Blogger is Hired to Renovate, Mistakenly Destroys Ulster County Art Piece ‘House’

The following is a semi-fictional newspaper article that I wrote because it seemed more fun than whining about this project for another post:


When first-time home-buyers Adriana and Barry stumbled upon the real estate listing for a quaint 1,100 square foot cottage in the small Catskills hamlet of Olivebridge, they knew they’d found something special. An unassuming home surrounded mainly by woods and monolithic rock formations, it was clear that the house itself was in need of a few minor tweaks. Like so many homeowners in today’s market, they were prepared to embark on a small renovation to bring the house into line with their personal tastes.

“We knew what we wanted, and this house checked almost all of the boxes,” Adriana, an entrepreneur based in Manhattan, recalled. “All it really needed was a new kitchen and a few cosmetic upgrades.” They hired then-25 year-old blogger of the home-improvement focused blog, Manhattan Nest ( to design, execute, and document the renovation for them. They gave him 8 weeks to complete the project.

Two months later, the couple found themselves spiraling deeper and deeper into a renovation boasting a size and scope that they never imagined.

“It was shocking,” Barry explained. “Every professional who walked through the house literally stood there and said to us ‘this is the worst house we’ve ever seen—period.’ That was devastating. We had no idea what to do.”

It’s a story most of us have heard before, told and re-told on television shows like Holmes on Homes and the 1986 modern classic, The Money Pit. But this story varies from that narrative thanks to one subtle but essential detail: this home was actually the product of an installation art piece entitled House, a project that has been decades-long in the making.

“I thought they understood that they were part of the piece,” explained the artist and previous owner of the structure, who agreed to be interviewed on the condition of anonymity. “You work on a single piece for over 20 years, and you’re just happy that somebody is able to really see the value in it when all is said and done.”

The concept for House was inspired by the ugliness and instability that often lies beneath attractive and robust appearances, according to the artist. “There are monsters inside every one of us, whether we choose to see them or not. I wanted to explore that in a domestic setting. All around America we have these nice little houses masking unspeakable evil,” he noted. “A lot of it had to do with the Reagan economy, too. Twenty or twenty-five years ago, we were all sitting around asking ourselves how anything could survive after such a sustained attack on our values and beliefs. I thought—hey, if I can give form to these feelings and anxieties with my art, maybe it’ll all serve a purpose.”

And so he went about doing just that: first purchasing the modest cottage in Olivebridge, about 2 hours north of Manhattan.

“The idea with the renovation was to kind of make it up as I went along,” he explained. It wasn’t such an easy proposition. “You have to understand,” the artist recalled, “I know how to do things more or less the ‘right’ way, but that’s not what this piece was ever about. This was about knowingly doing the wrong thing, and trying to make it seem like the right thing. You essentially had to pretend that you’d never seen a house before, or at least anything below the surface. You had to pretend that you yourself were a person who was pretending to know how to do things. Pretend that you were pretending that you didn’t know what a mess you were making of it. There were a lot of layers.”

“House,” undergoing renovation in the spring of 2015

And make a mess he did, at least by the standards of conventional building practices rather than art. “I started thinking, hey—what if I pretended like I didn’t know what nails were? What if I pretended like doors and windows could just go anywhere I wanted, regardless of the structural requirements of a building? What if I did the electrical and insulation and plumbing so that most of it would work for a while, but not for the long haul? It was important that the piece be an implicit reminder that anything can come crashing down around you at any moment. It really took off from there.”

It wasn’t always simple, or fast. “If it had just been modifying the building, the piece would have been completed in a year or two. But that wasn’t enough. We had to see how an idea like this would develop over time. We had to keep messing around with it,” the artist noted. “One year we released a colony of termites on House, and the next year we upped our ante and unleashed ten or twenty mice on the place and just let them do their thing.” It wasn’t long after that chipmunks and squirrels were also introduced to House, which was already experiencing a colonization of a different sort. “We didn’t even plan for the rot and mold,” the artist explained, “but we were overjoyed when it started appearing. We thought, hey, this is great. House is doing exactly what it should be doing. Sometimes as an artist, you don’t always get to control exactly the direction a piece will take, so it’s always terrific when it turns out even better than you imagined. It means you’re doing your job well.”

The “Squirrel Hotel,” undergoing renovation.

Often this took the form of experimentation. The side elevation of the building, for instance, sported a wall constructed roughly one foot from the true exterior wall of the structure, allowing for something several neighbors termed a “squirrel hotel.”

“We just kept adding layers to it,” the artist explained. “We wanted to know what would happen.”

The “Squirrel Hotel” under renovation.

“I built the whole thing with 2×4 pressure-treated lumber and steel L-brackets,” the artist revealed. “I like L-brackets because they aren’t really suited to the task, but they work. We knew they would rust. That was all part of it.”

Occasionally, keeping up with the organic development of House was a difficult task. “For the piece to succeed, it still had to look like a normal house,” the artist recalled. “So when things started to show outward signs of deterioration, we were quick to cover them up with whatever we had around. Bondo, a wood shim, a piece of masonite. Figuring out how to keep up appearances was half the project.”

When squirrels gnawed through the wood encasing a live electrical box, the artist was unfazed. “All you need is a little creativity,” he explained. Here, a bit of steel wool from the supermarket and a few wood shims made everything look like new. 

“The squirrels honestly performed better than we expected. We thought they’d want to leave. Instead they stuck around and really took things to the next level,” the artist recalled.

The interior of the “Squirrel Hotel,” after several years of habitation. “It was a real gamble whether they’d just gnaw some wood,” the artist recalled. “but they had their way with insulation and electric, too. It was amazing hearing them go to work and wondering ‘what are they doing back there?'”

But all good things must come to an end. “It felt like we’d taken the piece as far as we could take it, and it was time to bring House to market,” the artist continued. “That’s always a gamble in this industry because you don’t know how the public will react. When Adriana and Barry walked through the door, though, you could tell that they really understood House in a way that some other buyers and critics just didn’t. They placed an offer shortly thereafter and we went through the whole charade. The offer, the contract, the mortgage, the inspection. It really felt like they were buying a house when they bought House. They were so convincing that I thought to myself ‘is this real?’ Most art buyers are snobs with too much money to blow, but Adriana and Barry aren’t like that. They really got it. They really loved it. I was overwhelmed by their reception of my work.”

It wasn’t until Kanter started his renovation of the property, however, that the attention to detail applied to House became clear. “I’d never seen anything like it, even on TV,” he recalled in a phone interview from Kingston Hospital, where he is currently being kept in isolation while battling Hantavirus, an illness spread mainly by the inhalation of mouse droppings that affects the respiratory system. “It’s truly remarkable to see so many things wrong within a single structure. It made me wonder ‘what the hell have I walked into?’ because it really seemed like a pretty normal house.”

Still, Kanter is a supporter of the arts. “People who work in creative industries are often misunderstood. Look at Andy Warhol. Look at Picasso. Just because I didn’t immediately ‘get it’ doesn’t make it bad art,” he noted. “In fact, maybe that makes it even more compelling.”

Not that the job hasn’t taken its toll. “We had no idea we were going to find something with this many problems,” Kanter explained. “It’s a terrible feeling having to communicate that to clients. It starts to feel like you’re doing something very wrong, like the disaster in front of you is all your fault even when you know it isn’t. It messes with your brain. You just want to fix something, and when you can’t, it’s incredibly frustrating. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt worse about anything in my life than I do about the course of this project, and I didn’t even build House.”

Adriana and Barry, Kanter’s now long-suffering clients, have a somewhat different set of concerns. “I wish we could go back in time,” Adriana explained. “I had to convince Barry to buy House but neither of us realized that it was essentially unlivable.”

