Marnie Butcher Piehl
 
 
    
 
Handcrafted wall and staircase. (Megan Milbradt)
 
 

 
Piehl original paintings. (Megan Milbradt)
 
 

Our first house was a sweet little 1947 story-and-a-half bungalow in old Fargo. We bought it for a song that felt like a fortune in 1995, and I thought it was 1,500 square feet of perfection - potential perfection anyway. To achieve my starry-eyed vision we tore out the carpet, refinished the floors, put in new windows, painted the walls, remodeled the bathroom, put in new doors, replaced the siding, replaced the fixtures, painted the cabinets, laid new flooring, remodeled the bathroom, and etc., etc.

We didn't have any money so we figured it out as we went and relied on our neighbor, Jack to help. The original Jack-of-all-trades, Jack was the go-to guy for fixing, building, advising and opining on Elmwood Avenue. He didn't wait for you to ask, he offered to help and once on the job, he became both invested and strongly opinionated about it.

My husband was far less enthused than I was about the charms of our fixer upper, and neither of us got as excited as Jack. He really brought out the worst of my impulsive nature and delusional optimism. I remember one night when Jack was amped up on dozens of Mountain Dews, I was fired up by an HGTV marathon and Shadd was out of town, we grabbed some jackhammers and knocked down a load-bearing wall to "create an open floor plan." It worked out all right (eventually), but my relationship with Jack was based more on adrenaline and half-baked ideas than logic. As a team, we took years off of my poor husband's life.

While Shadd suffered a bit over Jack, Jack suffered a lot over us - over our style in particular. From the beginning of our relationship and through every project he strove to name it.

The first time we met, he looked around at our art work, posters, makeshift bookshelves, old trunk-as-a-coffee-table and the futon covered in a beat up Mexican blanket and said, "I gotchyou. Southwestern. Your style is southwestern."

When we disagreed, he asked us what we were then. We said we weren't anything. How can that be, he'd ask. He wanted us to decide. Over the years, he'd throw out new options on a regular basis. "Kind of French Country? Modern city? Colonial? Log cabin? Old Country? What do you call it?" We never had an answer for him and it drove him crazy. I could have gotten behind Eclectic Poverty, but he never offered that up.

Jack would be glad to know that our most recent move jelled our style. A year ago, we stumbled upon the home where our stuff (and our family) belongs. It's an utterly unique and wonderfully weird home full of antlers, portholes, woodstoves and industrial accents, but lacking the closets and square footage to which we were accustomed--thereby requiring a great purge. Throughout that purge, my rule was to keep only what we need and love.

That rule, finally gave me an answer to Jack's long ago question: My style is Need & Love.

Need & Love (or Rustic Lodge as my husband calls it - primarily to see me cringe) is, by definition, very personal. You very likely wouldn't love it - and that's okay. Need & Love for me includes a lot of art. We have many artist friends, and the good fortune to be related to a relatively famous regional artist - we love them and their work. And so we hang our art in layers, without thinking too much about it going together, just glad it's all around us. We also love our books, and they are in every room of our house in bookshelves in varying states of disrepair. Our bookshelves (among other items) come from my mother's auction and rummage sale forays and we spiff them up (sometimes) or cover them up so they work in a dark corner. Some of the most loved things in our home are those we inherited or that have grown with us: the leather couch that was our first furniture investment is now aged like a good baseball glove; the old trunk-that-was-a-coffee table, holds linens now; and my dad's Navy sea chest holds games. My son's iron bedstead was our first bed, rescued from a shed on my husband's ancestral homestead.

One of my greatest treasures is a cabinet I rescued from my parents garage that was refinished by that same Jack-of-all-trades. That cabinet long ago held my grandmother's jellies and preserves, later it stored paint and turpentine in a garage, and I keep my other grandmother's china in it.

HGTV is big on "style moments" so I'll leave you with a Need and Love style moment: The other night, my mother in law and I were contemplating a tall, empty portion of my living room wall and talking about a beautiful, aging quilt that had been my great-grandmother's. I wonder if we could hang it safely, I said. We scared up a wooden towel rack from the garage, got a ladder, a drill and minutes later that family heirloom was adding more love to the home I love. And that's all I need.



 
Marnie Butcher Piehl lives in Mandan with one husband, two dogs and three sons. Most days find her happily working, gardening, reading and running around with her boys.