We’re doing a small renovation. It’s nothing, really, especially after you watch that TV show where they completely remodel a kitchen while the homeowners go through the drive-thru at Chick-fil-A. But life is full of perspective, and this is ours right now:
Our house is torn up, from stem to stern, and all day long there is the constant hum of some kind of machinery. Shop-Vac. Belt sander. Drill. Luckily I was raised in a newsroom and can pretty much write under any conditions. Or so I’ve been bragging. Then one day this week, I snapped and bought a $100 pair of noise cancellation ear phones.
Trouble is, I still hear like a champ, but now I just look ridiculous when I wave to the mailman.
For a while - say, about 23 minutes after we moved the refrigerator - our new living arrangements were kind of fun, almost like living in a small Manhattan walk-up.
The coffee pot is in the dining room, clean clothes are in a plastic bin, somewhere, and our bed is in the living room. At night, the front porch light keeps me awake.
How weird is that?
It can be overwhelming, really, but our homes are our equity. Right? We have to keep them nice. Get rid of the termite damage, and the rotten window sills, and the old cast iron plumbing. Our small reno comes courtesy of what’s called “a home improvement loan,” a trick we Americans use when we’ve let things go for a (long) while because we’ve chosen to spend our money on spring training baseball, disposable clothing at Old Navy, and overnight shipping fees. (Hey, everybody needs a new LeBron James’ jersey ASAP this time of year.)
Home improvement loans are fantastic because one minute you’re pretty much broke, and the next minute you’ve got a fat bank balance and you’re actually thinking that Damask wallpaper would lend an air of sophistication to the far living room wall.
When this new bank balance permanently merges with a homeowner’s imagination, it creates a volatile explosion of online imagery that is impossible to stop, even if you wanted to.
Kitchen sinks. Yellow paint. Cabinet pulls. White antique bedding. There’s no 12-step program for home design porn.
I knew we were approaching intervention when I ordered black and white toile fabric for the kitchen at 3 in the morning and then, the next morning - while writing a profile of a soap opera star for a magazine - I suddenly found myself looking at a picture of a “Belfast Saddle Stool in Rustic Oak.”
Had I bookmarked this? Sent it to myself in an email? Pinned it from Pinterest? Who knows?
Turns out, the “Belfast Saddle Stool in Rustic Oak” wasn’t exactly what I wanted - wrong height, wrong color, totally wrong design - but I bought it anyway. It just seemed like some sort of sign.
My husband, a dear soul, has been a good sport about this, helping with some of the most intensive Googling searches. I mean, a girl can’t find the perfect corner TV stand all by her lonesome. He tells me, without prompting, that I am doing “a great job” of juggling everything, even when I’m sitting there with my hard hat on - Safety first! - crying because my Overstock.com order is not on the truck and “out for delivery.” (Priorities, people.)
But there are others in worse shape than me, which is something I seem to be saying a lot lately. Like this one decor addict I found online who became obsessed with a turquoise ceramic-glazed lamp she saw in a magazine,
“I am trying to buy the lamp on Page 9 of the May edition,” she wrote on a House Beautiful “comments” thread.
“Does anybody know where I can find it?” she wrote a few days later.
That was three years - and nothing. Poor girl. I hope she’s enjoying life in the institution.
Linda Lipshutz, a Palm Beach Gardens therapist I often call upon to make sense of the world’s disorder, says it’s easy today to become distracted with home decor, especially with all the ideas online.
“It’s a great topic in today’s time,” Lipshutz said. “I think a lot of people view their home as a visual extension of themselves and they worry about what others will think.
“They feel pressured with anxiety: ‘Will people like my choices, my decisions, my home?’
Plus, you want to make sure you get exactly what you want, and for a good price.
“It’s fun when you’re enjoying it,” she says. “But some people take it to the extreme.”
Yeah. Some people.