Monthly Archives: August 2008

there can be only one

This weekend was medicine cabinet smackdown. I was so anxious about our impending shopping trip that, according to Joe, I woke him up the night before, standing on the bed and demanding to know when we were leaving. In reality, the trip wasn’t any worse than I expected.

Our main dispute with this piece has been metal (me) versus wood (him). Joe immediately fell in love with a $600 wooden chest at Expo. And I mean so in love that he offered to let me pick out the floor vents, the doors, and the bathroom light fixture if I let him buy this one piece. Obscene price tag or no, I knew I should take that deal, but—and I realize how totally unreasonable I sound here, and admitted as much to him—I couldn’t stomach the crown molding.

It’s not just that I despise crown molding; in my mind, that cabinet would tip the entire bathroom into full-on traditional mode. We already have a granite-topped undermount sink, marble floors and a wood vanity, tempered only by my one tiny, minimalist faucet. I might as well put out lacy doilies and curtain swags. I couldn’t do it, I told him.

While it was a nice change to be the veto-er instead of the veto-ee, Joe doesn’t take rejection nearly as well as I’ve come to learn to. I had to feed him before he’d even look in Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware. I’ve been set to order this medicine cabinet (at right) from RH for weeks, but Joe wouldn’t let me buy anything he couldn’t see in person. They didn’t have this model on display, but now that his spirit is significantly crushed and time is significantly short, I think he’ll cave. Of course, by the time we get it, I’m not sure we’ll have any aspirin left to fill the shelves.

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renovation envy

Joe’s parents live in a historic neighborhood, so my morning runs double as a chance to indulge in home voyeurism. There’s always all this beautiful work being done: new siding, gardens, cupolas. There’s even a house we looked at early in our search that has been completely redone, at least from the outside.

We’re doing the same kind of work at our house, but in the end, they’ll have these breathtaking historic treasures, and all we’ll have is a 900-square-foot box. Our architectural interest is zero—we don’t even have stairs, let alone anything worth preserving.

It makes me wonder why we’re bothering. Ours just is not the kind of house you spend this much time and money on; what we’re doing is comparable to stripping down and fixing up a 1991 Dodge Neon. I mean, some things just aren’t worth the effort, right?

Maybe. But then I think about all the work we’ve done so far, and I think that sometimes maybe the effort itself is what’s worthwhile.

happy thoughts

I was right—I feel better today. How can I complain when I get to shop? As satisfying as it is to vacuum insulation or mix cement or wire a circuit, none of that compares to buying something that’s already finished. You just open the box and there it is, looking beautiful. Case in point, my compost pail, which came Friday. It was the highlight of my weekend.

We’ve hit the point on our renovation checklist where all we have to do is buy stuff: shower doors, a hot water heater, wood floors, paint. I know I should wait to paint until I’ve got a rug or furniture or something to coordinate with, but it doesn’t look like we’ll be able to afford furniture anytime soon, and Labor Day is coming (yikes), so I’m feeling pressure to take advantage of the sales.

We’ve agreed (miracle of miracles) on gray in the bathroom, and we have the tile and granite now so I should be able to find a match. Belle wants purple for her room, and I’m thinking a pale sky blue for my office. I need to order paint samples, pronto. The heat is on.

ta da!

It was a long, dull weekend, but we are finally contractor-ready. I thought I’d be more excited to finally type those words, but it’s anticlimactic for a few reasons:

  1. The work was boring. It was just a million odd jobs, boring enough to live through, and impossible to blog about. In summary (and I don’t blame you if you skip this) we finished up the kitchen circuits, made a dozen trips to Lowe’s, spackled, finished leveling the master bedroom floor (three times was a charm), installed a ceiling fixture in the kitchen—although that, like everything in there, is only temporary until Phase II.
  2. I can’t actually call our contractor, because we still need a medicine cabinet and a bath light fixture. And while I could order those in a day, I have to contend with Joe. I’m giving him one week to find something before ordering what I want.
  3. This doesn’t mean we’re much close to moving in. The bathroom is a major milestone, but we’re still missing some major elements, like doors and floors, and insulation. And those all cost a lot—so much, I’ve been considering a part-time job at Lowe’s just for the discount.
  4. I have a renovation hangover. I am completely maxed out on anything home-related. But just give me a day to sleep it off.