“We love art,” Barry added, “but we just wish the habitability of House had been more clear. We get that’s what makes the piece work, but it would have been nice to get a backstage pass so someone could say, hey, here are all the ways that House could kill you, and are you sure you really want to do this? We might have thought twice if that happened. We want our money back. We’re thinking about knocking it down, because we aren’t sure what can be done to allow House to survive as an installation but also provide what we were hoping to get out of it in terms of being a place to live.”

Adriana’s view is a bit more nuanced. “Knocking it down isn’t an option. Daniel [Kanter] has suggested it, a few contractors too, but I love House. So we need to find some kind of solution that works for everyone.”

What exactly that looks like remains to be seen. After the renovation began, it quickly became obvious that the necessary repairs were well outside the scope of the original building permit that Kanter applied for with the local department of buildings. “I was calling them constantly,” Mr. Kanter recalled, “saying ‘hey, Judy, it’s me again—we have to rebuild another structural wall. Do you need me to stop so that the inspector can come take a look?’ And they always told me to just keep going and call back when we were ready for our framing inspection. So that’s what we were trying to do.”

When inspector John Armstrong did eventually show up, at the urging of both Kanter and the homeowners to inspect whether the house’s wood stove could be safely re-installed, he changed his tune. “It was like nothing I imagined. I was speechless. I’ve been doing this a lot of years, and I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Armstrong, who was previously unaware of the development of House over the years, did not issue a stop-work order. “These guys were doing their best, and they certainly weren’t making things worse,” Armstrong explained. “I told them they needed to have engineers draft some plans though, because even I had no idea how to fix such a disaster. I don’t care if it’s art. It’s not responsible to let people live with so many hazards around, because they might not end up living very long.”

“I found a local engineering firm the very same day,” Kanter recalled. “I walked in the front door covered in all sorts of demolition debris and asked if there was anyone I could talk to. They looked at me like I had three heads, but they had someone out to House later that week to do an initial consult and go over the problem areas with me. We figured out what parts of House clearly needed to be eliminated so that we could still use our time efficiently while the engineers work on the plans.”

Kanter and the owners hired the firm roughly two months ago to provide a roadmap of the necessary repairs that would allow House to exist as both an art piece an a legally-habitable dwelling, but the journey is a difficult one to charter.

“Typically we’d recommend just leveling the thing and starting over,” said Stephen Davis, one of the engineers working on the project. “But House is different and we get that. That’s why we’re trying to fix it while still being sensitive to the ethos of the piece. We’re thinking of it like when the Met brings in someone to repair a painting. Even the best art needs maintenance every now and then.”

“Still,” Mr. Davis noted, “we’ve evaluated houses out on Cape Cod that were literally resting on a few 4×4 posts sitting precariously on top of a small piece of flagstone. House still takes the cake. We have our work cut out for us.”


There was still plenty of work to do, however. “The porch just had to go, obviously,” Davis noted, referring to a street-facing addition that was once a porch, then enclosed and given over to the small living room. “The structure was a disaster, and there was no sense in trying to salvage anything except the windows and some of the framing that could potentially be reused.”


“At this point,” Kanter explained, “we’ve demolished as much as we really can without knowing exactly what the next steps are. I’m hopeful that the engineers can turn their plans around quickly, and we can hit the ground running as soon as we get them. But right now, all we can do is wait.”

“We’re hoping to have answers to them next week or the one after,” Davis said about the progression of the plans. “Trying to fix House is a complicated task requiring a lot of special attention and creative thinking. They’re just going to have to be patient while we do our work, and then they can decide how they’d like to proceed. We’re talking about serious problems here with trying to make this art piece livable…you’re trying to do just enough to fix bad roofs, bad walls, bad foundations, bad electrical work, lack of insulation, plumbing that’s far from code-compliant. It might end up being that it’s just not worth it, as interesting or cool as House is to the owners.”

Everyone involved in the project, including the owners, are looking for creative solutions. Adriana and Barry have considered everything from placing a converted shipping container elsewhere on the property, so that House could be appreciated from a reasonably safe distance, to purchasing a home adjacent to House and connecting the two with something like an enclosed bridge.

“We’re exploring our options,” Adriana explained. “Nothing is off the table right now. We want a house, but we also want House. It’s a fine line. But I’m confident we’ll figure it out.”

Concerning his continued involvement in the project, Kanter said that while it would have to depend on the recommendations provided by Davis and his team, his mind is mostly made up. “Listen, I’m basically a blogger with a small amount of renovation experience. I know when I’m in over my head, and I’m in over my head.” Kanter said, indicating that he would likely pass the next phase of the project off to a qualified builder, and perhaps return to decorate when House receives its certificate of occupancy, whenever that is. “I just don’t have the experience behind me to even build a house under normal circumstances,” he went on. “Now I’m basically supposed to build one in reverse.”

The owners have something else in mind, however. “We don’t want to start over with a whole new contractor who we don’t know and a whole crew we don’t trust,” Adriana explained. “The first part of this project has been rocky, but we feel strongly that Daniel stay with us while we see this through to completion. He can do it.”

As for the artist, he claimed to be “just fine” with whatever the owners of his work decide to do next. “I poured my heart and soul into this piece for over 20 years, and then I got paid handsomely for it,” he said. “What more could an artist ask for?”

Diary Time!

Day 31: Worked on demoing living room ceiling and exterior. Got all tongue and groove removed from front elevation and most of door side. Deconstructed squirrel hotel. Horrors. Window purchase for kitchen approved, will pick up Wednesday.

Day 32: Worked on exterior demo and loaded truck for dump. Demo complete on front, side with door (almost), and exterior of shared wall between kitchen and living room section. Must remove shiplap and dining room wall tomorrow and pick up kitchen window for installation on Monday. Set appointment with Central Hudson to remove meter pan in order to reframe wall.

Day 33: Dump run. Picked up window at Door Jamb. Continued exterior demo/de-nailing old siding, site clean up. Met previous owner, omg.

Day 34: Consulted with Edwin on plan for tomorrow and supplied shopping list. Researched wood stove clearance requirements.

Day 35: Loaded truck for dump. Met with building inspector re: wood stove. He wants engineer renderings and specs for new work. Went to dump, came back, and worked on clean-up from Edgar/Francisco demo in living room. More exterior demo.

Day 36: Edgar and I worked on reframing front door wall, exterior demo, interior demo. Went to engineers to discuss project.

Day 37: Demo and site clean up. Horrible day. Left early. Low point. Exhausted.

Day 38: Site clean up, exterior demo, met with Ed from excavating company and engineer. He will speak to building inspector and be in touch in a couple days with proposal to get the ball rolling.

Day 39: Site cleanup, constructing temporary wall in living room.

Day 40: Meeting with Adriana and Barry at job site.

Day 41:  Meeting with engineer. Relayed info back to Adriana and Barry.

Day 42: Major site clean-up to prep for engineer meeting at site.

Day 43: Edgar and Francisco demo’d front porch.

Day 44: Edgar framed in new kitchen window.  Francisco worked on tearing off remaining asphalt siding. I hauled stuff to dump. Scheduled engineers to meet tomorrow.

Day 45: Met with engineers to evaluate house. Yikes, yikes. Plan that they will submit brings things up to/close to code…underpinning foundations, new ceiling structures, foundations, collar ties, floor systems, everything. Long, long road ahead, goddamnit. Will likely have to gut more of house, almost all of it. Also went in crawlspace under hall/bed/bath and joists are dripping with condensation…not good.

About Daniel Kanter

Hi, I'm Daniel, and I love houses! I'm a serial renovator, DIY-er, and dog-cuddler based in Kingston, New York. Follow along as I bring my 1865 Greek Revival back to life and tackle my 30s to varying degrees of success. Welcome!

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  1. 5.10.16
    debbie in toronto said:

    Yikes….just yikes.

    that must be some lot…otherwise…why bother? just saying.

