Real estate


After wallpaper fiasco, I knew he’d stick with me

gigi rose gray for the boston globe

It was the wallpaper that nearly did us in.

We bought our first home shortly after getting engaged and spent the nine months leading up to the wedding painting, decorating, fixing, polishing, and lovingly making the classic Cape in North Reading our own.


We were fortunate the house did not need major repairs, but it kept us busy with all kinds of projects. We hung blue shutters in the tiny den. We bought unfinished furniture for the kitchen, stained it a warm honey, and applied a satiny finish. We put a Ping-Pong table in the basement, a lawn mower in the garage, and deck chairs out back to enjoy the view of the apple tree and our own half acre of paradise.

Working on household projects taught us a lot about each other. I learned that my husband-to-be was an excellent problem solver and extremely handy. He could tackle most any project and finish it successfully, but he could also be impatient, critical, and short-tempered.

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In contrast, I was an eternal optimist. But when faced with physical labor, I was prone to whining, and I had absolutely no understanding of tools or how things work. In fact, I was quite useless on many projects. When I say “we” finished the kitchen furniture, I mean he did all the work and I accompanied him to the store to pick out the Minwax.

Wallpapering, however, was something I could do. In fact, we made a great team. I would measure and cut the strips. He would apply the paste and hang the paper on the wall. I’d follow along with my little roller and smooth out the seams. We worked our way through several rooms and were mighty pleased with our results.

Then came the master bedroom. Our wallpapering teamwork started to deteriorate as we struggled to fit and match a tricky pattern around the quirks of a dormered room with numerous windows and doors. It all came to a head as we were nearing the finish line. I measured and cut the final strip, congratulating myself that we had just enough in the roll. We brought it to the wall and stared in dismay at a several-inch gap at the bottom. The strip was too short. I had failed in my easy role, and now — horror of horrors — we would need to cut into a new (expensive) roll that we had hoped to return for credit.


I cringed, waiting for angry criticism from my capable-yet-sometimes-short-tempered fiancé. He looked at me, looked at the paper, said calmly, “Looks like we’ll have to open a new roll,” and turned back to remove the offending short strip.

My mistake cost us more than a few dollars but taught me a hugely valuable lesson: When it counts, he has my back.

We’re not always calm and supportive. He’s still capable, handy, and impatient. I’m still sunny, occasionally whiny, and fairly useless on many projects. But every time we’ve faced one of life’s challenges, I’ve been entirely confident that my wonderful husband will be there and be supportive. Together we’ve built three houses and raised two practically perfect children. We’re two very different people who together make a great team.

Nearly 37 years later, we’re about to start building our fourth home together. I can’t guarantee that everything will go smoothly, but I have no doubt about our rock-solid foundation.

Louise Kursmark, an executive resume writer and author of numerous career books, lives in Boston and will be building her next home in Plymouth. Send comments to Send an essay about your first home to Please note: We do not respond to submissions we won’t pursue.
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