it’s electric

Phase I of this renovation has had its share of disasters, but my biggest complaint has always been how slowly the electrical work has gone. Every time I ask what’s holding us up, it’s something to do with circuits. I accused Joe and his dad of foot-dragging, and finally, because I want to move in sometime before our mortgage is paid off, I decided to micromanage.

So I pulled a 12-hour shift with them, hoping to speed things up. And I realized what they’ve been trying to tell me all along: It can’t be done. No offense to Ben Franklin, but electricity is god—awful, at least in our attic. It’s tedious, it’s slow-going, and really, it’s a one-man job, so I was mostly just there to hand tools to people and lend moral support.

What they’ve done in the attic is actually pretty amazing. They replaced a jumble of splices and frayed wires—some were actually tied in knots—with neat rows of wires run through holes in the rafters and stapled to beams. It’s a work of art.

Too bad I only realized this now that we’re on the home stretch. But at least I’ll be prepared for Phase II.

digging in

I have had this long-running obsession with composting. Understand, this started way before it became trendy. Five years ago, I became a family pariah when I was an hour late to an amusement park outing because I was standing in line to buy a composter. To add insult to injury, we lived in, duh, an apartment, so I couldn’t even use the thing and had to store it in Joe’s parents’ basement. But in my defense, I did score this $100 Earth Machine for $20.

This weekend, while the guys puttered around inside, I set it up. It’s not the most attractive thing to have in your yard, but it’s actually pretty genius how it works. You dump your yard waste and food scraps in the top, and shovel fresh compost out the bottom.

The biggest trick is keeping the ratio of carbon to nitrogen (green to brown) at 30:1. I’ve been scavenging for the right amounts of green (grass, fresh leaves, weeds) versus brown (dried leaves, grass), which has led to a lot of wisecracks, especially about the brown.

It’s proven tough to find enough material to get it started. Our lawn has been the Great Dust Bowl for weeks, so getting green grass is not as easy as it should be. I’m planning to import some from Joe’s parents. I think they are still befuddled by my obsession, as I am slightly myself. I don’t really garden, so I don’t know why composting excites me. But I was sufficiently psyched to order this beauty of a compost pail this morning. I’ve had my eye on it for a long time and can’t wait to get to use it.

the Sunday night fights

Today was less inspiring. We did stuff, but it was a hodge-podge of random jobs, which is less exciting than one big accomplishment. Still, I’d say we set some new records: most trips to Lowe’s in one weekend; also, most ridiculous fight (and that’s saying something; we’ve been arguing over floor registers since last week).

This fight was about the placement of the doorbell chime. For most people, this would not even remotely be an issue. If you had asked me, prior to this day, if I could ever take issue with the location of a doorbell chime, I would have thought you were crazy. But my husband wanted to put the doorbell chime centered directly above the kitchen door.

His father and I raised our eyebrows and explained that that would mean making a focal point out of an object most people try to hide. Joe didn’t understand how above a door is a focal point. “Nobody looks up,” is what he said.

He would have fought me on this point all day, but his father, who should be a hostage negotiator, was eventually able to talk sense into him. We hadn’t bought enough wire, though, so we didn’t get the doorbell hooked up anyway.

But at least we got that fight out of the way, so we can move on to other, more pressing arguments: the interior doors (I want a two-panel, he wants a traditional six; I think I’m wearing him down), floor registers, hot water heater (he’s stuck on a $600 model), medicine cabinet (if he hasn’t picked one out by the time we order the doors, I’m ordering this one), and bathroom light fixture.

So many fights, so little time.