    • 5.10.16
      Daniel said:

      That’s a really tough question to answer, and probably one for the owners rather than me. Why bother buying the house in the first place is easy—they just had no idea they were buying such a disaster, they wanted a house, and they liked this one and could afford it. It would not have made sense to buy this property for more than the value of the land (which is valued at about 1/4 of what they paid) had they known, really. So then it becomes a question of the best path out, both from a financial perspective and an emotional one…a renovation of the scope that we’re headed toward makes it essentially impossible to recoup the investment if they chose to sell in the near future, but at least they’ll have a house…so one part of the original goal is intact? Leveling it and just selling the land might have been a better financial decision (again, not one I can make for them), but then they’re out a bunch of money AND don’t have a house at all.

    • 5.10.16

      What a bloody nightmare. Poor, poor owners :(

    • 5.13.16
      Laura said:

      What an excellent answer! I was wondering the same thing myself, but it makes total sense. At least this way, you can achieve one small leg of the original goal and aren’t completely defeater. Honestly, it blows me away how talented you are at design, renovation, and writing!

  2. 5.10.16
    gretaclark said:

    I do not believe that this is a fictional piece!! I hope that you were not hospitalized for the hantavirus. This is a true nightmare. But the story is hilarious. Art must be served–but it is always craving more. I can kind of see the finished product down the line and I think that you are “out of the woods”. YAY!!

    • 5.10.16
      Daniel said:

      I wasn’t, thank goodness! I did get really sick around this phase of the project, though, and I was CONVINCED that’s what I had…I was BEGGING doctors to test me for it and believe that it was a possibility given all the mouse shit I was dealing with. It turned out to be something else, but it was a really scary couple of weeks.

  3. 5.10.16
    Danielle said:

    This was an endlessly entertaining post… Although I did feel a bit guilty–like I was enjoying a multi-car pileup. What a mess!

    • 5.10.16
      Lindsay said:

      Me too!

    • 5.11.16
      Jennifer said:

      Me three!

      Those poor owners. My heart just breaks for them.

  4. 5.10.16

    This is hysterical. Glad you are taking it well (you are, right?). I think you could have taken a cue from the artist and added a few useless terms, like “paradigm” or “contextualize” or “axiomatic” or even “scrofulous.”

    • 5.10.16
      Daniel said:

      Ha! I’m taking it better now, but this was happening several months ago and at the time was just BRUTAL. The “quote” about how awful I was feeling about things is really just how awful I was feeling about things. And part of waiting on the engineering report meant that the house basically sat for a few months in much the same condition that the last photo of the post shows…having THAT weighing on me was painful. Knowing that I got caught up in this insane project, which was coming at the cost of continuing work on Bluestone Cottage (8 weeks was an OK trade-off for the work opportunity of doing this project), plus living in a house under renovation…so three houses under my care, all in various states of disaster, plus some other personal crap going on…I’m just glad to be past that period of my life, good riddance.

  5. 5.10.16
    Meghan, UK said:

    The style of this post was great to read, thank you Daniel. How you are relaying this horrendous story does you and everyone involved with it great credit. Stay strong! Your writing always brings a smile to my face, even when you’re talking about this house of horrors…

    • 5.10.16
      Daniel said:

      Thank you, Megan!

  6. 5.10.16
    Lori said:

    This is what caught my eye:

    “Day 33:……… Met previous owner, omg.”

    Is the previous owner liable for any of this? Undisclosed massive multiple structural issues, etc.?

    • 5.10.16
      Amanda B said:

      That’s what I’m wondering… Is there any legal recourse for the homeowners, since they bought a house on the false pretense that it was habitable? Like buying a car that’s a lemon.

    • 5.10.16
      Lori said:

      I want to hear about this too! If I was the previous owner, I would have immediately moved across the country to some undisclosed location after handing over the keys.

    • 5.10.16
      Daniel said:

      Yeah, that was a fun encounter.

      Yes and no, and there are more qualified sources to answer this question. My understanding is that in New York, the “buyer beware” concept trumps a lot of other things. However, I think if you can basically prove that you were lied to and information was intentionally withheld or misrepresented, you have a case. BUT (big but), that would only apply to some aspects of what was wrong with this house, not all of them, and you have to weigh what you stand to gain vs. the time and serious $$ involved in litigation. The owners decided it just would not be at all worth it, so it’s not something they chose to pursue. It sucks that someone can get away with all of this and just laugh their way to the bank, but that’s reality.

    • 5.10.16
      Danielle said:

      That’s exactly what I was thinking – surely there’s some legal liability of the former owner and/or inspector??

    • 5.10.16
      Erin said:

      Yeah I am thinking more on the inspector. I know not everything is visible during inspection but when I’ve gone through the process I feel like an inspector would have picked up on some of the jankiness of this. How is that not possible?

    • 5.10.16
      Pam said:

      I may be totally TOTALLY wrong here but I think inspectors are pretty well protected in cases like this. They are only responsible (to my knowledge) for identifying things that are visible. Even if the buyers wanted to go after the inspector, I’m fairly certain (but again, not 100% positive) they could only sue for the cost of the inspection which would likely not be worth it given legal fees, the time it would take, and the fact that they’d only recoup a few hundred to a thousand dollars. That said, HOLY F%{^ what a nightmare!

    • 5.10.16
      Daniel said:

      Erin—The inspector did pick up on some, but not all of this. Where things seem to have really broken down is how that information was conveyed to the owners, and how the owners interpreted it. With inspections, many things that could be hazards are pointed out, but the exact ramifications of those hazards are pretty vague beyond recommending that a “qualified ____ contractor come to evaluate further.” To my knowledge, the owners skirted some of the recommendations of the inspector, thinking things that ended up being big deals were not such big deals…NOT a good decision especially as a first-time homebuyer without any renovation experience to reference. Other things really should have been explained more thoroughly to them by their agent and/or the inspector, but weren’t. Personally, having seen the inspection report (after I was hired), I wouldn’t blame the inspector for this. This was the owner being a piece of shit, the agent being lousy at their job, and the homeowners lack of knowledge. There isn’t always just one finger to point, ya know?

    • 5.10.16
      mariane said:

      Definitely want to know what the previous owner had to say! Idon’t know what is more horrifiying…him selling this health hazard knowingly to innocent new homeowners, or him being so f#*&ing dumb he’s totally unaware of all the damages he really did. Hang in there all of you, Adriana, Barry, Edwin, Edgar and of course you Daniel. The last year seemed to be really hard (understandably) on you, but you did a truly good thing. for your clients, their neighbors, the house itself and future homeowners of Olivebridge cottage. Imagine somebody else that does not have your empathy delivering all these bad news to Adriana and Barry, and not your care and eye for details planning the salvaging of house. Anyway, please don’t burn yourself on all these projects but thank you for sharing them with us…we REALLY like you Daniel Kanter!! xx

    • 5.10.16
      Daniel said:

      Thank you, Mariane! I really appreciate that, more than you know. It has been an extremely challenging project, but I really think it’s coming to a nice resolution. Maybe not the one these homeowners originally expected, but it’s only been a little over a year since this saga began, and the homeowners are looking forward to moving into their house in about 6 weeks. Not so bad, all things considered. :)

    • 5.11.16
      Sandra Guilbault said:

      Ditto Mariane, and I’m so relieved to know that this was several months ago and you can say that the homeowners are about to move into their house! Bless your heart.

    • 5.10.16
      Michelle said:

      I agree! I’m an attorney and I would TOTALLY help pro bono, but I’m not admitted to practice in New York. Is there an organization in NY that helps people find pro bono or low bono attorneys? Surely someone will take pity on the owners and help them out! This is horrifying! My whole body is cringing.

    • 5.10.16
      Daniel said:

      That’s really a question for the homeowners, but they did explore their legal options and concluded that it wasn’t worth it. That kind of thing is totally outside my wheelhouse and I can only defer to them for decisions like that!

