Friday, March 25, 2022
It was big and grand and also falling down around itself. I’d walked past that house for years, wondering what the story was. Then one day a for sale sign went up followed by many small flurries of activity. I found out that the elderly lady who had lived there for many years had recently passed. It was now someone else’s turn. It was going to be a big turn because that house was huge. It was like three houses: first a big old Mansard with a regal front, followed by a hefty in-between section then finishing off with an enormous carriage house/barn-like structure at the end, all connected.
The house sold fast and the rehab started even faster. I couldn’t see what was going on inside but outside was like watching one of those home renovation shows where in the impossible space of a day or a week a place goes from eyesore to ooo la la.
Landscaping-wise, two symmetrical rows of hostas soon escorted visitors to the door while matching Camperdownii weeping elms placed on either side stood at attention. Out on the sidewalk a mild riot of unruly quince ran the length of the house followed by a double row of daylilies, orange in the front, black in the back, stretching almost to the corner at which point two espaliered apple trees, their flattened limbs tied and trained on two long frames, finished the parade.
On the house front, great sample patches of color appeared on the sides. I favored the gray with an undertone of violet but wasn’t overly critical when the slate blue/gray with a deeper blue accent came out on top. I happened to be walking by as the owner deliberated over color for the front door so I wedged myself into the discussion by calling out how beautiful everything was looking. After a minute of shouting back and forth the lady came over for a proper conversation at which point I made a persuasive case for dramatic and imposing black door. Not persuasive enough though because it’s now blue. (And a bit too bright.)
This was three or four years ago. But just the other day as I was approaching their house from the back, I noticed something for the first time. They never finished painting the house. The paint on the back side of the carriage house stopped about 5 or 6 feet up from the bottom. One can of paint would have done it. After applying 79 gazillion gallons of paint over vast surfaces and intricate moldings with a cherry picker, they came up empty on the very last can? I didn’t think it could be a matter of budget. You wouldn’t even have to use a ladder.
I love it. Not in a “I gotcha” way but a “I see you” way. It is so utterly human to fall a little short and the house is all the more beautiful and interesting for it. I’d like to think that if the house was sending a message it would be, “Go big, be grand, but also a little undone. Leave some room for humility and some space for someone else’s grand story.”
I always like people better when they’re at least a little imperfect. The vulnerability allows for connection. I wonder if the owners intentionally left the back unfinished as an invitation to see past the paint.
To being unfinished and a little imperfect,