Tuesday, March 08, 2011

mirror, mirror, off the wall

"So, is this house a money pit?" the handyman asked us this morning.

Joe and I looked at each other. "Money pit?"

"You know," said the handyman. "Keep throwing money into it, it disappears, requiring you to throw in more money."

"Well...no." said Joe, starting in on his explanation of how the house was actually in pretty good shape, but that we just wanted a couple of big, mostly cosmetic things done before we moved all the furniture in, etcetera etcetera.

I cut in. "It's not a money pit," I told him ominously.  "Yet."

We're getting some stuff done on the new house in advance of our move day. We're moving in about a week and a half, and let's be clear, nothing needs to be done. The house is move-in ready. But there are a few things that we'd like to get done, and these things are much easier to do when the house is still empty. Mainly, we wanted to re-carpet the upstairs bedrooms and paint a few walls. But before we could paint, we'd have to take off approximately a mile's worth of full wall mirrors.

The famed homework room, of course.  Now, I hesitated to post this up, because inevitably, some subset of you guys are going to start protesting, why did you take off the mirrors, the mirrors looked good, they reflected the light, made the room look bigger, you could turn your living room into a Jazzercise studio, and so on.  So let me just say a few things to start.

1.) The mirrors were everywhere.  In every room.  Full wall mirrors.  We're not even taking them all off, just the ones in the more heavily trafficked rooms.  Because...

2.) We have two kids.  Two young kids.  The kids are boys.  They like to touch things.  I don't want to spend the rest of my life following them around the house with a bottle of Windex.  I think it's because I wear glasses that I am particular about this.  I'm not an especially finicky housekeeper in general (as anyone who has ever been to our house can clearly attest) but there's something about smudgy glass that I just cannot abide.

3.) It did reflect the light, and probably made the rooms look bigger, because, you know, OPTICS, but the way the mirrors looked (there were beveled frames and whatnot) made the rooms appear incredibly dated.  They were put up in the 1980s and they look every year of it.

4.) THEY'RE ALREADY OFF.  Nothing I can do about that now!  And if I start second guessing this decision now I will probably start getting depressed and no one wants that, right?  RIGHT?  (Right.)

The thing is, there comes a point in every project where you get a sinking feeling in your gut that, oh shit, I just made things worse.  The handyman himself said that there are certain projects that people should not see the middle of, and oh man, this was one of these projects.  Because we took a fairly pristine house and turned it into this:

A paradise of gouged drywall, tar-like glue globs, and exposed wiring.  Just to get rid of some mirrors.  Did I mention that we were trying to make this a more kid-friendly house?  How many times did I think to myself today, well, hell, maybe we should have just kept the mirrors?  One billion times.  Well, one billion and one, now.

But no matter.  As of today, the mirrors in the dining room, the stairs, and the homework room are all gone.  Onward and upward.  Drywall may need to be replaced in the homework room and on the stairs (some damage underneath, and the installers got a little overzealous with the black glue globs--particularly a problem when you need a smooth surface on which to apply chalkboard paint), but we took the plunge, and now for steps 2 through 10.  And unlike in the other two areas, the mirror wall in the dining room actually looked pretty decent underneath, and should probably be ready to be painted sooner rather than later, once the drywall is patched and sanded.

Money pit indeed.

<--- Designanted pimp space --->

Hi! Again!  Still here?  OK, good. So, there's a new event I put on the calendar. I've been invited to take part in a lecture series this May sponsored by the Literary Center at Margaret Mitchell House. (Margaret Mitchell is, of course, the author of "Gone With The Wind," and if you lived in Atlanta YOU'D DEFINITELY KNOW THAT.) The event is going to be held at the Atlanta History Center, which looks like pretty swank digs, so you should come and we'll talk and eat some finger sandwiches and it will be super-fun. Nothing is more fun than finger sandwiches. Made with HUMAN FINGERS.

I will be adding to my events calendar both on this blog and on my book webpage, so check there again if you can't be with us in the ATL May 19th, hopefully I'll have some other events in other cities to add later.


  1. The big secret is that all houses are money pits. They can be very rewarding from an emotional and family standpoint, but are almost never a fiscal success.