    • 5.11.16
      Meredith said:

      Also an attorney, also not admitted to practice in NY. I understand not wanting to go through with litigation, but a demand letter or …? If they could find a lawyer to take the case and only charge if they recoup $ (this is common in torts litigation), then it really wouldn’t be that onerous. Obviously it’s up to the homeowners, but the injustice of them being stuck paying the full freight for this is outrageous.

    • 5.10.16
      SLG said:

      OMG! That line jumped out at me too!
      (I won’t pry, but I just want to know one thing: was any profanity uttered during that conversation?)

    • 5.11.16
      Daniel said:

      I don’t believe so? It was so surreal. Like meeting a poltergeist.

    • 5.11.16
      Alicia said:

      “Like meeting a poltergeist.”
      I legitimately belly laughed for a full minute.
      I think I’ll randomly think about this line and chuckle for the rest of my life.

  7. 5.10.16
    Shelley said:

    That was some AMAZING writing, nicely done. Sorry for all the hassles and the (inevitable) low points but clearly you *are* the person for this job. Continued luck. And health. And some semblance of a life. And thanks so much for your work chronicling it all!

  8. 5.10.16
    Kristin said:

    Just brilliant, Daniel. What a fantastic post, squirrel hotel notwithstanding.

    • 5.10.16
      Daniel said:

      thank you! :)

  9. 5.10.16
    Lori said:

    OMG, Daniel. LOL and OUCH.

    The “article” is hilarious. I hope you didn’t actually get hantavirus. But now you’ve got me paranoid because I decided to clean out, organize, and paint the inside of my disgusting shed, and sweet lord, the mouse crap. Mouse crap EVERYWHERE. I have become convinced that my mice levitate at night just to shit on the walls. Maybe I ought to be wearing a ventilator as I attempt to scrape all that nasy crap into the ShopVac nozzle? And while I already knew that the previous owner framed in the window and doorway wrong, I also discovered that he didn’t actually attach any of the 2x4s in the wall framing to the 2x4s resting on & attached to the floor. So if the roof and walls of my shed weren’t structurally attached to my house (a nightmare I will have to deal with another day), I suspect the whole damn thing would have blown off its foundation by now. But Olivebridge is making that hot mess look like a carpentry masterwork by comparison. Congratulations on surviving with enough sanity left to write this post! OY.

    • 5.10.16
      Daniel said:

      Yes, wear a respirator for sure!!! I guess Hantavirus is mainly a west coast thing, but that’s certainly not the only thing you could be breathing in that could make ya sick. Respirators are good things to be using in general, regardless of whether you suspect life-threatening pathogens!

  10. 5.10.16
    Charell said:

    Daniel, this is great–I loved it. But I am so, so sorry for the poor people that bought this house. You have to write a follow up “article” about meeting the former owner–the public wants to know!

    • 5.10.16
      Daniel said:

      Ha! I think there’s a decent change I’d get sued, haha. That’s how many nice things I have to say about them.

  11. 5.10.16
    Christina said:

    omg. Last night I finally confirmed what’s making the scratching sounds in the ceiling. As I stood in the attic, in my socks and hastily donned sandals, with their beady little eyes staring at me with a frankly offensive lack of trepidation, I started writing something like this in my head. Like an obituary for my status as a good homeowner. I’m still working on disassociating and compartmentalizing while I figure out how the hell to fix it.

    So, thank you! Thanks for the perspective and good luck finishing Olivebridge Cottage!

    • 5.10.16
      Daniel said:

      I’ve had squirrels make their way into my attic, Christina! It happens. It’s horrifying, but it happens! In my case they gnawed right through the top of my cornice and set up camp. I blocked them out temporarily but I’m hoping to tackle the real repair this summer. It’s always something!

  12. 5.10.16
    Heather said:

    You know that job interview question where they ask how you’ve handled a difficult situation? You’ve got it down!

  13. 5.10.16
    amcninja said:

    May the odds ever be in your favor.

  14. 5.10.16
    Lizzie said:

    Please tell me the previous owner feels some sort of bad about selling a composting, rodent infested, box on rocks to people who thought they might be able to live in it (regardless of it’s ‘masterpiece’ status).

    At least you can add ‘reverse built a house’ to your resume?

    • 5.10.16
      Daniel said:

      Well, I certainly hope they feel bad, considering they (at least partially) knowingly did this and haven’t had to account for it. So. Shitty. I try not to harbor negative feelings toward people that I really don’t know, but for them I make an exception.

      And yes! I can add that! Silver linings. :)

  15. 5.10.16
    Angela said:

    I love your humor, going through something this horrid and not falling off the edge requires that I think. Anyway, now I am curious as the how the previous owner explained all this, he has to be a little off to do all that he’s done and still show his face.

    • 5.10.16
      Daniel said:

      It was a VERY weird encounter. He basically started telling me about the various things in the house that didn’t work, and when I told him why (“yeah, that light didn’t turn on because squirrels had eaten through the wiring…”) he seemed somewhat less than surprised. His wife was saddened that our work was disrupting the lives of the “cute chippies” (chipmunks) that literally destroyed their house. Good gravy.

    • 5.10.16
      Suzanne said:

      What the hell is that? If they love the “cute chippies” so much, continue to keep the house instead of selling it to unsuspecting people. OMG. That there are really such people in this world, the horrors.

    • 5.10.16
      Lori said:

      Oh lord. Bless their hearts.

    • 5.12.16
      Emma said:

      Omg, the owners sound insane.

      This post was extremely well written and I am so glad you are almost through! Let’s hope this house is the “high point” of your renovation career. I mean, no project could be worse, right?

    • 5.12.16
      Emma said:

      I meant *previous* owners.

  16. 5.10.16
    Jessica said:

    Daniel, I have been following you for a long time now and have been SO anxious to hear this update. You are such a delight to read and I always look forward to and enjoy all of your posts. This project is beyond words. I recommend your blog to all my friends :)

    • 5.10.16
      Daniel said:

      Thank you, Jessica! That’s very kind!

  17. 5.10.16
    adrien said:

    *breathes in and out in brown paper bag*

  18. 5.10.16
    Emily said:

    Im do sorry this happened to you and to them – but you’re writing is brilliant! It just gets better and better. I hope there’s a book lurking in all this madness.

  19. 5.10.16
    Erin said:

    Whoever did this to the house clearly had an ice pick lobotomy. It is messed up beyond belief. I feel so bad for Adriana and Barry! But thank you for making me feel better about the semi-shoddy work we’re uncovering at our house. You’re a peach.

    • 5.10.16
      Daniel said:

      No prob, I gotcha. :)

  20. 5.10.16
    Casey said:

    This whole thing is a walking advertisement for getting a home inspection. wowzers

    • 5.10.16
      Daniel said:

      The sad thing is, they got one! We’ll talk about why it wasn’t enough, probably in the next post or the one after.

  21. 5.10.16
    Susan in the UK said:

    Daniel, your story telling is wonderful and I really wasn’t laughing at the misfortunes associated with Olivebridge, only at your descriptions.

    I moved house a few weeks ago, to a Victorian terraced (row?) cottage. It is a rental and I was told that it has a lovely big attic which has got some large pieces of art in it which must stay but that there is plenty of room to store boxes and stuff.

    Having bought a ladder, my partner disappeared through the hatch to investigate the attic before installing a new tv antenna. As well as the paintings and other stuff stored on one side, he found in the middle of the attic, between the joists in two places, masses of acorns. Some new type of roof/ceiling insulation? Or squirrels? I’ve not heard any sounds of life up there but the hatch is staying firmly closed.

    Now I’m wondering….. art and evidence of squirrels….. oh heck.

    • 5.10.16
      Daniel said:

      Haha! Hopefully it’s nothing like this! But if it is, at least you don’t own it!!

