Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Price is Right

I love Potterybarn. Maybe too much. In thinking about renovations they are my go to place for most items. But, frankly, I would like to buy then at 50% off. So, often I look elsewhere for ideas (knockoffs).

The hardest renovation/decorating plan I am currently having is how to set up the living room so I can have a place for the TV and some storage for books around it. Since the house is also pretty compact I cannot fit a 120" wide entertainment center in there. Then, I saw this:

It's the Farmhouse Media Stand and it runs about $2500. Yikes. However, in my travels at I found this:

This is the Sevilla Six-Drawer Entertainment Unit and it runs $899. Great! I started looking at the dimensions and then checking the dimensions of my TV to see if I could squeak it into the space. My TV is 40.2 inches wide. The space in this media unit is 40 inches wide. Panic set in. IT HAS TO FIT!! Must. Have. This. Thankfully there is a helpful chat window on that allows you to receive assistance. I frantically asked them if maybe they forgot to add the extra part of the measurement that was, I don't know, .5 inches more than 40 inches wide. They checked. No dice. It was 40 inches. So, unless I want to start shaving off parts of my TV it looks like I will have to start my search again.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Time to decorate

The guest room/office was the room with the least amount to do. Now that the hardwood floors are in, all we have to do it paint and decorate. "You know you're old if you are buying a trundle bed" were the lovely words spoken by my friend Julie when I told her she would no longer have to be sleeping on a futon during her next visit. This has some truth to it.

Now that the wood scraps are gone and most of the sawdust has been cleaned up, the place is filling up with boxes. We got the trundle bed and a new patio set and our new bedroom set in on its way. But, before we can set this all up we need to get the space where it is going put together.

The guest room needs to be painted and the deck needs to be . . . re-treaded? Is that a word? No idea, but we need to out new wood on the top because the current pieces were never properly treated and are not splintering and disgusting.

If we get cable in phone running in the house we can re-arrange the living room to make a space for the dining table. Since it's Dan's 30th birthday is this weekend, we won't be doing much around the house. I have high hopes for May!

** I know reading is no fun without pictures so I will try to put some up soon.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

But, but, but . . .

After settling some of the house back in order (and scratching the new floor in the process - BOO!), I hunkered down on the couch to watch 'Dan in Real Life' that I just got in from Netflix. After about 15 minutes of boringness, the DVD player paused. . .and remained there. No button pushing could stop this. I ejected, replaced, it no longer read the DVD. I tried a new one. . . no dice. OK, well, that's broken. I headed up to bed that night to set up my alarm clock (which the floor guys had been using as a radio all week (read: uncovered). Everything was hunky-dory until I tried to set the hour portion of the clock/alarm. Nothing. Nada. Bupkus. I don't think this is a coincidence.

Well, at least I can rely on nature. The sun rises (directly in my eye) at around 7am thanks to the fact we don't have any window coverings in the bedroom right now. I will remedy this soon - for now, I rely on it. Hello Mr. Sun! Please, please don't make me go to work today. Oh, I have to so I can pay for someone to come in and fix ::ruin:: my house? OK.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Done, for now.

Well, the floors seem to have been cleaned up. Part of restoring a 100 year old home is that there are imperfections in the fundamental pieces of the house. The stairs lean a little and the upstairs hall seems to slope to the left. While the carpeting made that less observable, a flat surface provides a new climate.

I have also discovered the standards we all adhere to are very different. While my standards say any less than perfect is not OK, other get by with what they can get done in a reasonable amount of time and effort.

Roy called at 7am this morning and I greeted him in my robe and handed him a check in exchange for my house key. As a whole I am satisfied with the work he did. I suppose I was not prepared to supervise as much as I had to, but that is the role you play if you are contracting your house.

The next projects will include painting the upstairs and setting up the guest room/office, installing the new phone and cable jacks, replacing the front door and adding stained glass, and reframing the fireplace.

For now. . . I'm on a break.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

If at first you don't succeed . . .

Roy came by this morning and told us he would personally do the work, and make sure it was done right. It should either be perfect by the time we get home, or he should still be there.

Looks like we'll be having dinner together . . .

Monday, April 14, 2008

Anger Rising . . .

I came home today and it seemed the floor guys only made things worse. Needless to say the owner is coming tomorrow, but I am not sure I even want him too.

