53 Comments

  1. Karen B.
    July 31, 2012 @ 11:51 am

    Victoria,
    The suspense is killing me…did I miss a statement of fact that you have purchased the view house?
    As always, so entertaining. As someone who’s done my share of renovation/remodels I could totally relate. I remember wanting new French windows and doors in a couple rooms in our home and when the work was nearly finished I burst into tears…I’m a weak soul and the renovation is so stressful to me that the goal becomes lost in a sea of sawdust and dirt. I know this fact so well that the thought of starting over on a fixer gives me nightmares. And don’t get me started on how men can pick something that seems so minor (at least we believe they would see it that way, it’s the tipping point, i.e high gloss enamel, painted wood ceilings) and they will draw a line in the sand and stand their ground!
    You are both very talented and your youthful exuberance is admirable. 🙂
    Karen

    Reply

    • Victoria Elizabeth Barnes
      July 31, 2012 @ 12:31 pm

      Oh, no no… No purchase on the horizon. Just my recent thoughts about whether I can do this all again in an expanded format…

      I get so used to Paul NOT caring… And when he does I’m usually overjoyed, since it means I can actually rule something out. But for some reason he is like a maniac (or, I am) about the paint. Sigh… Would that be YOUR painted (unpainted) ceiling you’re talking about?

      Reply

      • Karen B.
        July 31, 2012 @ 12:35 pm

        Yes, we’re still “discussing” that issue. I think I’ll prevail but I’m trying to be kind with my quest…like, oh, look at this painted ceiling, doesn’t it look great, as I show him a picture of an otherwise masculine room. 🙂
        Karen

        Reply

        • Victoria Elizabeth Barnes
          July 31, 2012 @ 12:39 pm

          For the most part, if I “discuss” something enough, it drives Paul insane and makes him agree with me just for the sake of not hearing about it any more.

          If that fails, clutching a small tool/weapon during the conversation may do wonders for persuading him.

          Reply

          • A city girl
            July 31, 2012 @ 7:58 pm

            LOL thats the oldest trick in the book!! the badgering part. I am pretty good at that myself LOL Get on their nerves till they give in

            Reply

  2. Stacey
    July 31, 2012 @ 2:51 pm

    I wasn’t sure if I should cry or laugh or just feel exhausted! Most weeks I experience all of the above! Love your apartment. I remember our first one together and we had one couch and his guitar in the living room. Stylish! I think we had that same carpet. You look so pretty and happy. Ahhhh, being young is so fun. Being old is fun too, but I never imagined I’d be living in such a mess.
    I keep telling myself that it’s okay and it will end…. it’s just a short time in my life and we’ll get there… blah blah blah.

    I have to tell you there are days I cry and think we’ve made a huge mistake.
    There are parts of our house that have never been shown on my blog because there are no walls, just insulation, most of the cabinetry is torn up (half on half off), the floor looks like a mechanics shop, there’s no lights, and so many places for creepy crawly things to get in I dread going back there. It’s maddening to live in the mess! If you’ve never lived in it and done it, there’s just no explaining the complete exhaustion, physically and mentally, to someone. The stress is sometimes more than a person can take. Wine has been very helpful!

    I am lucky that Richie truly doesn’t care what I do with the house. He’s never painted anything so he wouldn’t even know there was a choice for gloss or satin. His only request is that I find ways to decorate with some of the things he loves… which is pretty easy. I had to laugh at Paul taking a stand at the paint and you just not understanding why he doesn’t see things your way… obviously it is the right way. OF COURSE IT IS! Ha Ha!

    I totally understand all your feelings here in this wonderful post. So what did you decide? Is this something you could do again? I’m about to turn 44 and I can tell you now that I could NOT do it again. I would have to match all the lottery numbers to ever take on another renovation. I’m afraid I’m done…. I’m just NOT done —- yet. 🙂

    Reply

    • Victoria Elizabeth Barnes
      July 31, 2012 @ 5:52 pm

      Being old IS fun. But not the same way making your own shower curtain is…

      You shouldn’t feel bad about the unview-ed parts of your house. As far as the world knows, you and Richie are loving every second of it and churning out beautiful finished projects like champions, and having salons on the weekend with the Austin art crowd…

      Or, at least that’s what I tell myself when we have someone new over and have to tell them repeatedly not to fall in the giant, person-sized hole in the floor. It’s been there since we moved in, so we’re used to it, but other people can’t seem to stay away from it.

