At the moment, I happen to be in plain view of an obsessive remodeler -- a 73-year-old woman who has lived her entire life fixing up homes and selling them. Not so much for profit as for fun.
At the end of last year, I moved from Los Angeles to the tiny rural town of Lucas, Kan. My fixer-upper friend convinced me it was time to get away from the noise and funk of the big city -- just as she'd done eight years ago when she moved from New York to the middle of nowhere.
When I first visited, my friend was living in an average country cottage that she was remodeling to resemble a New York apartment. During my visit, she told me about an inn for sale in town, which has two blocks and one stoplight. We went to look at it and it was a nightmare -- to me.
Flash forward three years: I visit my friend in July of last year and find her living in the inn, which she bought and is fixing up to look like ... a New York apartment. It's not done, but my friend is putting it up for sale.
I'd never seen an obsessive remodeler up close. However, much of what has puzzled me and almost driven me crazy was nicely explained in your story ["They Crave the Rush of Remodeling," Jan. 13] with its personal anecdotes and expert quotes.
My friend made the perfect room for playing the piano and listening to music, which she tells guests when she gives them the tour. (You so astutely pointed out that need to give tours.) "I call this Nirvana," she says.
At her age, I would think she'd want to sit in Nirvana and listen to music until the Grim Reaper arrives. Or at least paint in the "art studio" she's creating in the southernmost room. But when I asked her recently, "Don't you want to live here?" she said, "Not if I can sell it."
Her grandson is the only person who sits in Nirvana. He practices scales on the piano every day after school -- while his grandmother sips coffee in the pristine black-and-white kitchen, pondering which floor needs to be painted next.
Your article helped me understand her better. It helped me realize that a fixer-upper obsession is neither bad nor good, but a way to have fun. For someone like my friend, letting go is no big deal. Maybe that's her own nirvana.
Well, all this was just to say how much I appreciated Robin Greene Hagey's lighthearted approach to the subject and the excellent points she made. The piece was compassionate and well written.