  22. 5.10.16
    Sterling said:

    I wondered when engineers would be brought in. Glad the house didn’t fall down on y’all while you were in it, and I hope your life now holds simple, easy, quick and painless projects for the near and medium future. Talk about a trial by fire, you’re practically an expert now.

    • 5.10.16
      Daniel said:

      Trial by fire indeed! This has been one harrowing clusterfuck of a year, but I’ve learned a WHOLE LOT throughout it. :)

    • 5.11.16
      Sterling said:

      Don’t you find you learn the most when you’re trying to fix other people’s mistakes? Major props to you for sticking with the homeowners for the long haul, even though it obviously wouldn’t be like you to bail on them. (Are we allowed to make character judgments like that over the internet? Whatever)

  23. 5.10.16
    gretchen said:

    A strong sense of humor and an appreciation of the absurd are two of the most valuable tools in your box! I applaud you for not bailing when the homeowners asked you to stay. I think you are getting the equivalent of several years of building experience out of this. When this is all over, you will be an undisputed master of so many things…

  24. 5.10.16
    Sarah said:

    I am just sitting here. I have to just sit and absorb the brilliance of that piece. Humorous and heart wrenching at the same time. Daniel, you have a gift with houses and words. Thanks for the laugh although I do feel sick for the owners that *House* continues to be such a nightmare.

    • 5.10.16
      Daniel said:

      Thanks, Sarah! Smoother sailing ahead, I swear! :)

  25. 5.10.16
    Laurea said:

    this is the best/worst thing ever.

  26. 5.10.16
    S@sha said:

    Seriously funny. Glad that this was months ago and you are able to laugh about it.

  27. 5.10.16
    Lara said:

    Oh honey.

  28. 5.10.16
    Ashley said:

    Has this project brought you to tears? I’m nearly crying here at my desk just reading this

    • 5.10.16
      Daniel said:

      Hmmmmm…I don’t remember any particular instances (I don’t cry easily), but it’s certainly caused its share of emotional distress, that’s for sure!

  29. 5.10.16
    Karin said:

    Amazing how you can write such a funny piece about such an unfunny thing- it’s a testament to your talent as a writer. I’m sitting here thinking- when is he going to post about something pretty? Which must mean you must REALLY be thinking when do I get to post about something pretty?
    (not a reproach, by the way…)

    • 5.10.16
      Daniel said:

      YES I MISS PRETTY THINGS! SOON! I know it’s been quite a while.

    • 5.10.16
      Suzanne said:

      Yes, can’t wait to see the House’s rebirth. 6 weeks until the owners moved in, so we should be able to see the reincarnation in 2 months? Please, pretty please?

    • 5.11.16
      Daniel said:

      I’m gonna give it my best!

  30. 5.10.16
    Holland VanDieren said:

    Honestly, the buyers sound like the crazy ones. This is no time to be inexplicably sentimental about a tear-down, especially one that has no personal history for them. How much money was spent in the pursuit of fairytale beliefs? They could have been living happily ever after by now if they were clear-eyed and logical.

    • 5.10.16
      Ragnar said:

      Holland VanDieren, I’d recommend reading Daniel’s comments to his last post about the cottage! I think he explains pretty well why demolishing the house wasn’t a viable financial option, no matter how sensible it seems at a first glance. Basically even rebuilding the existing house almost completely was considerably cheaper and faster than building new.

    • 5.10.16
      Daniel said:

      haha, well, let’s keep in mind that this post is satire…the new homeowners did have some attachment to the house that they bought, but not enough to outweigh trying to make smart financial decisions about it. I tried to explain in my last post why trying to salvage this house vs. knocking it down was a very complicated (somewhat emotionally, mostly financially) decision. This entire “exploratory” period up to this point cost them less than it would have to tear it down and dispose of it from day 1, so I really can’t fault them for the decisions they were making after buying the house. Obviously buying it in the first place was not a good choice, but with that decision already made and paid for, I still don’t know what they could have/should have been doing differently at this stage.

  31. 5.10.16
    Emme said:

    Adriana may be the only person that doesn’t want to knock down the house, but it looks like it’s going to be entirely replaced anyway. Does it matter if it’s done piece by piece or knocked down all at once? P.S. You are amazing for not walking away even though you have very good reasons to do it.

    • 5.10.16
      Daniel said:

      In some ways, yes, it matters! Knocking down the entire house and truly starting over would have meant looking at a COMPLETE rebuild…including applying for a zoning variance that would allow them to rebuild on a lot that’s undersized according to the modern zoning regulations in this area, new well, new septic, etc. etc. It also would have put them in default of their mortgage. Keeping parts of the house that were salvageable helps avoid the zoning issue and some of the other costs that would have been incurred by completely new construction, and doing it as a renovation allowed them to keep their mortgage intact. I tried to explain this in my last post about the project…it’s a complicated thing (and I honestly don’t have all the answers!) but I don’t think the owners have done anything really wrong with their decisions following purchasing the house in the first place.

  32. 5.10.16
    Sara L. said:

    This is the reason we all keep coming back to your blog, Daniel. You have the most amazing ability with words, to make something so horrible and disheartening just about the funniest thing I have ever read. May “House” continue to inspire you to great heights of writing, but hopefully without putting you in the hospital with Hanta virus.

    • 5.10.16
      Daniel said:

      Thanks, Sara! Dodged the Hanta bullet this time, hoping to never have that scare again! :)

  33. 5.10.16
    Jeanna said:

    What a nightmare :( Please tell me you are closer to the end……………………………………….

    • 5.10.16
      Daniel said:

      We are! We are! I swear, we are!

  34. 5.10.16
    Kelly said:

    This is brilliant Daniel! “What if I pretended to not know what nails were.”. Funny and horrifying at the same time. Really sorry you went through this, but you may have enough material for a novel…..

  35. 5.10.16
    Joel said:

    Further update – This one taking place in April 2017 –

    “And the nominees again for this year’s Pultizer are The Washington Post for the remarkable expose on how Donald Trump came to select Hugh Hefner as his Vice Presidential Nominee, and what Ivana thought; The New York Times for the insightful story on Millennial tendencies to decorate with plants and the revival of some long forgotten species, The Economist for the incredibly insightful expose of why the Russian “occupation” of Greece is related to travel desires of a people tired of cold and not economic or political issues, The Guardian for their story on how Fringe migrated from being a television show to a Festival in Edinburgh without alien assistance, and Manhattan Nest for the price that readers the world over refer to simply as “House”. And the winner, in a remarkable upset for a non-print based journalistic endeavor is Manhattan Nest!

    Daniel, will we be able to get tickets to the ceremony from you? Incredible piece!

    • 5.10.16
      Daniel said:

      Yes Dad, I’ll make sure you get those tickets! You crazy man. :)

  36. 5.10.16
    Candace said:

    please write a book. you are so entertaining! thanks for being my favourite blog – fingers are crossed that olivebridge turns a corner soon! and that you aren’t actually suffering from hanna virus…

  37. 5.10.16

    You’re too funny! I love it – the writing – the house would give me nightmares.

    • 5.10.16
      Daniel said:

      It’s given me PLENTY, let me tell ya!

  38. 5.10.16
    Lindsay said:

    So much packed into this little diary entry: “Met previous owner, omg.”

    Brilliant. Just brilliant. I found myself wishing it actually was an art installation. I keep waiting for the book deal, especially after posts like this one.

  39. 5.10.16
    Nadine said:

    It seriously just never gets better. Writing was great!

  40. 5.10.16
    Annie said:


  41. 5.10.16
    jannike said:

    Fucking brilliant piece of writing

  42. 5.10.16
    Lisa said:

    So has work at the Bluestone Cottage been completely on hold while all this wet down? I’m dying for an update about that project.

