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  1. Garden, Home and Party
    February 26, 2013 @ 1:16 pm

    I can totally understand the containment idea. Genius. I would want there to be a clearly marked line of where project-renovate ends and begins. I would want people to notice the carefully framed plastic wall that indicates an area still under renovation. In fact, I went to Disneyland yesterday and they had a custom made, painted to look like, cover over the entire main street train station…you thought you were looking at the train station but in fact it was plastic or some material that covered the train station but had been painted/printed to look like the train station with all of the details in place during the extensive renovation. lol, see if Paul can make one of those for your next room to be worked on in time.
    P.S. I love the fur (?) thing around your neck on the train, so Downton Abbey.


    • Victoria Elizabeth Barnes
      February 27, 2013 @ 9:22 am

      Yes!! That’s IS what I need… a faux front. That’s what I love about blogland—people have such helpful ideas!!

      It’s actually just yarn, (the neck thing). I love anything weirdly giant… and that fit the bill. I had kind of considered trying to make it (it doesn’t LOOK that hard). But then realized that it was the kind of thing that would take days to find the right yarn… days to find the time to attempt it… then probably it would just sit in a bag, unfinished… so instead I bought it and congratulated myself on my practicality.


  2. Jessica
    February 26, 2013 @ 1:25 pm

    I have never said this to a woman, where have you been all my life?


    • Victoria Elizabeth Barnes
      February 27, 2013 @ 9:23 am

      Here… mostly. I don’t get out much, so it’s unlikely we’d have met before now.

      You totally made my day. Thank you!!


  3. Linn @ The Home Project
    February 26, 2013 @ 2:20 pm

    Like always Victoria, you’re absolutely hilarious! I must say I’m rather impressed with Paul, not just for the obvious reasons, but also because he doesn’t mind (or does he?) you sharing everything so generously! You guys really bought the definition of a fixer-upper. I’m like you (is it a female thing?) – I also start dreaming of where to put the chaise and what dress should I wear while sipping my cocktail in it – before acknowledging that the roof is falling down. 🙂


    • Victoria Elizabeth Barnes
      February 27, 2013 @ 10:16 am

      We have howled in laughter, remembering some of these things. And? On the other hand, some of these things have been SO hard.

      When I started this blog, I thought I was going to write about the house. And I’m finding now that’s not really all that interesting to me. I find myself writing and thinking about it through our personal experiences…

      And I think there is value in being honest. Even though it doesn’t cast us as an ideal relationship… I know many couples would manage this better/differently… but we are not that couple. That’s been challenging, and not something I would have been comfortable sharing a few years ago. But for whatever reason, I’m fine with it now.

      I asked Paul, if he was comfortable with me sharing all this… And he said—sure. Are we really that much different than anyone else? And I said—maybe? Maybe we are.

      After he thought about it, he said—well, I know what you’re NOT telling them. So I’m thankful for that.

      Then we laughed so hard.


  4. Jessica
    February 26, 2013 @ 2:53 pm

    Doing all the steps for every room at once–removing all the plaster that needs to go at once, and then redoing all the wiring and all the plumbing at once, then putting everything back all at once–seems like a good idea, but it never really works that well if you’re living in the house. Or if you want to stay married.

    I’m lucky, my husband doesn’t care about house projects. I get to do whatever I want, whenever I want. The only catch is I usually have to do it all alone. Nice when he’s annoying me, sucky when I just want to get something done.


    • Victoria Elizabeth Barnes
      February 27, 2013 @ 9:39 am

      I couldn’t do this without Paul. But? He could do it without me… in fact, like you said—there are times he would PREFER to do it alone. (Possibly most of the time?)

      I like things to be ordered, planned out, listed, controlled… and none of those apply to house projects. Half the time it seems like you don’t even know what’s going to happen until you actually rip it apart.


  5. Mandy
    February 26, 2013 @ 3:14 pm

    Oh, I totally get the idea of containment. If I was renovating I’d be exactly the same. Of course, there’s little chance of us renovation as neither of us has a clue how to do it. Some of those ‘destruction’ pictures are impressive!! 😉


    • Victoria Elizabeth Barnes
      February 27, 2013 @ 10:27 am

      Looking back at those photos, I REALLY cannot believe how bad it was! I had actually forgotten the extent of the disaster… or blocked it out!!


