The Boston Phoenix
November 23 - 30, 2000

[Out There]

Home empty home

Reality-based home renovations
for the busy single professional

by Kris Frieswick

Should I get a splash guard in my kitchen?" my friend Paula asked me the other night. "My kitchen designer says I need one, but you don't have one in your kitchen. What do you think?"

Paula is having her kitchen redecorated. Paula doesn't cook. Paula also is not currently living in the home she is redecorating, so the conversation was nuanced and complex on many levels.

"You know," I offered, "I'm thinking that based on the way you live, instead of a splash guard, you should just board up the kitchen. Or have it converted into a really big closet."

If Paula were honest with herself, she would admit that all she needs is a hot plate, a refrigerator, a microwave, and a sink, and the sink would be used only to refill the ice-cube trays. She most definitely does not need a splash guard, since very little but the water going into the ice-cube trays ever has occasion to splash around in her kitchen.

In addition, she now resides full-time on the West Coast. She was relocated there by her company shortly after she bought her beautiful new home. Her assignment is temporary, but right now she's living in two dwellings -- one of them devoid of a human occupant, the other one filled with rented furniture.

None of this has stopped Paula from deciding that now is the time to renovate her new home. This naturally raises the question, "why?" That question could be asked of a number of busy young professionals who spend more time in hotels than at home, yet still feel the need to renovate. These are people who believe that "cooking" is microwaving a frozen pizza. They sleep not in their fabulous, solid-cherry sleigh beds, but on the couch in front of their television sets, fully dressed. They have forgotten which key on their key ring opens their back doors. Therefore, if they must renovate, I suggest that alterations should be based upon their actual needs, rather than the needs of some lifestyle they wish they had time for.

If you are a busy single professional, here are some suggestions to help you conceptualize your new, lifestyle-appropriate home-renovation project.

Bedroom: turn it into an office. You high-powered single professionals stay up really late and work on your computers in bed anyway. With a more ergonomic office arrangement, you could avoid the hours of neck and back pain to which you are currently subjecting yourselves. In addition, the bedroom closet is woefully inadequate for your burgeoning professional wardrobe, so I suggest that you convert it into a super-spacious recessed filing-cabinet system on one side, and use the other to build adjustable shelving to accommodate fax, printer, your back issues of Fast Company and Business 2.0 magazines, and your collection of books from the Harvard Business School Press. The area currently occupied by the bed and dressers could be converted into a meeting area with the addition of an oval table and several high-back chairs. Top it off with a funky lava lamp and, voilà, luxurious corporate convenience . . . at home!

Kitchen: immediately rip out all cabinets and appliances and install four 12-foot-long clothing racks down the center of the room. Install built-in sweater shelves on the north wall and built-in shoe shelves on the south wall. Place full-length, three-paneled mirrors along the east and west walls. Recessed lighting should be used at east and west ends near mirrors to create dramatic "fashion model" lighting for trying on fabulous outfits. An in-wall, eight-speaker stereo system will also transform the clothes-selection experience. Closet lighting should feature soft pink bulbs, which enhance and brighten pale, overworked flesh tones and minimize under-eye circles. Fantastique!

Living room: let's call a spade a spade, shall we, people? This is where high-powered single professionals sleep, eat, and spend the bulk of their downtime. So GO WITH IT! Select a couch based on no other criteria than its ability to lull you into unconsciousness. The couch should be stain-proof, to repel dinner spills, and waterproof, to repel beer and sleep-drool. Select a small refrigerator with a wood-grain front panel and place it next to the couch -- it doubles as an end table! The coffee table should be higher than usual so you don't strain your back leaning over it to eat dinner. Finally, use much care when choosing a television, the centerpiece of any busy single professional's living room. I suggest a voice-activated, large-screen model. That way you don't have to overexert yourself by finding and repeatedly lifting the remote.

And now we move to the most important room in your house: your car. Your car should be equipped with all the modern conveniences for making your driving time most pleasurable. First, remove the back seat. You have no friends to drive around anyway. Instead, install a shelving system, a coffeemaker, a clothing rack, and a vanity stocked with a full complement of toiletries for those last-minute freshen-ups before meetings. Spare no expense on the stereo system. In addition, there are auto-body centers that will install hot and cold running water in cars, but this luxury should be reserved for only the busiest and most mobile professionals.

This brings us back to Paula's question of splash guards. When you think about it from a total-lifestyle perspective, it becomes clear that there's only one place where a splash guard would be appropriate. That place would be your chest, where a flexible splash guard could prevent damage to your clothing from spilled coffee, pizza grease, and the like, potentially saving hundreds in dry-cleaning bills. In a pinch, a green garbage bag will do the trick nicely, but a wide variety of colorful and fashionable splash guards can be found in the bib department at Babies "R" Us.

Kris Frieswick will read from her work at the Theatrical Open Mike Night at the Lizard Lounge, 1667 Mass Ave, Cambridge, on November 27 at 8 p.m. She can be reached at

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