It never occurred to me, through years of watching my daughters’ enthusiastic application of glow-in-the-dark stars to their entire bedroom ceilings (with sticky putty), Peace Frog and 90s retro Flower Power stickers to their doors, mobiles made and hung, posters and bulletin boards on the walls (with surprise! industrial-strength Velcro), that someday it would all have to come down. The process has been daunting, equal parts emotion and elbow grease, but having my nose inches from the details while getting this house ready for sale has given me a new appreciation for some of the changes I’ve made.
When I first walked into the front hallway of this Indiana house, I knew immediately it was The One. I grew up in a 150-yr-old Queen Anne Victorian house in Rhode Island so the dentil moldings, framed and capped doorways, and stained glass inserts felt familiar. The previous owners built the house to recreate a Vermont inn they loved and maybe I got a subconscious New England vibe. The first floor’s rooms are all connected (perfect for parties) and the light is amazing. I never noticed that there was no shower in the (carpeted!) master bathroom and, more importantly, no bookcases. But the house had good bones and, over the years, it’s morphed to further reflect my New England sensibilities.
Bookcases in mantels. This is my favorite design accident. After building more traditional corner bookcases in my bedroom and installing bookcases in the study, I discovered Salvage One in Chicago. They used to have an entire floor of mantels in various states of disrepair stacked 10-deep along the walls. It was heaven; I bought four of them for $50 apiece and refinished them myself. One was installed in the dining room to masquerade as a real fireplace and the others went to each daughter’s room. Instant coziness! However, one daughter didn’t like the empty darkness of the mantel’s interior at night so I filled the center space with a bookcase. Presto, no more night fears! I loved the look and gave the other mantels the same treatment—a perfect union of practicality and visual interest.
Painted floor. The cost of refinishing the worn hardwood in the kitchen prompted me to paint it with Benjamin Moore Porch & Deck enamel instead. After 15 years, it still looks pretty good.
Pocket doors. My house has a Jack-and-Jill bathroom—a bathroom centered between two bedrooms and accessible to both by doors inside each room. The hinged doors required an awkward amount of clearance to open fully in such a small space. Pocket doors make the bathroom feel larger; they perform the same miracle in the master bath where access to a closet was a problem.
Interior windows. The same Jack-and-Jill bathroom had no natural light and I avoid overhead lights if I can. A small window punched into the wall from one of the bedrooms makes the area much more friendly to use. Another small window brings natural light from a bedroom into a closet (once used as a nursery) and several salvaged stained glass windows in the basement bridge the finished and unfinished sections.
Beadboard and other wainscoting. Wherever it was needed. To paraphrase Betty White’s Mrs. Bickerman in Lake Placid, blank walls haunt me so.
Built-in mirror. The builder-basic mirror in the master bath covered an entire wall. I asked a brilliant finish carpenter if it was possible to cut the mirror into thirds and frame it in; he took it as a challenge and did a fantastic job. Now it looks as though it’s been there forever.
I hope this house inspires its next owner as it has me. Most everything I did can be easily restored—any parts I removed were put in the basement (just in case I ever changed my mind). I learned so much working on this house, inside and outside, and look forward to more problem-solving design opportunities on my next adventure.