This has been going on since the first of October, but Jim wouldn't let me blog about it because he didn't want to advertise to the world that the house was empty. (He overestimates the audience of this blog.) Now that the contractor's sign is in the front yard and the Port-A-Potty graces the parking strip, it's ok for me to blog about the project from time to time, because anyone can tell that the house is under construction.
We wanted new kitchen countertops and a new stove. That's how it began. The kitchen was last redone in 1980, and it's showing its age. We did the usual get-3-quotes routine, and chose a local firm, largely because they assigned us an extremely competent project manager. We paid them to do the design and plan the project before committing to it, and in the process found we could work well with them.
As anyone who's ever remodeled soon learns, it's never that simple. Our contractor also has a very good kitchen designer with some really interesting ideas about cabinetry; and of course we had to bring the kitchen wiring and lighting up to code; and so it goes. The last kitchen remodel turned an original built-in china cabinet into a half bath (which was very useful to me in my various knee surgeries, when I couldn't climb stairs). The half bath was decorated to match the kitchen, so now that we're redoing the kitchen, of course we have to make the half bath match the new look… you get the idea.
It isn't just the kitchen, of course. The house is 95 years old, a beautiful Craftsman; the original permits were pulled in 1917. Some things have been updated, but a lot haven't, particularly the upstairs wiring (where our computers are); we haven't painted the interior since we moved in (or the exterior in much too long); we refinished the downstairs floors 26 years ago when we moved in and they're now showing wear too. I realize it sounds like we're redoing the whole house, but we aren't really. None of the changes is structural (unless we find something awful inside a wall). Compared to our neighbors, who moved out for 9 months (with 2 small children) and added a story, this is just repair work.
I thought, when they said it would take 10-12 weeks to do the kitchen, that we should consider moving out and just doing a whole lot of stuff while living in reasonable comfort somewhere else. It took Jim awhile to buy into that, but he did. So we have rented a small condo in Oakland's Adams Point neighborhood, a couple of blocks from Lake Merritt, and there we will stay until (we hope) the end of January. We brought the essentials with us – I still can't believe we did it in one day. Everything we didn't bring with us is in storage at Bekins. And don't think I haven't heard about throwing out "stuff we don't need" when we move back in!
The original plan was 10-12 weeks beginning October 1, but that assumed nothing would go wrong, so we extended the rental through January – and suddenly the project is running through January. I've told the project manager that I don't care what he does with the internals of the plan as long as the end date doesn't slip. We have our first project meeting with them tomorrow; the kitchen has been stripped out to the studs, which fortunately uncovered no structural problems.
I had a terrible time doing this. The prospect of moving out of the house just paralyzed me, I couldn't concentrate on anything for weeks. I kept repeating, it'll look beautiful when it's done, and not believing myself. But oddly, once we had moved into the rental, and the packing was done and the house cleared out, I found I can live with it. I even like the condo; more on that later. But the adventure has begun.
K: I didn’t know you had a second website until today. Your posting on the ivy site has gotten a little sketchy. (Did you ever see the BBC Brideshead where Charles asks Sebastian “Why in the world are we visiting the gardens??” Sebastian: “Why? . . . to see the ivy, of course!”)
We demolished our old house (which had been a ranch style from the early ‘Fifties) and built a new one on the old lot in 1991–a design by Silverstein/Jacobson, the Berkeley partners of Pattern Language fame. Our contractor turned out to be crooked, and walked before the project was even half complete, so I ended up as my own general contractor. It’s a big job, as you’re finding out.
When I saw the “Remodel” link, I thought you might be redesigning your blogsite, but I see instead you now have two. Will you be abandoning one? For me, just keeping up with one is a chore. I’ve posted about 650 pieces on a host of subjects, and I may be running out of material. I think a lot of the pent-up backlog of diversions and interests got poured out in that first 500 or so pieces, and that now I have to discover a new thing to generate a full essay. My latest preoccupation is Christopher Hitchens, whom I discovered just at about the point that he was dying.
Good luck with your refurbish/remodel!
I announced the fact that I’d be doing personal posts (like vacations and the remodel) on karenivy.net a few months ago but you must have missed it. I’m actually doing two blogs; I’m reserving Hedera’s Corner for political rants and posts of more general interest. You approach blogging much more seriously than I do; I post when I feel I have something to say, and if I have nothing to say, I don’t post. I’m currently (as you may have noticed) blogging our European cruise, but I stopped to go through the rest of the photos and identify them, since I found I was forgetting what the things I photographed are…
Thanks for your good wishes on the remodel. We’re very pleased with our contractor; we hired Mueller Nicholls of Oakland. We asked them to bid because the owner, Steve Nicholls, is a major supporter of East Bay Performing Arts, the new parent organization for the Oakland East Bay Symphony, the Oakland Symphony Chorus, and the Oakland Youth Orchestra. We hired them because of the extreme professionalism of their team, in particular their project manager, Rich Robb, and their kitchen designer, Michael Waxman (who appears to know every single building supplier in the East Bay). We signed off on a project plan in August, and as of last week we were actually a few days ahead of schedule. We’ve met with them every week and they’ve made this extremely smooth. (Knock wood.) We aren’t doing any structural changes (and so far we haven’t had to, thank God), just remodeling the kitchen (to the studs) and updating a 95-year-old house.