I LOVE INTERIOR DESIGN. Always have. When I was 17 we moved out of the 900 square foot house I had lived in all my life to a home with 4 bedrooms. It was my senior year in high school and we thought we had died and gone to heaven. I had been sleeping in the basement on cardboard boxes for so long that I didn’t even know what it would be like to actually have a bedroom. Of course I shared it with my sister, but hey, it was an actual room. And I wanted it to be perfect.
I was always just a little bit different. I knew this. But in design this really came out. The walls in this new bedroom were pink. So were the curtains. EWWW! This was so not me. My sister, on the other hand was very conservative and so was my mom. One day on a whim I decided that I wanted to paint the entire room black and white. My mother wouldn’t hear of it. Frankly I knew she had no taste and that if I could just show her she would be able to see for herself. So I decided to do it anyway. I bought the paint and waited for a Saturday when I knew she would be gone for quite a while. I figured that if she flipped out I would just repaint. No big deal. Remember, I was 17.
Along with the black and white paint I got red dye. I tore the room apart and put the curtains and the bedspread in the washer with the red die. And, I began painting. I painted two walls black and two walls white. Then I painted the natural wood dressers white and painted the handle hardware black. There were hardwood floors in the bedroom so I used my waitress money to purchase a red throw rug and a blow up plastic throw pillow that was clear with black polka dots on it. I also found a real psychedelic end table that was a modern art type of print in black and white. I did all of this in one afternoon. It was a major transformation; not only of the room, but of me. I could feel that I was creative. I was so excited inside.
My mom was a very stubborn woman. She came home and smelled the paint and before she even entered the room she was ranting “I told you NO!” I stepped outside the door and pleaded, letting her know that it only took me an afternoon and that if she hated it I would put it back. The room was perfect, down to the last detail. I opened the door and she gasped. Even SHE had to admit that it was amazing. Of course this admission was under her breath. Only after many of her friends came by to view it over the next couple of weeks did I hear her say to them in a whispering voice. “That Jan always has been talented.” Never told me that, but that’s okay I knew. And, I worked my whole life to overhear those comments she made to her friends when she thought I wasn’t listening. It drove me.
This bedroom story is just the backdrop to give you a flavor for how much I truly do love to create and recreate. I picture houses and rooms in my mind. And whenever I go to someone’s house or a restaurant or a shop, I mentally redecorate it. In my heart of hearts I know that I invented Extreme Makeover Home Edition!
So when I got married and moved to Colorado I found myself in a situation with no money. My husband was in construction. He worked as a framer and the building industry came to a screeching halt back in 1972 when it was determined there was a shortage on oil. They closed all the gas stations on Sundays, they cut off all building permits and my husband had no work. I was pregnant with our first son and he ended up being born 2 months early and spent his first 30 days in the hospital. We made a little over $5,000 that year.
So we found a farm house that was for rent in Niwot, Colorado. It needed a lot of work. As a matter of fact, chickens lived in it before we did. I’m not joking; actual chickens. This became a quest for me. I had a blank canvas. The landlord told us that if we fixed up the place they would pay for the materials. Of course they had no idea of the pictures in my mind! Therefore, the materials purchased were very low quality, but hey, I can make anything work. So we carpeted, tiled, paneled, roofed and did the electricity and plumbing. The carpet was laid down with no pad and, this is the truth, weeds actually grew through it. When I cleaned house I actually weeded the living room. It made for such a great story for years to come!
After the basics were done I set about working on the décor. I set up a day care so I could stay home with my newborn son and have some money to buy groceries. The landlord gave us rent free for a year to feed the pigs that were on the farm and my husband found odd jobs.
With the few pennies that we had I bought a couch for $6 at an auction and some chairs that were painted white. I painstakingly stripped them down to the natural oak. I can’t tell you how much I laughed at the full circle I had come from painting the beautiful furniture in my bedroom white.
I bought material and made curtains and a table cloth. Then I designed a wood rod hanging mechanism to hang plants around the corner windows in the dining room. My husband built it from my drawings. Every day I would step back and take in all that we had created. And in my mind over and over I said “Someday I am going to have a house that is on the cover of Better Homes & Gardens.”
I had my second son two years after my first. We lived in the farm house for five years. While we were still there I got a job at IBM and my husband started becoming successful in the building industry; first as a superintendent for a couple builders, then out on his own. Years passed and over the course of building my IBM career we also built four houses. I loved the designing phase. I worked diligently with the architect to put into actual blueprints the pictures in my mind. My husband concentrated on the construction. Not long after we built our third house we got a call from our architect saying that he had a call from a photographer that wanted to know if he had any houses that he thought were worthy of print. He had suggested our house and wanted to know if we would be open to this. My husband and I were both pretty private people but I actually convinced him that this might be helpful to his business. At the time he had just started his own company and our house was one of the first of his projects.
So we said we would consider it and the photographer came to shoot the pictures for a Sunday spot in the local newspaper. A few weeks later she called and said that she also did freelance work for a number of magazines and would we be open to her submitting our home? I said sure. A month or so later she called and said that our home had been selected to be featured in a Home Plan Ideas magazine. Great! Then after another couple of months she called and said “Guess what, you got selected for the cover and you will be getting a copy in the mail.” A few more weeks went by and one day I pulled up to the mail box and pulled out a magazine. It was Better Homes & Gardens, Home Plan Ideas and smack dab on the cover was our house! This was a story that I had repeated over and over in my mind and here it was in living color. The picture in this article is the VERY cover featuring my home. That’s my dining room table on the cover with MY house in the lower left!
The power we have within us is amazing. All we have to do is believe it to be true.
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