House Plans: Carolina Dreamin’

The Stuff of Dreams; New York Public Library Digital Collections

I swear, I am so sick of myself. Must be the pandemic-induced isolation…anybody out there feel the same?

Lately I’ve tried to take this, what? torpor, I suppose, and redirect it into designing our North Carolina home, in my head at least. The Chef bought me a subscription to Architectural Digest for Christmas, and that helps. But I had ideas already. And the more I think about this, the more I’m making peace with the eventuality of renting for a while when we finally yank ourselves up from Vermont and head on down to North Carolina later this year.

One of the many things I love about Chef David is how he’ll sit on a notion quietly for a while, hold it close, and then finally reveal it to me in a more fully formed state, one that shows he’s given it some thought. A few days ago, he pulled up some images on his phone of commercial stand mixers, old ones (reaaaalllllly old, as in 1930s or ’40s or thereabouts), and mentioned how he wanted to acquire one eventually and then disembowel and clean and restore it to fully functional, and finally paint it and make it into a showpiece. He explained that old mixers are made so much better than modern ones, even pricey modern ones. I believe that, but also, I know how he hates to see something cast aside if it still has even a smidgen of life left in it (we have an ongoing debate about how long one should continue to press underpants into service once they develop holes, but that is a story for another day).

probably not this old or big

Didn’t take much at all for me to embrace the idea of the mixer, though, and so now it is a fixture in the kitchen that exists in my mind’s eye, in our forever home in North Carolina. There it sits on the floor in our Arts and Crafts house, in a restored room that is a pleasant and quirky train wreck between modern industrial and functional, and quaint and antique-y (the old wood butcher block in the center of the floor will tick that box, as will the hardware on the drawers and cabinetry). Whilst perusing an issue of AD early yesterday, I found more inspiration in the home of a designer from Long Island by way of the Louisiana Bayou who quipped, and I am paraphrasing here, I don’t like a kitchen that screams kitchen. She had the audacity to take what was once a music room in her old home and transform it into a kitchen, where a fireplace serves as the anchor, the dining table (more of a harvest table) serves as prep area when her family is not seated at it, and the sink and countertops are quietly tucked into a sunny corner awash with natural light, but you have to look twice to notice them. The floors are wide-plank wood, with all the blemishes that give them character, retained.

I hear what she’s saying and tend to agree: You can have your granite countertops and stainless-steel appliances and gleaming white cabinets. Gimme my character (as long as everything works okay).

Here’s the rest of my wish list, in no particular order.

1. High ground. (Pfft. That’s what everybody wants, quipped the CEO of the marketing agency where I work, who lives in our destination town of Wilmington with his family.)

2. A fully functional generator that powers damn near the entire house, because, hurricanes.

3. A separate living unit that in the best of all possible worlds produces a little income of the Airbnb type, and will also accommodate our kids when they come to see us for their beachy getaways. Because we love y’all but don’t want you all up in our bidness; that chapter is over.

4. The Arts and Crafts style. I will have my Arts and Crafts (or bungalow, if you prefer) home.

William Morris was a social activist whose designs generated the Arts and Crafts movement in England, goes the Encyclopedia Britannica entry

5. A master bawthroom shower made with sea glass walls and a floor of smooth, rounded river rocks. Sea glass, because I am smitten with this material made by humans from something as elemental and ancient as sand, which then ends up back on the beach, where nature says, hang on, let me show you something, and regurgitates it in the form of these beguiling little stones. As we all know, nature has the last word, always. And rounded river rocks because I once lowered myself into a jacuzzi at a day spa tiled in them and felt utterly transformed by what they did to my feet.

6. A gym (okay, that sounds too fancy: a workout space). It will have a Marley floor and a mirror; I already have a barre. This will allow me to give myself ballet class, and who knows, teach private lessons one day; I might be convinced to do that, and have long wanted to offer lessons or classes to kids whose families can’t afford them. This space will also be large enough to accommodate our rowing machine and stationary bike.

I’m smart and realistic enough to know we may not find an existing home with all those wish list items, and that we can afford. So maybe ultimately we’ll wind up building, who knows.

But if you can’t imagine and yearn for a thing, you surely will never attain it. I am pretty stubborn about yearning for and ultimately attaining things, even if they wind up looking a skosh different from my initial conception.

It is good to want things, a wise person I know, who is in a position of authority on such things, would opine. A final thought: Chip and Joanna, or Ben and Erin, should you happen to read this post, and should you be casting about for a new project over on the East Coast, The Chef and I have a few ideas.

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