Ken and I are both constitutional over-planners. We tend to produce detailed, elegant and highly optimistic plans partly out of sheer high spirits. This makes us mildly smug at times: you won’t catch us making dozens of trips to a hardware store because we haven’t captured the right measurements.
Planning does have its dark side, however. For one thing, we tend to invest time and emotional energy into preserving a good plan, occasionally at the expense of the project it’s intended to execute. When you take pride in your ability to reduce uncertainty dramatically and bring order from chaos, change can come to seem loathsome — unjust, even.
The elder Moltke was right, though: no plan survives contact with the enemy. Much like war, home improvement must adapt to conditions on the ground. Just when we were making steady progress on the half bath, the following chain of events forced us to pivot and confront a new enemy:
1. Over the last year crappy blinds throughout the house have begun to break down. As of a month ago, the blinds in the master bedroom hung at a drunken angle when raised, but we could still swivel the slats to control the amount of light and privacy.
2. Two weeks ago our new kitten, Sketch, somehow managed to hang himself by his fragile tail from the blind cord, presenting us with the appalling spectacle of a beloved pet spitting and shrieking in pain and terror, swinging in wild arcs far off the ground.
Sketch had already lapped up a tablespoon of pure cinnamon essential oil, which inflicted a painfully swollen snout, uncontrolled drooling, what seemed to be hallucinatory panic, and a cinnamon odor that persisted for three days — which, admittedly, was an improvement over his naturally occurring feline fish breath. He has nibbled on lilies, which can cause renal failure in mammals much larger than cats. Two weeks ago he singed off both sets of whiskers while repeatedly sniffing a lit candle in an attempt to conduct basic research on the nature of fire. We can’t rely on Sketch suddenly getting smarter, so the instant he was free and everyone stopped screaming and crying, we cut the cords off all of the blinds in the house.
3. Four days ago, Ken and I noticed that we were both feeling a bit down and tired. I was waking up early, and he was having trouble getting to sleep. Our home diagnosis? Sudden light deprivation caused by a series of cold fronts and our decision to leave the bedroom blinds down and closed.
We both fear going mad and starving in our own filth like members of an Arctic expedition, so we shuffled our priorities and decided to spend this weekend contriving a window covering that would be cheap, quick, relatively permanent and, of course, pretty.
Note from Ken: Our new valance box will be similar to the one we built for the kitchen, but will be a little more elaborate. See how we built the other valance box here >>
1. Our Molding Makeover (1,200 sq ft of Tucson townhouse, room by room.)