Friday, April 11, 2014

Building a house into a home

For the past three weeks I've been restoring an old house, not extremely old but older than me.  Built in 1930, I could tell because on the old cracked plaster in the living room there was a written note from a Plem Peller, the Designer, I think, with the inscribed date of May 1930.   His or her, it’s hard to tell with a name like Plem wrote in bold cursive that had a flair for the dramatic in a style long forgotten with flowing letters and large P’s that started each word of his or her name.

I have been trying to uncover some of the history of this old house (not to be confused with the TV show) but interested in how the house was built, by whom it was built and why.  The history of who we are is so important and some of that has to include the things we create.  Knowing the history of a house changes the very essence of that building from a house to a home but so far I've been unable to even verify or substantiate the name Plem Peller.

Up one street and further east is another grand home and when I say grand I may be understating the fact.  This home was built in the 1920s by the Vice President of Perfection Stoves and heaters, William Clapp.  Doesn't ring any bells, it didn't for me either but the house is or was spectacular.  9 bedrooms, 6 bathrooms, slate roof, copper gutters and built as a Pennsylvania Colonial Revival, I didn't even know that Pennsylvania had a Colonial Revival let alone a home style.

With nearly 16,000 square feet of living space, yes sixteen thousand the rooms are huge and spacious, the accouterments are spectacular and easily on par with the estate at San Simian in California built by William Randolph Hurst.  It goes to show I guess what real money can do.  The history of that old house is really quite nice with only three owners over the past 90 years, two with large families and the last a pair of older, non married Las Vegas high rollers, an uncle, who continues to dye his hair and kept referring to me as “kid” reminiscent of the Vegas of days past, and his nephew who apparently sold a tech company for millions a few years past. Both it seems the house and the pair has had better days.

I could go on about that grand palace of a home and the current owners but the salient point is in the process of making a house into a home.  It really has nothing to do with the building style, the architecture or trappings of wealth nor those difficulties of poverty.  A home is a creation and must be built in almost the same fashion as the actual construction of the building.  A home needs to be orchestrated and planed using solid materials and techniques that ensure stability and safety.  Failure to follow the plans will ensure instability and eventual failure of the very thing one is trying to build. 

Whether it be a castle or a humble four wall lean to the plans needed to build a home are essentially more important than those to build a house.  I look at my own life and the homes my wife and I have created.  I've built or remodeled every home we've lived in trying to make the structure of that house more livable, nicer and more in line with our dreams of building a home.  During the process of constructing that superficial life the building of our home continues.

Even after the last nail is driven or the paint has long sense dried the process of building a home never ends.   Even when the children are grown and gone the necessity of a home built on a substantial foundation should never be overlooked.  It is in that foundational process that a home continues to survive and thrive. 

I can build a house, I could probably build a castle, and I would need some physical help at this point in my life but I have to admit that I could not build a home by myself.  The partnerships needed, the cooperation of time and effort, the designation of love and companionship, the humility and compassion required to sustain others is a full time job and for most require the help of another.  To this I thank my wife eternally for she has been there with me to drive each nail of love, lift each and every wall of sanctity, and sustain the foundational principles that ensure that what we've built remains standing.
It can be done alone and many courageous men and women have stepped up to carry those burdens.  They have done a wonderful job but the real fight to maintain a home is so much better with a loving, devoted husband and wife, male and female, creating that essential balance that life requires in order to successfully excel from one generation to the next.

Next time you have to make a repair to your house, a loose door knob, a broken window or even a complete remodel, don’t forget the lessons learned.  We need to tighten the bolts of our foundations, repaint our interiors and tune up our minds and spirits in order to maintain the integrity of the spirit that is ultimately the gauge of whether we live in a house or a home.