Thursday, December 10, 2009

Get Fired Up About Home Improvement

Guess What This Fireplace Looked Like Before...

You've gotta hand it to people like Todd and Marlene Capron, an enthusiastic Brooklyn couple featured in today's New York Times. Despite being renters, the Caprons had the initiative to negotiate a labor-for-rent-reduction deal with their landlords. They also apparently care enough about design to refurbish their dilapidated rental tastefully. Indeed, when you look at the fruits of their labors you realize their landlord got a pretty sweet deal, too.

The Caprons ripped out walls, re-tiled bathrooms and, yes, restored the fireplace. In fact, if you flip through the slide show that accompanies the article you'll see they actually restored two fireplaces -- one in the living room, the other in the bedroom. In both cases, they took what appeared to be a pretty desperate situation and turned it upside-down. I mean, seriously: go look at the before-and-after pics.

These guys knew what they were doing. That, or they did their homework. Either way, it shows.

What I like most about people like the Caprons, however, is their attitude, which I find inspiring. I've restored a few houses in my time, but I'd be lying if I said I've always enjoyed it. Apart from restoring fireplaces, I frequently find home improvement work tedious, if not downright frustrating. It's not that I can't do it or don't know how; it's that I don't really want to start a new project in the first place.

Take down an old mantel and repair some damaged brick, as the Caprons did? No problem. Scrub the old brick and throw on a little fireplace paint? Piece of cake. I could do that kind of home improvement every day for the rest of my life and never grow tired of it. But that's easy stuff, if you ask me, and the rewards are dramatic and come pretty quickly. Re-tiling a bathroom, on the other hand, well, I'd rather hire a professional.

But then I read about a couple like the Caprons and I realize home improvement is home improvement, whether you're looking at a busted-up hearth or a broke-down bath. Yeah, I happen to be schooled in fireplace renovation and know a thing or two about masonry, but that doesn't mean I can't tackle other home improvement projects with comparable gusto.

In the end, anything I do to improve my home should be worth it, and nothing should deter me. Besides that, a restored fireplace should look even better in a fully restored house. My wife's going to be thrilled...

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