The Road to Renovation Redux

And We’re Done…Sort Of

We’ve reached the end of the road.

No, we haven’t lost our minds.  Or run out of money.  Or decided we want to spend the rest of our days drunk in a bar in New Orleans.  (Although that’s a thought!)

I mean we’ve finished construction.

Sort of.

Final punch list made

James and I were able to move back into the house on November 10th.  (And 11th.  And 12th.)  However, before we got too settled, we (me) walked through with our contractor, Stephan Sardone, and made our final punch list – the final little tweaks to six months of construction that will mean construction is officially done.

Anyone who has done a renovation knows that moving back in doesn’t necessarily mean you’re done.  You just happen to be living in your house again.  As you find yourself using each space, you invariably come across minor items that need to be repaired or replaced.  A faulty plug.  A missing caulk joint.  A loose baseboard. All common items that are easy to manage.

So you’re done.  You’re just not – done.  Because you also have to deal with unpacking.

There is always something more!

I always equate moving to having a U-Haul truck explode inside the house.  Of course, one would think after having moved three times in the last year, I’d be used to the chaos.  What I’ve discovered, though, each time there is still the same…..IMG_1938

James has done a much better job of handling this end of the experience.  By the time we went to bed Monday night, the kitchen had been unpacked, dishes had been washed and almost everything put away.  The scary part – there’s something in every cabinet, and I can’t figure out where each item came from.  I know it was in the old kitchen.  But where?

What is in the POD?

And even scarier (at least for me), – we still have a POD container to unpack.  Couldn’t we just leave that in storage somewhere?  I mean, we’ve done without those things all this time.  Do we really need them? I’m not even sure what is in that POD container anymore!

IMG_1939
Can you believe this was full? Where did it all go?

(Cue eye roll from James.)

Of course, everything will eventually get unpacked (and by eventually, I mean before James’ parents arrive for Thanksgiving).  All of the little tweaks on the punch list will be completed and we can then sit back on the sofa with a glass of wine to enjoy our new space.

At least, until the fence is torn down and the landscaping gets started.

Oh crap! We’re not done, are we?!

Thanks to everyone!

And now, a note: – To everyone who has been following along with my neuroses a very special thanks!  I hope you have derived a “take-away” from our experience.  I know I’ve learned a lot – both as a homeowner/client and as an architect.

A very heartfelt thanks to Stephan Sardone and the crew at Sardone Construction for coming along for the ride and being willing to try some new things.

And finally to my husband James, a huge kiss and hug for not knocking me over the head and stuffing me under the house somewhere!

Make sure to follow us on Facebook and see what’s going on behind the scenes on Instagram.

Picture Perfect

I’ve decided I want to be half of an Instagram couple.

As I’ve been working to increase my social media output (hello blog!), I’ve become hyperaware of gay couples with magnificent Instagram accounts. And not just anything ordinary, but photos showcasing their fabulous lives.

And houses.

And vacations.

And abs.

My favorite photos are the ones where they’ve just woken up in the morning. Someone’s only in his pajama bottoms. Hair lightly tousled. At the stove making quinoa pancakes. Because don’t we all look like that in the morning?

IG: @saul_james_composer

I imagine instead someone getting a snapshot of me in the morning with my hair not so much tousled as looking like I was caught in an F-5 tornado. One eye open. Sneaking a leftover nacho out of the fridge for “breakfast.”

And who’s taking these pictures anyway? Because that’s the life I really want.

Imagine waking up in the morning with someone to do your hair, style your pajamas, and lightly touch-up your face. Then the photography crew downstairs with their equipment to capture every “spontaneous” moment of the day.

Someone dressing you for work. Following you around to get more shots. Not letting you get a moment’s peace because you have an audience to maintain and advertisers to please.

And that next shot just might be the one.

On second thought. Maybe I’ll skip the Instagram couple idea.

Does anyone have an old Polaroid?

In the meantime, check out Spotted Dog’s Instagram and let us know what you think. 

The Road to Renovation Redux – Part 9

Still Married

As we’ve been getting closer to the end of our project, James and I have been reviewing everything that’s transpired since last November. We congratulate ourselves for making our way through without ending up in a psych ward or at the Betty Ford Clinic, forced to participate in primal scream therapy with Lindsay Lohan!

I have shared some of those events in previous blogs (James’ temporary assignment to London.  Our hectic travel schedules during construction.)  However, one item has been omitted until now.

In mid-October 2013, we decided after nearly 18 years, to fly off to New York and get married at our friend Will’s on our anniversary date – November 3rdWedding RingsWe certainly didn’t know at the time that we’d be kicking off a year of stress.  A year of moving residences three times, moving offices once, saying farewell to not one but both of our basset hounds, and traveling what felt like the globe.

