annually. Not just kids, dads take up tai chi, moms take up metallurgy. Someone loses a job, someone else gets a new one. Each of these shifts creates new patterns. Homes should adapt.

There are things you love that stay constant, those you figure out how to use regardless. My grandparents dining table is horrible as a family table. But its the only thing of theirs I have, I want it in a place where I can see it daily.  Right now it works really well as a nightstand next to our ridiculously tall bed. Our gray patterned couch is tricky to fit in every living room arrangement, but I like the reaction it gets when people come to my home for the first time, so every time I rearrange things I make it work. It’s important to take stock of the spaces in your home regularly, especially when you live in a small home, and ask yourself, is this working? And of course you can’t just constantly buy new stuff. I like to shop my house, see how else something can be used. Some things get put away for a while till I need them again. Others have served their time and head out to Craigslist.

I’m showing you the picture above so you can get a sense of time (also, look at my little baby). I have several friends with little ones who seem to feel that their house will never look good. Others who recently bought ugly houses because they were cheap (housing is expensive up here) and are finding, as we did, that it’s harder to live long-term with ugly than they thought. For years (years!) people would walk into our house assuming we’d just moved in and try to hide their surprise when I said we’d lived here for 3 or 4 years. In their defense, there were holes in the floor from where we’d moved walls, no molding around the windows and holes in the drywall from poor measuring.  You can see above that this room was the play space for a long time, so the first thing you saw when you came in was a brightly colored mess.

Those first few years all our house money was spent making the place function, doing the kitchen and bathroom, moving walls, etc. There was no money for furniture or decorating. And note the absence of photos for 3 years. Had a premature baby, redid the siding and backyard and cleaned out the basement to make a playroom. I’m sure this room changed, but not significantly.  We finally got around to fixing the floors (holes+crawling baby=no good) and the drywall (open electrical + baby = no good) 4 years after we moved in.  After that the front room stayed as mostly open space for a while before our renovation plan was finally able to turn to decorating. We painted, got furniture, rugs, etc. And all the while, the space accommodated the family. Bike repair, tea parties, legos, dance parties. This room has seen it all.

This is a long, long post just to say make your house work for you. Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle. There is no end point in evolution. If you’re still reading, thank you. And I’d love to hear your house stories. Am I the only one who’s taken almost 10 years to decorate a room?

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