The full gamut of renovations

Home improvement, in my experience, has three categories: voluntary, for added comfort, luxury, beauty or efficiency; necessary, for property maintenance; and emergency, required by terrible and unforeseen occurrences. Since our move two and a half years ago, I’ve grown familiar with each type.   

I am a writer. My home is my workplace. During renovation, my muse rebels—before she runs away and hides.

We didn’t purchase a fixer-upper. Our choice, quirky and architecturally distinctive, was a combination of antique and contemporary construction. Not a project house, but one in need of upgrades—to be completed in the six weeks between the closing date and our move-in date.

On moving day, only our master suite was finished.

As we, our dogs and the characters of my unfinished novel settled into our new abode, we shared it with a painter; flooring and carpet installers; electricians; plumbers; and others. My years as a forest-dwelling writer-hermit hadn’t prepared me for constant human presence and daily social interaction. I could no longer work in my pajamas. I had to wear normal clothing. I was often called upon to answer urgent questions and make quick decisions.

Retreating into my fictional realm proved impossible in the midst of sawing, pounding and smashing. The inevitable solution to more than one “issue” involved a jackhammer. Far more of my creativity was directed toward establishing new gardens than in writing book chapters. By keeping busy outdoors, I could escape the noise and dust filling the house.

Our summer of disruption was followed by an autumn of contentment.

Each morning my husband departed for his office—often on foot—leaving me in sole possession of the renovated rooms, to write in peace and silence.

Two weeks before Christmas, we hosted our first party and incorporated a house blessing ceremony into the festivities.

The addition of a whole-house generator and new gas range was scheduled for the new year. By January, the ground was frozen, but the pipes had to be buried. Cue the jackhammer!

Subzero temperatures along with an inadequately insulated wall and a water pipe combined to wreck our renovated kitchen. By the time we located the hidden leak, the floodwaters extended almost to the foyer. Enter the insurance adjuster, the demolition crew and a mitigation company with giant roaring fans that dried out the space. Our large kitchen appliances were removed and stored in my cherished library.

Members of the restoration team tried to comfort me with horror tales of disasters far worse than ours. I took solace from my ability to produce gourmet meals using a two-burner hot plate, a slow cooker and a microwave. Our survival was never in doubt, but progress on the novel was limited.

Spotting a promotional poster for a long-ago bookstore appearance on the garage wall, our carpenter asked, “So, what are you writing now?” “Not much,” I confessed.

Outdoor maintenance was the summer theme. New roof. Chimney repointing and capping. Removal of the terracotta lining of our working chimney, circa 1890, was essential for installation of a metal liner. This process required—you guessed it—a jackhammer. And drills. And scraping tools I don’t have words for. But we gained a safe and workable woodstove.

And after the workers departed, I finished my novel.

At our last house, we waited too long to renovate. Afterward, my husband and I repeatedly wondered, “Why didn’t we do it sooner?” At the time of our move, we agreed to do everything, from the beginning, to create the house of our dreams. And we have. Almost.

In addition to my author events and researching the next book, I’m consulting our designer and selecting new fixtures for our master bathroom—an upgrade so simple, my muse will hardly notice! 

Categories: At Home in NH