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Snapshots: What a Difference a Door Makes

October 8, 2010

“Do a post on home improvement. People love that shit.”

I don’t know what I’d do without my friends to inspire me. I know it’s been a while (God, am I always saying this?) but it’s time to break the silence. So, here’s the latest from the City (and the Country) with a bit of a twist.

I shall preface with homage to my past. I always wanted to be an architect – that is, until I was actually standing in the architecture studio my Freshman year and was scared senseless. I don’t know why, though. Looking back, I probably should have just done it, but I was all afraid my “social life” would suffer. Plus I’m completely indecisive (It just took me 30 minutes to order lunch). And, well, what 17 year old has a clue what they want to do with their life?

Anyway, the point is I spent a lot of my life building. My dad, ever the handyman, loved to build anything. It wasn’t unusual to wake up on a Saturday and have him say, “Let’s build a waterslide.”

The waterslide project, I must admit, was one of my favorites. I don’t think my mother loved it as much as we did, though. Aside from being an eyesore, Lex nearly killed himself on it.

The way we built it was quite genius, actually. Our home sat on a slope. We had a wooden deck that ran the length of the back of our house. So, one side was only a few steps off of the ground. The other was a good ten feet off of the ground. So, from the top railing on that deck, we build a slide. It consisted of a frame of 2x4s wide and long enough to accommodate three lengths of pressed plywood. in the middle of the plywood, we created a bowed effect by nailing the plywood to the frame. Then we covered the plywood in very slippery irrigation plastic. The “pool” below consisted of another frame of 2x4s lined with a cotton tarp to create a 3 foot deep, 8 foot long wading pool. In fear of one of the nails inching it’s way up to slash a sliding child, we brought out boogie boards we kept in the attic down and road them down the slide and glided across the pool.

I promise you cannot even imagine how “trailer park” this looked, hence my mother’s demand of the eventual demise of the structure. It was fun while it lasted.

I can rattle off several projects like this: the four drum Tom Sawyer raft for traveling up and down the bayou, our cedar shake playhouse, the treehouse with the wooden pallet elevator.

As time passed, I became quite resourceful myself. Some projects were selfish:

“Daaaaaad, I don’t understand whey we can’t build a red clay tennis court in the Poindexter’s yard. We can build it and share it.”

Some were impressively civic-minded. For instance, our neighbor, Bill Lang, was the mayor of Inverness. It wasn’t unusual for me to stop by, unannounced, to chat with his wife Cornelia about my ideas:

“So, Ne Ne, I was thinking, in that vacant lot by the church, we should do something everyone in the neighborhood would like. [removing a sheet of loose leaf notebook paper] I propose we build a roller-skating rink. The details are all here. We’d have to make sure it’s the smooth carport concrete though, for safety reasons.” Fortunately, my dreams were never dashed. Instead, she’d smile and say, “Wardoo, I’ll talk to Bill about it tonight when he gets home.”

Admittedly, since moving to New York, I’ve done very little craft work/home improvement. I painted a bathroom and hung some photography. Okay, fine. I paid someone to paint a bathroom. But the color I picked out.

So, I am excited to say that this is all changing. Brooks and I have purchased a house, a weekend/summer retreat near the water on eastern Long Island. It’s modest but just the right size for us. It’s a three-bedroom, two-bath saltbox contemporary. It also features a luxurious above-ground hot tub! Which brings me to the visual part of this post. We have had the honor of meeting the previous owners, a well-intentioned couple with…. well… different tastes than ours. (I don’t know why I’m being nice. I don’t even know their names. That shit is T-A-C-K-Y).

Anyway, we’re slowly adding things to the house, filling it with furniture and making some structural improvements. We’ve found the things we each like doing. I draw inspiration from my summer pool cleaning business from 1995 and take pride in cleaning the filters and adding chemicals. Brooks has nearly lost several digits with gardening sheers. Additionally, he’s bought the largest legal bird feeder allowed in Suffolk County, NY. He monitors it closely and when a squirrel tries to steal the food, he runs after it with whatever item he can find while clapping and loudly yelling “HEY! TS TS TSTTSTSTST!” This action can be so abrupt, I’m afraid our neighbors might think he has Tourette’s or Autism. But, I digress. Where was I?

Oh, tacky! Yes. Yes.

Special thanks to my boy Carlos for holding this up. We tried to give it to him but he wasn't interested.

So, when the house went on the market, the realtor essentially mandated the owners replace the front door. After it was installed the realtor returned to find this door. Face to palm. He never was actually able to tell them though. When we bough the house, we knew the door has to go. Our solution:

We can't talk about the fact that the fixture is for the wrong side and the lever must turn upward to open. It's too upsetting.

It’s a simple, single pane, modern, clean door. Victory! On to the fireplace:

I almost ripped those glass doors down when we closed.

This faux terra cotta situation needed to be remedied. FAST. The problem with this room is that it’s vast and two floors tall. This little fireplace is literally a hole in the wall. So, I got to sketchin’….

So much better.

And VOILA! Built-ins to hide cords and stuff, tall enough to minimize the space while narrowing the focus on a grey slate hearth. Note: It’s kind of a mess and still a work in progress but the difference is night and day. I should also give credit to Richard, our Kiwi contractor for helping my feeble sketch come to life.

I’m thrilled to have a yard again and, well, space in general. I think my father would be proud. I’ve already installed our mailbox. It’s crooked. But, hey, I’ve been out of commission for a while. I’m actually itching to get in the car for a long weekend in the house. I’m not sure what task I’ll take on this weekend.

Let’s just say, it’s not entirely out of the question I dig up some old plans for a homemade waterslide.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. October 8, 2010 11:58 AM

    Love the updates- the place is looking great 🙂

  2. Kendall permalink
    October 11, 2010 8:20 AM

    Love this post. The house looks awesome. Great Job!

  3. Mom permalink
    October 12, 2010 7:25 AM

    Wow – It’s looking great! And, about that waterslide … don’t you remember that I had a Tri Delta alumni meeting at the house a couple of days after you all built that monstrosity? I was so embarrassed! Our yard look like a junk yard!

  4. Annie Horne permalink
    October 12, 2010 12:55 PM

    All I can say: I am so impressed!!

  5. October 26, 2010 1:02 PM

    Nice update. The water slides story is hysterical on its own, but also because I started laughing to myself remembering all the stuff I’ve built over time from miniature mardi gras floats, stages, a tree house etc etc it goes on.

    As we got older and moved to Chattanooga, my father harnessed allt hat energy into refinishing the basement. Ultimately, it was all worth while and learned alot of building with my father.

    The bookcase make a world of difference between those two pictures. Keep them coming.

    BTW: Ina’s new book arrived. I can’t wait to get home and dive in cover to cover.

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