ROCKY RIVER, Ohio – We’re finally getting to the good stuff.
My house has been a construction site since before Spring Break, with a dumpster in the driveway and waste paper on the mud floor. We have had frame workers and electricians and three teams of plumbers. Now, after weeks of wiping fine white plaster dust off my hardwood floors, we finally have walls in the attic, we’re about to convert to a bed and bath suite.
This means that as Halloween decorations pop up around the neighborhood and we begin our inexorable march toward winter, I can focus on design.
Design is what you dream about when you watch “Extreme Home Makeover” or flip through Better Homes and Gardens.
(I also read This Old House, but a primer on how to install solar panels doesn’t make me swoon like a spread of a revamped kitchen in a dated Cape Cod.)
Design is imagination. It creates a functional space that expresses personality – with color and texture, paint and tiles and fixtures.
I have always liked to play with style.
When I was in fifth grade, my best friend and I designed our dream house, which of course we wanted to share. We spent indoor immersion cutting pictures out of JC Penney and Spiegel catalogs and pasting them into a notebook with pages labeled for each room in our mansion. My room was completely in pastel flowers. (It was 1990 and I longed for Laura Ashley prints.)
When I graduated from college and found my first apartment, I treated myself to an Ikea shopping spree. I outfitted my loft in Woodstock, Illinois with a futon, a folding bookcase, and one of these pop-up cabinets, and decorated with fake flowers from Target and pottery I painted during a sorority gathering.
When I bought my first house, I also bought my first real furniture. I chose my first paint colors, my first window treatments. (I’d say we, but my husband couldn’t care less.)
And when we bought our turn-of-the-century farmhouse, I finally had a place to try to incorporate design ideas that had been percolating for years. I had a folder full of magazine clippings and a Pinterest page I called “We Got the House!” stacked with photos of bright, airy interiors in blue and white.
I’ve always had a pretty good eye and I’ve always been determined. I don’t waffle once I’ve made up my mind. It’s helpful in a remodeling project because I can tell our contractors exactly what I want.
Two years ago, for our bathroom project, I dictated everything from the layout to the cabinet fittings. (You can’t make round mirrors, they said! I love my round mirrors.) I just needed the experts to figure out how to turn my imagination into reality. I wanted aqua tiles! And a sliding barn door! And wallpaper!
Now I have a whole floor in stock with vintage furniture and design ideas. The goal is to create an escape, a haven that hovers over our laptops, our kids’ messy rooms, our laundry, and the rest of the busy chores of everyday life. While I love color, here I want clean white lines, wood and touches of nature.
Maybe I’m a little late to Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia theme, but we’re wrapping the chimney in shiplap and plastering the exposed beams under the vaulted ceiling. The shower floor will be tiled with river rocks, and an end wall will be covered with blue waves. I have collected blue and white striped curtains and woven baskets and cut magnolia leaves from our Spring Break stay.
The laundry room on the second floor – hopefully – will make laundry feel fun. I have an aqua french door, an intricate blue-and-gray cement tile for the floor, and the cast iron sink I picked up at a junk shop that we’re going to paint aqua.
Even with all my determination, there are a thousand more decisions pinging you like popcorn.
What color white do you want for your paint? Eggshell or flat or satin? How high should the garment be? Where exactly do you want your sockets and switches?
I had never thought about changing locations, how I move through spaces and what makes sense on which wall. But the electrician walked me through each place.
I knew I wanted oiled bronze fixtures, but I had no idea how many options that would mean, for towel bars or a toilet paper holder. Our designer emails several options which I click through, select and sign off. Fingers crossed I hope I like them in real life.
Now that the walls are up, carpentry is next on the agenda. And I can already imagine what I will have on my bookshelves.
Content Director Laura Johnston occasionally writes about modern life, usually with children. She talks about her home renovation every two weeks. Check out previous columns here.