“make it work” …tim gunn

As I mentioned in a previous post, I decided to move the staircase in my latest project, the Rye, from its original, pre-cut position in the middle of the house to a spot along the right wall. As I also mentioned, I made a mistake or two along the way. Between cutting, patching, and repairing, the second floor flooring–and the first floor ceiling–was a disaster. I had effectively ruined the beautiful, stained birch panel.

At first, I thought I might be able to hide my mistakes, or at least minimize them, with some floor plan changes. The attic knee wall would partially hide the original repair, and if I moved the bathroom, whose floor would be tiled, I could “paper over” the stair-cut oops. But the new design was illogical. I wanted rooms where I wanted rooms, not where they would camouflage blunders. The board looked increasingly unsalvageable. I needed to consider scrapping it.

To that end, it was good luck to find a 2′ x 4′ birch cabinet-grade panel online…but the delivery time was 10 days. Even with things to do in the interim, I’m a lousy “waiter.” Ten days was nine and a half days too long.

There were other negatives, too: the replacement came either 1/4″ or 1/2″ thick. The existing panel was 3/8. The difference, although small, would likely cause a chain reaction of ill-fitting pieces. Plus, I would have to cut the board to size and I would still have to carve in a new hole for the stairs. Since I’m minimally skilled with my one power saw, a jigsaw, and I don’t have a dedicated workspace or garage for more sophisticated woodwork, this plan was a non-starter. What to do?

That was about the time Tim Gunn popped into the room. Have you seen the episodes of Project Runway where Tim Gunn was the designers’ mentor? Tim asked how my project was going and I told him of my recent challenges. “I see,” he said, hand on chin, eyes squinted, and head cocked to the side as he studied my work. The camera shot to a closeup of me. I fidgeted as a long pause followed his statement. And then it came, the dreaded yet vaguely hopeful catchphrase. “Make it work,” he declared. He meant I took a bad turn and I’m up against the clock, but there was a glimmer of hope my design could still win the day. Make. It. Work. OK, Tim. I will.

So, I forged ahead with the original board, deciding I’d revert to a backup plan of installing walnut strip wood flooring upstairs, patch ‘n painting the ceiling of the first floor, and keeping my rooms where I’d originally planned. It was the floor plan I wanted. It was efficient. I would learn new skills. And it wouldn’t cost a dime. No running back to Mood for additional supplies.

Tim would be proud.

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