Editor’s Letter: March 2018

I feel like I can trust you, so I’m going to admit something. I have no idea what shiplap is. Literally none. What is it made of? I have no clue. How does one use it? No idea whatsoever. Where does it come from? I’ll take a guess here and say, from ships. Is it ships? Is it literally something that laps up against ships? Ocean trash, basically.

But here’s the thing. Even though I could not identify shiplap if it robbed my house and I was looking at it in a police lineup, I want some. I want to slather my house in shiplap. “Lovely shiplap,” I want people to say when they enter Casa Petersen. “Thank you, I fished it out of the ocean myself,” I will respond, possibly, if that’s how one comes by shiplap.

I want shiplap because I watch HGTV. In particular, I watch that one show with the husband and wife who refurbish houses in Texas for less money than it takes to buy a week’s worth of flood insurance in Florida. Episodes follow a pattern. They start out with some house that’s completely dilapidated/infested with locusts/presently on fire. She then goes off to some magical secondhand shop while he spends 15 minutes acting like he’s never seen a house or power tools before. Then he rebuilds the entire place in about three minutes before she sweeps in with things that look amazing when she slaps them on a wall but would look like rusted tractor parts nailed to a wall if I did it. In the end, the house looks amazing and they hand it off to some Texans who didn’t think they’d ever own a house worth a whole $17K or whatever. It’s amazing television.

And always, there’s the shiplap. I can never quite figure out what it is, but she’s always going on about how this bathroom or that kitchen needs some, so I want it.

Home décor can be a tricky business. In the Petersen house, as in most homes, there are competing interests. I imagine a sort of pretentious salon, whiskey soaked and books covering the walls. Mrs. P likes the comfy, rustic European vibe, open-plan kitchen spilling into the cozy sitting room. Small Human, 7, sees the home as a free-range area for her pets and cultural interests. The result is an odd mixture of all three – sort of a bookstore/cafe for hamsters in the My Little Pony universe.

But that’s how homes are. Their designs usually involve some planning and some always changing quality that comes from actually living in them. The best versions of the former tend to account for the latter. Like lefty farmers and expensive milk, homes are organic.

That’s not to say I’m not a sucker for a fancy design flourish. Mrs. P has more than once had to explain that our bookshelves are not really of a height to justify a bookshelf ladder. I can’t look at a massive, free-standing globe without imagining myself absent-mindedly spinning it while holding a book in my other hand.

Sometimes I am even called to the sea, where I stare out at the mighty tides, seeking my elusive prey. You shall be mine, shiplap.

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