November 4, 2010

Hooked On Houses

Have I told you my story about how I got hooked on houses? Well, it all began with this house. My father built it for my sister and me, and we loved to play in it all day long. We had a metal refrigerator and stove along the back wall, and a table and chairs right next to the window. Mom even painted the white daisy on the front door. Eventually a white picket fence and mailbox were added to complete the scene.

You see, I grew up around things being built and moved here and there throughout my childhood. My parents bought a dirt-floor cottage on a private road filled with other similar looking cottages; most of them were used as vacation homes in the area. The houses were set back near a pond and away from the main roads of town and for a long time, we were the only year-round residents.

Before they moved in, they completely rebuilt the ranch-style building by digging a foundation and replacing and securing walls and floors. Then a barn was built (no animals, just another building – this time for my dad), and then it was moved to another area on the property. The house was eventually expanded to include an upstairs and then a porch, which ended up being converted into yet another room. (Even an ordinary deck turned into a 3-level maze of a structure, but by then I had moved on and into my own home.) Although my father was not a builder by trade, he was/is a very handy guy (which was a good thing for my mother because she liked to change rooms around almost as often as she changed her mind!). My mother had the vision; my dad had the tools.

Weekends were spent moving furniture around just to see what it would look like over there – and then there – and then over there. Whole rooms would be moved just to “try it out”. My mother also adored furnishings and objects with patina and age, so we would frequent local antique stores, and shopped for more antiques anytime we would travel. I’m not sure if she knew exactly where something in particular might go, but I do know that she always found a place for it.

She had a knack for interior design and I learned firsthand at the hem of her skirt. When she wanted distressed floors, she simply walked out to the barn to find a hammer and some chains and went at it. (Knowing what I know now, I think banging up that floor probably relieved a lot of stress too.) She had an old wood-burning kitchen stove converted to gas simply because a new one wouldn’t do. When she wanted to display vintage household gadgets, she asked my dad to get her a large pegboard and then she covered it in burlap and s-hooks, and stuck it on the dining room wall. So you see, I get my love of design and decoration honestly; it runs in my blood as sure as salt water and cranberry bogs do.

I don’t know if my sister and I requested our own little house, or if my mother thought it was a good idea to cultivate our own love of keeping house, all I do know is that inside that little 6’x6’ cottage (and in the big one too), I learned to dream. I learned to create the same comforting, safe, and loving home I grew up in for my friends – imaginary and real. Then I took those lessons with me and set forth to recreate that warm and inviting home for my own family (and the families of others).

My love affair with houses was just getting started.