Keys Homes
Sunday, September 1, 2013
Best intentions for do-it-yourself projects!

By LESLIE LINSLEY Citizen Columnist

It's a known fact that "do-it-yourself" projects alleviate stress. So why is that every time I tackle a project that, on the face of it seems relatively easy, especially for someone with a modicum of expertise, that usually turns out to be frustrating half-way through the job?

We are now living in the era of instant gratification. This may be why so many college dorms and first apartments are filled with IKEA furniture. It's good looking, inexpensive, therefore disposable and supposedly easy to assemble.

I say supposedly as I have had a lot of experience putting whole housefuls of their furniture together for a rental house, a college dorm and a few pieces that worked for more years in my house than they had any right to be there. Their sturdiness outlasted their popularity.

The other day I heard from my friend Mike Mulligan. He and partner Bobby Nesbitt sold their Lowe Lane house and moved "to the country," namely Key Haven. Michael has been storing up all sorts of decorating and home improvement ideas just salivating to get to them while waiting for their house to be sold. Now was the time and I received an email complete with a picture of the disastrous attempt to find storage space.

But backing up to moving day when Mike wrote to say that if his hands, fingers and back weren't aching so much from hanging drapes he'd write more. I wrote back with disdain, "Drapes??" He answered immediately, "sorry, I meant sheets, hanging sheets!" Better. Then two weeks later as they had more or less settled in, Mike's DIY gene kicked in and the fun projects of creating a nest were put on the back burner for more pressing needs. "Give me a column idea." I wrote and received back, "I've got it. No room for the dresser drawers? Put it in your closet."

This was a fine idea except that the sliding doors had to first be removed. They are heavy and when removing them to fit in the dresser he broke the cleat at the bottom where the door slides. A trip to the first hardware store was unsuccessful so it took two tries through horrendous traffic. At home he was able to install the cleats but not the doors. There was no way Michael was going to be able to reposition them alone. With a helper and the better part of an afternoon, the doors were once again in place and the dresser neatly installed. Success! Not quite. A picture along with the email confirmed that the doors could not be opened far enough to open the dresser drawers. " Good that I had one outfit left out," he wrote.

So if you see Mike wearing the same clothes day after day you'll know why.

This week I had a deck project to do for Thompson's Waterseal. I have done a lot of work for this company with do-it-yourself makeovers for magazine articles. This time they wanted to introduce a new deck cleaning product and a finishing oil into the Australian market.

My photographer partner, Terry Pommet ("Key West, A Tropical Lifestyle") was to video-tape the before, during and after of refinishing my deck. I hired an "expert" to clean the deck with the cleaning product as Terry shot the footage.

When we were done taping he finished stripping the deck. The instructions on the can said to wait for it to dry for three days. Three days of continuous dry sunny weather is impossible on Nantucket. It rained. We waited. A week later it was dry and we called the "expert" to apply the finish. He was on a trip to Japan. We said, "How hard can this be?" We applied the finish and shot the video. We did it again, and again in the same spot. We then finished the rest of the deck. The deck began to dry and it was soon apparent that the spot, right in the middle of the deck was much, much darker than the rest of the deck. We sanded, we tried the deck cleaner, we did everything we could to make it blend and then it rained and rained and rained. We waited for it to dry out. We watched the sun and calculated how bad that spot really looked.

We shot the deck from every angle possible. I propped it with lots of flower pots and furniture. We called the company and found out that within a year it would fade out and blend in. The sun came out. We shot the deck in dappled sun-light. It looks fine, but for all that work I want perfection.

I know I'm stuck with a life of do-it-yourself. Too late to change the course of history. But once in a while I am reminded that the words, "I can do it myself," are not the sweetest words in the English language except from a toddler to his or her mother when heard for the very first time.

It's a known fact that do-it-yourself projects alleviate stress.

Leslie Linsley has written more than 50 books on crafts, decorating and home style. She resides on Nantucket with her husband, photographer Jon Aron, and has a store on the island that specializes in her one-of-a-kind creations. Her latest book is "Key West, a Tropical Lifestyle" (Monacelli Press), with photos by Terry Pommett.

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