Curious Objects: Wade Lege’s Advice for New Restorers

Editorial Staff Curious Objects

This suite of mahogany furniture includes a notable 1820s sofa from the Baltimore workshop of John Needles (1786–1878). The doors are original to the house. Photograph by Richard Sexton.

In the fourth episode of Curious Objects, Benjamin Miller talks to Wade Lege about restoring a Mississippi bayou home. Never something to enter into lightly, the restoration of a home takes serious commitment—a “come to Jesus moment,” according to Lege.

Benjamin Miller: Is there any other advice that you would give to a listener who, for example, is listening to you right now and thinking maybe he or she wants to put some sweat equity into a house and restore it and live in a beautiful historic home? What advice would you give to someone who’s thinking about just starting out in that process?

“Consider the elements of the weather—Mother Nature—for one. And consider the fact that it’s not going to go as planned. Consider your budget and consider the time it takes on your lifestyle.”

Wade Lege: Consider the elements of the weather, Mother Nature, for one. And consider the fact that it’s not going to go as planned. Consider your budget and consider the time it takes on your lifestyle. In other words, the sweat equity you’re talking about, well, you need time to revamp and revive yourself from this sweat equity. Well, you’re normally so broke you can’t even take a vacation, and you’re normally so tired you don’t even want to. So, you know, depending on whether you have to move the house, or, you know, if it’s just a mild restoration that’s fine, but . . . Old buildings are great, I would just say, you know, you have to have a come to Jesus moment about, Do I really want to get involved with this or not? I guess that, you know, of course, price—if you can get involved in something on the cheap, then by all means, it’s probably worth it. But, if it’s going to be a struggle, and it’s going to be a struggle for a little while and that little while turns into a little bit longer because of things out of your control, it gets to be a thorn in your side. And, you know, I can remember many times people saying, “well you know you don’t come to New Orleans anymore.” I’m like, “Listen, I’ve got a list of reasons why you don’t see me anymore. The top of the list is money. The next thing is I’m too tired. And, you know, the third thing is, you know, I gotta start back up on this in the next day or two and I’ll be driving back to New Orleans. I’m not about to”—it’s just too much. I know that there are many beautiful, many beautiful properties that need restoration in many parts of the United States. And, you know, I would tell anyone to certainly consider that, but tools break, for instance, and then suddenly you’re sitting there, you’re making no progress whatsoever, and this dream starts to seem like a little bit of a waste of time maybe. That’s the reality of it, you know. It’s the—oh, you look and you have rose colored glasses—well, that may be true, but the reality is that you have to have a lot of patience if, you know, if you embark on something that is maybe more than you can handle. I’ve heard of pretty amazing stories of people doing just that, buying into more than they could handle. Often a building will just stay tarped for years, because they can’t even get the, you know, the roof can’t even come together, and for whatever reason . . . a surprise in their life, an injury, a this that and the other. If you aren’t a good cook, get something good to eat, you know?

Wade Lege. Photograph by Richard Sexton.

Wade Lege, an independent collector and subject of the fourth installment of Curious Objects & the stories behind them.

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