      I’m really not sure I can handle giving up my life again. And giving up my husband. Paul’s absorption and dedication to the details of a project give him tunnel vision. I feel like we’re just starting to get to the bright side of the tunnel of this house… to veer into another one seems deeply unwise.

      On the other hand, at some point having six apartments would be something that would allow us to live cost-free, in a beautiful (someday) home, on the river. And that seems like something we would value a lot at retirement…

      I am 35. It seems unlikely, no matter what we do about the river house, that this will be our last home. So in that sense, it seems like we might as well move and get it over with. But I tell you—and you will understand this better than most—if I have to pack up my shit again? I will go crazy. We’re not even all the way unpacked! I haven’t seen my iron in years (not that I’ve missed it, but still). If I could just trade this house for that one? Magically be delivered overnight? I think I could do it. But the stress of selling this, packing, moving?

      Ugh. Anyway. Thanks for your heartfelt comment. Only people who’ve lived through the experience really understand the unknowable difficulties.

      Reply

      • Stacey
        July 31, 2012 @ 6:39 pm

        UGH, the packing and moving is almost worse than the renovation. Thankfully it’s over in a few days but I swear to you our move to this house was shocking to us both. We both looked at each other and literally thought we might die. That sounds like something you say when you’re really tired and worn out … but literally we both thought our bodies might not make it and we both had that feeling of “we might die from this”. It was horrible! WTF! We lived in our last house 14 years and I think that’s too many years to accumulate too much STUFF… so I doubt I could survive another MOVE… much less a renovation.
        I think you DO have it in you. I believe you are not done yet, my friend… and I look forward to whatever comes your way. I hope you share it!

        Reply

        • Victoria Elizabeth Barnes
          August 1, 2012 @ 8:22 am

          In all seriousness, your responses to this post have made me feel more sane.

          I truly thought I was imagining the stress of moving/impending death. I knew other people found it stressful, but I felt like I had an extreme reaction. Something other, normal people wouldn’t have gotten so worked up about…

          Plus, we sold our old house ourselves. It went well, but also added an entire other dimension to the experience. Not only was I trying to pack our lives… I was also trying to keep the house looking like a museum and being super friendly and accommodating to everyone, while being a crazy person in private. A balancing act that made me want to go live in a cave and never interact with another human again…That experience is still too fresh in my mind to convince myself I’m ready to do it again.

          Reply

  3. Dana
    July 31, 2012 @ 5:14 pm

    “I think anyone who renovates a house with a partner should expect to spend part of the time seething and crying.”

    Yes. That’s it, exactly.

    Reply

    • Victoria Elizabeth Barnes
      July 31, 2012 @ 5:54 pm

      You know? As soon as I posted that, I thought to myself—there will be someone out there who says, what are you talking about? My husband and I agree effortlessly on all fronts…Thanks for not being that person.

      How’s your house coming? Did you get your front porch finished?

      Reply

    • A city girl
      July 31, 2012 @ 8:01 pm

      LOL tru fact Dana. That was funny…maybe I should be grateful that I have no one to argue about decisions on my projects…pretty liberating but frustrating also because sometimes you really don’t want to take responsibility for EVERY decision and you need someone to blame some stuff on. LOL

      Reply

      • Victoria Elizabeth Barnes
        August 1, 2012 @ 8:23 am

        I guess doing it yourself is good from the perspective that you are always right… but the bad part is that you have do all the work. Plus, it’s not like you can’t just get in a fight with yourself, right?

        Reply

  4. the home tome
    July 31, 2012 @ 7:39 pm

    I must confess that I can only relate to a fraction of this scenario – my renovating experience is minimal, but I do think owning a house and sharing it with someone does stir up a lot of emotions – we all have these old dreams and hopes and we’re trying to combine them for a shared future. And the DETAILS definitely count! So yeah, I can see how gloss would be a sticking point. We’ve had a few of those…Great post! 🙂

    Reply

    • Victoria Elizabeth Barnes
      August 1, 2012 @ 8:42 am

      Oh how I envy your lack of renovation… that’s my fantasy.

