Thoughts about Home: Part Two

Continued from Part One*

Part Two: The Physical Location – How Do You Make a Place Your Home? 

When you own a house, you have the right to change whatever you’d like. This is assuming you aren’t breaking any zoning ordinances or design review standards, of course. And to quell the rumor: if you have a house listed in the National Register of Historic Places, you are only required to follow state and federal review if you are receiving state or federal permits or money. A listing does not dictate your every move with your house. Still, you should respect the historic integrity of your house and community. But, aside from that, let’s talk about making a place a home in terms of the tangible elements.

How do homeowners begin to make their mark? Paint is the first and easiest answer. Gwynn lives in Northern California and though she rents, she plans to immediately paint when she does own a house. A fresh coat of paint does wonders. Removing wall to wall carpets is an easy (albeit annoying) task that can immediately change the look of your house.

When we own a place, often the best way to go about making a place your home is by living in it for a while and getting to know it, as Jim suggests: “I prefer to buy a place I can live in for several years as is, while I get to know it and form plans for how to make it more mine. In this case, I have been slowly taking up the carpets so I can live on the hardwood floors that lurk beneath, and I remodeled the bathroom, but that’s it over the six years I’ve been here.”

Jane (Vermont) sees her house as an on-going project, too: “I am removing the vinyl siding, replacing the ‘lifetime replacement windows’….insulating as I go. Maybe some day I will get to the kitchen. We’ve done the basics: roof, plumbing, electrical, heating.”

Yet, if you rent, what can you do? Most landlords allow you to paint in reasonable colors. Nothing neon or black (probably not even pink). White is a good option to make everything look fresh and clean. Colors add life to apartments. Some landlords are kind enough to upgrade appliances or door locks. Others landlord will let you do work, as long as they do not have to pay for it.

My experience has been the latter: my landlords are happy to allow me to paint or make minor repairs on my own dime. I’ll always paint because the standard beige/off-white apartment wall color is too blasé for me. If I’m going to live in a place for a year or more, I’ll gladly invest in a few cans of paint and hours of my time (and I love to paint). My biggest endeavor to date is a drop ceiling removal (which is another story, but one that was done out of sheer necessity. My pet peeve is a drop ceiling – a filthy, mismatched, aesthetically unpleasing one at that).

And for those who cannot do any painting? Our stuff – furniture, linens, artwork makes all the difference, of course. Dave (NYC) writes, “Moving into a house or apartment is part of the process too, arranging furniture and kitchen gear makes the place our home.” Lani writes, “I live in Chiang Mai Thailand, a growing mid-sized city, in an apartment that I rent. Since I move frequently, I feel like the first thing I want to change is the wall color! I wish I could but never can. Nevertheless, I almost always manage to make where ever I live more like home.”

We all seem to be on similar wavelengths: clean up the place. Paint if we can. Lovingly arrange our belongings. And if we own our homes, then take on one project at a time. For those who are renters and crazy enough to take on projects for the goodwill of the house, I’d like to hear your stories.

Anything we missed?

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*Hiatus to due to holiday distractions. Thanks for your patience. 

National Trust Paint Colors at Lowe’s

For anyone who has been painting lately or for anyone who has been in Lowe’s lately, you may have noticed that select paint chips at Lowe’s are labeled with the National Trust for Historic Preservation logo. My first reaction: why is the National Trust partnering with a big-box retailer that puts small hardware stores out of business? Why not Ace Hardware or somewhere similar? I have no idea, but I’m sure the Trust has its reasoning. Thoughts?

Valspar, the paint brand of Lowe’s, teamed up with the National Trust to develop over 250 historic paint colors used at the Trust’s historic sites across the country. (See the National Trust’s blog.) The colors are labeled by the site name (i.e. Lyndhurst, Woodlawn, Oatlands, Grand Hotel, Jekyll Island Club, and many more). In the paint chip display at Lowe’s, the colors are not separated from the rest of the Valspar colors, but are identified by the Trust’s logo. This makes it possible for anyone to choose a Trust color, even if someone who is not looking for a historic paint color. The National Trust receives a portion of the proceeds from the paint and Valspar supplies paint to the historic sites.

While I’m not necessarily proud to announce that I shopped at Lowe’s for recent apartment fixer-up materials, I’m happy to say that Vinny and I chose colors from the Valspar National Trust colors. And since Lowe’s is one of two most common home improvement warehouses in the country, at least the Trust’s paint colors will be exposed to anyone who is shopping for paint.