This is a picture of stain on my wall:

They re-painted the shoe molding, but also painted the floor:

This is what the edges of the stairs look like, I am going to give this an F:
When I asked them to fix the stairs, I didn't mean make it look worse. Also, if you notice they took the banisters to "stain them" but returned them in the same condition they left - and installed them in a pretty shoddy way:

In the hopes of dissipating my anger, I will end this post with some lovely flowers:

Two out of Three

One of the contractors we received quotes from told us there is a saying in the renovation business "you can get two out of three of the following things: quality, cost, time". It seems in this project we got cost and time. Sort of. They did finish Friday and we were able to move our things back upstairs by Saturday morning. But, they weren't really finished. The shoe molding was covering in polyurethane stains, the molding on the stairwell was damaged and the vents did not fit back into the flooring as they did not cut it right. Oh, and the side of the staircase was not completed because "he's not that creative". Um. . . OK? Over all, the floors look great, the stairs look good. There are some areas of the stairs where the stain dripped and left darker marks, and they were certainly not careful with the stain near the walls. They are coming back today to finish up.

Oh, and the house looked like it was on a beach vacation. Everything. I mean EVERYTHING is covered in dust from the sanding. I packed all my things into the two upstairs bathrooms and the downstairs. They left the bathroom doors open, left and opening in the plastic, and did not fix the plastic around the closets when it started to droop. Oh, and they clogged our toilet. It was, um, unpleasant. They dropped by on Saturday and I asked them to unclog it. But, it's. . .well, dirty now. I don't want to clean it. I want to blow it up and never see it again. I have been hovering on it for two days. Hovering at home? Not fun.

Thankfully my folks were in town this weekend as they helped us for a while on Saturday moving and cleaning. The house is now in a livable state - it just needs to be polished up. When we dropped by on Friday to open the back gate for them, my Mom practically ran from the house. It was a zoo.

Oh, and in the middle of all this i had the outside of the house painted. Although the color was not was I was expecting it to be, it looks pretty good. Pictures to come later of that.

In the meantime, here are some pictures of the floors:

Stairs Before:

Stairs During:

Stairs "After":

Side of Stairs:

Upstairs Hall Before:

Upstairs Hall After (from other angle):

Friday, April 11, 2008

Frat Boys

I think the hardwood floor guys are treating my house like its thier frat house. I came home last night around 9:30pm and it was, um, well, a dump. Stained rags littered the floor, trash was everywhere the TV had been uncovered so they could watch it and the kitchen was filled with used glasses and trash. Not. Cool. The smell from the stain went right to my head stopping the anger from rising too far. They are suppose to be completing the project today - allowing us to move our stuff back on Saturday evening. This better happen. I don't have arrangements made for the cats or us and since its Cherry Blossom season in DC -good luck getting a hotel room.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Good News & Bad News

Well, the good news it that it seems they made a lot of progress in one day. Most of the wood is laid out upstairs, and only 3 stairs left to be done. They also diligently covered all our furniture downstairs with plastic - even though it was behind the plastic curtain.

Now, for the bad news. Thank god they covered the furniture because it looks like the house was hit by a dust storm. Everything is covered. Also, someone ate one of my yogurts and they were definitely watching TV. I mean, at least change the channel back to what I was watching and be perceptive enough to turn the TV off the same way you turned it on. At least try to make it look like you weren't watching TV. I mean, hey, watch all the Judge Joe Brown you want (which is what was on when I came home), but just don't mess with my DVR recordings.

In the meantime, I am scheduling repairs for the fireplace and front door, booking the painters, and working out a contract to overhaul the backyard. The plan is to get all this done by memorial day, then maybe have a party. I didn't plan to do the backyard yet - but we have to get the back patio fixed, and since we are doing that we might as well do the fence. . .and it snowballed. So, several thousand later - we should have a yard fit for a good BBQ. I think after that we will hold off on the work until September and use the summer time for planning out the kitchen and the downstairs work. The perhaps by next spring, we will be all done. I hope.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Call me crankypants

At this point in the process I am 80% cranky, and 20% happy. Hopefully as the week goes on, the ratio will improve. It seems like the forecast for the rest of the week seems to be leaning towards shit storm. Perhaps the winds will change directions.

Dan is cranky too. He almost killed me when I said that the new daybed was being delivered on Saturday (yup, same day we were in renovation and cluster hell). Ooops. When he was outside I managed to move it to a better area - because it prevented is from getting into the bathroom at one point. Sometimes, I have Hulk-like strength when I want to move something. It's weird. I think "scrawny" is an accurate description for my physique, but I become superman. It's like one of those people who lifts cars in times of need. OK, maybe not exactly like those people. Last week, I moved the futon downstairs all by myself. Dan came home and was like "how the F did you do that?". I have no idea. I'm just stubborn I guess. When I want something done right away, I do it.

