Home Renovations & Décor

April 17, 2013 0 By Michaela Freeman

DIY Life

I was supposed to be a boy and, having disappointed my Dad in this respect, he decided to teach me everything he intended to teach a son. I watched my parents build our cottage at the age of five. One of my earliest memories is having learned to open my own lemonade caps, because everyone was busy digging the hole for the basement of our cottage. I also recall my then-teenage sister dumping a wheel barrel full of concrete mix into the hole and going down with it. Luckily, she wasn’t hurt, but that’s how we learned about DIY.

It was always part passion, part necessity. Getting professional help during Communist days was nearly impossible, so we learned to do everything ourselves, with perhaps the exception of electric wiring. And even that. When I was stuck with a dysfunctional plug years later, I simply went ahead and fixed it, to the astonishment of my male American friends. I learned to do wonderful things on shoestring budgets.

My Renovation Projects


  • Our cottage will likely be my lifetime project. It was my parents’ labor of love, where I grew up playing in construction-zone mud and, after my father’s death, I have now become its primary caretaker.
  • Our flats and houses – we moved often and to date, did four major renovations on our homes. These included not only the obvious décor, such as painting or carpeting, but also building walls inside and out, laying tile, painting doors and installing kitchens.
  • Scarlett O’Hara’s pub – a friend of ours became manager of one of Prague’s first Irish pubs and asked us for help with re-decoration, including color-washing the walls and re-upholstery.
  • Daisy Sweetshop – we turned a former ski-rental place into a nice little sweetshop in the center of our village in the mountains. We did the store front, logo, painting and other decor.
  • Gallery Hunger – the space that eventually served as my studio and cooking events venue was in completely desolate condition when we first took over. It took three months of hard work to get it cleaned, scrubbed, painted, tiled and functional.
  • Reconstructing four flats – when the absentee owner of our building had four flats empty that needed renovation (two of which after practically 30 years of no improvement), we offered to help. This was the first time, when I was ‘only’ organizing, ordering material, designing kitchens and overseeing workers. It felt strange not to be swinging a paint brush myself.


Being a Home-Maker

When I read women’s magazines, where the ultimate adventure seems to be setting up a Christmas tree, I just smile. My idea of being a home-maker is building shelves, installing ceiling fixtures and drilling holes. Of course, I also have a wonderful partner for my home projects in my husband. Back in the states, he was always close to the construction industry, often serving as supervisor. His ex-wife is actually a talented interior designer.

But having two-strong visions sometimes causes problems. A friend who spent days helping us with the reconstruction of our current home once said “Do you guys realize there is not a single occasion when you two simply agree?” It’s true. We argue over every wall-hook and flower-pot. But in the end, we both have a home we absolutely love, where things are exactly as we (both) want them to be. We both work from home, so it’s critical to have a home that works for us.