  6. jocelyn
    February 26, 2013 @ 4:29 pm

    This seems like an important sub-category of couples therapy. “Love-n-Reno”. In fact, I was in Home Depot yesterday and they had a big dry erase board listing classes – this should probably be one of their offerings…and YOU guys should probably teach it. 🙂


    • Victoria Elizabeth Barnes
      February 27, 2013 @ 9:57 am

      I could totally teach that class. Now that I’ve gotten my PhD, (my parents should be so proud!!)

      No one tells you… they really don’t. They MIGHT say—are you sure you’re prepared for this? But they DON’T say—imagine your life exploded. Now multiply that times a few years.


  7. Janet
    February 26, 2013 @ 8:17 pm

    I just found you. I can’t stop reading. It’s like you wrote down everything that’s happened at my house the last 9 yrs. Minus the dog bath and it’s so much funnier when it’s not your husband. Did you say how far along you are? (not that these things are ever finished) but wondered how much you have to go?


    • Victoria Elizabeth Barnes
      February 27, 2013 @ 10:57 am

      Hey! Thanks!! Believe me… this would be waaayyyy funnier if it were someone else’s husband. We’ve laughed about a lot of it—in retrospect. But at the time, when we’re in the middle of it, not too much humor going on.

      We still have the kitchen (gut job) to do. And a smallish addition off the kitchen. The design and everything about it is totally undecided… it’s connected to a sort of odd patio, and the layout of the room has some issues (no surprise)… then the garage and outdoor area… then possibly we can go back and work on some of the smaller details I had wanted, but sacrificed in the name of just moving forward.


  8. Cathie
    February 26, 2013 @ 9:04 pm

    Hi Victoria,

    I have to say this post brought back so many memories of when my husband and I bought and renovated an older house much like yours. We had just moved the last of our things in when he tore out the kitchen and I spent the rest of the time during renovation cooking in an electric wok in the down stairs’ bathroom. He tore down walls, removed lathe and plaster (and looked like a mud baby while doing it), re-plumbed, re-wired, insulated, sheet rocked, put in new bathrooms, built kitchen cabinets, many built-in bookcases, a window seat and bookcases in the bedroom, tore off the front entry and built a new one with a sun room all while we lived in the house. When I asked him how long it would take he said he’d be done in August, When that didn’t happen he said,” I didn’t say what year. I sooo feel you when I see pictures of rooms with only framed walls, and wanting to contain the mess. People I worked with who came to our house used to ask me how I always could be so clean at work. I totally get the power struggle that goes on. It can be really rough and scary for you as a couple. But we survived the renovation ( although later he kept tripping and falling into other women’s vaginas and I had to send him on his way). And it was definitely worth all the plaster dust up my nose and tripping over 2 x 4’s, Our house turned out so well despite the conflict, chaos, grubby mess, and maddening decisions that had to be made. You will be so proud to know you did it all yourselves. I guess I’m trying to say, “You are not alone.”


    • Victoria Elizabeth Barnes
      February 27, 2013 @ 11:02 am

      I’m framing this comment. I kid you not. Greatest gift I’ve ever received… from cooking in an electric wok to the tripping-into other women’s vaginas. (I suppose technically, that part is NOT funny. But I laughed at the phrasing. And one of the commenters below you also thought it was the “greatest line ever”)

      Looking back at the photos, I actually had forgotten HOW BAD it was. The sheer amount of dirt… and how it just becomes “normal.” (Kind of) Our kitchen is next, and I am dreading it. How everything just gets ripped apart, and stacked in other rooms, and you have to rinse lettuce in the bathtub… I know how great it will be when it’s done, but my resistance to the idea of yet another project is… what? I don’t know, fill in the blank. You know the feeling.

      I would just go stay at my parents until it was finished… I know Paul would be thrilled. But I cannot give up my inner control freak… Plus I know he would do things like stack buckets of plaster in the foyer until trash day… and the foyer is actually clean…

      Thank you so much for your comment. This blog has gone a long way towards making me feel like there is a group of people out there who DO think it’s normal to suspend your life in service to fixing up a house. And that theoretically it will all be worth it.


