Soft Lights And Hardware

Our children call it the Home Depot Date.

I don't know when it happened exactly. Somewhere around our 329th trip, perhaps. Strolling hand-in-hand past the grout, it struck us.

We love shopping together for home-improvement stuff. Unified by a common vision of house beautiful, we are proof that matrimonial bliss can be had in pursuit of trisodium phosphate. Or door knobs, or switch plates, or patio stone.

Actually, the real marvel is that my wife enjoys it. To me, a walk through the cavernous aisles of Lowes, Home Depot, or even the corner hardware store is a wondrous event. It produces a rush like the bug-eyed childhood visits to Toys 'R' Us. The possibilities are endless.

I thought it was a guy thing, a handyman thing. My wife and the folks at Home Depot's Atlanta headquarters have disabused me of that notion. Hardware, it seems, has no gender; half the buyers are women.

American Demographics reports that the average household spends $546 on home-improvement goods each year. (Surely a suspect figure since it correlates closely with our monthly Home Depot bill).

But clearly, we are not alone. Bruce and Stephanie Conover (proud installers of a new front walk, see Page B3) are decorating and landscaping their first house as a "joint venture," says Bruce. "We have a great time," says Stephanie. Nary a spat, even after repeated store visits for just the right 25 light fixtures.

I can't say every visit goes without a tiff.

Last fall, we were prepping our house for sale and decided that the mildew-gilded carpeting in our front entry didn't offer much curb appeal. I was eager to rip it up, jackhammer away the concrete apron, and install a sunburst pattern of bricks. My wife, tallying up the cost and my untested skills was a tad skeptical.

As we stiffly paced among the pavers, she snagged Brian, the patio department chief. "Would you like to save a marriage?" she demanded. He leapt at the challenge, giving us a half-hour treatise on entryway masonry.

Suffice to say, the buyers of our home loved the result. And we're still Home Depot dating.

My advice: Start with a candle-lit dinner. Ease into the evening. And in my experience, guys, the rubber-plant section is more romantic than rubber hoses. Just a thought.

* We're home. Let us know how we're doing. Write to the Homefront Editor, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115 or e-mail

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