Well, friends, we are just hours away from sticking a storybook sign in the yard at our Bruce Street Project so that means it’s time to tell you it’s story. But before I do, I have to admit that this project came dangerously close to being storyless. Let me explain.
Usually, something will catch my eye and start the narrative rolling in my head the first time I visit a new project site. This narrative will then form the story and foundation from which the entire project is built. But for some reason, no matter how many times I visited 1406 Bruce Street, I could not find the story hidden within its walls- the house just refused to speak to me. Now normally I would have taken this lack of inspiration as a sign that this house was just not meant to be storybooked; but I gotta be honest with ya, after our last 3 projects I was craving an easier renovation and this little house was clean, solidly well-built and ON A SLAB! PTL! So I convinced myself that if the house refused to tell me it’s story I could simply make up a story and retrofit the house to fit my tale. Seemed like a reasonable plan to me!
So I told myself a classic farmhouse story. Afterall, I wanted an easy flip, and farmhouse design is the style that comes most naturally to me. I drew up a plan that included all the classic farmhouse elements: shiplap, farmhouse sink, galvanized buckets and chicken wire. But despite having all the right ingredients I just couldn’t seem to bring the farm to Bruce Street. The whole design just felt forced. I feared the end product would not pass for a real farmhouse but rather it would look like the house was playing farmhouse dress-up. So I scratched the story. I ended up trying out two other storylines on the house before I concluded this subtle change in strategy just wasn’t going to work.
By this point, the clock had started ticking on our construction loan and I knew I couldn’t afford to keep the project on idle so I decided I would just have to attempt my very first story-free renovation. I reluctantly drew up plans that ticked off all the necessary boxes to result in a nicely updated flip house that surely someone would appreciate and set Cole to work on it’s demolition. And then something happened….. the house decided to talk. It was like the first wack of the sledgehammer woke the house up!
Here’s what happened: I had just walked up to the house to check on Cole’s demo progress when these metal posts caught my eye.
Now, I had passed by these posts at least 50 times over the past month and the only thought I had EVER had in regards to them had been “these posts have got to go.” But for some reason, on that first day of demolition, these 63 year old metal posts decided to speak up and I was able to see them with fresh eyes. For the first time, I pictured the posts renovated rather than ripped out or covered up; and all of the sudden, I found my design inspiration. I realized the only thing that dated these 60s style posts were the swirly designs in the middle of them. Without the swirlies, the posts could actually read quite industrial modern. And then, just as that thought crossed my mind, the windows decided they were ready to break their silence too.
Now, unlike the metal posts, I had ALWAYS loved these windows. From the first time I met this house I had been enchanted with the fact that they cranked out verses rolled up.
In fact, I had even tried out a Snow White storyline on the house because I could soooo picture the Disney princess throwing open those windows every morning for a chat or a song with the neighborhood woodland creatures.
But again, it was my story, not the house’s, so I just couldn’t make it work.
But now I noticed these fabulous windows were not only unique in how they opened but also in that they were made of steel. A fact that totally meshed with the industrial vibe my newly envisioned posts were emitting.
Once I finally made it inside to check on Cole other aspects of the house were ready to speak up and the entire story just seemed to fall into place. This house may have been slow to share its story but once it did, it held nothing back.
I’ve got to tell ya, I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the protagonist of this story over the past 3 months. My time with Bruce not only inspired renovations within the house but also within myself. In fact, “be more like Bruce” is totally going on my 2018 New Years Resolution list. I bet once you meet him, you’ll want to be more like Bruce too.
And now the story of Bruce…………………..
You know how some dog owners resemble their dogs?
Well, in that same way, 1406 Bruce Street has an uncanny resemblance to its owner, Bruce. (Yep, that’s right, Bruce is not only the name of the street but also the homeowner- How Crazy is that?!?!) That being said, I feel like once I introduce you to Bruce the owner you will have a good idea of what to expect from the finished project on Bruce Street.
My first impression of Bruce was that he was the most laid back, carefree human on the planet. He just had this Bohemian Vibe about him.
