Home Renovation 3

The expensive way to strengthen your marriage

As a well-to-do bachelor in the late 1800’s, George Vanderbilt built a summer get-away in the western North Carolina town of Asheville, which he named the ‘Biltmore Estate.’ The 250-room home sprawls out over four acres. It has 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms and 65 fireplaces along with a swimming pool, gym and bowling alley. He referred to it as his “little mountain escape.”

History doesn’t record Vanderbilt’s frustrated musings about the construction – perhaps because they were not fit to print. To this day, Biltmore Estate remains the largest private home in America and its impeccable construction stands out as one of the best examples of the Gilded Age.

Inspired by a visit to Biltmore Estate, my wife and I decided to renovate our Southern colonial antebellum-styled home in a manner befitting the beautiful and historic Vinings community in which we live. It sounded so romantic when we embarked on the journey together. By the time we finished, we had a new concept of what constitutes romance.

We lived at home throughout the renovation process despite the fact our house was reduced to a skeleton of studs. For a year we managed to survive without a kitchen, making meals exclusively with a hot plate, toaster oven or microwave as we moved from room to room like fugitives on the lam.

I requested three “luxuries” during the renovation: (1) internet service; (2) a working sink; and, (3) a couple of toilets, (not necessarily in that order).  In hindsight, I should have been a touch more specific because our beloved contractor, “Builder Bob,” had a mischievous sense of humor.

Arriving home one evening, we found “his and hers” toilets sitting side by side among the great room studs. There was also a note indicating a temporary “sink” was installed downstairs. It was disguised as a potty and required a ladle to use. Internet service required six months of arguing with the cable company. Their solution involved trenching across our neighbor’s lawn. (We opted for something else of course.)

Despite the challenges, thanks to patient neighbors and the talented, hard-working folks who helped us, we renovated our home and strengthened our marriage too. Home indeed is where the heart is. And though it may not be Biltmore Estate, we love our own little mountain escape right here in Vinings.