Friday, April 3, 2009

Are We Done Yet?

by Susan McBride

Before I met Ed and we bought a house together, I didn't have cable. I never watched TV much so I didn't feel like I was missing anything. Once we put our names on a mortgage and combined our worldly goods (okay, mostly my worldly goods and a few of his that went into his basement Man Cave), I realized the addiction that is HGTV. I think the first weekend after Charter turned on our cable, I watched 12 hours of a "Design Star" marathon. Needless to say, I was totally hooked. When I went through my breast cancer stuff and was forced to take mandatory bed rest, I probably watched every HGTV show ever produced.

And it's like the "Harry Potter" movies for me: I can watch the same shows over and over and over. Scary, isn't it? I love to see ugly rooms transformed in under $2,000 ("Designed to Sell") or even under $500 ("Design Cents," although sometimes I think the folks who had the cheap re-do should ask for the money back). Never a fan of clutter, I adore when Tabitha on "Get It Sold" instructs hapless housesellers to pack up their crap. "Look, you can see the gorgeous hardwood floors!" she'll gleefully exclaim after boxes of plastic kids' toys and endless wedding photographs are sent to storage.

The bad thing is that all these shows keep inspiring me to whip our house a little closer to perfection. It's almost there, really. I'm just figuring out what to do about the large bedroom window now that we've gotten rid of a huge old armoire (and an equally huge old TV), moving a few things around so our room seems twice as big. Do I go for the $692 custom lined drapes with walnut rod and rings? Or do I go thrifty and order the $79 per panel silk dupioni drapes from Pottery Barn? (Honestly, I'm having trouble deciding! I keep telling myself the $692 would be helping the economy, right?)

Then there are the shrubs in front of the house that were overgrown when we moved in (I swear, the doctor who owned our house before us didn't trim a shrub or prune a tree in three years). I had Dave from Ray's come out last week and give us an estimate to cut the bushes off at their ankles and dig out the roots. Once they're out of here, we can repair the window frames and screens that have been smothered by evergreen boughs before the grinder comes and runs over my tulips and daffodils.

Oh, yeah, and I still want to remove the oven hood and spray it white with appliance paint (it's the only thing in the kitchen that's original and it doesn't match anything), and I'd like to get all the windows washed, inside and out.

All the while, my husband keeps saying, "Are we done yet?" Which is kind of funny considering the list on the side of the fridge which is full of "future projects." Do men really think a house is like a steak? Is it ever really done?

Perhaps I can blame my drive to decorate, landscape, and fix what needs fixing on HGTV (or, as likely, the joy of having anything to distract me from a fast-approaching deadline). Whatever the cause, I'll promise this: when Clive and Tabitha and Lisa LaPorta finally beautify the last cluttered, paint-peeled, ill-landscaped house in America, I will take down the "to-do" list from the fridge. And we will be done. For real. Maybe.

P.S. I'm in Houston today at the Texas Library Association convention as you read this. I'm also signing stock at the Blue Willow Bookshop, shooting a segment for "Wild About Houston," and signing at Murder by the Book tonight at 6. So any further home improvements will have to wait 'til I get back.


  1. My HGTV addiction has caused me to want to trade in my apartment for a home of my own so that I'll have an excuse to implement all the knowledge I've gained. I'm not sure, though, if my husband understands that owning a home will be just the beginning...

  2. I try not to watch too much television, but on HGTV I really love to catch "House Hunters", especially since they started a couple of seasons ago actually telling you the prices on the houses! I don't know why I'm so captivated by watching and betting on what house they'll choose, etc.

    A special treat is when the international version is on and they spotlight Paris (where I lived for a few years)--I LOVE SEEING THOSE EPISODES!

  3. We don't get that channel and it's probably a good thing.

    When we lived in our little tract house in Oxnard CA with 5 kids, we first added a patio room, tore it down, added a huge family room, then added a covered patio room onto that. We also changed bedrooms around a lot.

    The house we're in now and have been in for 28 years we've added another half to the living room and an upstairs bedroom. For the first 22 years our home was a licensed care facility. Now, with arthritis and bum knees, we've decided to move downstairs. We're remodeling two bedrooms into one. It's nearly done and I can hardly wait.


  4. Home Improvement...Scares me! Put a paintbrush in my hand and stand aside. I'me like Porter Paint, trying to cover the world! (Porter paint, right?)

    Problem is, I wouldn't cover it very WELL...


  5. I'm also hooked on House Hunters, and rarely guess the right house. Or let me rephrase that -- the people who are house hunting rarely buy the right house! I also TIVO Ina Garten/Barefoot Contessa on The Food Channel.

    And last year we finally did what you were suggesting - had all the shrubs in the front of the house ripped out and started over. Wow - what a difference!


    Marian aka Evelyn

  6. Briana, I have a feeling he'll quickly learn what it means! ;-) Have fun with your house!

    Vicky, I love "House Hunters," too, and the cats have finally realized that the "ding-dong" at the beginning of the show isn't our doorbell. I love peeking inside other houses, yes, and seeing what they're supposed to be worth. It's amazing how entertaining that is!

    Marilyn, hallelujah for nearly being done with the remodeling! I know that can be very hard to live through.

    Diana, I love painting, too, as does my mom. When I lived in my condo, I repainted all the walls several times. It's amazing how sometimes just a change of color can change a room.

    Marian, I'm glad to know that ripping out the old shrubs in the front of your house was a worthwhile endeavor. Everytime I go outside now, I think, "Oh, man, it's going to look so much better with these huge things gone." We'll finally be able to see more brick and less insanely overgrown green! I'll let you know how it looks when it's done!

    Now back to catching up from being gone just two days (that felt like a week). Would you believe my cough turned into laryngitis, and I had to croak my way through my way through various Texas Library Association events, book store gigs, and a TV interview? Oy! I'm so glad to be home!