I could never claim to be an expert in the field of architecture. The subject is far too broad, and perhaps my attention span too short. My head starts spinning just merely considering the quantity of information – the periods and styles, influences and materials – that is to be found across this vast and varied planet. People have spent their entire lives focused on a single city or trend, a school of thought or even an individual architect; decades learning all there is to know about one piece of a single subject. It’s amazing, fascinating, and… overwhelming. I will never be an expert on any of these things, but there is one small bit of the architecture world that I am becoming an expert at, approximately 2930 square feet, actually. And that is my house.
Earlier this month, my husband and I opened up our home to be a stop on our neighborhood house tour for the third time in the past 10 years. We love house tours, getting to take a peak into how others live and organize their space, their choices and renovations. We love sharing what we’ve done too, and we’ve done a lot. (I recognize that admitting to architects that we have undertaken large renovations to our home ourselves may be somewhat unsavory, but please keep in mind that we were young and poor and that most of what we have done is more in the realm of ‘craft’ and not ‘design’.)
When we purchased our home almost a decade ago, it was two apartments, and before that had been a boarding house. We knew we wanted to convert it back to a single family home, and that it would be a lot of work. And we reveled in it. Tearing down walls, pulling up carpet, ripping out drop ceilings – the dirtier, the better. This Victorian, built in 1906, would shine again! We have poured countless hours, dollars, and calories into creating this haven, and I feel comfortable calling myself an expert as there isn’t a single room we haven’t touched, haven’t explored what it originally was intended for, haven’t worked to bring the original materials back to life (where possible) or brought in new materials that would respectfully blend with what was originally there (when necessary). Another factor that has given us unusual insight is that our home has only had five longterm owners, including us, and two of them still live on our block. (What can I say? It’s just that great of a street!) We’ve been given the gift of their stories and memories, even photographs dating back 60+ years. We know who took out the original mantels, which owners made alterations, why people chose to sell it and move on.
During each house tour, we have displayed photographs of our “before” – what each room looked like when we first took ownership. People are often shocked at the “after”. I may not be an expert in architecture, but being trained as an artist has at least given me an eye for design, a sense of what could look good, a love of color, and that shows in our choices. Most of the major renovations have been completed for now, and we have moved on to crafting furniture – a giant table and workspace for our library, bunk beds for our children, maybe someday built-ins…?
The dictionary defines a house as “a building for human habitation…” while a home can be defined as “a place where something flourishes”. Our home is by no means finished. I don’t know that it ever will be. Like the family that lives within its walls, it is constantly shifting and changing. Needs arise and are addressed, space is repurposed. But wherever it is on its journey, wherever we are on ours, it is a space I know and love, a space I can call mine. I could walk the floor plan blindfolded, know which steps creak and which windows rattle. I’ve seen rooms down to their studs and know that my sweat and energy helped rebuild their walls. I take pride in my ownership, feel that we have flourished here, and will continue to do so. I am an expert in making this house our home.