    • 5.10.16
      Daniel said:

      Pretty much, yeah. It feels horrible, to an extent I can’t even really express. My commitment to that project hasn’t wavered, but the time required to see this one through has just made it impossible to make much headway there. There’s only one of me and so many hours in the day, and I have to make sure that my dogs and myself are getting a reasonable standard of care. So I’ve had to make peace with it. I can’t wait to get back there when this project finally wraps, but it really just isn’t realistic for me to be trying to do both at once. It’s sad, but I don’t know what else I should have done. Kills me.

    • 5.10.16
      Suzanne said:

      Please take care of yourself, Daniel. After this project wraps, maybe it is time for a vacation! Heavens knows you deserve it after 2015.

    • 5.11.16
      Daniel said:

      I’ve been thinking about it! I think maybe a long weekend in a cabin kinda thing, but I’ll take what I can get!

  43. 5.10.16
    Cynthia said:

    I fully appreciate the horror of this house and your post but sometimes life does imitate art. I recall an article in Dwell magazine several years ago where a couple with small children (I think it was perhaps Ireland) actually built a house that they wanted to allow to decay so their children could see the process. Their interior walls showed the studs and electrical conduit arrangement etc. They used a living roof with plants (or weeds, actually) that they poured water on directly. I tried to imagine putting their children to bed with moldy walls, spongy floors and a sagging, leaky roof because it was part of the creative and transformative process. I also tried to imagine spending money building a structure that would be taken to the dump and then have to start the process over again in a few years. The final irony was that in this part of the world (and elsewhere) people have known for eons how to build houses out of natural materials that, with proper maintenance, can last for centuries.
    In the meantime, you are doing an amazing job for these folks and the work crew is to be commended.

    • 5.10.16
      Daniel said:

      OMG, Cynthia, that is horrifying! I’m sorry…I care about art and I care about kids and I care about kids knowing stuff, but good lord…watch a youtube video on decomposition and move on. What a waste. This is actually making me angry, so I’ll stop.

      And thank you. I’m very lucky to have such wonderful people working alongside me, who have made this hellish nightmare bearable. :)

    • 6.5.16
      Athena said:

      It actually wasn’t bad. It’s not a house (more like 3 cargo container shaped modular buildings) they built to watch decay so much as it was a house they built to be biodegradable in 10 years *if it were abandoned*. All homes will start to rot and decay if abandoned and left uncared for. But its a process that can take decades while the house leaks chemicals and sheds debris that may never really decompose. Their house was made to be in continual affordable maintenance while it’s occupied – IE the cheap spruce cladding would be replaced and used as firewood.

  44. 5.10.16
    Elaine said:

    What other people have said: this is brilliant. So, so well done.

    Also, I am terribly curious about your encounter with the previous owner.

  45. 5.10.16
    Steph said:

    I loved the concept of this piece, very clever and well-written. I’m laughing-crying over what a shitshow this has been – hopefully 2016 hasn’t been so soul-destroying.

  46. 5.10.16
    Rebecca M. said:

    OMG, reframing the whole thing as an art installation is brilliant! Put in that context, it all starts to make sense. Too bad your clients wanted an actual house.

    Kudos to you for knowing when you were in over your head. Even though your clients kept you on, it speaks to your integrity that you went to them and explained that this really isn’t what you’re good for. If only the previous owners had had such insight into their own capabilities…

  47. 5.10.16
    bean said:

    Yes, this will be a wonderful book. A bit like The Bucolic Plague meets Holmes on Homes. I wonder whether it will be a graphic novel (with Anna Dorfman illustrations) or a traditional one. My vote is in for a graphic novel. In any case, I’ll pre-order it when it is available.

  48. 5.10.16
    Erin said:

    I think you may have spied on the last 8 years of my life! My (then) boyfriend (now husband) bought a house from an artist “as is”. Wooooo boy. I demanded a renovation when we came home from vacation and a mushroom was growing out of one of the interior walls. We are about a year and a half into the renovation. It will be amazing–but this post brought me nearly to tears from laughter/insanity.

    • 5.11.16
      Daniel said:

      Erin, the fact that he was your boyfriend and now your husband must mean y’all are doing something right!! I know first and secondhand how hard renovations (particularly challenging ones like this!) are on couples…good going, guys! You’ll get there!

      (mushroom growing out of the interior walls, OMG)

  49. 5.10.16
    Cindi M said:

    Oh, Daniel, this is the way to write about PTSD without a setback (I hope) and lawsuits. Ahhh. Brilliant. But if you hadn’t blogged before (I think) that your illness wasn’t rodent related, I would have cried. Please remember your faithful followers when you sweep the Pulitizer, People’s Choice and Nobel Prize. (Good one, Joel.)

  50. 5.10.16
    Lisa said:

    OMG Daniel, I’ve loved your blog for ages, but this was all kinds of brilliant! I feel a little bad about laughing so hard (and, um, doing a dramatic reading for my husband) because I feel SO horrible for the current owners. I’ve seen some nightmarish places but this take the cake for sure. I’m so glad you seem to be trying to make the best of this travesty and I sincerely hope this all works out the owners!

  51. 5.10.16
    Molly said:

    Oh Daniel. Thank you for all you do to keep us apprised of your misadventures in such an amazingly funny and well-written way.

    I just went back to the first olivebridge cottage post. Wow. Just– wow. You would never know what lurks beneath those walls and floors. And your hopeful excitement to get started on a “fun” project!! Eek!

    • 5.11.16
      Daniel said:

      It’s pretty cringe-worthy, right?? So much optimism. So many dreams. Ha!

  52. 5.10.16


    This is brilliant and as a reader in the midst of actually buying an older home myself at this time (awaiting what the underwriter says) and may have finally found home insurance due to knob and tube wiring, yes, the house is built in 1908, but the front two bedrooms were built in the past 30-40 years as it began life as a 1 bedroom cottage when built.

    It is in Tacoma Washington and needs updating, but is quite sound overall in a modest, but good neighborhood that is considered working class and is near nicer neighborhoods and good shopping to boot.

    I so hope my place does not end up quite that bad, though I’ll be getting it with a new roof, electrical panel and sewer line as part of the negotiations and the house is not expensive either!

    Anyway, if all goes well, I’ll be closing at months end.

    As to this project, wow, just wow, this is gotta be one of the worst examples of home buying I’ve seen or read about and this is one case where buyer beware and also buying with eyes wide OPEN as to what you are getting into. In the end for me, my mortgage payment, including insurance and tax payments via Escrow will be much less than what I pay in rent in Seattle currently, and I’ll be living within my income for a chance again. But I bought knowing what I’m getting into, and it gives me an opportunity to work within my meager budget and to shop at places like Habitat for Humanity’s Restore and other places to work on the place as funds allow.

    I hope we read the end sooner than later and see what’s been finally going on with Bluestone cottage and in the meantime try to get some stuff done on your place so it’s a bit more livable than ever.

    • 5.11.16
      Daniel said:

      Good luck with the house buy! How exciting!

  53. 5.10.16
    Wehaf said:

    I love this post, but feel terrible for you and the owners. I wonder if they have looked into some kind of sponsorship deal where they can get reduced price work done in exchange for publicity?

    • 5.11.16
      Daniel said:

      I’m not really sure how that would work, Wehaf! Do you mean publicity from this blog? If so, that is a line I’m really not willing to cross…it’s one thing to accept product and/or money from a big company for sponsored posts, but quite another to ask a contracting business to accept paying themselves and their employees less in exchange for the hope that coverage on an individual’s blog would result in a larger eventual return, you know? I’m aware that it’s something some bloggers have done, but personally I find it unethical. I think it’s important to pay people fairly, and if they get a boost in business because I’ve mentioned their work here or elsewhere, I’m glad to help a good tradesperson grow their business. Ya dig?

