Thursday, August 09, 2007

Living in the projects

I don't know if the heat has gotten to my brain or if it's just a typical cyclical thing that I do, but I've gotten really sick of my house.

Don't get me wrong: I love the house. I love everything about the house. It's my "small-d" dream house, the attainable dream house, and it has lived up to or exceeded expectations in every way. When we decided to build this house, I imagined a lifestyle change. I imagined our family becoming even more tightly-knit, with happy memories being built every day.

And honestly, the dreams have come true.

But on a practical level, I've come to the cold, hard realization that even a dream house has its problems.

In our old house, a 1930's Craftsman bungalow, the constant problem was how to arrange the furniture. With radiator heat and the open floor plan characteristic of that style of house, our options were severely limited. And it was frustrating, all the time, but we came up with some arrangements that worked in the living room (I move furniture a couple times a year because I get bored easily). The bungalow had fewer rooms than our new house, but the individual rooms were bigger. When we moved, we gained 250 square feet, but we went from 3 bedrooms, 1 bath to 4 bedrooms, 3 baths, with real closets in every room. And a laundry room. We lost the basement and a little room off the kitchen, a mere 5' x 10' alcove that housed our old computer desk and my sewing cabinet, as well as "my" books in a built-in bookcase, and a hinged built-in bench housed miscellaneous items, mainly sewing/craft type things that were hard to store.

I feel the loss of that little room more than I could have imagined. So keenly, in fact, that I want to knock out some drywall under the staircase and build in a computer alcove off the kitchen. But that project can wait. Our house has other problems that bother me more.

The primary problem is that the pieces of furniture that my father made (with his hands!) for the old house really don't fit in the new one. Or at least not in the living room. They are crafted of beautiful, red oak, Mission-style, and they looked perfect in a Craftsman bungalow with earth-toned plaster walls and aged oak floors. But in a contemporary, "New Urbanist" house with unstained maple floors and brightly painted walls, they don't quite fit. Our recent purchase of a mid-century Eames coffee table accentuates that feeling of "something doesn't work." The corner entertainment center that he custom-built to fit a particular corner in the old house looks out-of-place on a straight wall, as well as consuming more space than is necessary.

Inspiration struck recently, as I was bemoaning the mis-matched furniture in the upstairs bedroom that serves as kids' media room and occasional guest bedroom. The bookshelf that houses Craig's library of film books is falling apart, dangerously leaning askew. Over 16 years old (and purchased for about $30), it's served us well. But it needs to go. The entertainment center we bought to fit that corner at the old house, but it really didn't fit, the computer desk that my friend James didn't want and that we needed at the time, my sewing cabinet that goes with nothing, as well as a second-hand couch and an ancient futon and a multi-purpose game table and a CD/DVD tower all clutter the room, making it look more like a dumping ground for old furniture than a room in our dream house. Stacks of unshelved books and Rubbermaid bins of fabric round out the tag-sale atmosphere.

I realized that I could fix both my problems at once. If I moved the lovely oak furniture upstairs and got rid of the mismatched mess, I could make a room that made sense, a guest room that would be welcoming and gracious. All I needed to do was find an entertainment center and some bookshelves for the living room.

Enter my parents, who live near an IKEA store and are coming to visit in October. Until the new furniture arrives (and is assembled), I'll live with things as they are. I can prepare for rearranging the space, but I can't do it yet. I can plan how I'll hang family pictures in the guest room (thanks, Dooce, for the inspiration!) and I can draw out furniture arrangements on our floor plans. I can select blinds, touch up the paint and make new covers for throw pillows. But until I actually get the furniture into the space, get the books into the shelves, hang the blinds, and get the old things out of the house, I'll remain a bit of a malcontent. In fact, by preparing for the furniture shift, I'll probably make things worse for a while, boxing items up, removing art from the walls, and making a general nuisance of myself.

On top of the furniture swap between those rooms, I've found that my new bedroom doesn't hold quite as much furniture as my old one did. Again, this is a result of the smaller room sizes in the new house. I inherited my grandparents' bedroom suite when my grandmother moved in with my parents in 2002, and I love that furniture almost unnaturally. But a bed, two dressers (one that is not part of the set), a vanity table and bench, a cedar chest, and a small bookshelf (also not part of the set) crowd the room.

Dad comes to the rescue again, with plans to build a headboard with built-in cubbyholes to hold books, Craig's CPAP machine, a small stereo, and other bedside necessities, as well as built-in reading lights. This will eliminate the need for the small bookcase, and careful organization can also empty the dresser that's not part of the family bedroom suite.

Again, this is a project for which I can prepare in advance, but, just like the other furniture project, most of it can't happen until my parents visit in October.

So, until then, I keep adding tasks to my list.


hafidha sofia said...

Thank you for that link to Dooce - wow; what a great site!

Also, you do have a lot of rooms in your house for the square footage, so I hope you don't feel like it's you. You just might have to go with multi-functional pieces of furniture, like the bookcase headboard you are going to get.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Would someone explain to me why IKEA is so popular? I would rather have a dental appointment than go back to that store.

slouching mom said...

anonymous: Because it's cheap, I think, and given the price the quality is not bad. What do you think, Kaleigh?

Yep, the way Heather (Dooce) arranged the frames was gorgeous, though in general I find her design sense a little spare -- not as warm as I'd like.

It sounds as if you've come up with the perfect plan, as long as you can stand living with the prep. for the next few months...

Design is easier when you don't have the money to remodel. Heh.

Kaleigh said...

My take on IKEA is that it's pretty nice design for the price. No, it's not Herman Miller, but I can't afford Herman Miller. The store did make me a bit anxious, but I think that had more to do with being there with my parents AND my kids, which is a lot of stimulation when you're trying to make decisions about dining room furniture.

And I'm extra-lucky because my parents will be making the trip to the store for me. They're awesome that way.

LaReinaCobre said...

I like IKEA for the little accessories that can "finish off" an area. And where else can you pick up a 24 inch mirror for less than $20 bucks?

yer brudder said...

why is it dad makes all this furniture for you, and none for me? I'm feeling a bit left out :(

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