      But even without it, I’m sure Paul and I would still find paint-issues. Simply sharing space and life with another person is eventually going to make you think they are crazy over something.

      Reply

  5. A city girl
    July 31, 2012 @ 8:03 pm

    LOL this was a good post Victoria. I can see you yelling at the top of the stairs and Paul downstairs rolling his eyes up in his head. LOL

    Reply

    • Victoria Elizabeth Barnes
      August 1, 2012 @ 8:44 am

      It was certainly dramatic. On my end at least.
      I can laugh about it now, but that kind of frustration… where you feel like you cannot communicate with the person who is most important to you… well. That’s enough to turn you into a crazy woman, right?

      Reply

  6. RedCandy
    August 1, 2012 @ 6:55 am

    Oh Victoria!! I wish I knew you in real life! I love your plastic shower screen! A home (wherever it is) should reflect its occupants……alway be true and never try too hard. Your personalized shower screen is the perfect example……it’s a pity we can’t be so ‘out there’ when we grow up…..or can we???? 😉

    Reply

    • Victoria Elizabeth Barnes
      August 1, 2012 @ 8:49 am

      :))))) We loved our shower curtain too. That was a tremendously special time in my life. My best friend and I had never lived near each other, let alone WITH each other. And it made us crazy from the sheer joy of just being together…

      I do think we can still be “out there,” but it’s just not the same as when you’re twenty-two.

      Reply

  7. our heritage home
    August 1, 2012 @ 10:55 am

    I think looking back and remembering is a great way to put things in perspective, love the shower curtain! Renovating long term with spouses makes you laugh, cry, joke, fight, all at the same time, your post really says it all. Thanks, I enjoyed it!

    Reply

    • Victoria Elizabeth Barnes
      August 1, 2012 @ 3:03 pm

      This house we live in now has given me such appreciation for that apartment! But even there, my best friend and I managed to get in a fight over who ate the last of the tofu. Proving that eventually, you will clash with anyone you live with… even if you think of them as you non-related-twin.

      Reply

  8. Jessica
    August 1, 2012 @ 11:16 pm

    So, so true. Generally speaking, the only time my husband and I fight is when we’re renovating something. And I have to be honest, that’s mostly me. Thank God he doesn’t care about paint sheens or anything else because I might have strangled him by now.

    I love old houses, but we live in a not-too-old house (1968) that needs no major doing because we have three kids. If it were just the two of us I like to think we’d live in something very very old (although that might not be good for our marriage.) It makes me sad to see old houses chopped up or renovated terribly, and I always daydream about saving them. But at least for the next decade or so I just don’t see that happening.

    Reply

    • Victoria Elizabeth Barnes
      August 2, 2012 @ 8:53 am

      They really shouldn’t call it renovation or DIY or restoration. They should just call it how-to-get-in-a-giant-fight-with-your-husband. HTGIAGFWYH. That has a nice ring to it.

      It’s a funny situation that can make you REALLY angry at the time. But when it’s all finished, you forget the bad parts and look at each other kind of amazed with how great it turned out (and how just being finished is something to celebrate.)

      Reply

  9. A city girl
    August 3, 2012 @ 9:52 pm

    okay so I am in Home Depot today getting the paint for the contractor tomorrow and I decided I wanted bright white semi gloss paint on the ceiling and bright white trim…glossy. So I tell the guy to get me a gallon of each. He says “we don’t have glossy its either semi gloss or “high” gloss and high gloss only comes in a pint can and I know you don’t want a whole gallon of “high” gloss”. He said the high part with some kind of emphasis. I asked him why not? He says “cause… ehhh” What does ehhhh mean?? I wanted to yell at him to get me the damn paint like I asked and if I want glossy paint, why do you care and in my mind you was standing besides me saying “yeah fella, why DO YOU CARE?” but then I decided maybe Paul knows best since this guy way down here was agreeing with him…so I got semi gloss for the trim and the ceiling. For the record though I think “high” gloss would have worked out just fine. Irony…don’t have a husband to defend my decisions to just know-it-all Home depot and Lowes employees. I swear a guy knows how to swing a hammer and they think they are experts on decorating. LOL
    You should do a poll on semi-gloss vs high gloss. I am curious if its just us.

