Wednesday, April 7, 2010

an open letter to HGTV

Dear friends at HGTV especially the divine Candice and David Bromsted and Vern and that cute guy from Curb Appeal:  The Block,

Through the years, your network and its array of talented and talent-less stars has provided me with hours of entertainment.  When I'm with my family, we love to watch HGTV together--well, maybe not my brother Joshua, but he's the black sheep of our family anyway.  You can ask anyone.  But HGTV is our go-to channel when the girls have the remote or when the kids are finally in bed.  On New Year's Day, we always watch your Rose Parade coverage and then get the sneak peeks of the new shows.  (Lucky for you the America's Funniest Videos marathon was on ABCFamily on New Year's Eve this year, otherwise my moma would have had an impossible dilemma.)  We watch the Dream Home every year.  We like House Hunters and predict their choices--#3 is always a safe bet.  We have been known to rearrange plans to have an official viewing of Design Star episodes.  I actively miss certain shows that are no more (Decorating Cents with Joan What's-Her-Name).

Are you getting the point here?  We are HGTV fans.  But because I rent instead of owning and because 90% of my furniture is second- or third- or fourth-hand and because my decorating budget is nonexistent, most of your programming has never been useful in my life in a practical sense beyond a cautionary tale.  I'd like to share, if I may, how this weekend, I began to put my years of accumulated HGTV knowledge to use.

I suppose the most important lesson I've learned is that though high-maintenance home-owners like to bring the drama, the best sort of drama comes from those big reveals, the slow pan of the before and the startlingly better after.  So I was careful to document my projects with before, during, and after photos.
Meet my dresser.
While it's certainly functional, I think we can clearly agree that it's an eyesore.  The Popster (oh sorry, HGTV, maybe you don't know that the Popster is my dad) bought it for ten bucks or so at a yard sale before he married my moma.  Some people might say that he got taken because it's always been fairly ugly--and as long as I've known it, it's had that piece broken off the corner of the top drawer.

And the paint job has seen some better days.
But I'm not one to give up on a piece of furniture just because it's got some wear on it.  This dresser has been mine since I lived in my first post-college apartment.  Nearly every place I've lived (and I've done some moving), I've been able to hide it away in a closet so no one had to be exposed to the hideousness.  But after this most recent move (you may have heard about it on the blog previously), the closet hiding wasn't an option.  It was time to do something about the ugly.  So last Saturday morning, I gathered up every tip and trick I've ever learned about refurbishing old furniture and hauled ugly dresser out to my front porch.
Getting the hardware off took some muscle as it had been painted over a time or two.
Then came the sanding.
And the first coat.
Eventually there would be a second coat and a bit of meeting the neighbors and a great deal of paint coating my hands, arms, feet, clothes, etc. and another painting project mixed in that I'll show you in a minute.  There was a certain amount of the project I couldn't document because of my messy hands.  Sorry, but don't worry because the big reveal is coming up after this message about new hardware.
 If there's one lesson I've learned from budget decorating shows, it's that new knobs or pulls can really update and transform an old piece of furniture.  May I say amen to all those knowledgeable folks?  Amen.  Take a look at the finished product (pardon the glare, it was getting pretty bright out on my porch).
I had to do a bit of settling and rearranging to get the dresser into the corner of my room where I've always intended it to go, but I'll spare you the before photos of my disorganized room (this time).  I'm completely blown away by how much better it looks.  What a fortunate transformation.

Someday soon it's going to have a mirror hanging above it, and I'll be sure to get back with you once the whole corner is finished.

While I had all the paint and mess out, I also took on a little side table painting project.  I've been meaning to paint this table red for something like three years, but I've finally accomplished it, thanks to your inspiring influence!  Let me show you the transformation.:
My grandfather made me this table, what will likely be the last thing he'll ever build for me.  But though it was stained a respectable shade, I always wanted it to be red.  So I sanded it down . . .
 . . . and got really scared by the fire engine tone of the paint . . .
 . . . so I gave it a drop or two of black paint, and I got even more terrified that I'd ruined the rest of the red paint because it looked crazy.  But when it dried on my hands to be just the shade I wanted, my confidence returned.  So I painted coat after coat after coat until I ended up with this.
Exactly as I'd always pictured it.

I've got  a few more projects up my sleeve I'll probably want to show you, but I know you're busy running your network and stuff, so I'll just save those for another day.  I'll know you check back often, so you'll see it.

In the meantime, let me thank you again for all that entertainment, which actually turned out to be fairly successful from an education standpoint also.  And if that's not a meaningful and glowing recommendation for your network, I don't know what is.  I'll be happy to say so in a commercial if you need me to.