  9. Stacey
    February 26, 2013 @ 11:36 pm

    At our house its my way… Or …. my way! So now who’s the control freak. Then again since I’m the one doing the work and he’s laying on the bed reading books all day I guess it has to be my way. What kills me is 3 months later he’ll complain that there are other ways of doing things and I didn’t do them right. Okay… I’m sure this is why I now have to wear a night guard because my dentist says I’m grinding my teeth into nubs.

    I don’t think there are any couples that go through a renovation that don’t feel this frustration. Divorce just seems crazy because you’ve worked too damn hard. (lol). Of course falling into other people vaginas might just force that move. ( that was the best line ever! ).

    Love all your pictures Victoria. That one of you looking down through the floors says so much!
    Looking forward to more. The posts just get better and better. Renos aren’t for wusses!


    • Victoria Elizabeth Barnes
      February 27, 2013 @ 12:26 pm

      This house has made our marriage feel bipolar sometimes… Fine one day, insane the next… fantastic one day, terrible the next.

      I’ve stopped seeing it as a reflection of our relationship, and try to see it as a result of the situation. AND of our personalities. It’s just who we are… NOT laid back. I guess hopefully we’ll get better at it?

      Although, frankly… Neither of us seems to have budged so far.

      My divorce fantasy USED to be that I moved out and got an apartment. Just me, the cat… clean space… and Paul could come over for dinner and a movie. Now? No more… I am NOT leaving this house. HE can go live in an apartment.


  10. Alex @ northstory
    February 27, 2013 @ 10:54 am

    Your post reminds me of my parents growing up. My dad would buy a home, renovate it, sell it, repeat. This was pre HGTV’s flipping phenomenon. I moved 8 times from grade 1-8 b/c of this and all I constantly remember is a lot of sawdust and renovations and paint and on and on. Bryan Baeumler on HGTV calls it ‘divorce dust’ b/c it takes an insane toll on a marriage. You’re frustrated with the lack of progress, things going wrong and you basically take it out on the person nearest to you. Fun times!
    For me – even though we live in a McHome in the burbs – one of the reasons we haven’t tackled the basement (aside from having to save more money to do it) is b/c we know WW3 will happen as we’re both perfectionists. And if something doesn’t go right, God help the poor wood in there. I found the demolition process much too cathartic.
    MUCH too cathartic.
    But can you imagine how amazing your place is going to look at the end of it all? If my front porch had a quarter of the character yours does I’d be happy as kid high on sugar.


    • Victoria Elizabeth Barnes
      February 27, 2013 @ 5:51 pm

      I’ve never heard the term “divorce dust,” but that sounds about right. It’s weird how you’re most comfortable being irritated with the people closest to you… I guess because you know they’ll still love you no matter what (although, I suppose there’s a fine line there somewhere…)

      In some ways, all these projects HAVE kind of taken the edge off my ideal-project-ism… but only because I’m tired now. You’ll have lots of energy to micromanage and perfect your basement project, so you should probably schedule it to take fourteen times longer than you think… since you’ll have to agonize over every single aspect.


  11. a city girl
    February 27, 2013 @ 5:57 pm

    girl you know I been there. I am on year 6 and I only have a one bedroom house!! i got over all the major stuff and now my biggest annoyances are minor. be glad you are on the supervisory end of the equation. at least you have someone to blame when/if things don’t look like you expected. and be glad you have someone controlling your desire for glossy paint. lol…i was there also and just recently fell in love with eggshell. (probably won’t last though) everything you are doing is coming along great so in the end it will be sooooooo worth it!!


    • Victoria Elizabeth Barnes
      March 1, 2013 @ 9:31 am

      I guess in your case, only being able to get mad at yourself IS kind of frustrating. But I’ve said it before—I am in awe of your ability to get stuff done… and on top of that to find the time to blog about it!!

      Plus, to have the freedom to paint everything any color/sheen you want… although being the one to end up hating it and having to repaint all alone is no fun.


  12. Patina and Company
    February 28, 2013 @ 5:55 pm

    As always, the flawless description of an experience I’m all too familiar with! However, you are very lucky that Paul is that driven to get things done. There is only one thing worse (other than letting drywall dust escape into the rest of the house) and that is when the most controlling one is also the only one really concerned with seeing the end results!


