Renovate Your Way To A Better Marriage


How a fixer-upper first home became one couple's labor of love.

For Kirsten Wright and her husband, who bought a 1909 row house on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., some of the lowest points have also provided some of the biggest laughs. Like the day they pulled up all of the old flooring to find a three-foot hole in the middle of their living room that went all the way down to the foundation. Or when they installed a new front door, went out to dinner, and came back during a thunderstorm to find they had locked themselves out because they'd installed the dead bolt incorrectly. Thanks to a friendly neighbor with a tall ladder, they were able to get inside via the (unfinished) roof.

Wright says that although she's not sure she'd take on another big renovation project, she has no regrets. "I actually look forward to going home every Friday night, putting on my painting clothes, and ordering pizza."

There is a certain romance in getting dirty together, living outside of your comfort zone, and laboring to reach the shared goal of creating a place that feels like home. And there's a certain contentment and simplicity, too. Ryan and I have narrowed our focus. Instead of planning vacations or upgrading our old cars and our tired wardrobes, we spend our money at the hardware store. And we spend the hours we're not working on the house walking the dog to our favorite coffee shop or catching an occasional movie. Compared with sanding drywall, a trip to our neighborhood bookstore becomes a mini-vacation (even though we typically find ourselves in the home-design section).

Despite moments when I tearfully wonder whether I'll ever truly feel settled here (like the two separate occasions since I started this article when the basement flooded), I fall in love with the house a bit more after every weekend of progress. And I fall in love with Ryan a bit more too—for his commitment to our home, his fastidiousness and dedication to exceptional work, and his utter fearlessness in the face of obstacles I never could have tackled on my own.

So while it may never be my dream home, the house is our labor of love, and that counts for a lot.

"But how could you not spend your first married Christmas together?!?"

My coworker wouldn't let it go; she must have asked me ten times. Despite feeling annoyed at her judgmental tone, I started to think maybe she had a point. Aren't newlyweds supposed to sip from each other's eggnog mugs, sneak kisses under the mistletoe, and surprise each other with thoughtful gifts? Keep Reading...

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