Anyway, this morning was just a bad morning. I had an awful nights sleep. Wandering into the bathroom over splinter filled floors and crashing into everything you own which you have jammed into the bathroom, is not a good way to start your day. Since I had the cats locked in with me (Dan slept in the couch because he didn't want to "sleep in that dump") was also a bad, bad idea. They jumped around all night, scratched at the door, and I awoke to a stench coming from their litter box.

After walking up we had to move the bed downstairs. Walking on a half finished staircase with treads missing is not a "safe" way to move a mattress. I broke a sweat even before I went to work. Then, I had to pack up the cats and take them to the vet to be boarded for the week. I realize this is for their safety, but it really makes me feel awful. I feel bad that they have to be in a tiny cage all week. But, I had no choice. The good thing is that the folks at the vet couldn't be any nicer, and the vet is only 9 blocks from the house. I hope they give them treats and rub Dylan's belly (he likes that). At least they get to be together.

I look forward to going to a hotel. It's funny how different Dan and I view staying at a hotel. He gets excited to watch movies on the TV that are still in the theater, and I get exciting for the maid service. Oh, well. We really didn't want to stay in a hotel in order to save money, but we realized it was for the best. After ripping up the carpets in Saturday I got a bloody nose. That can't be good. We ended up using priceline and getting the same hotel my parents are staying this weekend. It couldn't have worked out better.

All Work and No Play makes Ben a dull boy (girl)

It started as an adventure, trying to cram all our stuff into bathrooms, closets and other nooks. Then, we got cranky. Friday night we had managed to move everything either downstairs or in one of the bathrooms. Saturday we ripped up some of the carpet upstairs and Sunday we did the rest. Let's just say it was fitting that I happened to get my tetanus booster on the same day we began the project. Rusty nails galore!

Since I need the floor guys to finish the job in 5 days, they opted to start on Saturday for a few hours to get a jump on things. They were to come at 9am and I was happy to see them when they showed up 15 minutes early. This made me love Roy and his crew a little more. Another great thing about Roy is the way he conducts his contracts in terms of payment. We paid for the materials straight from the wholesaler (which made is nice) and we will pay Roy for the labor when he finishes the job. Nice, and simple. It doesn't make me feel like they are going to run out with my money - because we have all the wood, so there is no way this could happen. No matter how many references you get, there is still something nerve racking about having someone in your home for so long.

Now, for some pictures . . .

Here is Roy and Mo beginning to work on the stairs:
This is what our bedroom looks like now:

(i don't think I got all the clothes I needed out in time . . .oops!)

Here is all our stuff crammed into the guest bathroom:

(yup, not a storage closet...a bathroom)

Here is a photo of the bathroom we are currently using:

Feel bad for me yet? Check out the only living space we have left:

It didn't take long for the joy of running through plastic curtains to wear off and for the annoyance to set in. Somehow a power saw running in your home has a way of putting you in a bad mood. Unlike our original plan to camp out downstairs for a week, it looks like we will have to pack it up and go to a hotel for a few nights. Shucks. We weren't the only ones that were angry, Dylan and Nina were pissed. It turns out they don't like to be locked in a bedroom all day long. Huh. We sent them off to sleep away camp this morning so maybe they can get some peace and quiet there. But, I have a feeling they will still be mad when we pick them up on Saturday.

I will end this with a progress shot:

Friday, April 4, 2008

One project done (sort of)

Finally, one project is almost complete. I finished taking down the rest of the doorway in our bedroom. The only thing left to do is plaster and paint (which needs to wait until we get the floors done and the furniture arrives - so I can pick a color) Here are some pictures:

The wood is here!

The wood was delivered! But, now we have no place to put our bed. Oops. Looks like we will be sleeping in the kitchen.

Tonight we will move all our stuff downstairs so I will make sure to post a picture. I am sure it will look like we are sleeping in a storage unit. Super.

Anyways, here is the wood:

On another note, I got my tetanus booster today so I am all set for stepping on or jabbing myself with rusty nails!

Thursday, April 3, 2008


My head is about to explode. Between sorting out estimates and budgets, using my poor Spanish skills to communicate, making 192 decisions a day, sleep deprivation, and trying coordinating when the specific work crews are coming in for what project. . . I'm on my way to a system meltdown.