  2. Every house is a money pit! By that I mean there's always something that needs fixing or updating.

    Also, while I really like the all-mirrored-walls look of the 80's (because I am old, and perhaps nostalgic for that time!), I can completely understand your issue with smudgy mirrors.

    I could live with walls of mirrors, but only if I lived alone!

    (And I'd wager that there are a great many projects no one should see the middle of. That's going to be forever integrated into my worldview from now on.)

  3. I feel so judgmental writing this (I'm also showing my age as a CHILD of the 80's, not ADULT of the 80's), but why were there so many walls of mirrors? I love a good optic illusion as much as anyone else, but I don't need to see myself in full-length...in every room...at all times.

    So good job yanking those puppies off! Don't look back!

  4. Who knows why people do what they do to their houses? The house we're renting now has tangerine paint in the living room. I feel like I'm in Miami Vice.

  5. I can't tell if you have low ceilings, an interesting camera angle, or a gigantic painter. He doesn't even need the ladder!

  6. This has nothing to do with this post but I just wanted to point out that a good chunk of the pictures on the book webpage dont load when I try to access them from my school's wifi. Apparently NJMS has labled some of your book pictures as "Adult/sexually explicit." haha

  7. Anonymous11:27 PM

    no regrets on the mirrors---they were fugly

  8. The mirrors are definitely a leftover from an *ahem*tacky*ahem* era now (thankfully) past. A house we bought in 2004 had a wall of mirrors and it was jarring, especially at night. Imagine this:
    You walk into a room, get startled by what you perceive to be an intruder, throw a frying pan at him/her (who doesn't walk with a frying pan in hand at night, there's no shame in that!) and end up in the middle of a Chinese torture (the one with the million little cuts)... mirror style! You feel partially vindicated, because obviously there is a homicidal maniac in your house, but you have to grapple with the realization that the maniac is you through the looking glass.

    Conclusion: Mirrors are evil!

  9. Anonymous5:22 AM

    hmm. I didn't see any mirrors in the original photo you posted of the homework room, which looked like an absolutely gorgeous living space... which you're now turning into a room painted with chalkboard paint?! i can't say i understand your design aesthetic in that case, but do agree that full-wall mirrors sound weird.

  10. Anonymous5:31 AM

    Now I will be reaaally concerned if the previous nice old couple had any mirrors anywhere but the walls...albeit kids actully do find it ridiculously amusing to stare onto the ceiling and look at themselves in mirrors FOR HOURS(lesson learnt when tired and booking European hotels night for night. Damm me not concentrating in German Language classes..I think the word mirror was scpeigal, or some such thing. FYI , that doesn't mean special, or maybe it does..but in a very different way) Ick. I digress,ahem. So hopefully you just have the walls to battle with, which is scary enough anyway when you go and get a glass of water half asleep in the middle of the night and you jump with fright at least 9 times seeing yourself in various damned mirrors. Oh the '80's. Throw that damn money into the glorious pit!!!
    Kiwi Nurse xx

  11. Only one wall of the HW room was mirrored--it doesn't show in the picture I posted before because unless a room is huge, you really can't take a picture of more than two walls at once. The plan is that now that the mirror wall is gone, we're going to smooth it down and paint that one wall with chalkboard paint. The rest of the room will be the same.

  12. My last home had mirrors. Thankfully not as many as yours but they had to do! I think older folks are the ones who believe mirrors give the illusion of a larger room - I never bought in to that theory, I just think they are ugly. Now a nice framed mirror hanging on a wall if still okay!!

    Things to avoid:
    1) mirrored walls
    2) Stencils anywhere
    3) Artificial plants (including dried flowers)
    4) Framed art hung above eye level
    5) wall paper borders

    Yes, homes are money pits. No matter how stunning a home looks the owner will always have a list of a billion things they want to change. You are never done!! But that is the joy of ownership - it is all yours to ef-up!

  13. Anonymous7:38 AM

    If it were mine, I'd really go for a nice big whiteboard. They're light and easy to uninstall. Chalkboards are dusty, and I've got a nasty feeling that chalkboard paint produces inferior (and less usable) results compared to an actual classroom chalkboard.

