Lake Reflections: Home improvement does not happen in 60 minutes

Peace at Highland Lake. Photo by Jeannette Brodeur.
Peace at Highland Lake. Photo by Jeannette Brodeur.

In all of these home shows on television, when the overly cheerful hosts are helping a sweet couple create the perfect house from an older home with “great bones,” they always pull up the carpet, and voila…the honeyed hardwood floors underneath are just perfect.
The female half of the dynamic duo, usually wearing some sort of polished riding boots that you could never actually wear to pull up a carpet, gasps with delight and after several minutes of them dramatically ripping up an ugly looking carpet, the next camera shot shows a shiny, perfect wooden floor. Why I can practically smell the Murphy’s Oil soap as they push the old carpet back in neat little symmetrical rows.
I’m here to tell you, THIS is not reality. And in our situation, no cheery duo could solve all of our home improvement issues in just 60 minutes.
If I sound a bit cynical, it’s because my sinuses ache from all of the dust kicked up from a very old carpet and the yucky dusty pad underneath it. I’m also exhausted from pulling up tack strips and hundreds of staples. And no one tells you that once you start pulling up the carpet, you have to yank all those tack strips and staples out of the floors so your almost 14-year-old dog doesn’t step on them.
I knew those home shows weren’t real, but I still hoped that our hardwood floors would be close to perfect when we recently pulled up the rugs in our new-to-us 1940s small colonial that we bought on the lake in December. No. It looks like we might have to put hardwood floors over the existing damaged floors we uncovered.
My husband Todd is a bit more optimistic than I am lately. He sees potential in our little gem of a house while all I see are dollar signs and months and years of work ahead for us.
I really shouldn’t complain so much because he’s doing most of the work, and he’s often up working on these kinds of projects until late into the night. He’s caught home improvement fever and the only cure is not more cowbell, but to just keep going.
Our house before we moved here to Winsted was a perfectly fine 1970s raised ranch, but Todd and I have always longed for an older home with lots of character. And when we saw our house here, which does indeed have plenty of character, and views of the lake from almost every room, we were hooked.
When our daughter Jilly first stepped into the house, she said it was like being on vacation, but we get to live here! I thought that was so sweet, but maybe she meant that it’s like a camping vacation where you’re roughing it and you have a bit less than the comforts of home?
I mean I will admit that the house is a bit quirky. Yes. I think that’s a good word to describe this house. First of all, I must confess that we only have ONE bathroom. Yep. I mean our oldest is away at college and Jilly works a lot, but that still leaves Todd and I and our 21-year-old son, Aaron. I shouldn’t complain because when Todd and I were growing up, our families only had one bathroom. And we both walked four miles uphill to school in the cold with no shoes! Well, that part isn’t true but that’s what we tell the kids. I will say sharing a single bathroom is probably the hardest thing for Todd and me since because of our advancing ages, we’re the ones who tend to need the bathroom a bit more often.
Also, the one bathroom is on the first floor and the bedrooms are on the second floor, so I will say I am adding to my daily fitness goals by getting up each night and heading up and down the stairs to use the bathroom. Todd says he will be adding another bathroom upstairs in the next few years, but who knows, by then, we may be too old to go up and down these stairs.
Another quirk of “Chez Brodeur” is the plumbing. We can’t do laundry and shower at the same time because of the interesting pipe configuration. Well, you could technically do both, but you wouldn’t be able to have hot water for the shower. So you have to turn the valve to the right for a shower and left for laundry. I try to make it fun by telling Aaron that it’s left for laundry. Ha…fun, right?
And when a house is a bit smaller, it does pose a challenge where to put the cat box. The one good part about this is that I finally convinced Todd to buy a more pricey, automatic cat box that cleans itself. So far, so good, but we may have to take out a second mortgage to pay for these fancy litter trays we have to use each time.
I may sound like I’m complaining a lot about this little house of ours, but it is lovely. I love our older kitchen because the big windows look right out into our pretty, and smaller, backyard where the birds and the squirrels love to frolic each day. And the large windows throughout the house are perfect for the cats to sit and watch the birds all day.
We have lovely old wooden doors with beautiful glass door knobs for every room and I learned a new word from my husband. Escutcheon. These are the lovely metal plates below these glass doorknobs that are quite elaborate little works of art themselves. You definitely won’t see these in the 1970s raised ranch.
And the radiators we have are also works of art, each one is different, and it’s a perfect spot to warm your towel before a shower in the morning. And speaking of warm, this house is very cozy and warm. Our heating bills have been cut in half, thanks to a gas furnace and less square footage to heat.
Another wonderful thing about our house is our older son’s very sweet friend grew up in this very house. Our new neighbors seem very nice and when Aaron and I walk at the lake each day, people in cars going by are starting to give us a friendly wave as we go. We have even made friends with Steve, who rides his bike at the lake each day when we are walking. I guess we’re officially locals now! And we haven’t even experienced summer here yet, but we can’t wait. So for all its eccentricities, we love it here and we feel just like the excited couples who hit the jackpot and get to choose their dream house on the “My Lottery Dream Home” show. I just wish we had a million dollars like they did to work on this house.