Saturday, February 22, 2014

Doing Right by the House

Remodeling the laundry room

Two weeks ago my husband and I showed our house to a potential buyer, a referral from one of our studio guests. Our house isn't on the market yet; we're not done remodeling, but that didn't bother her. She had remodeled four houses with her husband over the years before he died, and in months of looking for a home on our island, she hadn't found anything she liked.

Then she saw our house. She truly appreciated the choices we made, understood our efforts to stay true to the 1950's design using currently available products, and said several times that we'd “done right by the house.” She also told us about several homes she toured that hadn’t been done right by—a wall of windows boarded up in one case.

Staging our living room

It was this awareness of doing right by the house that struck with me. It’s not a phrase my husband and I have used ourselves, but it’s been our intention for this house that we live in, the project house we are working on now, and the homes we will renovate in the future.

Doing right by the house is also an attitude not everyone shares, something my husband and have begun to realize as we expand our interactions with others in the business of home renovation. For some lenders and investors, flipping homes is about making a quick buck; expediency and price are motivating factors, not what a house “deserves” in order to maintain the integrity of design.

The room divider and hardwood floors original to our house

The woman left our home with plans to buy it. Late last night, we heard it wouldn’t work out, but it was a wonderful experience showing it to her. Not the usual circumstance for sellers who are asked to disappear from the house while strangers tromp around with agents and look at forms to tell them what they need to know about the house. There was a human connection: we shared bits of our story, and she hers. We all wanted to do right by each other and this house.

I was disappointed when I found out. I cried for a few minutes. I wrote in my journal. Not because I don’t think our house will sell on the MLS, but because it would’ve have been so easy to write up a contract with her and know something, one solid thing, about our future.

I had no idea when I titled my blog This or Something Better two and a half years ago, that the title phrase would be an ongoing operating principle and mantra. But it has grounded me when I get preoccupied wondering what’s going to happen next. I don't know and not knowing, which used to terrify me, has become familiar, an ongoing opportunity to live out my faith in a way that goes beyond words and proclamations, it strips away everything that isn’t essential.

“I don’t blame her at all,” my husband said reacting to the news about the buyer.

“Me either,” I said, “It would just be nice to know one thing about our lives.”

“I know one thing,” he said. “I love you.”

“And that’s the most important thing,” I answered.


  1. Love this post and the truth behind it; that what is important and essential is what we possess now. Your faithful living is a witness to many, dear friend.

  2. What I know..Kevin and Cathy did right by all the homes they remodeled and lived happily ever after. The houses and new buyers were filled with love.