    Reply

    • Victoria Elizabeth Barnes
      August 4, 2012 @ 9:55 am

      HA!!! Indeed. WHY do they care??? Hmph!! Also, I like the way he “knows” you don’t want a full gallon. Pretty impressive psychic skill there…

      Perhaps a poll for the men as well… as to why they lull us into thinking they have no input… only to choose one issue at random to surprise us with!!

      Reply

      • A city girl
        August 13, 2012 @ 9:55 am

        LOL good one.
        I was serious about the poll

        Reply

  10. Seat12
    August 29, 2012 @ 4:41 pm

    This is one of the best written posts I have come across about what it is like to renovate a house. It takes a huge amount of work and a tremendous sense of humor. I’m so glad that you found my blog, and I’m really looking forward to following your work and spending time reading what you’ve already posted. Thanks so much for sharing this!

    Reply

    • Victoria Elizabeth Barnes
      August 30, 2012 @ 6:02 pm

      Thank you, I love your comment…
      I had expected hard work in this house-undertaking… but I didn’t understand how it becomes numbing and endless. Until the specific project is finished… And then the end result is so satisfying you forget how terrible the process was.

      Reply

  11. Apple Hill Cottage
    October 17, 2012 @ 4:24 pm

    I know this is an old post, but I just found it from your epilogue–Ha! Made me laugh — I have pictures just like that old wall, only yours at least has nice wood underneath it! So my husband doesn’t like shiny because he says it shows all the imperfections. I told him if he did it, there wouldn’t be any imperfections… love your blog! and your house!

    Reply

    • Victoria Elizabeth Barnes
      October 18, 2012 @ 11:05 am

      That is EXACLTY why Paul prohibits shine…
      It might be practical, but at the same time, this *is* an old house. No one expects flawlessness. Plus? If *I* can live with the lack of perfection? Surely, that’s all that matters! Right??

      Reply

  12. Kylie
    November 16, 2012 @ 6:13 am

    Even funnier! Loved it!

    Reply

  13. Marian (Sweetopia)
    February 17, 2013 @ 12:18 am

    Oh my goodness, you are hilarious! You’ve made me chuckle in every single post I’ve read of yours and this one was no exception. My husband and I are renovating our home from top to bottom and living in a few small rooms heated with a few square, electric heaters. We live in Canada… it is winter… lol. I’m sure you can draw a few of your own conclusions.
    Thanks for the chuckles and dissection of the tiles… I’ll be going with something similar now too for the bathroom floor. 🙂 Oh and your wedding post was lovely.

    Reply

    • Victoria Elizabeth Barnes
      February 17, 2013 @ 9:56 am

      Wow. Winter in Canada with space heaters sounds AWESOME. I would be jealous… if I weren’t painfully aware of just how much fun you’re having.

      Our first year here, Paul hated the idea of heating a house that was essentially a colander for all the holes it had… so at night he would pretty much turn the heat off. To say it was cold in the house? Is such a profound understatement… It was SO cold, my cat slept UNDER the covers with us. I think that makes us sound crazy… and I don’t usually tell people, but I guess you’ll understand.

      Good luck with your tile/bathroom! I personally found it a blackhole of indecision and agony.

      Reply

  14. Marian (Sweetopia)
    February 17, 2013 @ 2:59 pm

    I know. (The blackhole of indecision and agony). Thank you for that, for, because of your posts, I found the tile we’re going for today. (At Home Depot, is that bad?). You saved me a TON of time… I had already spent days pinning pictures to a secret board on Pinterest because I’m pretty sure those who follow me would actually notice the barrage of tile pins and bathroom photos in their stream, and might wonder if I was just a little too obsessed. I would have spent days more and then all the trips to the different stores too…
    Happy renovating to you two; looking forward to your posts!

    Reply

    • Victoria Elizabeth Barnes
      February 18, 2013 @ 8:45 am

      Are you kidding? Home Depot is great… actually finding ANYTHING is excellent. If I’d found my tile at the dollar store, I would have been happy.

      Pinterest hadn’t started the private boards when I was doing our bath… I cringed a little every time I flooded my followers with 900 tile options.

