Thursday, September 24, 2009
Our first task in our new city has been to redo my mom’s basement. This may not seem the most important objective on one’s to-do list given we are flat broke but given our history and our goals this has proved to be a pretty good move. The benefit: It has started the ball rolling connecting us with the Madison design community, revealing a breadth of available vendors, and announcing our arrival here in a smaller pond. The second objective of the renovation project has been to secure our sanity getting us unpacked and out of boxes to the degree we can begin living without having to search for a power cord for the computer or the bag with the clean underwear.
My sister, Bonnie, who handles my mom’s finances set a budget of three thousand dollars to redo the basement which is to include replacing the water softener that blew the day after we moved in. From the remaining money we are going to replace eight hundred square feet of thirty year old carpet, redo a bedroom closet to handle our embarrassing amount of collected clothing, paint the entire downstairs walls and ceilings, replace the awful outdated sliding door leading to the patio with a set of French doors, gussy up a dusty laundry room, and completely overhaul a mildewed bathroom, a daunting task. Given a budget that wouldn’t have covered the toilet on most of our New York jobs we have been forced to really shop around. This has turned into a good thing. In my mom’s tiny Ford Escort we have been making the rounds to all the local suppliers looking for closeouts on materials and familiarizing ourselves with what Madison has to offer. Most of our searching has centered around Home Depot and another low-end mass retailer, Menard’s, but it has also taken us into some small boutique kitchen and home decorating shops that have simply caught our eye as we drove the Mad City streets. Two of our best finds came in the same day. The first one happened while driving down Williamson Street. Rick spied what appeared to be a huge limestone finial in the window of a small shop. We were on our way to the westside to do some grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s but we decided to backtrack around the block to take a look at the finial. The finial shop was a real tribute to the hippiedom of what once was and what still exists on Willy Street in Mad City. But our real find was a kitchen shop next door to the finial den, plucked from the Hamptons and dropped back down in the middle of the Midwest. Tom, the owner, a striking gray-hair, whose real job was as a realtor for the downtown region, had great insight into the Madison market. We talked to him about our ideas for re-establishing ourselves in Madison through our interior design business or in combining or services with a small store. He encouraged us to think about the Willy Street area saying that having New York credentials and being two gay boys would be big pluses to the Mad City design consumers. Stephanie, Tom’s store manager, piped in telling us we should also check out a store on the westside that might give us more information on the higher end design community. We exchanged cards and then headed off to Spirals on Monroe Street and an unannounced interview with Carol, Spirals owner and style maven. If serenity has been our design signature then Spirals would be the slipper we could slid our feet into. The soft lighting, the absence of harsh sounds and Carol’s monochromatic visage soothed our souls. We talked for what seemed like hours about our visions, what we thought design was and how it mattered. We invited her to lunch so we could come back with out portfolio. Today, we made some steps in the right direction.
Trust your instincts. Never fear putting yourself out there. Everyone has value. After coming through hard times it's very easy to have an abundance of self-doubt. Don't go there. Take a deep breath, jump in and knock on every door you can find.