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Opinion / Analysis / Essays

March 17, 2005

CONWAY The addition on the Merullo house is bigger than the structure they bought in 1989. And their plans for it also became bigger than they had intended. It is a testament to the adage that if you create more space, you will always find a way to fill it up. In this case, a daughter was born to Roland and Amanda Merullo within months of completing the addition. Alexandra is now 7. A few years later Juliana, 3, came along.

There wasn't much planning involved in the confluence of more space and then bigger family. It just happened that way. In fact, the Merullos say they don't plan much about their lives and that includes Roland Merullo's approach to writing books. He has published six, four of them novels, with two more due out this summer and fall, and the contract in hand for another one after that. He doesn't write outlines, he just starts with an idea and goes from there.

One of the few things that Merullo, 51, knew he wanted in the addition when he started building it on Memorial Day 1994 was a large empty space. He and Amanda, 48, envisioned the "workout room" as a place to do yoga and karate. A small sunroom off that, with windows on three sides, was just large enough for a couch from which to behold a small valley below and a wooded hillside beyond.

"If I had known we were going to have children, I would have designed it differently," said Merullo, a Revere native who for many years supported his writing habit as a carpenter in southern Vermont. He and Amanda built the addition themselves over a three-year period. She was working as a photographer and he would write half the day and build the other half.

"Carpentry is a great complement to writing," he said.

For many years his ideal would have been to spend five hours in the morning building things and five hours in the afternoon writing with his special fountain pen (a gift from Amanda) on a yellow legal pad. He describes that as "a great balanced life."

Now Merullo devotes most of his non-writing time to his daughters and to his other passion, golf. The rest of the family joins him on the links from time to time.

The Merullos moved their bed into what had been the sunroom. Their daughters occupy two small rooms in the old wing, and the workout room is still mostly empty, but accoutrements such as a piano, couch, plants, and toys (including Alexandra's golf clubs) have started to intrude. And now you are as likely to find Juliana riding her new bike around that room as you are to find the adults striking yoga poses.

Merullo does his writing above the erstwhile sunroom at a wrap-around built-in desk in an alcove that similarly has windows on three sides. There is a computer there reserved for the children. They like to fool around with fonts and Alexandra does a little writing of her own. "I make a point of never telling them they can't come up here," said Merullo.

The last step in the construction of the new wing was to poke the hole that would form the door between the original 900-square-foot house and the 1,100-square-foot addition. Sparks started to fly when Merullo took his circular saw to the wall, telling him that his house had concrete brick walls. A neighbor informed him that it had once been a hunting camp, transformed into a family dwelling.

Merullo still keeps his hand in carpentry and has built most the furniture in the house. Sitting in the living room, Amanda Merullo points out the various pieces: a couch, a table, shelves, and the TV/games cabinet. "They're not fancy but they're utilitarian, that's kind of our mode," she said. "Things that are useful."

All articles © Eric Goldscheider

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