Feathering your nest for spring
The nesting spirit is contagious. Who can sit still with a backyard full of birds zipping around collecting twigs and bits of string to weave into proper places for raising a family? The "get busy" signal comes through loud and clear. The rest of the animal kingdom - groundhogs, grizzlies and grownups alike, some just waking up from their somnolent state and rubbing their sleepy eyes - see all this frenetic activity and figure they too had better get busy. Even Sydney, our ever-industrious though misguided blue heeler puppy, has caught the nesting spirit this spring. With the tenacity of a bluejay and the work ethic of a robin, she is tireless in her efforts to improve her territory. For weeks she has been proudly carting in assorted bottles and cans, pieces of rubber hose, rug remnants, socks, plastic toy parts and other items too numerous to mention, to enhance her eclectic "nest." (She even smuggled in a baby - a soft-bodied doll from the two-year-old across the road - which we made her return, of course, much to her chagrin.)
If you've also caught spring fever, and your thoughts have turned to building, refurbishing or repairing your own nest, here are four books to help you keep pace with the woodpeckers. A warm and inviting place to start is with Creating the Not So Big House: Insights and Ideas for the New American Home, by Sarah Susanka. If you need inspiration before actually picking up a paintbrush or hammer, this visually impressive book with its sumptuous and soothing photographs will give you a good excuse to do a little more research from the couch before undertaking any projects. The follow-up text to Susanka's influential book, The Not So Big House: A Blueprint for the Way We Really Live, Creating the Not So Big House showcases 25 very different, small to moderate-sized homes from across the country, from a tiny apartment in New York City to a hillside home in California, each sharing a combination of beautiful design and innovative use of space. If you're interested in designing a dwelling that meets, not exceeds, your needs, this volume fits the bill. Floor plans for these homes are included, so you can visualize the whole layout. Creating the Not So Big House makes a great coffee-table book - keep it in easy reach for inspiration, motivation or just to feed your artistic sensibilities.
If you're already well ensconced in a house of 2,500 square feet or less, Better Homes & Gardens Small House, Big Style, offers sound advice on decorating and remodeling to get the maximum from minimum space. Beginning with the basics, Small House opens with chapters on understanding space and identifying a style that's right for your home. Then it's on to bigger, hands-on issues like adding space and arranging furniture - all to help you make the most of those precious square feet. With more than 200 photographs of beautiful interiors, Small House offers tips on everything from choosing the right colors and textures for rooms to working within a decorating budget. Examples of successfully remodeled homes are featured, including a 1930s cottage, a 1940s Cape Cod and a 1950s ranch, accompanied by detailed how-tos. Rich visuals and great organization complement Small House's clear text. The book is a must-have for anyone looking to give their small space a spring makeover.
If you'd rather live with clothes draped around the house than even look inside your dryer, if the only thing you know about air conditioning is that, come July, you've got to have it, or if the words, "the sink's clogged" make your eyes glaze over and your knees knock, Home & Garden Television's Complete Fix-It will give you newfound confidence. Each section begins with an easy-to-grasp explanation of how the appliance or system works. There are plenty of realistic yet uncluttered illustrations, and the bulleted text is clear and concise. The book covers everything in a home from the sub-floor to the roof ridge and all the "fix-it" problems (replacing ceramic tile, lighting a pilot-light, weatherstripping windows and doors, etc.) between them. The volume opens with a chapter on tools and ends with one on home safety, making Complete Fix-It a great selection for the novice repair person, whether he or she owns their own home, rents or lives in an apartment.
True to its name, Home Book: The Ultimate Guide to Repairs, Improvements & Maintenance is the most exhaustive text in the group; it includes detailed sections about almost anything you can think of relating to the home - foundations, furniture, cabinetry, lawns. Even fences and gates are covered in this ultimate home "encyclopedia." It contains over 300 do-it-yourself projects with step-by-step instructions and over 3,000 sharp, pertinent photos or drawings to help illustrate the steps along the way. The Home Book even includes ways of "expanding your nest" - converting unused space like a garage, attic or basement into usable storage areas or additional living quarters. With any or all of these books in your toolbox, you'll find it easier to make your home into a more enjoyable haven this spring and for many springs to come.
A former realtor, Linda Stankard has built, renovated and remodeled several homes.