Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Trouble And Turmoil Of Renovating

The fun part of a renovation is that just like having an appendicitis or falling off a roof or surviving a hurricane, it gives you lots of common ground with other people who have gone through the same thing. What’s better than sharing war stories? Of course, it bores the people around you to death. Take a look at this New Yorker cartoon. It’s perfect.

So I will (try to) keep my renovation story short. But what's a renovation without an incompetent contractor, one fired architect, lots of delays, crooked angles and millions of inspections? Actually the architect is a funny story...

I hired the architect first (before the contractor), because I thought that was what I was supposed to do. I found a great woman. We were very simpatico and she came up with some gorgeous plans. (We were just adding a small bump-out and having the bathroom switch places with the laundry room, which was next to the guest room. Plus we added a powder room.)

I thought things were going well, but then my architect kept taking longer and longer to get back to me about the latest drawings and such. Finally it got so bad that I had to fire her. But we ended on a perfectly civilized note, with her admitting that my job was really small and that it had taken a back burner to her other projects. I reported this to H(usband), who you have to know was not involved in the planning, execution or ANYTHING having to do with the reno. (In other words, he thought the whole thing was dumb and didn’t care about half-dressed guests appearing in the kitchen.) When I told him about the firing, he said, “DARN! I was sending her a hundred dollars a week NOT to answer your emails or phone calls.” Har-har.

A new architect, who was great, came on board and there were no problems until I realized the contractor had little idea of what he was doing. My next mistake was keeping HIM too long. But in my defense, we were planning a wedding at the same time and, luckily, I did find someone to finish up everything and correct many (but not all) of his transgressions. Unhappily, the renovation that was supposed to be finished in July WELL BEFORE my daughter’s September wedding did not get completed until 2 1/2 months AFTER the wedding and TWO days before Thanksgiving. It was actually done 16 hours before the houseguests arrived who were supposed to be using this new guestroom suite.

I would never recommend planning a wedding and doing a renovation at the same time. But in that vein, I’ve come to believe that picking the right contractor is as essential to a successful renovation as picking the right groom or bride is to a successful marriage. If you have any doubts, don't do it! You have to live with your decision. And in both cases, picking poorly can be a costly mistake.

Anyway, here are a few before and after pictures, and, yes, I was responsible for that “wonderful” sponge painting (back in the 90’s) in the old bathroom. (I really liked it for the longest time.)

This was the old bathroom:


Note the beautiful drawing on the left:

That was the first nude I ever did in art class when I was an artsy pre-teen. The funny thing is that I drew it on a tiny section of a huge piece of paper. That was as far as my talents could take me at the time (and forever).

Here is the new bathroom, which gives my guests (and me!) all the privacy we could want:


Old guest room:
 New guest room:

Old laundry room:


New laundry room:


New powder room:

Anyhoo...All's well that ends well. (It's been a few months, so I can say that now...) The new spaces function exactly as I hoped they would and no ceilings have fallen down...yet.  As much as I love to go on about my renovation, I also love to hear about other people's. I hope all your remodeling dreams have come true with a minimum of drama...and ineptitude.

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