      Reply

  15. Nicole @ One Punky Mama
    June 10, 2013 @ 2:52 pm

    I have to stop for a minute and just feel better about my current situation. I’m in the middle of painting/redecorating my living room, and just looking at the supreme mess is making me want to cry. I can’t imagine having things torn apart like that. You are SUCH a trooper lol

    Reply

  16. Sara
    June 25, 2013 @ 1:18 pm

    Victoria,

    You’ve said it perfectly. There is no way to explain to someone the extreme ups and downs a rennovation causes. The nights where you are so mad at your spouse, but too tired to even fight about anything. We are rapping up a 2 year whole house rennovation where we lived in one room without a kitchen for 8 months. I wish I would have written down all the stories during the whole process as you have done.

    Thanks for the inspiration and the laughs!

    Sara

    Reply

    • Victoria Elizabeth Barnes
      June 29, 2013 @ 12:46 pm

      Truly. Until you have lived it, you CANNOT know.

      Recently I met someone who said they “really loved” their whole-house project. I nodded and smiled, but secretly thought they must be insane.

      Reply

  17. Molly
    July 1, 2013 @ 7:23 pm

    Loooved this post! First visit here today I read about your huge Craigslist mirror and knew right then you wrote a blog that would be great. Also loved your wedding post and can totally relate to that knowing-in-your-gut feeling. It was that way for me too even though I didn’t actually get to have a knock-off of Leslie Ann Warren’s Cinderella dress from my youthful memory. Ah well… But a renovation sister?! Yeah! Our realitor confidently told us we’d have our repo’d house purchase fixed up nice within five years. Uh huh buddy. 12 years later we realize it may still be a work in progress for the next owners after our kids haul us to a nursing home. We’re 52 now and so tired of projects! Oh well, every space we look at here holds a memory. And a good deal of insanity….

    Reply

  18. Kat @Low Tide High Style
    July 7, 2013 @ 10:10 pm

    Love this, and I’m so glad I found your blog and your wit! We have survived a whole house reno, and we are insanely thinking about adding on now! I think I finally just got the drywall dust out of every nook and cranny…now almost 4 years later…so of course that must mean it’s time to create more!

    Kat

    Reply

  19. Judy
    July 8, 2013 @ 2:44 pm

    Discovered your site from Heidi’s San Francisco site and realized you are in Philly right on. Since I have restored old houses struggling by myself to manifest the “visions” and no husband, I ADORE your Paul. We should all be so lucky to have a worker of his pluck and technical magnitude! I totally think you could have made your Pilar kitchen with that wardrobe–totally. Maybe you still can….

    I live in Bucks County with a 90% done Victorian twin–my fifth project house (granted, not all as exhaustive as yours). I dealt with BIG porch issues like squirrels and birds in the ceiling hole and the rotted through floor with this house. But, the vision of the finished Tuscan columns and wicker and ferns is done now. The sad reality is this: you are only on your first project house. You convince yourself at that terrible, unbearable, dusty mid-point never EVER to do it again. But, you do. You get itchy with the finished project house and become obsessed with new visions on another house–a mid-century living room with a stone fireplace wall! a shabby chic rustic cabin upstate with no running water or electric! To me, it’s like a giant 3-D canvas. You are an addict, my friend, and it’s an expensive thorny one that requires moving every 8-10 years, too, unless you can figure out how to buy and sell them outright. But, there’s nothing, nothing (except having kids) as gratifying as saving an old house or relic and restoring it. I went through the Historic Preservation Program at Bucks Community College and made a lot of like-minded friends, too.

    Right now, I am in the midst of restoring a small old abandoned circa 1920s waterman’s house on the edge of the bay in Virginia. The incredible endless marsh views from the deck sold my not-old-house-or-carpenter boyfriend that he wanted to be my partner in the crazed beach house vision and we bought it–against my better judgment on it’s proximity to the bay– for an incredible price when he had the nerve to lowball them. So, at least I have a guy involved to share the responsibility and clean up when we get flooded eventually. And, he has gotten pretty decent with a hammer for a truck driver. But, those views and manifesting the beach house vision!! I am sooooo happy right now with my long-awaited shiny white floor upstairs. Yay! By the way, I also prefer high gloss trim. Everyone had shiny trim once upon a time. What happened there?

