This Old House
Alex talks renovations, retouching, and age differences in relationships!
Whoo-hoo, it’s This Old House! Oops, wrong network. This week’s episode marks the beginning of another storyline this season, the renovation of our Brooklyn townhouse. In this episode you see us meeting with Aaron McDonald (www.buildme.net), our architect, to discuss our plans. One thing that was great about working with Aaron is that he took the ideas and floorplans we had and ran with them. He made suggestions to build upon ours and knows NYC code backward and forward – it was an easy, fluid collaboration.
We bought this house intending to gut renovate it. It had great energy and tons of original detail – we’re only the third family to own it since it was built in the late 1800’s. I was 5 months pregnant with Johan when we moved in, so we didn’t start looking seriously at what we wanted to change until after he was born. In early 2007 we began and completed phase one, which mainly involved the basement. We dug the floor down two feet, underpinned the foundation, relocated gas, electric and boiler configurations for better efficiency and more floor space, and finished it off as a media/play room with laundry and storage space. We took a break, filmed season 1 of the show and geared up for phase two, the beginning of which you see in this episode and involves the interior of our main living space. Kitchen, bathrooms, bedrooms and living areas are all on the agenda. And may I say, if you think the house looks messy in this episode, it’s going to get much worse before it gets better!
It’s really important to us to create the concept ourselves. Simon and I have distinct tastes that are very similar. Were we to hire an interior designer we wouldn’t feel the end result was ours, which is why we work the way we do. Our last renovation was a triplex apartment, and I was the project manager/designer/shouting-harpy-in-charge for that one. At the time I was acting and freelancing so had more time. This renovation is much more involved, including many structural changes and reconfiguration of an exterior wall. From that project to this one, Simon has built up many more supplier/vendor/builder contacts than I, so he’s the project manager on this one with me as backup.
Some viewers have asked me, “What’s wrong with a little TV and a few video games?” My answer is – moderation. We don’t have TV in the kids’ rooms, but we do have two in the house, and they do watch some. There’s a great channel with cartoons from the 70’s such as Mr. Magoo and the original DC Superfriends. We also do movie nights – either classics such as The Wizard of Oz or newer titles. I dare anyone to watch Jack Jack Attack without laughing. There’s also an old-school movie theatre close by with a children’s series with things like The Red Balloon or the old Pink Panther cartoons. As for video games, so far we’ve done exactly what my mother did. She knew I played Atari (showing my age, yes) at other kids’ houses, but we never bought one. Our neighbor has a Wii and François enjoys playing it there sometimes – he can take it or leave it. Do we have one? No, and I hope to stick to that.
Later this episode Bethenny becomes a cover girl! While she was quick to make fun of Simon and me earlier in the summer for being friends with Devorah and attending her parties, she’s happy to pose for Social Life Magazine and is thrilled that her shoot becomes the cover and has nothing to do with her business. I was actually happy for her and only sorry that we weren’t able to celebrate in person as we were in St Barts. The retouching reaction doesn’t surprise me because I know her a little bit, but I also think it was OTT – everybody retouches. Even 18 year olds are retouched for print – that’s just the way it works.
Finally, we’re onto the Hope Lodge. Wow, the things you miss when you leave town. I vaguely remember the phone calls when it was shot but was still amazed. It was Ramona unplugged vs. LuAnn as deer in the headlights. Now maybe if I was LuAnn I’d have laughed off the age comment; Simon is 9 1/2 years older and I never worry about that, but she was upset and I think she handled it well. It’s inappropriate to comment on any of that in front of teenagers who understand what you’re talking about – that was unfortunate and I’m glad Ramona apologized, even if it was slightly backhanded.
Does age matter? It really depends. One thing Simon and I have in common is that our fathers were 25 years older than our mothers, and they both died in their 50’s (Simon) & 60’s (me) – Simon was 5 and I was 11. On that note, I think the only issue is having children late when you have health problems. In the deLesseps’ case, they are only 15 years apart and appear to be in good health. That’s good enough for me.
Thanks for watching, and be sure to check out www.mccordvankempen.com for Simon’s take and also a diary of week 1 after my recent layoff.