Last night, I stayed up til 10pm waiting for this young lady to come by and pick up my futon. She was suppose to be there between 8 and 9, but hey, she brought me money and took away a futon I no longer needed. It was good. Her and her friends piled into my house and oohed and aahed over the futon. Then they oohed and ahhed over the house. Then I heard one of them say "yeah, this is a grown-up house". This was one of several references to how young they were and how "mature" we were. It was not fun. At best, I am 6 years older than them. That is the maximum. But there is clearly some sort of great divide between us. Maybe it was that they consider 10pm still an appropriate hour to move furniture while I consider it an appropriate house to start putting on my pajamas.

After they left I went up to bed and reviewed some paint samples. Frick.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

I need a vacation

What no one tells you about renovations, is that half the work is planning. Maybe two-thirds. If I have to describe the projects anymore I think I am just going to make a tape recording. I have actually made a speech. It goes like this: "Oh, hello, nice to meet you too, come in. Let's start with the first thing, the front door. Yup, the one you just walked through. Yes, that one. Uh, huh, right next to you. We want to change the door. Into what? Well, another door. Yup, just not that one. Why? I don't like it. Yes, I think it is ugly. Uh, huh, ugly. . . blah blah blah". It just so happens that 5 out of 7 contractors do not speak English as a first language. Most of the conversation is me using large hand gestures and them repeating "OK" and us smiling at each other. Then, they ask me to draw them a picture. You've seen my skills. It's not pretty.

One more person is coming by tonight and I will be done for a while. Well, done for about 5 minutes, until I have to start schlepping all my stuff from upstairs, downstairs. Not fun. Somehow in all this I have to leave room for the wood to be delivered. Hmm... This will be a challenge and will remind me of moving from my NYC apartment that looked like this when we were packed:
Since my folks are coming down next weekend (yes, I picked the worst time to get the floors done) they need to shake a leg on the floors. So, they are starting on Saturday. This will be the first time someone has come into the house to do work, and hopefully it will be exciting and I won't be biting off all my fingernails. I also hope we all have a place to at least sit. That may be wishful thinking.

In the meantime, I have scheduled times for the phone jacks to be installed, and am getting ready to book the backyard renovation and the interior carpentry work. Oh, and the painting. After this, break time. At least I won't be doing the manual labor - just the supervising. This eliminates the chances for me to get hurt. It's a win-win.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


I already knew wood swelled and shrank with the weather, so it made sense when our wood guy told us it needed to sit in the house for a few day. Great, fine. But, this means that we are going to have a mountain of wood in our house, then we have to move all the furniture down to the first floor. So... looks like we will be sleeping in the kitchen. I already am going to have to shower at work, because we will have no way to get to the upstairs bathrooms, at least once they start the staining. It's either that or we try to use the kitchen faucet sprayer. Good times. . .
Thank goodness I am heading out on a business trip for one night. Dan will have to struggle with the tower of crap.
We are staining the floor "Antique Brown" (this picture is not a good representation):

This past weekend I also finished removing the doorway in our bedroom, now all I need to do it plaster and paint. It turns out, choosing a paint color is not all that easy. I headed down to Benjamin Moore on Saturday and left with 12 paint samples. Then I just left them in the bag because I had no more energy to debate with myself over 36 shades of grey or beige. When you see a sign that says "We have over 500 shades of white!", what does that mean to you? Oh, goody? Or, oh shit. I am the latter. Not fun. I was about to scream if I had to look at another microscopic difference between "heavenly clouds" and "down feather delight". Blech.

On another note, I finally bought a decent bed for guests to slept on - instead of our futon circa 2000. Sorry guys! Even my poor Mom has braved a night or two on that futon. No more. That baby went up on craigslist and should be hauled away tonight. Peace. Goodbye. Adios. Hasta Luego.

Since I was ordering things, I added on a patio set for our backyard. It is WAY more stuff that we need, but we can break it up into a table set and a conversation set. It should be fun to actually use our yard, which hopefully will be nice and renovated soon. Ahhh . . . margaritas, dining al fresco, stars, police sirens, and vagrants . . the joys of summer in the city.

Injuries Obtained

  • Sprained Toe/Foot: 1
  • Blood Blisters: 2
  • Splinters under fingernail: 1
  • Bird Shit on me: 1
  • Eye Injuries: 3
  • Burns: 0
  • Falls off ladder: 0 (this is because we don't have a ladder yet)
  • Headaches: too many to itemize
  • Broken Bones: 0
  • Bandages Needed: 5
  • Electric Shocks: 2
  • Stiches: 0
  • Bruises: way too many