front door, perfect without perfectionIn 2010, after completing the largest part of the renovation of our home, I gave my husband, Frank, a plaque reading “Perfect without Perfection.” This is the story behind it.

In 2009, my contractor/designer/artist husband, Frank, and I moved from a beautiful home that we loved to a small house that needed love. It had “good bones,” as Frank put it, but it was outdated, it didn’t take advantage of the wooded land it was on, and it was more than a bit homely.

Frank sprang into action, and was immediately hard at work with his crew renovating the “good bones” into the true home he envisioned.

You’ve heard of people who aren’t good patients. Well, I’m not a good “renovatee.” The whole process of living in a house that’s being renovated upsets my apple cart and makes me crazy grumpy. I want to be all chill and Zen about it, I really do. But the mess, the inconvenience, the noise – it all gets my panties in a twist and I’m not very good at pretending that my panties aren’t twisted. I was a bear (and often weeping bear) to live with.

As Frank began work on the biggest part of the project, an addition that would include an entryway, a new kitchen, dining area and living area, we started looking for a front door. We searched in fancy-front-door-catalogs (yes, there are such things) and on artisan-front-door web sites. The front door seemed both visually important to the project and symbolically important to this new home we were creating, but we just couldn’t find one that worked.

On a trip to the Habitat for Humanity salvage store, we happened to go through the “door” section and found this interesting, old solid wood door that had been painted and painted many times over.

“I don’t know,” Frank said. “It could be there is a really nice door under all this paint or it may be worthless. But if you were willing to give it some of your peeling love, it might be worth $50 to see.”

My darling husband knows me so well. He knows I love dark chocolate and red wine (especially together and not Merlot). He knows I love the ocean and not the Yankees. And he knows that more than just about anything, I love peeling things off of other things. I have literally begged him to buy a house to renovate for his business just so I could get my itchy fingers on the peeling paint on the porch. So when Frank saw that paint-covered door, he knew that one way to soothe my renovation-frazzled nerves was to give me a nice, long, peeling project.

So he set the door on sawhorses under our poplar trees, and gave me gallons of paint remover and a variety of peeling and scraping tools. I was in heaven. In the golden autumn sunshine, I would put on my iPod and scrape and peel and scrape and peel. It was a meditation of letting go and discovery. The project helped me let go of the stress of living in a house under construction, but I also felt that I was freeing this poor door from all the layers of paint. I was letting the door breathe.

After weeks of working on it, I discovered lots of imperfections: screw holes from hinges and hooks long gone, various nicks and some deep gouges. What’s more, my peeling process was far from professional. I could not get all of the nooks and crannies completely paint free even with all my picks and scrapers. But there was something about this totally imperfect door that I loved.

When I had peeled and scraped it as much as I could, I gingerly went to Frank. “Come look at it,” I said. “You may not like it, and it’s okay if you don’t. It’s certainly not a fancy artisan front door for this beautiful house you are creating.”

We walked under the poplars and I pulled the tarp off of the door. Frank looked at it, ran his hand over the rough super-scraped surface and said, “It’s perfect without perfection.” And so it is.


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