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On the Porch: Restoration of a Lifetime

The chemical smell was so strong I felt I might faint. The dizziness wasn’t the worst part—I couldn’t breathe. I looked down and realized a fall from the cat walk to the concrete floor two stories below would probably kill me.

I had an escape respirator, but it would be useless because the canister only filtered out chlorine gas which hugs the ground, and I was up high. While I had no idea what I had been exposed to, I knew I needed to get down quickly and get some air.

The intense heat made my hands sweaty as I gingerly descended the ladder. As my steel toed shoes touched the floor, relief flooded over me. A bit shaken, I went outside to gulp fresh air.

Perhaps I appreciate a well-designed, inviting room more than others because I was so deprived of beautiful spaces in those early years at the plant. It feels like I’ve come back to doing what I should have done all along. These days, I write about and photograph beautiful interiors full-time now on my blog, Cedar Hill Farmhouse.

I looked around. For the first time, I noticed how gray everything was. Gray buildings and gray pipes defined the space.  Smokestacks in the distance emitted noxious gas clouds. The smell of rotten eggs, which was especially strong that day, hung in the air.

I walked into the women’s room and shut the door. It was empty, but that was no surprise because I was one of a handful of women who worked there. I removed my hard hat as I approached the sink and looked in the mirror. My face was flushed from the heat, and my sleeve was covered in black grease that had spattered onto my pants as well. I was so focused on escaping I hadn’t noticed before, but it reconfirmed why I didn’t wear nice clothes to work. In fact, I bought men’s work pants. When they became grease-spotted, I just shrugged my shoulders because I wasn’t going to wear them anywhere else anyway.

As I splashed water on my face and patted my neck with wet paper towels to cool off, I wondered again how did I end up here?

Entrepreneur Anita Joyce Cedar Hill Farmhouse Round Top HoustonThe Realization
As a child, I wanted to be an artist. I was a creative soul who lived to sketch and paint. A fateful conversation with my dad years before came to mind as I stood in an industrial women’s room and pondered my life.

I heard myself tell him I was going to be an artist when I grew up. My voice betrayed my excitement, but my dad just smiled and looked down. He winced as his eyes met mine and told me I could never make a living in art. He suggested a more practical career like nursing or teaching.

That one brief moment destroyed my dreams. I didn’t argue. It didn’t matter what I thought; my dad knew everything. If he said it was not to be, I accepted it. Unfortunately, there wasn’t anything else I wanted to be.

Instead of considering a career that would make me happy, I began trying to figure out what job I could do that would provide a good, solid income. I settled on engineering since I had an aptitude for math. It seemed to be a practical career choice, and I would be able to take care of myself if I never married. And so it was set.

A single decision had landed me in a plant on the ship channel in Pasadena, Texas, which was also known as Refinery Row. I told no one about the incident because I knew it would be perceived as a sign of weakness. I steeled myself and went back to work.

The Personal Restoration
It’s been more than 20 years since I climbed down that ladder. My life took some twists and turns, but eventually it happened—I came back to myself and began a new career. I’m not a traditional artist but a “creative” who helps readers produce their own beautiful spaces.

Perhaps I appreciate a well-designed, inviting room more than others because I was so deprived of beautiful spaces in those early years at the plant. It feels like I’ve come back to doing what I should have done all along. These days, I write about and photograph beautiful interiors full-time now on my blog, Cedar Hill Farmhouse.

Restoring, Reusing and Repurposing
I have been restored to who I was meant to be from the beginning.

Through Cedar Hill Farmhouse, I got a second chance at a creative career, and my spirit was restored in the process. Giving things a second chance and a new life is something close to my heart, and perhaps it’s the reason I love using salvage pieces from old houses and reusing them in new ways.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Corbels and Tin Ceiling Tile
Although corbels were originally used on homes’ exteriors, they are great for creating unique interior shelving. I added an old board from the salvage yard to the top to create a shelf. I also used antique tin ceiling tiles on the wall above the shelf. The ceiling tiles obviously were meant to be used on the ceiling, but I’m using them as art on the wall.

Bead Board Ceiling
Bead board was originally used on walls, but when I found this bead board, I decided to use it as my porch ceiling. The colors are so pretty, and it has such a unique look. Just keep in mind if you look for salvage pieces that they are not going to be perfect. These boards are full of nail holes.

Barn Wood Beams
Probably our home’s most distinctive characteristic is the use of beams in the kitchen. The smaller beams are purely decorative, while the large beam is a structural support. These are easier to add to an existing house than you think, and they add so much charm. We found these beams at a local salvage yard.

Barn Wood Valance
This valance was made from a piece of salvaged barn wood. I attached it to the wall using L brackets. I like the way the rustic wood plays against the feminine lace panel.

Iron Newel Post
This post was actually an iron garden fence at one time. I used it as a newel post for our house. The contractors had to modify it to make it work, but I’m glad they did. It’s such a statement piece in the room.

Next time you are looking for something new to freshen the look of your home, consider using something old and restoring it for a new life instead.

article and photos by Anita Joyce

Anita Joyce has a city house in Houston, a country house near Shelby and a flair for French style. The former engineer is a wife and mother as well as a self-taught photographer, interior designer, blogger and online entrepreneur who founded in 2011. Today the site has 80,000 unique visitors per month.

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