Your avowed fan,



  1. Love, love, love, love, LOVE it!!!!!!! --the dresser, the table, and the letter!! And I love that I can get on this blog and find out what you are up to and hear some of your thoughts and the extremely entertaining way you share them.

  2. I personally am not a big HGTV fan, but this was a fun post. I think as far as charm goes, it's tops of the open letter posts. Also, I liked the Lonesome Dove reference a lot. It had that subtle touch so that only those really in the know would pick up on it. I like your table, and I think that when people ask you what color it is, you should call it stigmata red.

  3. Mac-aroni,
    That LD reference was subtle, so subtle that I didn't realize I was referencing it until you pointed it out. Perhaps it's less meaningful to know that I didn't do it on purpose, or perhaps it's just telling that Lonesome Dove is so ingrained in who I am as a person that I don't realize when I'm quoting it.

  4. Well, I'm not an HGTV fan, per se, but I do secretly enjoy some home improvement type shows. And I'm super impressed. Considering the condition of your hands (and feet) Saturday I wasn't sure. I never should have doubted you. I love how you always write these letters like someone at the company is actually reading them. That and always trying to get rich and/or famous.

  5. Everything looks amazing!! I kind of want to be you when I grow up.

  6. Well I, for one, think you did a lovely job all around...
    Curb Appeal: The Block is pleased to have you as a viewer!

    Keep it up

  7. Looks fantastic-it's not the same dresser I moved 2 weeks ago.

  8. Very impressive job with the dresser. The table is a very interesting shade of red. I do not think Stigmata Red is in our color scheme, but there must be some in joke and since it is your original color please feel free to name it.

    Due to your fine job of being a handywoman I would like to extend the following offer to you, Dearest Ellen:
    HGTV is seeking charismatic, energetic, non-professional handy men and women to participate in the upcoming competition series, All American Handyman. Strong carpentry skills, experience with tools, creativity and excellent problem-solving skills are a real plus. The winner will be awarded a significant prize package.

    Microsoft Word format.

    You can e-mail your completed application form to, or print it out and send it via snail mail to the address listed near the bottom of the application form.

    Jim Samples,
    President of HGTV

    P.S. I love your last name.

  9. Ellen, I spoke with HGTV this afternoon. The PR department is checking to see how they became aware of your remodeling project.

    The young woman I spoke with said it may have to do with one of your commenters linking to the HGTV site. She is checking on this and will call me back tomorrow to let me know how HGTV became aware of you.

  10. WGW,
    The call to HGTV was really not necessary. I already found out how they discovered it.

  11. Color me stupid. I thought that those comments were jokes. Congrats on making the big time. Remember the little people and poor theologians when the checks start rolling in. :)

    Also, the rest of us who are not going to call HGTV want to know how they discovered it. Please post soon!

  12. The comments on here were jokes--or attempts at jokes anyway. The HGTV blogger who linked to my post found my blog through Google Alerts--a tool I'm going to start using for things now that I've read up on it.

    It was very cool and pretty exciting to discover that I was marginally more famous than I had been, but something tells me none of those 700+ new visitors are coming back any time soon. But without my Google Analytics obsession, I would never have discovered my brush with stardom.

    As soon as I get back home to the memory card on my camera, you can expect another home improvement post. I've been a busy girl.

    Additionally, today at the library, I checked out six of the seven books that FHDM says I need to become a better writer, so you can expect the quality around here to really step up in six months or so when I finally get around to reading them.

  13. If one of them is not Stephen King's On Writing, then Donald Miller may be leading you astray. Whether you like anything that King has ever written or not, it's not a bad idea to see what the world's best-selling novelist has to say about his craft. I've got a copy that I'm willing to loan to VERY special people if you're interested. I think that Hailey has read it too and can confirm my high opinion of it.

  14. I loved 'On Writing'!

  15. Rest assured #1 fan, FHDM included King's On Writing. Now here's the embarrassing confession, I started reading that in 2004 but never finished it. Nonfiction is just tough for me. But I know I'm going to do better this time.

  16. Ive actually had an ugly old dresser w/a free sign in my yard for 4 days & it hasn't disappeared yet if that tells you anything. Now that I have inspiration, I'm on my way out to make it keepable! Thank You!!! Even worse, it's that cheap compressed stuff, so this might take a while but it's very nice outside 2day :)

  17. Wow. That dresser was *hideous* when you started in on it. I would not have thought such a gorgeous outcome would be possible. I love that the black paint is so rich and glossy, too. If I may ask, what did you use to sand the old paint away? A vibrating sander, a belt sander, or your hands and sandpaper?

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