A remodeling website showed a house with an entire wall of pinkish-sandy fieldstone, probably installed in the 1940s or early 50s, painted over.
We have identical stonework halfway up the wall of the living room, installed by my grandfather in the late forties along with other MCM details. He was a retired engineer and had built two houses by then. He tore down most of the family summer place to rebuild it as his retirement home. The living room and fireplace stayed but the kitchen and a former dining room moved forward. Over the objections of his new wife, he remade the house one story and lowered ceilings to less than eight feet, intending to make heating easier. That was the house I inherited in 1978.
In 1984, we remodeled/restored most of the house to its earlier Craftsman (1911) look with higher ceilings and wider unpainted clear fir trim, and added insulation, updated wiring, and a second story. We turned the ridgeline from north-south to east-west in order to preserve the views of neighbors behind us.
Over the years, I considered tiling over the stone fireplace facing or boxing it in. I could not quite bring myself to do it. We replaced the mantel. The stone stayed. I do not love it, but it is genuine stone, beautiful in its way, and the only detail left of my grandfather’s last design.
Because electricity often goes out for a few hours or a day (or even, shudder, days), we installed a wood stove fireplace insert painted a custom color to complement the stone. For years one wall of the living room was painted a pale fugitive color called “Finesse” to work with that stone and with other walls painted in variations of faded ashes of roses tints. Only a few people would notice and ask if the walls were pink. They were.
Today it is another subtle and changeable color more toward violet. It looks almost pink in the photo above.
Owners of the home I found online had painted the entire stone wall dark green. I understand why they did it, and it looks very handsome, but I cannot help regretting painted stone.
I envision some later person laboriously stripping that paint back off, the struggle and mess, and damage to the stone. By then it will have several layers, probably at least one layer will be white because someone wanted to brighten the room.
A woman I know stripped layers of paint from woodwork in an elderly craftsman style house, stained it as dark as it had been a hundred years before and unwisely, perhaps, chose a dark wallpaper. New owners painted everything, woodwork and walls, back white.
Taste is personal. Personal history attaches itself to a style of furniture or window trim. Bookcases and lamps and wood stoves are not just functional design elements, but repositories of memory.
The first house my grandfather built was in Portland, out on the east side toward Gresham. It was surrounded by woods and the house itself was enormous. After that house was sold—more than fifty years ago now—I regularly dreamt about playing under the dining table, sneaking into the attic, playing hide and seek with my brother, running through the hemlocks and vine maples, climbing the two Queen Anne cherry trees beside the unused garage.
Many of Gary’s favorite childhood memories concern running all over the Arizona desert, just as I recall playing Tarzan in the forest behind our home in Shoreline before all those trees came down and turned into split-level houses. Both of us recall doing things as children we should have died doing. And yet . . . and yet, we could not imagine raising children where they could not take similar risks running wild.
After college, we considered buying an acreage and raising a lot more dogs, but then Genevieve left me this house, which led to two of our most momentous decisions coming together all at once all those years ago: we would move to the family beach house and start a family.
Simple as that.