I don’t have it out for contracting businesses on Cape Cod – In fact I am friends with a few contractors and they’re amazing people – but I want to say that what’s in today will be very “out” tomorrow. Stop remodeling, redoing, tearing down, gutting or otherwise; think about it. Trends don’t last long – case in point – my very stylish architect friend said two words: “white paint” when she first saw my house 10 years ago. Last year she looked at the same features and said: “This dark wood is in now.”
My Cape Cod house did look a little like Holly Hobbie’s country farm when we first saw the place, complete with a wood stove, lots of wooden beams and the pseudo Colonial style furniture and decorations the previous owners had. But it was move-in ready, it was clean.
We didn’t have a budget to remodel, and frankly we didn’t see the need. I took the Holly Hobbie vibe and added bright local art and some colorful furniture and viola – the house looks gorgeous. I once read that homes built in the 1970s are the most difficult to sell. Sure lots of them are ugly or have some scary color combinations in the bathroom, for example. But I caution people who are really into appearances for appearances sake.
I have a friend who lost her home – yes you read that correctly – lost her home because she went into serious debt after a $30K bathroom remodel which she could not pay for. As Americans we live outside our means; we also like new, new, new. What is the dark underbelly of new, new, new? Well my friend losing her home and being homeless, for one. And landfills.
“According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) study, an estimated 8,000 lbs of waste is created from the construction of a 2,000 square foot home.” And wait for this stat – did you know that 30% of our landfills – 30% – are home renovation debris? Thats 30% of 250 million tons which was what the US had in landfills 10 years ago (probably lots more now). The environment, and ultimately our health and our children’s health, is paying for those glistening white kitchens. Homeadvisor.com where I got that stat also tells us that “buildings make up 40% of the energy and materials around the world”. I’ve linked to their site, if you are wealthy enough to do a massive remodel, or build a new home (why, why, why?) please for the sake of the rest of us who need clean drinking water, etc try to spend the extra bucks and make it a green remodel. The contractor will make more, and you may even save money. You will save the environment and get brownie points from Mother Nature. Please go green or don’t remodel your home.
When I talk about sustainability in this blog, I am not talking about rich people sustainability. Sure who wouldn’t love to have a three thousand dollar recycled wood dining room table, and a state of the art green home. I sure would. But I will let you in on a secret. I have bought furniture at Target. I am not concerned about dirty looks. Because it was what I could afford. I have bought rugs at discount stores. But those rugs have lasted for years. The thing about sustainability, it’s not about impressing someone, it’s about trying to be the best you can to save money and respect the environment. And sometimes even support local businesses if you can.
So for my Holly Hobbie house, I bought a gorgeous original art from these artists: John Tunney, Charles Harden, Sarah Holl. It wasn’t cheap. But damn it was worth it. I look at my original art every day. It’s like I live in an art gallery. I definitely have lots of cheap pieces though. I love kitschy stuff too. Sarah Holl had been working on pieces for Cape Cod Hospital maternity ward; they’re incredible huge, beautiful pieces. One had a tiny blemish, not noticeable really, and she gave it to me for a discount. I transformed my house from a 70s, brown wood, fake colonial style to a chic, modern, colorful home with art and color.
The house has great bones, in fact people often think it was built in the 1700s; it was built in 1979. It has wonderful high ceilings in some areas. Sure it has somewhat dated kitchen cabinets, but they’re real wood. I don’t need a $30,000 kitchen. The kitchen is fine. It works. I don’t want to add to our landfills, and honestly I don’t have the money for a new kitchen, or new bathrooms. I live with a few blemishes, a few scrapes, a few nicks. My house is kind of like me.