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August 1, 2011

rearranging furniture: a thinly veiled metaphor.

Kate Hart
book chair
I can count on one hand the pieces of furniture we've bought for ourselves. One second-hand coffee table. One used "free if you move it yourself" piano. A kid-sized table and chairs. That's literally it.

We've lived together since age nineteen, broke college students with a TV stand made of MDF and flower pots. Our generous parents bought us nicer things over the years-- things we picked out, like a bed, a couch, a dining room table, a crib. Other things we've made ourselves. My husband built some bookshelves and a train table. I made some curtains. I framed some pictures.

credit bob travis
But the rest of our house is furnished in hand-me-downs. Nice ones, for the most part, and I'm not complaining. Free stuff is free stuff. The pieces are in decent shape. But sometimes it's a challenge to make them fit. They weren't made with my house in mind, and my spatial reasoning skills are less skills and more "futile attempts followed by cussing and measuring."

It's a fundamental flaw in my brain. I just can't visualize how old things will look in new places. I can't judge whether a dresser is short enough to go under a window, or if three paintings will look good together, until they've been moved into place. It always takes longer than I want. Far longer than I expect.

This rewrite feels the same way. I have these pieces and they're pretty solid. I can tweak them, I can reframe them, I can even strip them down for parts and make something new. But I'm not sure about the dimensions. Will this scene fit here? Can this part stand on its own or do I need to put supports under it? I just painted this wall and it was lovely! Why is it all scratched up now?!?

Sometimes I am tempted to burn it all down. Pull off the roof, knock down the walls, rip up the floors and cut skylights in all the ceilings.

But I don't. Because the foundation is good. The frame is there. The floor plan isn't that bad. I just don't know what to put on top of it. Orange shag, tile counters, wood paneling, sky lights... I don't know. Someday we'll have to put it on the market and god knows it's hard to sell in this economy. Will anyone buy a house in this country setting? What if I add a hot tub and the prospective owners think that's scandalous? What if I put in a bar and they're horrified by alcohol? What if I install a disco ball and they say those are out of style?

I don't know. At some point, I have to stop moving things around and accept that I've done the best I can with what I have. It's not perfect, but I like it, and future owners can do what they want with the rest.

Except for the disco ball. I'll probably take that with me.


  1. Oh yes. Sometimes you have to live with the crappy furniture to get to the good stuff. Like the disgusting hand-me-down living room set I took with me to college. It worked wonders until I could afford to buy my own.

    I think you're right -- revisions are a similar beast. You have to test things out before you find the right solution, placement, set-up, etc. All those failed attempts lead to the ones that work. And if the foundation is solid, you're bound to find them! Good luck, girl!

  2. ah, but how lucky you are to have that strong foundation--not to have to hide the cracks with pretty stuff! trust yourself. and your vision will shine through in the end. :)

  3. I'm feeling like I've rearranged all the personality of my furniture right now. :-\

  4. I'm in a very similar place with a rewrite... so nice to know I'm not alone! And oh my gosh... I love the staircase with the book titles. So creative!

  5. What a lovely metaphor, Kate. I also can't visualize anything until I see it working on not. I have the big picture of how it might look, but until I see it, I'm a bit of a blank.

  6. Thanks you guys, and {{hugs}} Jessica!


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