    • 5.11.16
      Wehaf said:

      That’s not what I meant; I should have explained better. I absolutely agree that everyone involved should be paid fairly. I was thinking more along the lines of Home Depot or Lowe’s providing building materials at a reduced rate in exchange for local television coverage. It seems like this is the kind of story local media would love – couple buying (first?) house gets screwed over, local stores help them out. It’s a cautionary tale and a feel-good story all at once. Usually what I’ve seen is that a news station will do a sympathetic story, and then businesses will reach out and their contributions would be covered in a follow-up piece, but I’m sure there are pre-arranged sponsorships, too.

    • 5.11.16
      Wehaf said:

      Or sometimes companies will offer services at cost in exchange for using photos and videos of the renovation in commercials and ads. There’s a roofing company near me that’s doing this right now.

  54. 5.11.16
    Quay said:

    Is this house in a floodplain? It was built in the 50s? There are federal grants available for raising home above the base flood elevation for a given floodplain -it’s mostly relevant for homes built before the National Flood Insurance Program was established (so pre-70s). Have there been any audits or inspections on the foundation of the home that measured the elevation of the structure? REALLY curious to hear about that process if it has at all come up. If the ground floor of the building is now higher and they are in a floodplain and have flood insurance from NFIP, they would now qualify for a better rate (the increments go by foot relative to the base flood elevation).

    • 5.11.16
      Daniel said:

      Good question, and helpful information, Quay! As far as I know, this house is not in a floodplain. The various foundations were evaluated by the engineers (who basically provided a plan of attack for each…replace, repair, leave-as is), but I don’t recall this discussion ever coming up, including with various builders who we interviewed to execute Phase II. That said, the existing structure was such a disaster that I don’t think lifting the house without 100% rebuilding it would have been a feasible option…all I really know is, that’s not the route we took, so I don’t have much to offer there!

  55. 5.11.16
    Jemma said:

    “I just don’t have the experience behind me to even build a house under normal circumstances,” he went on. “Now I’m basically supposed to build one in reverse.” That has to be one of the funniest things you have ever written! So relieved you didn’t actually have rat shit disease. Also, are you really only 25?!!

    • 5.11.16
      Daniel said:

      Now I’m 26, but I was 25 when I started this project, yep! :)

    • 5.11.16
      Fanny_Trollope said:

      He’s 26 if you count years on earth but about 104 if you count depths of emotional distress and trauma due to this project, I’d say.

    • 5.15.16
      NestFan said:

      You only take on this sort of thing when you are closer to 25. That’s I how did things then – you jump in, not thinking about what might happen, and you figure it out as you go, and muddle your way through. Decades on now, I no longer do that – I evaluate forever, and research everything, which in this case would mean I’d never had done it. Likely with your house, too. I so wish I had the funds to buy a wreck and renovate when I was young and fearless and clueless, not to mention stronger and with more tolerance for the physical labor involved – I’ll never do it now – but at that age I had a mortgage on my education, so I could go do jobs that trained me to research and analyze risks like this – there’s something odd and circular and ironic in all that.

  56. 5.11.16
    Thel said:


    Daniel, being an art school graduate, I found your article not only very funny, but also very authentic, you know, like, the ‘authentic’ only artists can be?

    Get a few art historians involved, and you’ll get it published in some journal or other!! Ha Ha!

    • 5.11.16
      Daniel said:

      Ha! You might get a kick out of Cynthia’s comment, above. Turns out this might not be so far off from things that *actually* happen.

  57. 5.11.16
    Elise said:

    Fantastic piece. Loved it! “Still, Kanter is a supporter of the arts.” So brilliant.

  58. 5.11.16
    furpants said:

    This is brilliant. Poor owners, and poor you. I can’t wait to see how it all turns out. <3

  59. 5.11.16
    Brandy said:

    This was such a great read, thank you Daniel! Best of luck with the rest of the project, can’t wait for the stunning conclusion…

  60. 5.11.16
    Jeffrey said:

    Best line ever….
    “Met with engineers to evaluate house. Yikes, yikes. Plan that they will submit brings things up to/close to code”¦”
    (Have you read “Gutted” by Lawrence LaRose? Sounds like you could write the next edition.)

  61. 5.11.16
    NestFan said:

    Very funny, in a wry way, concept and piece.

    If you want to write about the former owners, and get more into the emotions of everybody in all of this (rather than the reporting tone set in this article), you could write a short story – just change the names, and you’re unlikely to get sued (that’s not competent legal advice, you now, but there’s lots of art that has done just that).

    I also really like the graphic novel idea mentioned above.

  62. 5.11.16
    NestFan said:

    Or it could make a good children’s book – with illustrations of cute critters living (not dead) in the house and the crazy artist former owners. Would put in their minds young that the buyer must beware when buying a house, in a fun read with a happy ending (I am still hoping there’s a happy ending, but also a bit afraid the last catastrophe hasn’t happened here yet. That’s probably because we readers are months behind the scene on the ground still.)

  63. 5.11.16
    ange said:

    We are all now so heavily invested in the outcome (not as heavily as you or the owners, of course), this saga is going to have the best ‘reveal’ ever. Better than ‘The big kitchen reveal’ of 2013 (still have that one bookmarked I’m sure) or the more recent, but equally impressive ‘back wall of the house’ moment.

    Best of luck in getting it finished and closing the chapter on this catastrophe!

    • 5.15.16
      Lillian said:

      Ha I love this Ange, “we are all now so heavily invested in the outcome.” SO TRUE!

  64. 5.11.16
    Jill said:

    Just when I think my own fixer-upper house is conspiring to destroy me I read about your exploits with Olivebridge Cottage and realize I should shut the hell up. I have nothing to complain about. Nothing. This is crazy town, Daniel! I LOVE how you wrote this as a newspaper article. Beautifully written. I’m so sorry it’s been such an exhausting road. I hope you weren’t really in the hospital suffering with Hantavirus! Hang in there!

  65. 5.11.16
    Judi said:

    Daniel, I laughed so hard I had to read this three times to get through it. I’ve worked in the NFP field for 25+ years and this is all SO UNCANNILY CLOSE to how I have talked about projects in fundraising proposals…if you ever need to give up the day job you have a fine future in that field.

    Or, you know, in art criticism. Or curatorial writing, or or or or….

    But, I am sorry you are going through this. I hope fervently for your sake this is the worst you ever see (and your clients!–who are SO LUCKY to have you).

    Your dad is right. You deserve the Pulitzer. In the meantime I’ll be sharing this with all my curator pals in case they need guest essayists for exhibition catalogues….

    • 5.11.16
      Judi said:

      …and then I gave it to my husband, who’s been in PR/media for 40+ years, and he snorted nine times (I counted) while reading. Budding bromance!

      By the way, I think there was a case of Hanta on Long Island about 20 years ago. So yeah, be careful. (Always happy to spread more good news.)

  66. 5.12.16
    Heather said:

    I wonder if the home owners confronted the previous owners and stated all the flaws of the home and asked for 1/2 the money back. I know it won’t happen but I say they ask!! I’ll say it again!! VLOG!!

  67. 5.12.16
    Andrea said:

    Daniel, good lord. I am torn between laughing with you and rending my garments in sympathetic suffering. And I have not even the smallest doubt in my mind that after all this, you need to go visit your friend Anna in Portales, NM, and then tool around the state together, exploring all the natural hot springs and the best green-chile-chicken tacos, and buying out the antique stores, and then load it all in a trailer to take home. You have earned at least that. (yes, I live in NM…but seriously! you need a vacation!)

  68. 5.12.16
    Caroline said:

    Holy shit this was great. This kind of post is why people come to your blog for the pretty pictures but stay for the writing. Seriously fantastic piece. If it took you less than 3 drafts, you might be some sort of savant.

    • 5.12.16
      Thel said:

      Funny, I’ve always just assumed that everything Daniel writes is straight off the top of his head. He’s really a natural writer.

      Like I keep asking: when are you going to write a novel Daniel?

