When I was 12 years old my mom and dad bought a house in the Oakleigh Garden District in Mobile, Alabama. The year must have been 1974 or 75. I remember the day we moved in. My brother and I had a bedroom with 12′ ceilings. There we three doors, one fireplace and no closets, and that was just our bedroom. We played a air hockey game and couldn’t believe our folks had bought a house like this. This house was built in 1896 and they have been taking good care of it for the last 35 years or so. If you didn’t grow up in a house like this or in a in-town neighborhood then you might not know what I am talking about.
I am attracted to old, rundown, industrial neighborhoods. I love old stuff. Always have, always will. It is something that has grown not diminished over the years. Since we moved into that great old house, I have lived in really old places. Except when we bought a brand new house in one of the oldest neighborhoods in Atlanta, I have lived in old places.
For years we lived in the Castleberry Warehouse District, in Atlanta. That was a lot of fun. We explored 100 year old warehouses that were empty. We explored the railroad tracks. There were about 8 tracks that ran between our warehouse loft and downtown Atlanta. We live there in the mid-eighties, not a lot of others lived in that area yet.
Anyway, I think what I’m talking about is growing up in old, downtown environments. As small as Mobile was, living downtown made it very different. I met all kind of different people and I lived in all kinds of different places. Went to Atlanta and did the same thing.
Now we live in a house built in 1917 in East Point, a suburb of Atlanta. We are slowly renovating it. So far we have finished the kitchen, one of the bathrooms and one of the bedrooms. The livingroom is good but, we still have a bath and two bedrooms to do. It’s slow work but it’s worth it.
Someday I want to build a house. I plan to use lots of old salvaged parts. Some of the materials I have stored away, some I will look for when I start and let what I find lead me in the design of the house.
I make my living building furniture from old salvaged wood. It seems just about every other house around here is either being torn down for new construction or being renovated. That means lots of antique pine for the taking. It’s on the way to the dump and builders are happy for me to take it. The furniture I build is either finished in a distressed paint or stained. It all looks old when I finish with it.
Lately I have been painting pictures. I use the same approach to painting as I do with furniture. I like to make them look old. I will paint the picture on plywood and when I am happy with it I take a sander and blowtorch and rough it up a bit. It’s a lot of fun to make a living this way.
So you can see “old” is a big part of my life. I know the reason I like old stuff, old neighborhoods, ect. is because of that house my mom and dad moved us into way back when. I think watching them work so hard to fix it up, and watching others doing the same, I new it was a labor of love. And has become the same for me. My parents have done a beautiful job with their house, it is the place where everyone gathers a few times a year for some really cool occasions. I will tell you about some of these events sometime in the near future.