However, we’ve managed to accomplish one feat above everything else (and no, it’s not staying out of Betty Ford!).  We’ve managed to stay married.

Multiple articles in the LA Times, Huffington Post, and the New York Observer have been written about home remodeling ending in divorce.  And most of us have probably seen The Money Pit (or for the older readers, Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House).  However, James and I went into our renovation with what felt like two advantages: 1) 18 years of being together; and 2) Having experienced this before where we actually did some of the work.

Not that the first time was all hugs and kisses.  Anyone who has been through a renovation can tell you how personal the experience and outcome are.  But when you’re swinging the hammer that’s hanging up drywall, you get really invested in the process.  Yet, as much as we both at times wanted to accidentally have a hammer slip, we made our way through and ended up with a Kitchen and Living Room we enjoyed for nearly 10 years.

And we expect to enjoy this renovation just as long if not longer.  We’ll move in the 10th and start settling into the more normal marital stresses – like having James’ parents in from Colorado for Thanksgiving.

Luckily this year we’ll have a proper guest bedroom and bath, and a kitchen big enough for more than two!

Take a moment to follow Spotted Dog Architecture on Facebook and Instagram.

The Road to Renovation Redux

So Close

We are coming “down to the wire,” moving in on November 10th, and I keep thinking to myself: “We’re so close I can taste it.”

Or maybe that’s just the acid reflux from being so stressed.

Having a “client experience”

I have definitely been going through what I would categorize as a client experience with this part of the renovation.  Along with the excitement of finishing our house and being home again has come a surprising amount of stress.  In the last post, I talked about the little things that keep cropping up, and here we are with completion just around the corner and our list seems to be getting longer.

We did have a productive (if not somewhat expensive) couple of weekends crossing some of the things off of our list.  So we’re making progress. Granted, some of what we’re thinking of doesn’t have to be complete for us to move back in.  However, that does not mean they can be left undone.

Stress as a client now colors my perspective 

As an architect, I can’t say I’ve ever been through this with a client.  Certainly not from the client’s side.  Don’t get me wrong, I have plenty to do as the project wraps up, primarily making sure the final construction issues are addressed.  But I’m beginning to think the stress of that as the architect pales in comparison to what the client is going through.  No doubt this will color my perspective moving forward.

Popping in to see the contractor

And I’m pretty certain my contractor Stephan is having this experience too.  Especially when I pop in after having been at the house with items that could be addressed during the final walk through.  Yet why not get them taken care of now?

So if you see me on the street or at the office looking a little frazzled and distant, please don’t be offended.  I’m just a little preoccupied.

And one more day closer to finishing up.

Oh, I can taste it alright.

Does anyone have some Tums?

The Road to Renovation Redux

It’s the Little Things

The countdown has begun! Our house will be completed. Our move-in date will be here before we know it.   And we will celebrate with an open house.  (Our lease will also be up, and we can say goodbye to the professional bowlers upstairs.  At least it sounds like bowling.)

With these realizations, James and I are thinking of more and more items that we still haven’t selected, purchased, or both.  We were so excited to get the decision made about the kitchen granite, we forgot about all of the little things that make a house a home.

And that we still had to select.  And buy.  And agree on.

LIGHTS!

A word of advice if you decide to go shopping for light fixtures: Dress light.  I don’t care if it’s 25 degrees outside and dogs are sticking to the pavement, dress light.  Because at some point you’re going to realize you’re sweating and that fan on the sales representative’s desk is there for a reason.  What is even more frightening is that the fixtures aren’t on full blast or with the brightest bulb.  Yet, you’re still pretty sure you’re getting a flash burn just walking through the showroom.

LIGHTS
There’s just too many to look at.

And don’t let yourself get distracted by the fixtures you are amazed anyone would buy voluntarily.  Just reconcile yourself to the idea that someone had to buy one at some point, because why else would they make that?  Remember you are there for you – and your spouse.  At least in theory.

James had most of our pendants and sconces selected by the time I made it to the showroom.  Not that we still didn’t wander around in awe.  Or look at multiple showrooms.  We tried to be judicious and not jump at the first fixture we saw.  However, when your gut’s telling you that’s the fixture, that’s the fixture.

CABINET PULLS

Ah yes, cabinet pulls.  Nature’s elusive accessory in every possible shape, size, color, and material.  So how am I supposed to select that?  And how many do I need?

I am fairly certain I can say I’m not the only person to wander into a showroom and glaze over trying to select a cabinet pull.  (Is that one shaped like a lizard?  Really?)  By the third showroom the pulls started to look all the same.  And in some cases were.  But how do you select something that’s a) timeless; 2) looks good; and 3) doesn’t bust your budget when you’re buying 30?

