Just pick a spot and start

That's our new motto.

We caught a marathon of Wheeler Dealers a few weeks ago and now we're hooked. In one episode, expert mechanic Edd China is staring down a huge rebuild and says, "there's so much work to do it's hard to know where to begin, just pick a spot and start at it."

We know your pain, man. One of the reasons we chose this particular house was that we knew we couldn't make it worse. Sad but true. However as first-time homebuyers, we also hope that's a good approach: it gives us room to learn and make mistakes.

The flipside is that it's overwhelming at times. It seems that everywhere we look something needs to be repaired or replaced, but just understanding the house has been the first hurdle. The process has involved a combination of researching mid-century Modern design, talking with neighbors, researching the problem at hand (What is this? Is this how it works? Is it broken? Can it be fixed? Should it be fixed? How is it fixed?), and then understanding its context.

Context is key. For a house that has had as many changes as it has had owners, it's a bit like an archaeological dig. And for the past few months, we've been digging.

Some things we were aware of when we bought the house, mainly the non-period finishings (six-panel doors! marble tile!) Other alterations are more evident now after seeing the homes of some of our neighbors. And then there's the whole turf war between historic preservation purists and contemporary renovators, don't even know where we stand on that yet. These people argue over whether or not to paint wood paneling with the same fervor as we argue GIF vs JIF. (BTW, it's JIF).

So to gain some context, I (Geek #2) met with a local historic preservation consultant today. Much of that meeting will be the subject of future posts, and it most certainly helped me gain perspective for what kinds of projects we can attempt on our own (I'm getting fairly skilled at refinishing trim and Geek #1 can wield a mean chainsaw) and where we might need to hire the pros (probably everywhere else).

I'll call him Expert Dave, or MCM Geek #3. He's #3 because you haven't been introduced to #1 or #2 yet. Expert Dave was early on the MCM craze in Denver, he and his wife have lived in their MCM since 1999. Houses in his neighborhood are regularly featured in design magazines; theirs was even the backdrop for a spectacularly cool Mad Men-themed photo shoot.

In walking though our derelict little mod, Expert Dave said, "there's so much going on, so much to do, the only way to approach it is to make up some lists and pick your battles." Though on his way out, he admitted feeling overwhelmed at the loss for what once was and frustration at some of the general thoughtlessness we've seen in past repairs, tiny details that no one but geeks like us would notice.

So we're aligning allies on our side, people who are generous with their knowledge, who genuinely care about craft and community, who can help guide us as we move forward.

We've decided that while we don't know if we can restore the house fully, we want to do what we can while we're here - whether that's one year or 100. And that means whenever the sense of doom washes over us and we feel out of control, just pick a spot and start at it.


Last built: Wed, Mar 5, 2014 at 6:32 PM

By Betsy Kimak, Monday, July 22, 2013 at 3:07 PM. What a long strange trip it's been.