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Princess: Drowning on my creativity

Alison Berkley Margo

So I came home from grocery shopping the other day to find Ryan had ripped up all the carpet in our living room.

“You said I never have the time to get anything done, so I got it done,” he said, his nostrils flaring slightly, the way they do when the bull comes out.

“My point is you work so hard you shouldn’t have to do home projects on the weekends,” I said, surveying the now-exposed subfloors that reminded me of seeing someone naked for the first time. The room looked undressed, but in a good way.

Ryan showed me how to roll up the remaining carpet pad and pull out the staples. Then we swept everything up, put the furniture back and made elk burgers for dinner. We were practically ready for our own HGTV show.

I have always had a ton of vision for our house. I’m like, “Let’s add on a garage with a master bedroom above it overlooking the river! Let’s gut the A-frame and turn it into a great room with a gourmet kitchen! How about we build a bedroom area with say, two or three standard-size bedrooms and baths? Oh! And I definitely want to redo the exterior siding with reclaimed barn wood. And we absolutely need to swap out all the decks with wire railings — it would instantly modernize the house! And just think about what granite countertops and stainless-steel appliances would do for our equity.”

So my little fantasy would probably cost in the neighborhood of $300,000 or more — basically to the point where it would make more sense just to tear the house down and start over.

Then I made a new friend — such a rare but wonderful treat at this age — who invited me over to see the renovations she’d done with her house in Mountain Valley, an outdated two-story property she’d purchased from an old woman who didn’t live in a shoe but a house she built in the 1980s.

Susan showed me the leather chairs she’d bought at Habitat for Humanity that she’d stained a darker color; the inexpensive doors from Home Depot she’d refaced with reclaimed barnwood and hung on cast-iron sliding brackets; the inexpensive Ikea pieces she’d seamlessly integrated into sophisticated, expensive-looking built-in cabinets; the walls she’d accented with really cool wallpaper; and the floors and walls she’d painted a bright white in her office to create a studio feel.

The whole thing was a very clever combination of do-it-yourself combined with carefully selected luxury items and materials that had my head flooded with affordable ways we could transform our house, or at least finally put our stamp on it. It reminded me of the fashionista who knows how to mix high-end designers with low-budget pieces in a way that’s stylish and cool (which makes sense since Susan is a fashion writer and stylist).

Our house was renovated in 2007, so everything was updated enough when we moved in, even if I probably would not have chosen white appliances or recessed paneled cabinets or the fake granite that is an undeniable shade of green.

But since we moved in, what really bugged me the most was that damned living-room carpet. It was sage green and worked like a sponge when it cames to absorbing our horse-sized dog’s fur and disgusting odors. Speaking of George, the rest of the room is Pergo (which is fine, if not a little vanilla for my taste), but my older four-legged child is a German shepherd with bad hips who tends to slip all over these laminate floors as if they were made of ice. It’s not pretty.

Anyhoo, Susan had me all fired up. She turned me on to Houzz.com, a website with thousands of design photos and idea books and really detailed search criteria so you can look at kitchens and living room and bedroom ideas until your eyes bleed, which is exactly what I did.

Within 12 hours, I was emailing Susan with the enthusiasm of a dumb puppy or maybe a hormonal teenager who just had sex for the first time or a vegetarian who finally caved in and ate steak. I was like, “Let’s start a blog! Let’s do a DIY blog called ‘Trashy Interiors’! Let’s go into business together and make a million dollars even though we just met!” I was foaming at the mouth and flapping my arms and talking so fast I couldn’t get the words out.

Susan was nice enough not to block me from her email account.

“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you this whole time,” Ryan said after I verbally vomited all over him with my design ideas and renovation plans. “I know how to do all that stuff.”

“But you don’t have the time,” I said. And so we’re back to the beginning of my little story.

Ryan and I decided we’re going to do painted plywood floors, an inexpensive alternative to carpet to tie us over until we can afford hardwood (I really want beetle-kill pine flooring), because then the hardwood can just be laid on top. It also allows us to resurface a subfloor that has been modified so many times in 40 years that it’s really uneven. We’re going for a sort of rustic/contemporary look, or maybe it’s industrial farmhouse? Either way, the floors are going to be concrete gray, I think.

See? Don’t I sound like a pro already?

I think the hardest part about being a creative person is you’re almost tortured with a constant flow of ideas. The hard part is translating that vision into something tangible. Sometimes you get so caught up in the internal world of your imagination you don’t realize how simple it can be. All it takes is a big Minnesotan with old, gnarly tattoos to take a knife, a pair of pliers and a little sweat to make all your dreams come true.

Interior designers may email their free advice to alisonmargo@gmail.com.


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