Southwords

How We Wallpapered Fool’s Hill

Hint: One roll at a time

By Ruth Moose

What felt like a midlife crisis to my husband and myself, our friends and family called “going over Fool’s Hill.” They shook their heads as we sold our life in Charlotte to go live in the wild woods of the Uwharrie Mountains. And they were wild woods.

We bought three acres of the 900-acre Stony Mountain, an area known locally for its rocks and rattlesnakes. There was one other house a mile away that overlooked the Uwharrie River and Morrow Mountain. Our lot was graced by a mammoth beech tree and a tiny tumbling creek.

We planned to use the money from our city house to build a smaller home in our wild country, doing much of the work ourselves. Our sons, 11 and 16, agreed with friends and family: We’d lost our minds. Nonetheless, they rolled up their sleeves and pitched in.

My husband drew our house plans. As a DO (diversified occupations) student in high school, he took a drafting class that likely influenced his decision to pursue a degree in art rather than becoming a pharmacist.

We began by clearing, cutting, hauling and burning brush. Then we hired someone to cut only enough trees to allow a road, driveway and space for a house.   

We hired a contractor to frame the house, then we took over, opting to install paneling over dry wall so we wouldn’t end up having to spackle, sand and paint it. Paneling was a breeze: once it was up, you were done with it.

My husband liked paneling. And he liked wallpaper for the same reason. Once it was up, you were done.   

I not only like wallpaper. I love it.

I love everything about it: the patterns, the instant effect, the burst of color. And I had always said that if I ever built a house of my own, I’d wallpaper the closets.

It helped that I found a place where you could buy returned rolls of wallpaper for just one dollar a pop. Did you know that a standard closet requires just two rolls? One son’s closet got a western pattern, brown calico for the other. My husband’s closet was decked in faux denim while my walk-in was covered in blue birds and apple blossoms. Again, friends and family shook their heads. Fools.

We were doing great, the house was taking shape, then our money ran out. We needed a loan to finish. I went to a mortgage broker. OK, I went to four of them. One should have requested a loan before one began, I was told repeatedly. Not in the middle of building. Clearly it was a no deal.

Finally, a friend at church suggested that a small local bank might be able to help.

So I rolled up my husband’s drawings, made an appointment, dressed my best — heels and everything — and crossed my fingers.

The banker asked to see our blueprints. When I unrolled my husband’s drawings, he looked totally puzzled. “Who did these?” He asked.

“My husband,” I said.   

“OK,” the banker said, rolling them up before handing them back. He crossed his arms, leaned toward the wall in his chair. “Tell me about your house.”

I explained that the house was planned for low maintenance. It would have some solar features, triple paned windows — and we were wallpapering the closets.

He laughed, doodling figures on his desk pad.

“How much do you need?”

I said, “But you haven’t checked our credit.”

“I don’t need to,” he said.  “Anybody who wallpapers closets is a good credit risk.”

We got the loan, finished the house and lived there 17 years.  PS

After living in Stony Mountain, the Mooses moved to Fearrington Village when Ruth joined the creative writing faculty at UNC-Chapel Hill. Her husband, Talmadge, died in 2003. After Ruth retired from teaching, she shocked all who know her by moving back to Albemarle.

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