SIDEBAR: I should clarify that when I refer to Bruce as “Bohemian,” It is totally just my interpretation of Bohemian. Prior to writing this post, I didn’t even know what the true definition of Bohemian was or how real designers define BoHo Style. To me, it just represented a carefree, laidback, unpretentious style with a side of funkiness and a Jamaican accent. So when I sat down to write this story, I was super pumped to find that Google’s definition of Bohemian Style was pretty much spot on to my interpretation. Here is a direct quote from Google:
Bohemian decorating is for those who want their homes full of life, culture, and interesting items for all the world to see. It flies in the face of modern sensibilities and embraces the carefree, the relaxed and the unusual.
Boom! Now, I’m not exactly sure where the Jamaican accent comes in, but for some reason, this house has always spoken to me with a cadence resembling that of the Jamaican bobsled team on Disney’s “Cool Runnings”
I really can’t explain it. Jamaican influences don’t even show up in the design of the house. The only other hint of Jamaican in the story is that I’m pretty sure if Bruce had not suffered from early balding, he would have had dreadlocks like the guy on the far left. But I digress… Back to the story. End Sidebar.
Bruce’s door is always open. And there is always a fresh pot of coffee brewing for when his friends and neighbors drop by- and drop by they do. I don’t think I have ever been to Bruce’s house when he was home alone. The place almost feels like a coffee house. People just walk in without knocking, pour themselves a cup of coffee and plop down on his vintage leather couch like they own the place. Or you might look over and find a couple of neighbors sitting around the kitchen table playing cards or dominos while Bruce is on the floor coloring with his favorite 6-year-old neighbor. That’s just Bruce. He has never met a stranger and everyone is welcome and feels welcome in his home. You can’t help but feel content with the world when your inside those walls.
Fun Story: He let that 6-year-old neighbor pick his cabinet color. He asked her to pick out her favorite crayon, and then he took it to the local paint store to be color matched. His friends thought he was crazy, but paint colors are just not something he sweats. He told his friends he could always paint over them but nothing could replace the memory of the look on his little friends face when she walked in and saw her favorite color on display in such a grand way. Personally, I LOVE his cabinets and think it fits his personality perfectly.
Bruce does own a TV but I have never seen it on. He would much rather be visiting with his friends. He is ultra intentional in his relationships. No matter if you have known him for years or just met him, you’ll think Bruce is your best friend. You will never see his phone out while you are at his house and he doesn’t believe in texting. Bruce seems to do more listening than talking but when he does speak his words carry a lot of weight. It’s almost like he speaks in proverbs. It’s weird, his words never seem very profound in the moment but, more often than not, I find myself thinking about something he has said long after I’ve left his home.
For example, Bruce seems to always be operating at 110% and yet despite that extra 10% his life appears to be incredibly balanced. When I asked Bruce about this enviable trait he simply responded he decided a long time ago to heed the advice of his grandmother and “live life by the 8s.” After he saw the confused look on my face, he explained that he was taught to dedicate 8 hours of his day to work, 8 hours to play, and 8 hours to rest. As someone who struggles to find any semblance of balance in her life, I found I could not get this simple recipe for life out of my head. I mean my current lifestyle looks more like 15/2/7 on a good day, so how could I possibly be productive if I cut my work time down to 8 hours a day! And yet it seemed to be working for Bruce. I decided I needed to see how the full picture played out in Bruce’s life, so I followed him to work one day- Oh yes I did!
When I arrived at Bruce’s place of employement I found out that he works as a number cruncher in the administration office of a commercial welding company. Yep, let that sink in. A NUMBER CRUNCHER! You could have knocked me over with a feather! I had never given much thought to what Bruce might do for a living but NEVER, in a million years, would I have guessed I would find him sitting in a cubicle crunching numbers for 8 hours a day, but that is exactly what he was doing.
While Bruce worked, I thought it would be fun to interview a few of his coworkers to find out what they thought of Bruce. Here is how this went down:
Me: Hi, My name is Niki and I’m working on a project for one of your coworkers, Bruce. I was hoping you could tell me a little about him.
Coworker 1: Bruce? I don’t know any Bruce.
Coworker 2 (to coworker 1): You know Bruce. Bruce, in cubicle 3.
Coworker 1: Oh yeah…. Bruce. Yeah, he’s a nice enough guy but kind of a recluse, if you know what I mean.
