Metro Weekly


Stan and John's townhouse on Barracks Row

GONE WITH THE WIND — Drafty walls and disrepair didn’t scare off this GWM couple in Southeast. With ingenuity and a not-small amount of sheet metal, they transformed their 2 BR, 1 1/2 BA townhouse into a funky urban space.

When Stan Cooper and John Young moved into their Southeast townhouse near Barracks Row, they weren’t expecting to do a lot of work. But after dipping into the do-it-yourself well, the couple found themselves taking on a room by room renovation. Now they live in their own eclectic style.

John: [In the living room] Stan had seen it first and he called me to come over to look at it. It was mid-January and I came over and when I saw it, I saw promise. But I was appalled. The water in the toilet upstairs was frozen.

Stan: All the pipes had burst last spring and then the plumber came in and fixed everything and cleaned it up. They didn’t turn the heat on so the pipes burst again.

John: We had mud and sewage and everything all over the place. But we were sort of desperate. We needed a place to go and so we said “yes.” In return she said, “Okay, you can do whatever you want with it.” So we don’t really worry about the holes in the electrical wiring. We’re making everything better but we don’t have to worry too much.

Stan: One of the reasons that ductwork is covered in sheet metal is that when the plumber came in the second time the pipes froze, he was pounding holes in the dry wall to see where the leak was. I can’t do dry wall, so we came up with something we both could do — we covered it in sheet metal.

John: That’s the beginning of all the sheet metal around the place.

Stan: It covers a lot of sins. Although it’s not as easy as it seems. With metal you have to be very precise.

When we first started working on the house, we sat down and decided on a budget for every room. A lot of the stuff we’ve done is created from things that we found. This table is a milk crate on a lazy Susan with an old concrete manhole cover on it. At certain times of the day it lights up on the bottom.

John: It’s like a little night light on a timer.

Stan: A lot of things around the house are like that.

John: Every wall in the house has been painted.

Stan: It was periwinkle when we moved in. This brick wall was a challenge because it had never been painted before and was in really bad disrepair.

John: We probably have pumped about 150 cans of spray foam to the walls, windows, outlets, everything you can think of because when we came in it was a huge wind tunnel.

Stan: It can still be breezy on certain nights.

John: [In the powder room] I always wanted to do padded walls and this room was small enough that if it turned out to be a huge pain in the ass. This room took me about three months to do. This [bas-relief] behind it was actually on the floor when we moved in. We decided we’d reuse it so I painted it and drilled holes in it and wired it up.

[In the bedroom] I don’t like brown very much so I was really skeptical about using it here. I came home one night and he had wisely painted it while I wasn’t here. I walked in and said, “Oh, that’s great.” Color is not my strong suit. I tend to like neutrals so it’s been great to have Stan choose the color. Stan made the bed — the only thing on the bed that Stan didn’t do is the lights. Stan designed and sewed the cover — it’s ghetto chinchilla. I bought it as part of a costume and only used a little bit of it. I told Stan, “You have to use this somewhere, I don’t care where.”

This is an old dresser I bought years ago. It’s actually metal. When I bought it, it was painted like wood. I sanded it at my parents’ house but I didn’t get to paint it for a long time. Then I kind of liked the way it weathered and aged. Also, for a long time in my life I was very big on putting everything on wheels. It’s easy to rearrange, except now the wheel-locks come undone and when I pull a drawer out the whole thing comes rolling out.

[In the bathroom] I’m the freaky one. This is the first room I did. These are postcard sized pieces of sheet metal [on the ceiling] — we got like 100 of them. For two nights I was pumping liquid nails on sheets of metal and Stan was placing them.

[In the hallway] I’ve always have to get a little altar of some sort. It’s just something that’s interesting to me, an object that people revere as standing for something ethereal — I’ve always thought that aspect of graven images was kinda cool.

Everything in the house is constantly evolving. We have three or four other projects that we’re going to start soon that will change the way things look.

Stan: But we’re not going to do any more work until after Christmas. That’s the agreement that we have with each other. You have to have a break and enjoy what you have for awhile.

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Sean Bugg is Editor Emeritus for Metro Weekly.