We Are As Far Away From Soft Furnishings As We Were Six Years Ago

Unlike those horrific home improvement shows that I am forced to watch when I’m on a plane, actual renovations take a shitload of time to carry out. It’s been what – six years since we’ve bought this place – and we are still living in what could best be described as a rat graveyard. Nowhere for me exists those spanking young men who show up with button down collars and say things like “Let’s get all Tuileries on this place through the ancient art of shopping.”   I mean, I know that life is not as good as a shitty home improvement show – but I’ve been somewhat conditioned, by my frequent plane trips, to imagine that it is. So in that vein, I present to you our renovation journey as though it only took 22 minutes of our lives to effect the transformational magnificence that you are about to behold. I will do this as a weekly episode (promise!) that will take you through the entire house from start to wherever it is that we are right now.  As there is no time to waste before the first commercial, let us begin in the crypt.


Episode I: The Basement

A refreshing reminder of the state of the basement when we bought this house:

Apparently, that is what is called heave. But did you notice the circus-like colour of the cupboard door? I’m a sucker for anything that suggests Paris in the 1920s.

We decided that we should probably investigate what caused the heave, so we ripped out the floor of the basement. Lo! There’s a stream running through the house. Gaaaah!  More importantly there isn’t one – but two!! – cupboard doors painted like the awning of a little French cafe. So damn cute.

In this image below the cupboard doors are closed. When you discover that the whole front of the house is falling away from the main body of the house and there is a stream, it is best to stop talking about the cute doors in front of overly sensitive men. They will not only think you ridiculous but, possibly also insane.

How overly sensitive are these folks? You have no idea. One day you return to the horrible basement to discover that, without any regard for the importance of little splashes of colour, they have ripped out the cupboards – nay! – the entire wall, leaving behind only greys and beiges. Who does this, I ask you. Apparently people concerned with something called remediation.

As I frantically scramble through this heap of shit for the sweet doors…

…the crybabies –

  1. replace the front wall on an actual foundation,
  2. pour side wall foundations and replace those walls,
  3. replace eaten beams,
  4. pour a concrete floor,
  5. build a wooden subfloor in the other part of the basement and
  6. put in a plywood floor throughout.

Then, they dry their tears and –

  1. cut a hole in the floor between the upstairs and the basement,
  2. build stairs and,
  3. completely rewire the entire space.

And that is where it now stands. The stream has been diverted and we have a solidly built, dramatically-lit temporary tool room. Frames for future windows and walls have been added. The pink and yellow cupboard doors never showed up again.

And quite frankly, that blows.

Beyond their obvious gorgeousness.

At some point in someone’s life, while the basement heaved and rats infested, someone either took the time to paint these doors the colour of what was clearly the opposite of what was happening in that basement/house/their life. Or, they and the cupboards began thusly and ended in erosion. Essentially, the opposite of a shitty renovation show. In other words, life.




Every year I go on vacation with a dear friend.  I take the small willful child along for the ride.  We always have fun.  The dear friend and I thought about extending the annual vacation invite to our partners, but I quickly squashed that idea.  When either myself or the man has even a whiff of a chance to spend time away from the small willful child, there is a palpable excitement that need quickly be extinguished with the reality that the unencumbered one should probably do something to either increase the family fortunes or chip away at the renovation of the house-ish house. So, daughter and I went to a lake and the man went to Work Camp Prison.  He took a prison buddy with him and they spent five days working from dawn til dusk in 30 degree hot weather.

While I kept the daughter from drowning, sunburning and running off into streets willy-nilly, the man and his prison pal saw to the problem of the front part of the house and its slow creep towards the earth from whence it came. This basically entailed digging out the ground beneath the front of the house, ripping out the entire mouldy crumbling wall of the first floor, forming up a concrete half-wall, mixing cement and adding various Dad-prescribed solvents to the home-made concrete, pouring the concrete, rebuilding the entire front wall, adding in our new old door, framing in a future window and replacing the house numbers back onto the plywood facade.  Neither of the prisoners had any prior experience with concrete or concrete forms. When I phoned one night to check in, Prisoner Number One said, “Well,  you know, I’ve never done this before so we’ll see if it goes okay.”  Not words to exactly inspire confidence in the outlay of cash for materials and incarceration-grade steaks.


Love is like that.  I never doubted his ability for one second. Coupled with the fact that Prisoner Number Two was serving time for things related to cabinetry and fine finishing – how could it go wrong.

It didn’t.

They are singularly and collectively amazing.

The evidence:

I love how fortressy and Spanishy it is. Solid. Sturdy. Not sinking. I’m even secretly thrilled with the utilitarian plywood feel.  It’s nothing that I want to hide quite yet.  And that’s a good thing.

Because, on the road trip to the cold lake I saw this:

Clearly, it’s for sale.