My Belgian friend Sylvia, a do it yourself whiz, interior decorator and even plumber extraordinaire, turned me on to Houzz about a year ago. “It’s fabuluuus – the only probleme is I keep on bookmarking things” she enthused.
Unbeknownst to me, sofagirl also signed up for Houzz’s weekly updates and, when I mentioned it to her, she was already a veteran.
Houzz can only be described as the decorating/house peeping equivalent of the Daily Mail side bar. Getting lost in it is easy and dangerous to my productivity. The bi-weekly updates that land in my inbox feature houses and apartments from all over the world, house maintenance tips and, occasionally, easy do-it-yourself little projects. Poring over renovations in Amsterdam, converted churches in the UK, mid-centuries in Los Angeles or ranches in New Zealand proves addictive if you, like me, think that going to open houses is a fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon. And you are not even looking to move.
Houzz, as it so happens, came to the rescue a few days ago. As usual, I was sitting at my computer, doing some research, writing and wrecking my brains for viable ideas. My Christmas guests had left the day before, the house felt empty and silent and I was having trouble focussing on anything that required my brain to show up for work. It’s what I call “itchy hands syndrome”: my brain won’t cooperate but my hands are ready to work.
My sense of duty prevented me from slouching on the couch or curl up with a book – this was the chunk of time marked in blue in my calendar, i.e. you will be tethered to your desk working on the blog and/or book, or, in extreme cases, doing something else of equal value.
That something else of equal value proved the transplanting of a moribund chrysanthemum that, despite my inaptitude, had decided to flower again, followed by a simple Houzz inspired little project that seemed easy enough even for resource-less me: I was going to spruce up my bulletin board.
I am blessed with an extremely large pantry/laundry room that tends to be the repository of ugly gifts I can’t quite part with and things my husband bought at a discount somewhere just because they were cheap. While I will favor pretty over functional, he doesn’t see the need for beauty in something as practical as a cork board that, no doubt, came from the last chance bin at Office Depot. It had been hanging above the laundry sink for eons, covered in recipes, emergency numbers and yoga schedules and it was starting to bother me as much as the ceramic basket I have since thrown away because too ugly even for up-cycling.
The Houzz project called for a chevron pattern which, when I started applying painter’s tape to my board, proved beyond my patience. How was I going to center the whole thing without a ruler? So I veered towards simple stripes. I spray painted the wooden frame and the exposed cork and, in 15 minutes, I had a much prettier board I could live with, at no cost. Thank you Houzz.
Hands still rearing to keep on going, I threw myself in the making of a chocolate babka, an endeavor that took the good part of the next four hours, one that I usually confine to Christmas, Easter or other festive occasion.
That night, I let myself drown in chocolate and butter, able to justify a day not completely squandered after all. The morning after, I packed the remains of the babka and sent them to work with the husband, I padlocked myself to the desk and let my fingers fly on the keyboard. Sometimes there is nothing like manual labor to get the juices flowing.
If you are so inclined, good old Martha has a very reliable Chocolate Babka recipe.
Click on the link for Houzz’ original cork board project