When Life Gives You Ruins, Make…

It is possible to bring this fire-damaged house to a state of livability and to do so affordably and with low impact on the environment. It can be done with style and beauty so that those who enter will hopefully understand it as a creative, caring and peaceful space—an alt space.

The “problem” conditions of this house—black walls, peeling paint and fallen plaster—could become an aspect of its redesign. The “grafitti”, which actually frightened me when I first entered the house, was someone’s idea of home decor—which is just a sophisticated way of marking territory. I would like to acknowledge that and even honor it.

Possiblities include leaving some of the walls as they are and completing restorative work around them; having some of the lath and original building materials exposed somehow and protected so that visitors can learn about how houses were built in a world before drywall; using butcher paper, newspaper, or old posters to create wall paper that covers areas of damage, as long as they don’t pose a structural problem.

Eventually there can be geothermal heating and a zinc roof. I’m excited about the idea of having access to that kind of technology someday. For now, the work is getting the place clean—a job that only requires caring hands and a few low-tech tools.

Making the most of everything the house has to offer is a conservative and economical approach. Using all that is already there might be more in keeping with the principals of the Arts & Crafts movement that influenced the original design than attempting a meticulous restoration.