Tenth in a series. I had a vision. Of barn wood. Of driftwood. Of a warm gray surface that stretches across the kitchen, through the great room, out the sliding glass doors and all the way to the edge of the deck.
The floors that came with our house were an eyesore. Green vinyl in the kitchen. Cheap industrial carpet covered the rest of the living area, bedrooms and closets. The ugly plastic fibers held dirt and snagged skin.
The “green” carpet we chose during the first renovation felt soft underfoot. Briefly. Our typical travels through the house were revealed as wear marks. Stains reminded us of every clumsy moment. It is not an environmentally friendly product if you need to throw it out sooner than expected.
In the kitchen, we installed cork. Ourselves. Badly. The click-together boards touted as DIY were not easy for us moderately competent do it yourselfers to wrestle into place. Seams came apart in places most likely to pinch our feet.
Ridding ourselves of the terrible flooring in the great room and kitchen is part of the original plan for the kitchen renovation. We select white oak and upgrade to planks a width that best approximates our decking. The carpet is removed in June and the house feels better. Cleaner. Even with nothing underfoot but rough sheathing.
Skinny Bob installs the planks on a day I work from home. I notice a mermaid tattoo on his arm—a sign I am on the right track with a concept I’m tinkering with in my manuscript for People in Charge: A Novel.
I am surprised by how nice the bare wood feels under bare feet. Warm and comforting. There’s a realness to it that gives me the sense of being grounded. My little lake shack takes on the gravitas of a movie star mansion in Malibu. I breathe in the luxury of real wood and my lungs feel clean.
Time passes and we do nothing to protect the wood. We drag furniture across it, spill, drop crumbs. The wood shrugs. “That’s all ya got?”
We trip over the threshold between wood and where the carpet is to begin again to mark the private wing of the house. Okay, wing is a little grandiose. (Willow, my main character, lives in a mansion with a family wing.) It’s the corner where the bathroom, closet and two bedroom doors meet.
It occurs to us that we have to make a now or never decision. My beloved is beleaguered by the relentlessness of the renovation’s disruption to our home life, yet he agrees. We decide to do away with the remaining carpet, write another check to our contractor, Frank K, and ask Skinny Bob run hardwood through the hallway and into the closet and two bedrooms.
The scope of the project has expanded. Again.
Packing up and moving downstairs is a drag, but the husband and I convince ourselves it will be worth it in the end, and convince ourselves the end is not so far into the future.
Giving tours of our lake shack had always included a game I called “walk uphill.” A previous owner enlarged the master bedroom with a bump-out. It was badly supported, an issue addressed by an engineer hired during the previous renovation.
Guests would follow my direction to walk toward the far wall and, yes, the room sloped upward. So much so that part of making the bed included pushing the mattress back into place against the headboard.
It was just another quirk of our quirky home.
The reason was revealed by the carpet removal. Leveling compound. Layers of it, applied for no understandable reason, made the bedroom un-level. It was bizarre. And an added expense to remedy. I don’t envy Skinny Bob carrying chunks of concrete by the bucketful through the ice and snow and up to the street where his truck was located.
Now the room is level-ish. Much better.
The moment arrives: picking the color. Skinny Bob left us a stained square in the bedroom and another by the double set of sliding glass doors. Are these same shade made different by the light? Is this one perfect or too dark? What we also lack is the ability to compare the floor with the deck, given that it is hidden beneath several inches of snow and ice.
Skinny Bob meets us about half an hour later, on a cold weekday night, drops to his knees and slathers on another patch of stain, wiping it off vigorously. Perfect. The shade is perfect. Gray, while still respecting the wood. Not hiding the grain. Enhancing it.
We seek refuge in New York City for my forty-ninth birthday as Skinny Bob completes staining and sealing the floors. On Sunday night, the cold rolls down the stairs and falls from the landing onto our bed and brings with it the last whiff of VOCs from the fairly benign topcoat.
“Is this giving me a headache?” I ask myself. “No,” I say, but toss and turn anyway.
At last the floors have cured long enough to allow us to move back upstairs. I get my first good night’s sleep in memory, after an evening spent hanging out on the couch. The gleaming floors are smooth and warm underfoot.
I had a vision. The end result is better.