From the Left



Happiness Is a Home To Tinker With

Bonnie Jean Feldkamp on

My husband and I have never bought a home we didn't tinker with. And by "tinker," I don't mean a coat of fresh paint and new shelving. I mean the knock out a wall, rip up the flooring and till the backyard for a new garden kind of tinkering. Real do-it-yourselfers. This is why when the kitchen cabinet recently fell off the wall -- literally while putting away dishes -- we didn't stress too much. We were planning to remodel the kitchen anyway. I simply set up wire shelving for the dishes that hadn't broken, and then we strolled through Lowe's hand in hand.

Nothing is more romantic than sawdust in your hair and the scent of mineral spirits except maybe a wheelbarrow full of annuals from the garden center.

This is how I know we are soulmates. In our first home together, we bought tile and bamboo flooring on clearance and stacked it in the garage. At the next house, we added a shed and a privacy fence. Then, we traded that house in for a two-family we dreamed of converting back to its single-family history. We gutted the first floor while we lived upstairs. Then, COVID-19 struck. We went through the lockdown phase of a global pandemic cooking with a grill, a toaster oven and a hot plate.

Oh, the romance.

Why so many houses? Therein lies the problem with our desire to tinker: We keep moving. No, we're not flipping houses for profit. Life just happens, and we don't just move down the street. We up and move to places that require a moving company and relocation package from a new employer. We've sold more than one home midremodeling because truthfully, we're never finished tinkering.

Our most recent move was to a small two-bedroom, one-bath shoebox with no basement. It's next to the park on a dead-end street. Location! Location! Location! My front yard garden is to die for, and we've fixed our sights on the large backyard where there will soon be a large his-and-hers shed. We'll start with eradicating the invasive bamboo the previous owners thought was a good idea for their privacy. Our shed will be complete with crafting and writing space for me on one side and a workshop that permits cigar smoking on the other for my husband. After that, we'll add on to the main house. This time, I swear we're here to stay.


I blame our parents for our lifestyle hellbent on tinkering. My husband and I both grew up with handy dads. My husband helped his father build the house they lived in when he was a teen. My dad bought a five-room farmhouse and then added five rooms and two decks onto it. He tied a nail apron around my waist when I was 8 years old and showed me how to use a drill to sink screws into drywall. I also helped scrape off old wallpaper, snake ductwork into crawl spaces too small for my father to fit and smooth drywall mud over the screws I'd set, all before I was 10 years old.

I wouldn't know what to do with a made-to-order house that didn't need any work. Every home has a certain character just like every human, and our goal is to help its unique beauty shine through.


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John Cole John Darkow David Horsey Rick McKee Randy Enos Dana Summers