  14. Hey!! I think you made a really good choice to remove the mirrors, I agree that it looks really dated.

    Well I was wondering if you're going to have more medical posts. I have been reading your blog for the past 5 years, while I was still a pre-med student (i'm a second year,now). Sometimes, when I'm up late studying and need a little break I like to read your blog, because it's very inspiring to see how you got through some of the hard times with a great sense of humor.

    Well, good luck with the house!!! I'm really looking forward to purchasing your book!

  15. Anonymous10:37 AM

    We just bought a house about the same time you did - and it was move in ready, but we did exactly the same thing you did (repaint the walls, replace the carpetting, etc.) because it is just easier to do with no one in the house and truthfully, antique white everywhere (including the ceilings) is not exactly my cuppa.

    We've been in for two months or so and yes, we still hear the giant sucking sound in the house every night (esp when the hubby comes home every day with something new - lawnmower, dishwasher, dual wall oven, bench for the patio, woodworking machine, you name it - we'll probably get it!) Good call on the mirrors - who puts mirrors on the stairwell?!?

  16. All homes are money pits. Also, your idea of a "big" expense will change from a couple of hundred dollars to a couple of thousand in the blink of an eye. It's amazing how quickly the expenses accumulate. I think we've probably spent 20K on our house on repairs and upgrades, we've only lived here 2 years, AND the house was in good shape.

  17. LOL I think you have the wisest handyman ever.

  18. Anonymous4:09 PM

    I wonder if the old owners read your blog...

  19. Anonymous7:34 PM

    Thats why homes are so personal...and money pit is the fine print under mortgage, but at least it's yours. So excited for you guys! I am certain when/if you sell this home in years to come, there will be someones blog about the family who used to live here who had a BLACKBOARD! On the whole wall!! Thats so like 2011, man.
    Great idea, b.t.w, I/m sure we'll be seeing some serious equations, spelling tests, reminder notes, holiday lists and artwork on your blackboard.
    (Im not sure if you are aware, or maybe chalk is a lot more modern now but we used to dip it in water before using to give a bright crayon look....and I think we had water with a splash of vinegar in the spray botle when wiping it down again to get it all off without inhaling too many chemicals next to our wee noses.)

  20. Anonymous8:59 PM

    You will never again regret removing the mirrors from the walls. Yikes!

  21. No no no. Ugly mirrors must go. Don't even leave one.

  22. Congratulations on your new home. I agree with the consensus that yes, it will seem like a money pit at times. But it is where your children will build their memories of "home" and you will treasure it more than the money. And I so agree with your decision to get rid of the mirrors. Absolutely the right thing to spend money on. I have friends with home schooling rooms, but I'm not sure I've ever heard of a homework room. Probably the same concept. My grandson has the chalkboard paint in his bedroom and it is the most fun thing. He's always taking me into his room to show me what he has drawn on it. If the floors are a hard surface a swiffer works well at cleaning up the chalk mess. I do live in Atlanta (Woodstock, actually) and will try to make it to your lecture. I actually spotted and recognized you the last time I was on pill hill, but you were in a conversation and I didn't want to freak you out. So I didn't approach you. I wasn't stalking you. I was there for legitimate medical reasons.

  23. Anonymous5:00 PM

    Metalic paint under the blackboard paint apparantly means you can stick magnets up on your blackboard!! (-:

  24. I haven't visited your site in forever thanks to the depths of crap I am constantly buried in at work and at home (note: my depths of crap at home are because I bought a money pit less than a year ago here in Atlanta). Anyway, so glad I saw this post because now I can get your book and go to your lecture in May! Congrats on both and glad to see you're still doing so well.

    Erika (from Wellesley)

  25. Is your handyman a giant ... If he turned around would we be able to dx acromegaly? He looks 10 feet tall!

  26. Find the superb quality framed mirrors, you would be sleepy to find out the best solution for the walls of your house. If you want really to buy the best class mirrors you can contact with us hesitation free. We are standing with a sharp ear for your voice.

  27. It's really a informative thought to make a famed homework room by wall mirrors. You can also use high quality bedding set for making a beautiful bedroom by Browns of Weston here more high quality bedding set collection.

  28. This comment has been removed by the author.

  29. Thanks for sharing your though to make a better home by mirroring. I am try to making my bed room by Duvet covers. Now I got a thought to make awesome home decor by mirror.