  69. 5.12.16
    Pippa said:

    Pure genius writing Daniel!
    Now that you’ve climbed Mount Everest when you were expecting a pleasant stroll up a little hill, you will be able to laugh off ANY other renovating challenge that comes your way. Bluestone will be such a pleasure to get back to.

  70. 5.12.16
    Krista said:

    Beautifully written piece out of a dismal set of circumstances.
    Hopefully it all comes together in the end to everyone’s satisfaction (and then some).
    Wishing you luck!

  71. 5.12.16
    KatyKey said:

    Well if this piece of ‘journalism’ isn’t the funniest/sadest thing on the internet, I don’t know what is. You are a master of the word and hammer alike.

  72. 5.12.16
    Suzy from CA said:

    Daniel, leave it to you to turn an almost unbearable reality into fantasy. Writing this post was probably an incredibly healthy psychological exercise for you. How else would you (or could you) maintain sanity amidst such an ongoing menu of disastrous discoveries?

    Meanwhile, I am SO curious about how the visit by the previous owner came about. Do they read your blog, or were they just out for a drive in the neighborhood and decided to stop in and see if the building had collapsed yet? It amazes me that they would come anywhere near the property now if they were at all knowledgeable about it’s true condition at sale (which you seem to indicate they were). I would think they’d worry that the couple they sold to might be both unforgiving and gun owners.

  73. 5.13.16
    Jannean said:

    Having gone through our own home building nightmare that took two years to (mostly) complete and a contractor that walked off the job with thousands of our dollars I can say that Adrianna & Barry are very fortunate to have you on their side. As for litigation, after being charged $2500.00 by an attorney to send one letter (that went out unsigned) we knew we would not have the funds to bring suit let alone collect.
    I’m relieved to hear you are finally beginning to see an end to this nightmare and like everyone else I am looking forward to seeing the results!

  74. 5.15.16
    Jane said:

    I am so sorry. And this was utterly wonderful writing. Very well done indeed.

  75. 5.15.16
    Veronica said:

    I am stuck on “day 33 met previous owner, omg”…. I want to know everything. There must be a blog post in that zany encounter!! Because, ‘cute chippies’?! WTF

  76. 5.16.16
    Val said:

    [Smacks self on head!] Of course — OF COURSE! Doggone it — it’s my left brain/engineer’s brain that’s been keeping me from seeing all this time that this was an art installation, not a structure. I feel so foolish! Now it all makes sense.

  77. 5.17.16
    Norah said:

    Loved this so much! Brilliant, amigo.
    Good luck and recovery to you all.

  78. 5.17.16
    Karyn said:

    Brilliantly tragic!

  79. 5.17.16
    AA said:

    “I started thinking, hey—what if I pretended like I didn’t know what nails were?”

    This post was 100% genius.

    Keep us updated, I live vicariously through your adventures!

  80. 5.17.16
    Genna said:

    God this renovation is just BRUTAL. But this piece of writing is brilliant. Felt cathartic – I can only imagine. Whew!

  81. 5.20.16
    stephd said:

    oh hey… this looks like half the houses people pay $800K for in Toronto!

    …yikes. my contractor husband is having nightmares.

  82. 5.21.16
    Colleen said:

    Just as an addendum – I tracked down the article about the Irish couple and it seems they weren’t actually planning for the house to decay around them – only that it was a sustainable house which ‘would’ biodegrade without maintenance.

    Hope that removes some of your distress, Daniel! And yes, very funny piece to have come out of such horror. Excited to see where it goes.

    • 6.6.16
      Daniel said:

      Ah hah! That makes me feel better. :) Interesting read!

  83. 5.24.16
    Chloe Joy said:

    As a reporter and DIY-er I have to say BRAVO! I loved this post, though I feel bad for saying it since this is clearly a complete and total nightmare.

  84. 5.25.16
    pericolosa said:

    I almost feel guilty of schadenfreude, given how many times I laughed out loud while I was reading this, but I can and do empathize with both the homeowners and with you, Daniel ”“ having worked on and being heir to another installation of “House” myself. Genius. Thank you for being you, Daniel.

  85. 5.27.16
    Kathy said:

    Um, can I just hug you? Send you all of the internet hugs? I’m new to your blog and I’ve just now started catching up on the drama of this reno and everything else and the more I read the more I just want to wrap you in a blanket and stick you in front of a fire with some soup and tea and a good movie. I’m glad it looks like it’s winding down, and I’m so amazed by how you stuck with it despite everything that happened! Totally blown away.

  86. 5.31.16
    Monika said:

    Damn, I’ve read your blog forever and have seen you evolve as a designer/DIY-er. But your writing skills were excellent form day one! Witty, hilarious, self-deprecating and never boring, this blog is a joy to read and has functioned as a how-to guide or therapy–depending on my needs. Best to homeowners and you; just keep writing.

    • 6.2.16
      Alex McKellar said:

      totally agree Monika – I often come here and search/scroll for info for my own house. I hope Daniel never stops writing. What would we do???

  87. 6.1.16
    Christine said:

    I hope you’re signing the bookdeal: Daniel Kanter – On Making “House” a Home.

  88. 6.7.16
    Helen said:

    Hi Daniel
    I love reading your blog, just wondering if anything is going on with the Bluestone Cottage. Did you manage to finish it or has the Olivebridge Cottage taken up all your energy? Thanks

  89. 9.13.16
    Tina said:

    Just found your blog because I was doing a google image search for something weird found in my house.I don’t even remember what it was anymore, but the picture brought me to this specific page.

    I have my own art piece. Mine is called ‘George, Call an Electrician’. Because that was a note we found written inside a wall. George never called an electrician. Or any professionals. He added a front room (sinking into the ground because it’s just a poured slab with no footers or even prepped ground underneath) and a 2nd floor. George had no legs. No, I have no idea why a legless man needed a 2nd floor, and I’m guessing the ‘how’ involved hundreds of rat slaves, based on the mummies.

    We were just trying to fix a leaky bathroom. Every time we tear out something else, we find more unspeakable horrors. Just like you’ve found, it’s like George went out of his way to do it specifically wrong. It was more difficult and expensive to do it wrong with many of the problems we’ve uncovered. Today I decided to look into getting some doors to put in the pocket door opening we uncovered while tearing out rotten base board. Measured and was confused the opening was 6’2 instead of 6’8+. Figured out it was because there is a *second* set of pocket door tracks above the ones we uncovered, that had been partially eaten by something. So… he just nailed the new tracks to the half-eaten tracks and then cut down the doors?? IDK. Guess that’s why the opening had been closed off…

    It sure looked like a house on its skin. The inspector said ‘there are a couple weird things, but nothing that would keep me from buying the house’.

    Yeah. It’s basically Olivebridge cottage, except we have no one who at least somewhat knows what they’re doing helping us. Luckily ‘literally any way other than how it’s done now’ seems to be working out.

    Anywho, following you now, cause I’m really hoping this gets a happy ending! Thank you for the laughs… I feel like there’s someone out there who can understand this pain now :)

    • 9.28.16
      Daniel said:

      Oh Tina, I feel for you so much!! I know how you’re feeling and I know it’s not fun—good on you for keeping your sense of humor! It will all be OK! This project does have a happy ending, but definitely took way more time, money, and energy than anyone bargained for to get there.

    • 10.12.16
      Katie said:

      We can’t wait to see the happy ending!??!?!?! Although catching up on what’s going on your house is pretty awesome too.

  90. 10.15.16
    Robin said:

    I’ve been anxiously waiting for an update….did the poor cottage implode? did the owners run away screaming? did you contract some unspeakable respiratory disease? did your crew finally quit in complete exasperation? does the story have a happy ending?!

  91. 10.29.16
    Martine said:

    The Jaws theme keeps sounding in my head here. Dun DUN. Dun DUNNN…is there an epilogue? My soul craves a photo or two of that house with walls!