I never really liked the beige Berber carpet in the family room. When we moved in two decades ago, though, we figured we’d eventually update the room, with its very ’80s wall of mirrors and painted wood paneling. I focused on the redeeming feature, a brick wood-burning fireplace.
We had a 100-year old upright piano in there for years, an immovable fixture that deterred us from re-carpeting when we did the living and dining rooms. The family room opens to the kitchen, which was also quite dated. We’d renovate the whole thing someday, we told ourselves. But life rushed by, and the project didn’t happen.
Besides, the family room was a kid and dog room—a put your feet on the coffee table and eat a snack on the couch kind of room, a “make s’mores in the fireplace and sit on the floor to eat them” type of vibe. A little melted Hershey bar dripped on the floor? No worries, just wipe it up and it will blend in with the sort of dirt grey color the carpet was becoming. It was almost like we had a drop cloth on the floor all the time.
Even when we sold the piano, we somehow put off re-carpeting. We planned to renovate someday—better to do it all at once.
Someday has come, and our plan is to put hardwood floors in the entire first floor. The kids and dog are no longer in our household, and we can have grown up floors.
We’re currently in a very slow DIY demolition phase.
A week or more ago, Scot began tearing off the paneling, and pulling up the carpet. “Keri,” he called. “Look at this.”
Under my ugly Berber carpet (which is about three shades darker than its original hue thanks to years of dogs, kids, s’mores, spilled wine, etc.) was a hardwood floor.
The floor is scratched and has some faded spots and minor damage. It has an odd design with dime-sized inserts in every board, making it appear sort of polka-dotted. There’s a faded spot in the middle which might have happened when we spilled something on the carpet. Still, its rustic beauty far outshines that ugly carpet. And it was under my feet all along.
(Now I’ve heard of people finding hardwood floors under carpet in old homes—but I thought that happened on “This Old House” in 100-year-old Victorians. Our home is a suburban tract house built in the 1980s. I didn’t even think of it.)
For years I just sort of endured or ignored that carpet. Occasionally I’d wish to be rid of it. But I never even pulled up a corner to see what was beneath. It never occurred to me. Renovating the entire room (and the adjacent kitchen) wasn’t in the budget, so we just left it. You get used to things and the effort to change them seems too great to overcome your inertia.
If anyone had asked, “do you like this carpet?” I would have said no. In fact, I strongly disliked it. But no one asked, and (and this is key) I didn’t really ask myself. So I didn’t change it.
Yesterday, Scot and I worked together, rolling up carpeting, and padding, carefully prying the carpet staples from the boards.
I woke up this morning thinking about that floor. I made coffee and sat in my family room, which has been stripped of the mirrored wall and paneling, and has a hardwood floor. We’ve thrown some furniture back in temporarily, and the morning sun streamed in the east facing windows.
I sipped my coffee and thought: this was here all along. It was in my life, and I didn’t know it.
It was possible that we might have pulled that carpet and just found a plywood subfloor. We didn’t know until we began. But even if there had been nothing underneath, the deconstruction still serves a purpose: it’s the first step toward change.
And that is the thing: in order to renovate anything, from a family room to a family, you sometimes have to start with demolition—ripping up and tearing away what was functional but not beautiful, what is worn out and dingy. Digging for the beauty below the surface.
I guess the lesson of the floor, what I want to tell myself is: don’t be afraid, dear one. Excavation is always essential in a treasure hunt.
Make just one change you think you cannot make, and you may discover something extraordinary. Start with deconstruction, and keep at it long enough to dig deep. It’s hard work, but worth it. At the very least, pry up the corner of your soul and see what’s under the surface.
What not so beautiful things do you put up with in your life, thinking you’ll someday renovate? What do you tolerate or endure, that perhaps is covering up something beautiful? What do you rush past, lost in hectic minutia, not realizing what might be there if you’d slow down enough to notice?
What am I missing, or simply unaware of, because I live my life at the surface? What might I discover if I were to resolve to do the work of deconstructing, digging down, excavating to discover my authentic self? Is the only thing between what currently is, and what is possible, something as flimsy as a layer of worn carpeting?
What do I need to remove from my life, in order to discover the beauty that is hidden beneath? That was there all along, just waiting to be revealed?