    • Victoria Elizabeth Barnes
      March 1, 2013 @ 9:32 am

      True… if it were just me, I would have no dust or dirt (and also some VERY shiny paint) but nothing would be done. In fact, I might not even have unpacked… I might have just laid down in the foyer and given up.


  13. Heidi S.
    February 28, 2013 @ 10:16 pm

    Victoria, you are so amusing! Renovations are really hard on relationships (especially with opinionated spouses). Our biggest issues are with keeping motivated after we are 90% done and both tired. I usually end up finishing the projects because I can’t take it anymore. Clearly I need to borrow Paul for a little bit so I can get some things finished around here.

    I feel like I have generally given up on containment around here. Although I was super happy when we were just working in the basement and I could close the door (except of course when I was doing laundry last spring with a literal dirt pile in front of the washer). Now we are about to embark on some major demo in the upstairs hall, where there is no real way to contain the mess. Yuck! I may need to consider moving to the basement for a while (which is still only 95% complete).


    • Victoria Elizabeth Barnes
      March 1, 2013 @ 10:01 am

      Paul is always eager to move on to the next phase of whatever’s going on, and I’ll usually be stuck with the small finishing details… and I’m terrible at completing ANYTHING. Plus, I’ll begin it with all super-controlling intentions of doing it PERFECTLY. And then as it drags on and on… until I’m like oh—who cares. And either abandon it, or force Paul to finish it.

      I almost posted a photo of our laundry room, and actually decided it was too horrifying. It was when everything was shoved in there from another bedroom, on top of the boxes that were already in there… on top of a ripped out wall… and I was like—you know? I really don’t need people knowing I lived like that. AND got used to it. (although some here would think it was totally normal…)


  14. TKraft Art & Interiors
    February 28, 2013 @ 10:48 pm

    Gotta say reading this blog and comments is way better than watching TV, who could make up this stuff. We’re living the ‘plastic barrier’ life at home with endless projects and doing it daily for clients. Some days he’s boss but most days it’s me or at least he make me feel that way. Its fun to read we’re not alone on this Crazy Train. FYI tomorrow’s March 1st and I’m still digging ‘your inspiration’ disco balls hanging off my kitchen chandelier, THANKS!


    • Victoria Elizabeth Barnes
      March 1, 2013 @ 10:18 am

      Disco balls are always in season. I have an old plant stand with multiple arms… it’s in a window in the dining room, and for some reason it took me ALL this time to realize I should put one on one of the arms… from about 10-12, the whole dining room is sparkly. Paul was like, I see where this is going…

      p.s.- depending on the tv show, I’d probably rather be watching a fictional land of makebelieve… lol.


  15. Alex - Old Town Home
    March 1, 2013 @ 10:46 pm

    We went through this very same phase. The idea that the house must remain livable in spite of whatever disastrous project may be ongoing was a hard one at first, especially when so little was actually livable. But eventually we replaced my desire to bulldoze ahead on projects and Wendy’s insistence on a partially clean area with good old fashioned arguments. Yep, rather than work effectively and efficiently we just decided to yell at one another and do what the hell we pleased. This was a poor decision, and one that didn’t last very long. Eventually we got to a point where we understand projects will take longer but will end better if all parties involved in said project are happy. It may not be the shortest point from A to B, but it’s the route that will not make a stop off at the big D.


    • Victoria Elizabeth Barnes
      March 2, 2013 @ 6:00 pm

      In some ways, I think we’ve gotten better. Paul has to some extent come to terms with the limitations enforced by his wife’s strange preoccupation with dirt… And, as more and more of the house has become livable, it’s easier for me to be less fixated on it. When it was the WHOLE house it was too much… Also, I think we’ve both gotten better at accepting the irritation that flares up, and don’t take it nearly as personally as we used to.

      Although? I have a strong suspicion that if I were to go visit my best friend for a week, while the kitchen was under construction? Paul’s adherence to the “guidelines” might be lax.


  16. Jessica@CapeofDreams
    March 5, 2013 @ 7:53 pm

    How are things going at the circus? You crack me up!


