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Cottages and Gardens - The Cottage Road
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Nancy Buckenham
Cottage Guest Writer

After years of expressing her artistic creativity in in various types of media including graphic art, nature and wildlife drawings, hand pulled limited edition silk screens, "usable art" consisting of painting garage sale furniture, garden items, children's clothes & more, Nancy Buckenham of Stockton, California, is currently devoting most of her time to designing and painting glassware.  Her finished pieces of  glassware have become very popular in numerous gift shops and other retail stores around the United States.  For questions or comments, please send an e-mail too:

Building My Worst Nightmare
This time we wanted our home to reflect who we really are, how did I know our creative tastes were so different.  We had always been supportive of one another, respected each other and admired each other; we just had never done an art project together.

How do you get to those two small words that turn out to be the biggest thing you ever say?  “Let’s build!”  Some people fall in love with, the dirt, a piece of property.  Maybe it’s away from it all; green, with a lovely stream; maybe it’s the best lot in a subdivision; maybe it’s the last lot in a subdivision that the builder couldn’t use and it’s in a good neighborhood with great schools.  For others, it’s about getting exactly what you want, or at least that’s the attitude going in.  If owning your own home is the American Dream, then building it means a lot of sleepless nights. 

For my husband, Mike and I it seems more like a past time than a dream of sorts, but what it is really about is retirement.  We have been building our nest egg and we are using the materials we feel most comfortable with.  We live and live in every project.  We buy smart and sell timely.  Not a lot of emotion attached to the structure itself, it’s mostly about the numbers.  This may sound cold and unfeeling, but think about how most people think about their 401K.  

In our last project, a foreclosure, someone commented, “I wish I was so lucky to live in a house like this.”  I smiled and explained that luck had nothing to do with it.  The lure of the ‘upside’ has always drawn us in.  Can we buy it right and when would be the potential to sell?  We never say, “Let’s build”, to one another, if we see profit, we just give each other a confident nod and away we go.

We’ve moved eleven times in twenty-one years of marriage and lived in seven of our twelve projects.  I just wish I’d had the forethought to take stock in the manufacturers of bubble wrap, cardboard cartons and plastic storage containers.  My youngest son claims he will buy a van, fill it with his stuff and that will be the last time he ever moves.  My older son jokes that we purposely fill bags with concrete and have him move them place-to-place every weekend in the yard.  We secretly believe this will be his motivation to move out, but I think the joke is on us.  I love the cleansing aspect of the move, ridding of the old, a new start, a chance to reorganize, an adventure.  So why was this build a nightmare?  Because we set out not only to make money, but also to build, “Our Dream Home”, and what a nightmare that became.  

Breaking ground during a building boom doesn’t bring any project along and I’d say that for the custom home we built and contracting it ourselves we kept things moving without any hold ups.  Problem was some of the best sub-contractors were busy and when you did get one, they were just fitting you in.  Do the bulk, move on and see if you can get them to come back and finish.  A common complaint when building, especially a problem when things are busy.  Better still let’s build a house so unusual that the framer refuses to do parts of the framing altogether.  Mike would spend hours after work deciphering the blueprints and building a skywalk, moving a pantry and framing out a fireplace to name a few. 

Rarely did I know when estimates from subs were too high, one day there would be steel lying on the upper floor and the next day, Mike would begin construction of a stair rail.  I was generally the culprit in the custom wars.  Holding up progress with wanting something different or the real head shaker, I’m not sure what I want, but it’s not that, and could you just give me your tools and let me play around a bit and I’ll get back to you.  My husband is very patient with me overall; he’d go on unplanned scavenger hunts for sheet aluminum for the centers of my kitchen cabinet doors or argue with the cabinet makers, that yes, that is the way she designed the bathroom vanities.  Funnier was Mike trying to communicate with the workers hired to do the interior texture work, what I really was looking for.  But, we had our moments.

Mike is not only opinionated, thrifty, and conservative, he is extremely handy and has his own creative ideas.  Unfortunately, he is married to an opinionated, penny-wise pound foolish, handy and creative woman, who never wants to do anything that anyone else has done before.  Resale has always been our focus in the past.  This was about building for us.  We were always confident that we were on the same page, boy were we wrong.  Previously, my art went on a variety of things that we would drag from move to move and Mike’s talents were put into the basics. This time we wanted our home to reflect who we really are, how did I know our creative tastes were so different.  We had always been supportive of one another, respected each other and admired each other; we just had never done an art project together.  Some things came easy, I must admit. 

In the entry, I asked, “Honey, what’s this tall wall going to be?”

“I don’t know,” he answers, “what do you want it to be?”

“A climbing wall.”

“Ok, I’m pretty sure I can do that!”  And it was done. 

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Photos © 2002 Nancy Buckenham
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