I’ve never had a strong desire to build a house from scratch. I’d much rather take an existing house and make it my own; perhaps I like the challenge of a make-over. I lived in cheap apartments most of my adult life and I managed to convert them into fairly nice living spaces. Now that I’m planning to sell the family house and buy a new one for my empty nest years, I could conceivably start from the ground up. I could make it exactly as I wanted, or at least as much as my budget allowed. But then I would miss the joy of house hunting, of going into other people’s homes and seeing what they’ve done with them and imagining what I’d do. You can get some good ideas that way, also ideas of what not to do, but it’s always interesting. I love the process of house hunting. I even love watching others do it and am a devoted fan of all those house hunting shows on HGTV.
Unfortunately, I have been forced into rebuilding my existing home from scratch, at least the interior of it. Nothing inside survived the fire and smoke damage except the frame of the rooms. Nothing except my bathtub, that is, which seems a little strange considering the upstairs bathtub did not. My contractor explained how most of the smoke rose to the second story via theopen loft. I guess it didn’t bother to turn a few corners on the ground floor to get into my master bathroom at full strength. What this means is that after months of gutting and dumping and repairing, the time had come: I needed to start making decisions about how I wanted to rebuild. It’s a challenging position for me to be in because I don’t plan to stay there very long. The house needs to reflect more the taste of the average buyer, but I still want to like living there until it sells. That means I have to compromise, something I vowed to stop doing once the men and kids moved out.
Before the painting begins, I have to decide on wall texture. I’ve never given much thought to that before. I know popcorn ceilings are undesirable, but that’s about it. I am advised to go minimal. I’ll use an orange peel texture, my contractor, Mark, told me. Sounds like a facial, but I decide to trust him on that. Paint colors? Go with a neutral beige for every single room, my realtor advises me. Developers’ beige, one worker dubs it. Do you know how many shades of beige there are in the paint world? A lot. I can’t tell what I want from tiny patches of color on paper strips, so my contractor paints a few larger patches on the wall for me to compare. The tricky part is deciding which shade will go well with all the flooring and cabinetry I had already picked out.
About three weeks ago I had met up with Mark at various stores to decide on cabinets, counters, and flooring. I know what I’d choose if I were staying, but I’m rebuilding for a buyer, preferably one who’ll pay a higher price based on my decisions. I go with Shaker style cabinets, which can look modern or traditional depending on the hardware chosen. I chose modern. Counter tops? I wasn’t sorry to see the ugly laminate of my countertops melt away in the fire and we go with granite, a no-brainer in today’s market. Flooring is more difficult. Tile for the bathrooms and kitchen, sure, but which colors, materials, and sizes. Large squares laid in a diamond pattern with minimal grout is in, Mark assures me. Wooden floors downstairs? Engineered wood is easier to maintain than hardwood but sounds a whole lot better than laminate. Colors? Style? OK, I’ll go darker this time. Handscraped? Huh? It’s the in-style the seller tells me. Doesn’t show scratches as much. I have dogs, so I agree. Despite my aversion to carpet, it’s the cheaper and popular choice for upstairs. Frieze is the popular style these days. Nylon or polyester backing? I have no idea. Both will look good for the first five years, but nylon will last another ten. I decide on nylon, hoping my future buyer will appreciate it. Mark takes samples from the stores and meets me at the house a week later. He sets up pieces of tile, wood, and cabinetry next to the patches of beige on the wall. We circle around a few times, comparing the effect of the light at different angles. I finally decide on one. Great, Mark says, we start painting next week. Making so many decisions is tiring, so I feel relieved. By the way, Mark says, I need you to go to some stores this weekend and decide on all the lighting fixtures. Groan. More decisions to make and I put yet another task on my weekend to-do list.