  17. Tanya
    April 9, 2013 @ 3:20 pm

    So…my fiance and I just had a 6 hr one way road trip to Bethlehem PA this weekend and I spent most of the drive down reading to him from your blog because
    a) you are hysterically funny
    b) my fiance thinks Paul is his new hero
    and c) I am insistent upon having a “safe non construction zone” room in our house which currently has ripped up floors (his project) and dangling wallpaper because I haven’t gotten a ladder tall enough to strip it yet (my project) and the list goes on and on and on…
    Thanks so much for blogging, we loved it! I signed up for updates!


    • Victoria Elizabeth Barnes
      April 10, 2013 @ 2:28 pm

      This is going in my “favorite comments” folder… for days when I ask myself why I am spending so much time here on this blog… which, by the way, sounds to me like you have a blog in your future… it also sounds like I am too late to warn you away from doing any of this?

      I’m entertained that your fiancé thinks Paul is doing something right… Paul sometimes reads my posts and comments—people must think I’m a total ass… so I’ll be sure to tell him otherwise.

      I think generally people relate to his suffering as inflicted by me, but it’s hard to always know how total strangers will react to us… we are not Young House Love…

      Thanks so much for writing me; comments from non-bloggers are kind of rare, and I have no way of knowing who is out there, reading me… You really, really, really made my day.

      p.s.- I guess you saw that I’m in Philadelphia, and therefore relatively near Bethlehem…


      • Tanya
        June 19, 2013 @ 12:37 pm

        No blogging for me! I suspect a years worth of posts about painting trim white and stupid ceilings might not be the most interesting reading, no matter how many different swear words I use. And you are correct, there is no going back for me, I actually bought a house that needs updating on purpose! Oh, hindsight, 20/20…smacks forehead.
        Glad to be caught up on reading your blog.. I can’t believe I missed the fancy garden trowel giveaway! I bookmarked your post about the outside plantings for the day I finally can acknowledge that I have an outside. Which should be in about a year (or five). Thanks for making me laugh!


      • Mia
        October 18, 2014 @ 8:37 am

        You cannot be surprised that she read your blog to her fiancé on that trip..! LOL In reading this myself, I can’t WAIT to do the very same thing to my hubby of 46 years..! Problem is, I’m usually the one driving.. (I’m sure hubby would ‘thank God for small favors’..! LOL) I’m totally impressed by Paul, myself… I DO think I am MOST impressed that he can DANCE, however..!! LOL ..THEN comes the renovation impressiveness… (is that a word?) Actually, I KNOW this is going to sound crazy, but your blog is making me WANT to ‘open walls’.. SEE the influence you both have on others..! SCARY, ehy..?! Keep up the good work! I’m sorry I’m commenting on this a year and a half after the fact, but I’m not sure I could have lived it ‘day to day’… Reading it all together is much more ‘fun’ (for me!!). I’m not sure there WILL BE an ‘end’, but I’ll keep reading and following links into this ‘labyrinth of lunacy’ (and I say that in a totally loving way!!) until the book comes out..! LOL I don’t even know you, but think I love you both for attempting this (and I use this term loosley..) renovation..! Have to keep reading… Have a great day..!


  18. Lisa
    June 28, 2013 @ 10:30 pm

    I love your blog. This entry makes me think of the house in “It’s A Wonderful Life” – remember when George and Mary throw stones at the glass and make a wish? And then she roasts a chicken using a turntable on their wedding night while the pouring rain leaks through posters lining the windows? Creative containment. Yes. This is the image in my mind after reading. Except funnier. Thanks for writing…


  19. Laura
    June 29, 2013 @ 1:20 pm

    Just so you know, I am holding you responsible for me liberally spraying my computer screen with coffee in an unexpected spit take.

    You can make this up to me by telling me where that fabulous white wrap (that you are so expertly modeling on the choo choo traing) came from, for I have enormous envy.


  20. Ellieliz
    June 30, 2013 @ 10:59 am

    OK, STOP BEING SO AWESOME AND RELATABLE!! I did not need another blog to obsessively read while my children nap!
    All seriousness, thanks for sharing your story and I cant wait to read on! (I just read the first three posts about how you got to where you are now and Im HOOKED! I also love all things Victorian, since I was a little girl!! I have been collecting things since I was little, and my mama always encouraged it, finding me the best antiques!


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