Me: No, actually this is quite surprising to me, what do you mean?
Coworker 1: Well, the guy lives in his cubicle. He is always the first one in the office and never leaves a minute before 5pm.
Coworker 2: Yeah, a bunch of us number crunchers will go out for lunch, but when we ask Bruce if he wants to join us he always declines. He says he is just going to eat a sandwich at his desk.
Coworker 1: I will say, at least once a week he does ask me if I want to come over to his house to hang out after work. But I’ve never gone.
Coworker 2: Yeah, he has asked me too. But, I got to be honest, I can’t imagine Bruce’s house would be any fun.
Coworker 1: Yeah, (chuckling) I bet we would just sit around discussing our favorite number or for a really wild night we might have a Soduko challenge.
Coworker 2: Ha! That’s a good one! Yeah, ummm no thank you….. Oh shoot, here he comes now. Let’s get back to work.
Bruce: Hey, Niki, I see you were talking to the gang. (Gone is the Jamaican accent. So Strange.)
Me: Yeah Bruce, it was a very interesting conversation. They told me you hardly ever leave your desk. I gotta admit I never would have pictured you working behind a secluded cubicle. I would have thought you worked in a more social environment, like maybe as a barista or even a disk jockey. But a Number Cruncher?!?!
Bruce: Ha that’s funny. I know a lot of people would hate sitting behind a desk crunching numbers all day but I have always liked numbers. Don’t get me wrong, I would love a job that allowed me to drink coffee all day long and visit with interesting people but this is the job I have so I choose to make the most of it.
Me: You CHOOSE to make the most of it? (there he goes making me think again)
Bruce: Yeah, the way I see it, it is this first 8 hours I spend each day at work that allows me the ability to afford the next two 8’s in my day, so I choose to be grateful instead of miserable. Plus my parents drilled Colossians 3:23 in my head when I was old enough to get my first job. “In all the work you are given, do the best you can. Work as though you are working for the Lord, not any earthly master” So while I’m on the clock I give my best, I challenge myself to be the best number cruncher I can be.
Me: But why do you not go to Lunch with your coworkers?
Bruce: Oh that, well, first of all, I just really enjoy sandwiches. But secondly, I have noticed a lot of times my coworkers are late getting back from lunch so they end up staying late at the end of the day to finish up their work. I’m not willing to do that. I want to make sure my job is complete by 5pm each day so I can start the next 1/3 of my day. But I do hate that I am missing out on getting-to-know my coworkers, so I frequently ask the gang over to my house after work, but no one has ever been able to make it. I also make sure to get to work at least 30 min early every day to allow time to visit with my coworkers before I officially start my work day; unfortunately, most of the other number crunchers don’t arrive until 8:30 or a little after. But that’s ok because it has given me an opportunity to get to know the fellas working in the factory. Man those guys have interesting stories! And It is incredible what they can do with metal. They have even taught me some basic welding skills. In fact, the guys have helped me with a few projects around my house- like that metal grid in my master shower you love, and the table base on my dining room table- me and the guys made those.
Me: Oh Wow! very impressive Bruce. Well, I know you have got to get back to those numbers so I’ll see you back at your house after 5.
Bruce: Sounds good. Oh and Niki?
Bruce: You are not invited to watch my last 8 hours of my day (he says with a chuckle) so I’ll just tell you what that looks like. I’m in bed every night by 12am. I sleep hard… like drool EVERYWHERE, it ain’t pretty. Then I’m up every morning at 6am. I spend 45 min to an hour in prayer and reading my Bible and another 45 min to an hour exercising. I consider my quiet time and exercise rest because they help to refresh my body and soul.
Well, what did you think about that?!?! Personally, I’m in awe. What a great strategy for life. I truly feel like Bruce has figured out the secret to living the most meaningful, full life. I’m just sad my time at Bruce street is coming to an end. I feel like there is so much more I could learn from this Bohemian.
There is so much more I’d like to tell you about Bruce, but you will have an opportunity to meet him for yourself this weekend. He is graciously opening up his home this Sunday, December 17th, from 2-4pm for all those who want to stop by. I guarantee he’ll have some fresh coffee waiting for you. Hope to see you there!