Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Twenty-eleven has been a year of great change in my life and around our home. My daughter graduated from high school and now attends an out-of-state college. Our home’s atmosphere has gone from moody oscillation to subdued ventilation. I might finally be going through menopause (I’ve had a big pause in men). And though every day I have always repaired or maintained something in our house or yard so projects don’t accumulate, major repairs and maintenance were waving their hands saying, “pick me!” Overwhelmed by all these responsibilities, I listed them and fainted.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’d rather clean a toilet than paint, and indeed I have cleaned a house or two. Is this beneath me. Heck no. I enjoy it. Nevertheless, for the first time since my BGF and I did it in 1996, I painted the stucco portion of the house’s rear below the brick and it looks great! It has a golden glow that really warms the structure and blends beautifully with the brick. Now my neighbors to the south can enjoy the view even more than when I dance naked at night with the draperies open.

I also tricked myself into a lot of touch-up painting. To some that might seem as simple as popping open a can of Coors and guzzling it down, but for me, opening a can of Sherwin-Williams is akin to opening Gorgonzola. But I opened, chewed, and swallowed, and again, the place looked and even smelled better.

But there was the big project, the one for which I could sort of see my destination but couldn’t fathom the path to get there. Dots on a map with empty space in between. You see, two of my many friends who have recently passed away left me their libraries, so I wanted to honor them by creating a space for their books where people could peruse, then check out a book or two. It’s what we already do in a condensed space, and there was only one room in which to comfortable house these books. So I began interviewing every friend who walked into our home. “Come, let me show you my new library!” I’d say. Then I’d ask them for suggestions.

In the lower level of our home is a room with no windows. When we moved here in 1994, I dubbed it my daughter’s playroom, where I could lock her up when she was naughty. It was space in which she could be creative with her friends, keep her art supplies accessible, and hang projects on the cork walls. I believe the room had previously been a torture room, with its sink and long shelf for accommodating chemical baths, or maybe it was a darkroom.

As she got older, Ivy and I called the room her office. We set up a desk with shelves, bought a decent lamp with three movable bulb casings, tossed in her huge beanbag chair, and kept the table for doing projects. But when Cat Number Two came into our lives in 2007 (see “Tattoo and Piercing”), he laid claim to one part of Ivy’s office. He used the cork wall as his scratching post. At first I was bummed to see chunks of cork of the floor and bare spots on the wall, but eventually I just walked past the mess or vacuumed it.
One day in late summer 2011, a month after Cat Two returned from a two-and-a-half-month explore 18 pounds lighter and regained his scratching momentum, I decided to do some cork removal myself. Ed suggested taking not only the cork but the whole drywall off. Attempting this, I soon feared the entire house would collapse, plus I found a wire that I suspected was still hot (wrong again), so I ceased further activity and prayed for a handyman.

Sam suggested keeping the cork on the top half and paneling the bottom, but cork was missing from the top. Two other friends, Michael and Anita, separately suggested placing drywall or paneling over the cork, to which I replied, “I’d be losing square footage in my home.” Michael also suggested ripping out the sink, shelves, and anything fifties in my home. Realizing I’d have to move, I chose another option. My neighbor suggested razing the house and starting from scratch.

Mentally exasperated, I needed closure, so by late October I knew how to proceed. Using a four-inch broad knife, I removed the cork, leaving small bumps of cement and pieces of flesh on the wall. Taking a lesson from the cats, I covered the bumps with paint texture I found in the garage. Almost everything used for this project, I found in the garage: paint, molding, a door, timbers.

I decided on a southwest, rustic motif. Two tones of blue for the sky, terra cotta for the sunset. I previously painted the brick wall, the backdrop to my bookshelves, a latte color and used a blend of warm tan and white for the rest of the room. When the painting was almost complete, my neighbor made numerous cuts with his saws—table, jig, and circular. I was on my way home.

Using my former 36” x 76” front door for shelves and two landscape timbers for spacers, I built bookshelves.

A table frame with Pergo shelves houses my encyclopedias from 1970.

Two stretches of door molding became a chair rail of exactly the correct length on the former cork wall.

Rope light and a six-foot length of molding were all I had to buy.

How cool is that?

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