By default or design, my husband and I are project people. I get ideas and like to get things done, and I’m pretty sure Dan likes to help. He was most likely kidding when he told me nothing filled him with more terror than when he’d come home, see the truck was gone, ask the kids where I was, and one would say, “She’s at Menards.” I mean, why should that terrorize a grown man?
We’ve built cradles, a shed, replaced woodwork, installed floors, plastered, put up drywall, built several fireplace hearths, one with field stone, created water features–one had an upper and lower pool with a connecting waterfall. Gathering the large, heavy rocks for that was not the kind of work I could do everyday, but the result was worth the struggle.
One of my favorite projects (when it was done) revolved around an old Tetley Pub from Northern England. One of our local antique dealers gets a lot of their pieces from Europe, including turn-of-the-last-century pubs. We got a good deal on one that was returned to them due to the owner’s death. We had been wanting something to make our basement a more friendly gathering place, and the pub is a beautiful center point.
We’d admired the look of exposing ceilings formerly covered by tiles, and painting them black, so that’s what we did. We sprayed all the pipes, cords, and wood. It gave the ceiling more height, and the black helped everything disappear. I thought for a while about what to do with the walls. They were paneled, which I had painted a beige color years before. The thought of removing all the paneling seemed overwhelming, so I decided to “plaster” over it. Dan applied sheetrock mud and I took a putty knife and did little swipes to create a plastered look. It was tedious work, but provided a nice space for the pub.
About fifteen years ago we added two rooms to our house, which resulted in upgrading the whole main level. We installed a laminate flooring in all but two rooms, replaced the woodwork, and redid the fireplace. I didn’t care much for the way our dark oak kitchen cabinets looked. I normally prefer refinishing wood to painting, but didn’t want to spend that kind of time stripping and sanding. Instead, we routered grooves in the cupboard doors, build a frame around the edges, then painted them. The countertops and backsplash were a yellow laminate, which were about impossible to remove. So we installed ceramic tile over the top and it’s held well all these years.
This summer we decided to remove two walls in the kitchen to open it up to our family room, which we had built on in the former remodel. One wall was no problem because it wasn’t a support wall, but the other was a support wall and that’s where we wanted to span the opening fifteen feet. We consulted my brother who is an architectural engineer and he ran the numbers. We have a bedroom above the kitchen, which was factored in. In Minnesota, a maximum roof snow weight is part of the equation. So we had to allow 7,000 possible pounds of weight. Who knew snow and a bunch of people in the upstairs bedroom would be that heavy?
We extended the back wall in the kitchen and we’re adding a center island, and a couple more cupboards. Of course, the ceramic we used all those years ago is nowhere to be found, nor is the Wilsonart laminate flooring we wanted to extend into that space. Dan was reluctant to build the island and cupboards, but I’ve learned minimizing projects is the best encouragement for him. I opened a cupboard and said, “Look, it’s just a box with a one by two frame in front.” Then his creative juices start flowing and he takes it from there.
One thing neither one of us likes to do is tape, mud, and sand sheetrock. I did a long wall one time–it took me forever and it wasn’t perfect. Dan did our garage walls and they aren’t perfect either. So we hired a guy to do that finish work in our kitchen, and as long as he was at it, we asked him to do the garage ceiling too. He’s working away as I’m writing. After the project dust settles, I got gallons of paint waiting to be applied. Oh, boy.
Christine Husom is the Second Wind Publishing author of Murder in Winnebago County, Buried in Wolf Lake, and An Altar by the River.