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Be Jane's Featured Jane of theMonth
Brooke as a featured Jane of the Month for October 2005
Brooke was featured as Be Jane's Jane of the month in October of 2005. Here she shares her thoughts and philosophies on the world of home improvement as well as one of her past home improvement projects.
Redondo Beach, California
Occupation: Construction Artist & Marketing Executive
Favorite Tool: Reciprocating Spindle Sander - because it smoothes the curves in my wood projects just right, and I have lots of curves in my designs.
Project: Remodeled kitchen and custom tile throughout first floor
Jane: What was your first home improvement project?
Brooke: When I was 9-years-old, my dad used to always put me to work around the house. His house in this case, was built in the 1800's in Michigan and had a multitude of projects just lined up and ready for me. Plus, add to it that he had about 10 acres of property, we were always doing projects. One day I'd be stripping 100 years worth of paint from window sills and the next day I'd be building a barn including digging the footings, helping to pour the concrete base, raising the walls and finally roofing. Then on off days, we'd cut down trees with a chainsaw and split wood to heat the house via a wood burning stove. So you can say I've had a bit of training growing up.
Jane: What is the reason you started doing home improvement projects around your home?
Brooke:I purchased a 1947 bungalow in Atlanta, GA. The bones of the house were pretty good however the flow and the cosmetics were awful. The one really funky thing was that the kitchen had a window looking into a 'storage area' which used to be an exterior porch. When previous owners remodeled and turned the porch into an additional room, they left the window so you would look out it into another room of your house - odd. Since this was our first home and we were living on a shoestring budget, it was either do-it-myself or live with it.
Jane: Tell us about the rooms you created. What did you do to your home?
Brooke: After expressing my opinion about the funky window situation to my husband and having him continue to say, "Let's just wait." I wasn't exactly sure what we were waiting for. One week he was out of town on business, so I picked up my Sawzall and started to rip into the wall. I took out the window, removed all the wiring, created a header and took out the 2x4 supports to create a new pass-through doorway.
Then I closed up the old doorway that was located behind the refrigerator and finish-trimmed the opening/wall. I then turned the old 'storage room' into a comfortable dining room by adding a tongue-and-groove ceiling, new flooring and insulated all the exterior walls. With my dining room now in the old storage area, I was able to then open up my kitchen and double its size to create a new gourmet kitchen. I guess I really don't start anything small.
Jane: What was one of your favorite projects that you've done?
Brooke: Same home in Atlanta, the backyard was a mess. The door from the master bedroom had two concrete steps that went down to a patch of weeds and yes, cotton! We liked to entertain and needed a place to do it since our house was only 2 bedroom/1 bath, so we decided to extend the party outdoors. With this in mind, I designed a deck that was multi-level, had integrated seating and lighting and custom copper sunburst railing detail. It was almost 25' x 20' and amazing! Years after that house falls down, this deck will still be standing. And will still be stylish and useful!
Jane: What is the most amazing thing you get out of doing home improvement?
Brooke:I get to have the results just the way I want them. Not someone else's interpretation of what I was thinking. Plus, when friends come into my house and rave about the design and functionality, I can proudly say that everything they're talking about, I've done myself. It's a true feeling of empowerment that translates into my everyday life.
Jane: What is one basic principle that you use when doing home improvement around your house?
Brooke:Functional yet stylish. Everything needs a solution, but it doesn't need to be a commodity solution. Of course, if you have storage issues, you can always run to the local home store and get basic shelving. But that's what it'll end up looking like - basic. Or, you can create something that fits both your home and your style perfectly by creating it yourself. That way, it'll fit exactly what you want to store, just the way you want it.
Jane: How has home improvement affected your life?
Brooke: It's made me want to challenge myself more. The more I learn, the more I realize that there's so much I don't know. But instead of being afraid of the unknown, I now want to tackle it and learn it. It's given me drive to continuously improve my knowledge and myself.
Jane: What is it about home improvement that inspires you?
Brooke: It's a tangible result. If something is broken, I can be the solution to the problem. I don't have to feel helpless and wonder if the problem the contractor is explaining to me is really what's wrong in the first place. I may not be able to fix every problem or tackle every improvement project myself; there are always times when a pro will be needed. But with my knowledge and understanding of home improvement, I now know when a contractor is telling me the truth or just jacking up the price. I know that I can transform my home into my palace while retaining its value for resale. I'm in control of it -- it's not in control of me.
Jane: What words of encouragement or advice would you give to a Jane just getting started in home improvement?
Brooke: Don't be afraid of making mistakes. Actually by making mistakes, you really get to learn and understand the process. The biggest obstacle to home improvement is just getting started. Pick up a tool, do your research, and try. You might not get it right the first time, so try again. It's okay. Worse case scenario, you call a contractor and can fully and intelligently explain to them what the issue is. Good luck!
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