“You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.”

June 18, 2012 § 5 Comments

This expression reminds us not to try and make something into something that it cannot be.  Yet, for the past four and half years, I have been attempting to turn a coffee shack into something more than a shack.  And while I am all too familiar with the saying, I’ve decided to see it as a challenge and push forward.

I have had the pleasure of owning some beautiful homes in my life.  Tim and I have a weak spot for old places in need of restoration.  There was the Victorian Farmhouse – an English Manor home – the Mid-Century Sarasota School of Architecture jewel.  And in some previous life, I know I was an interior decorator.  I LOVE to arrange furniture, play with paint chips and fabric swatches.  Give me a good design book, and I’m in heaven.  And while you would not know this by my current situation, I love everything to be organized and with no clutter in my way.  I love old things – objects with a past and patina.  I love the color white.  (Yes, it is a color – so many shades and possibilities.)  I love functional art.  Every day objects should be beautiful and useful.  Form and function.  Simple and comfortable.  Heavy sigh . . . I have a long way to go with my current home.

When we first visited the property in Hawaii, our agent noted that there was no house, only a tear down structure.  But when Tim and I first saw the coffee shack, we looked at each other and thought, “We can do this.  It’s so small.  Easy.”  We had no clue what was in store.  The difference between doing a 6,500 square foot Manor house and a 1,000 square foot shack had to do with three things:  1.)  Bank account; 2.)  Time; 3.)  Foundation.  We started this project with no money in the bank, so much work to do on the farm proper, and little foundation or walls or doors for that matter.  The chickens roosted in the old bathroom.  The goats visited the pantry.  The rain came into existing rooms.  It is a challenge to be sure.

There has been progress over the years.  We have a kitchen, a dining room, a bathroom.  And lots of other projects are in process.  So I thought I would take the next month or so and share our coffee shack with you.  Our goal is to move from tear down shack to rustic cabin to comfortable cottage.  We’re getting there; we have definitely moved into the rustic cabin part of the tale.  And the fact that I will be documenting the project over the next 6 weeks motivates me to think of options and reminds me to be thankful for the changes.  What can I do with this “sow’s ear?”  Where can I find doors?  What cool object will Ed make for me for my door hardware?  What story will Bill tell today?  Does Ernie know that I think of him every time I eat dinner with my family?  What will someone think one day when they come across the beautifully organized and labelled wires in the dining room wall that David planned and marked?  Thank you for helping to create a home for my family.  You see, it is more than picking a color for a wall; interior design is filled with memories and people that are forever connected to the space.

So here is the first project:  The foyer.  We call it this because I always imagined it as the first space you would enter from the garden . . . a front door seemed to be the right move.  It is a dark space that is filled with boxes and market “stuff.”  It is the place where I attempt to sew, do my paperwork, and store my craft supplies.  It is not a pretty room.  Bookshelves were given to me by a friend moving off-island.  Tim built closets to store our skin care packaging.  And we have gone through every box, evaluating its value and usefulness.  This past week, Bill has brought light and the garden into the cabin with the opening of a wall.  Recycled doors seem right at home.  So begins the transformation from dark room to a place that inspires

We are on our way.  I yearn for a peaceful, organized place that will allow me to think clearly.  Be creative.  Enjoy with my family.  I have always been connected to my “nest.”  It’s an important part of me.  You see, interior design is a means to an end for me.  The end is living comfortably.  I don’t need a “silk purse.”  But I want my “sow’s ear” to be soft, well kept, and beautiful.

We’ll watch it unfold,



§ 5 Responses to “You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.”

  • Alessandra Rupar-Weber says:

    Beautifully written. Thank you. Well, if it is of any consolation, my dear, silk is not very happy where we live anyway. It cracks and looses its beautiful color and starts stretching and being shapeless – so forget the silk. New paradigm. Up cycled, reused, old-fashioned, sturdy, old charm, creative …. and then again, even if the stage from the fine interior design book to Lowes and finding a more “realistic” color is quite non-victorian-mansion, isn’t it still lovely to see what paint alone can do? What colors can do? I remember the battle ship grey on our termite invested, full-of-holes, part-of-the-walls-missing house and my completely unprofessional attempt to make a little difference – without patching, repairing, taking off the old; no – just smack on a new coat and for a moment I was happy! It is all very humbling … but so rich in enjoying the small things. And I know you can relate!

    • Silk and leather too. Oh my . . . I thought mold came only in green. Reds and yellows – many a shoe has been lost. While I grumble sometimes, I realize the amazing lessons living on a farm in Hawaii provides. Living with less is definitely the answer. My children know this and for that I am so thankful. While they enjoy Grandmama’s gifts of technology, they appreciate the “small things.” This is the purpose of our adventure here. To show my children a different way to live – to follow your passion – to know how to grow your own food – provide for yourself – enjoy nature. A new paradigm. You are so right Alessandra.

  • As for the termites . . . what would hold up our walls without them?? I think the mainland buys into all those toxic chemicals for their homes without thinking about consequences. Boric acid – safe – cheap – and effective.

  • Alessandra Rupar-Weber says:

    Yes … hahahha!! The running joke is of course: Thank God the termites are still holding hands!!!! So thank God for their determination and service. We would be on our bottoms by now … As for the mold, when I painted (half, only the front! – another “new” negligent behavior…) the exterior “walls” (ehem), I just painted over the green, of course not very effective in the long run. But in the moment it sure helped my state of mind.

  • Well written Karen, I look forward to the rest of the story.

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