We were able to toss out the ones shaped like insects, animals, people, etc., which still left us into the hundreds to look through.  However, we think we’ve settled on a fairly simple bar.  At least, until I talk to my partners and architect friends and family and…

DOORBELLS

Ding dong!  Avon calling!!  Or someone’s calling.

As I sat on the bed the other night making our to-do list, we reached the end convinced that we had thought of everything.  Until James blurted out, “Doorbell!”

Crap.

Have you ever test-driven a door bell?  Wander into a Home Depot or a Lowe’s sometime and check them out.  Surely they weren’t meant to sound like that.  And why are the chime boxes so big?  I’m supposed to put that in the hallway and no one will notice?  Can I disguise it as modern art?

We thought the more practical option would be the doorbell that allowed us a custom setting.  So instead of the “ding dong” chime, we’d be able to set it to announce “We’re not interested.” Or “We gave at the office.” Or on the really rough mornings, a simple “Shove off!”

Then we always have the option of no doorbell, and just resorting to someone knocking and having the dog bark incessantly until we answer the door.

ETC. ETC.

I could keep going, but as I’m writing this, other items are occurring to me. (Mailbox!)  But that’s another topic for another day! Plus that would take time away from hopping in the car, driving in circles, and hoping we find just the right knob/ light/ mailbox/ doorbell/ shelves and all the other “little things” before we move in.

How Honest is Too Honest?

Exactly how much are you supposed to admit to on a seller’s disclosure? Where do you draw the line?

Exactly how much are you supposed to admit to on a seller’s disclosure? Where do you draw the line?

During our last trip to New Orleans, I picked up a copy of The Last Madam by Christine Wiltz. And it’s exactly how it sounds – the life of the last madam running the last known house of prostitution in New Orleans. Very interesting to read. Some for the madam’s story. Some for the sheer amount of corruption during that time.

Norma Wallace. Source: Chris Wiltz.

While the author was nice enough to include a photo of the house from the 1940s, the architect nerd in me had to check out Google to see if the house still existed. Sure enough, there it was. Even better, I found some news links from when the house was purchased post-Katrina.

And discovered that the new owner didn’t know about the house’s history until he was about to close on the property.

Now I’ve been to NOLA enough times, and read about NOLA’s history enough times, to know that when it comes to the French Quarter, I can’t imagine there isn’t a house or building without a history. But this guy didn’t think to ask? And the seller didn’t disclose?

I know a couple whose home in East Texas is haunted. Not pretend haunted. Haunted. Nothing too terrible but just enough to give someone pause. But that’s one of those things I’d want to see on the disclosure form, maybe somewhere between when the roof was replaced, and the house rewired.

Which makes me wonder why it took this buyer so long to find out he was purchasing what was once a house of ill-repute. And as the seller, I think that type of history would add some cache to the home.

At least it would for me.

“Well when I bought the place there was a lot of damage from the hurricane. Wood rot. Holes in the roof. Oh, and did I mention it was a brothel? See? Right there on the disclosure form. Right below termite damage.”

Learn more about 1026 Conti Street.

Main photo: Chris Wiltz

Overheard. To intervene or not to intervene. That is the question.

I stop and ask myself if I should say anything, like offering the aforementioned questions. Or will I get yelled at for eavesdropping and not minding my own business?

Can you speak up? I didn’t quite hear that.

My wonderful husband is notorious for listening to other conversations when we’re at dinner (not to mention eyeballing other people’s food). And after 23 years, I will freely admit I find myself doing the same from time to time. As much as that can annoy me at times, we have overheard some interesting breakfast conversations in New Orleans.

However, what perks my ears up most is when the conversation at the next table turns to design, construction, or architecture. How do I not listen? Except then I struggle to keep my mouth shut.

Most recently, while waiting for a take-out order, I couldn’t help but overhear: “I told her it had to be a 220 outlet, so she canceled the order. Why do people have to be so cheap?” And then came the sage advice from the helpful wag lunching with her: “It’s only $150 to install one. Call her back and tell her.”

The only thing I could think of was the old lady in the Esurance commercial unfriending her friend. “That’s not how that works! That’s not how any of this works!”

Because you can’t just “drop in” a 220 outlet without asking some important questions: Is there space in the electrical panel? Where is the panel in relation to the new outlet? Does the electrician have to run wire through the entire attic? Does the city require rigid conduit? All of that and more before you get around to the actual installation.

At those times, I stop and ask myself if I should say anything, like offering the aforementioned questions. Or will I get yelled at for eavesdropping and not minding my own business? How rude!

Especially challenging are people talking about their own renovation and wondering what to do. Can I casually slip them a card? Or does that make me the creepy architect who can’t mind his own business? Do you really want him working on your project?

No matter, because I’ll keep listening in. Just don’t be surprised one day if I lean over and recommend you ask a professional, even if it’s the nosy one sitting at the next table.

Main image courtesy of Tim Mossholder.