If you find yourself sipping scotch with me on the Side of the House this summer, you might notice something different. This so-called winter we a comprehensive house renovation effort on Saint Peter Street. It started with a home refinance at Notre Dame Federal Credit Union. Since our home has increased so much since 2003, we thought it’d be prudent to use some of that equity to improve it. Plus, Notre Dame FCU gave us a full 1.10% lower interest rate. Wow.

The first item to be tackled was the original door to the Side of the House. It was literally falling apart. So we took it off and had it repaired and restored. Then I spent hours carefully sanding and staining it and coating it with polyurethane.

Frankly, I think the results are mediocre at best for as much effort as it required. At the end of my work, it occurred to me that the door was not originally intended to be stained, but rather, painted. Thus, they did not attempt to match the grains or the types of wood. Refinishing such a door is a bit disappointing from an aesthetic point of view.

From a practical point of view however, it’s been a vast improvement!

All the locks now work, including the original skeleton key lock. And no more duct tape keeping the hardware together!

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But what really strikes me is how shabby storm door and the trim around the door now look in comparison. This reminds me of an essay by the French philosopher Denis Diderot, a man with whom I generally have very little in common. The essay is hilarious in an obscure, anachronistic way. He says that it serves as a “Warning for those who have more taste than fortune.” Well, I certainly of fit that bill.

Diderot laments how getting a new piece of clothing set off a chain reaction of contrasts that resulted in him renovating his entire apartment. I’m feeling the same urge right now. As I look at that newly restored door, all I can look at are the dirt smudges on the storm door that I never noticed before. And the 100 years of accumulated paint on the trim. Ugh.  This is going to be a TON of work! For anyone crazy enough to want to read an 18th century French philosopher’s reflection on renovating his apartment, here it is in all its sardonic glory.

Oh well, on to the next project.

By the way, due to the unseasonably warm weather, The Side of the House has already opened for the season. After last year’s record breaking year where we were entertaining an eclectic roster of visitors three or four days a week, this year is already off to a robust start. Batting leadoff in 2017 was the fun and fascinating Fr. Stephen M. Koeth. Only a day or two behind him was our new associate pastor at St. Matthew Cathedral, Fr-David Violi. I say that with more than a touch of irony since after only about 8 months duty has already called him to continue on to Holy Family Parish. If these two gentlemen are a harbinger of things to come,  it promises to be the best year ever!

Currently, I’m spending about 10 hours per weekend / 15-18 hours per week working on our house. My boys are beginning to join me in this great project. No, it’s not a project, it’s a great crusade! Stay tuned for more updates – the good, the bad and the ugly. 🙂