Fixing My Cottage Was Harder Than Expected


As I may have mentioned previously, Mark and I bought a little cottage in an online auction that we thought would be fun to renovate.

It started out as fun. I spent many happy hours poring over magazines and paint chips to choose the one single color that I would paint almost all of the interior walls, “to give it a cohesive look,” as the magazines said. I chose gray. Well, not gray, but “greige” — a color that almost magically mutates softly from gray to beige and back again, depending on the light. It’s interesting, for a neutral.

Then I dove right in, painting without applying a primer or doing the ceilings first or covering up the hardwood floors or doing any of those boring preparatory steps that save you so much work later on. So the first room looked lovely in record time — except for its streaks, dingy ceiling and paint-spattered floor. (My motto: “I’m enthusiastic, not neat.”) Fine, I went back and fixed it up.

The second room still sported its fabulous orange shag carpeting from the 1970s which, if you think about it, is now 46 freakin’ years old. I didn’t want to think about it. I tore it up with reckless abandon and threw it and its hideous smells right out the front door. The hardwood floor underneath surprised me by being laced with hundreds of staples. No wonder that rug was still there — who wanted to wrestle with each of those staples? Well, I did. Sort of. When it was finally staple-free (a two-day job), I scrubbed the hardwood until the varnish was gone.

The third room boasted the same orange shag, which also hurtled out the door. This time, in addition to hundreds of staples, there was a black rubber padding so old that it had adhered itself to the floor. Yet hardwood beckoned, so I donned a mask over my nose and mouth and set to work scraping it out. I got it all, but the wood was stained black. I guess the padding must have been glued down. Meanwhile, my sciatic nerve was starting to complain about being scooted around on the floor for weeks at a time. I cannot describe the unimaginable fun I was having.

Fortunately, only the kitchen floor remained to be done. I quickly peeled up the vinyl only to discover vinyl’s ugly cousin, linoleum. That stuff was so old it chipped off in tiny squares. It took a solid week to remove and left behind a thick residue of black glue. Because the glue was interspersed with (you guessed it) hundreds of staples, I couldn’t sand it off. I got my staple puller, my heat gun and my little white mask, and soon the air was thick with what I am sure were toxic fumes.

At the end of the week, Mark put down a beautiful new surface and, when the job was complete, I made a no-snow angel right there in the middle of the floor.

Then I accidentally started crying.

That’s a solid measure of fun right there.