    But now, I really am ready for another PA home project. Or, a new condo if I’m smart. Good luck with the Victorian and your mirrors. I am a new fan.

    Reply

  20. Samantha
    July 18, 2013 @ 11:41 am

    I know why your husband is against glossy paint. It’s for the same reason my father is. My mother loves it for easy cleaning. My father hates it because it shows any mistakes (uneven walls from not enough or to much sanding) or imperfections in his work. After hours of sanding then mudding, then sanding again. You look at it and think it’s level. Then you paint it with glossy paint. Boom! You missed a spot! How could you miss that spot? It’s huge!

    Reply

    • Victoria Elizabeth Barnes
      July 22, 2013 @ 5:26 pm

      Did Paul pay you to write this?

      That IS his alleged resistance. I personally think shiny outweighs flaws… at least on molding. Especially white molding is nice with more sheen…

      Reply

      • Samantha
        July 22, 2013 @ 6:47 pm

        I agree with you on the molding. We are working on a 1930’s craftsmen. Love! Love Love! The doorknobs, floors, molding, copper rain gutters. 😉 My heart has always been in Victorians, (I grew up in Cape May NJ) but this is our first home. Most of the Victorians I obsessed over to buy were in the condition you’ve described. We didn’t have the capital to sink into them. But our next home will be a Victorian! My husband is often reminded of this. 🙂

        I can’t wait to see your kitchen!!!!

        Reply

        • Victoria Elizabeth Barnes
          July 23, 2013 @ 7:59 am

          If we were to win the lottery… we would move to Cape May. Paul would campaign for somewhere tropical, but I would insist on Cape May. I would try to buy the nunnery (? hotel? big white building on the point…)

          Reply

  21. Cue the Coldplay: The Prologue | dateswithdrywall.com
    September 3, 2013 @ 9:33 am

    […] from the outside (and we’re not the only example – everyone seems to agree that renovating a house is a recipe for conflict). And then you’re fighting, and there are power tools. […]

    Reply

  22. Jenn C.
    February 23, 2014 @ 1:53 am

    I think this might be my favorite blog post I have ever read! You completely just described my marriage. My husband bought a “fixer-upper” before we got married which turned out to be a “completely-gut-her” and quite a roller coaster ride! Now it’s been 7 years since closing day and we are finally in the home stretch. We’ve always joked that if we can survive the remodel together our marriage will make it. There has been much arguing and shouting over paint colors (I may or may not have painted the living room 3 or more times) tile choices and layout, kitchen cabinets, cabinet hardware (to which I may have said “it’s MY kitchen”) and way too many more to list. It’s great knowing we aren’t the only ones and that there is another Craigslist-a-holic out there!

    Reply

  23. Becca
    June 23, 2014 @ 4:27 am

    I tend to get like that when driving in foreign countries, it’s a mixture of sheer terror and fury that my boyfriend has put me in this position. He refers to me as being a “crab on ketamine”.

    That said, having followed your blog for a while, I’ve decided to read it from the start. You’re brilliant, as is Paul. I’m especially envious of you prowess at growing zinnias. I wonder if they would flourish in New Zealand… We have a shiny new flat (we live in an extremely hilly city) backyard that I’m itching to make pretty.

    Reply

  24. Rita Olivia Lee
    August 25, 2015 @ 6:50 am

    New houses are appealing but they lack character and quirks. I have a small 2 bedroom farmhouse built in 1922 on our 2 acre land that I have transformed into my little art studio. At first, it was spooky, creaky, dirty. I can live with bad bones in a house but I cant stand dust and dirt, it grosses me out. So I cleaned it up and 4 years later, I have a whimsical, little studio with a bohemian fairy cottage theme. Its funky and colorful but my original dream was a to have an all white very moden studio with big windows and lots of light. My studio is the opposite style, with dark wood floors and huge oak trees around it, I had to go with a woodsy theme that I can do but it was not my first choice. I made lemonade out of lemons and its a pretty darned good life now. It is lonely to be working in there for hours makind DIY crafts but friends and relatives say it is like a candy store, esp since I make faux pastries, cakes and candy.

    Reply

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