Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The Latest

As I write this, 9 trades are working on the house:
  • The tile guy came back for the 30th time cuz he didn't finish the job either of the other 29 times.
  • Three kitchen people came back to functionalize the cabinets that look great but don't work (do not even get me started on this because I'm seeing red, no pun intended).
  • There are 4 painters trying to get through the painting and finishing.
  • There's the fireplace guy, who's fixing the final glass and showing me the ropes.
Fortunately, there are movable boxes everywhere (and not set-up furniture) because they're using pretty well all of the floor space to fix and finish.

But there's much yet to be accomplished in this phase of the reno. (Note: There's all kinds of additional stuff that needs to begin in the next few weeks but these things were not contemplated as part of the original build - they are new requirements as parts of the house destabilized as a result of the build. When I speak of this phase, I'm referring to the stuff that was supposed to be done before we moved in...)

Since our hardscaper didn't meet the timelines he assured us that he could (the backyard was supposed to be complete by Sunday - instead, he's weeks away from finishing another job and hasn't bothered to show or clarify until I managed to reach him), I look out my windows at mounds of garbage that should have been long-binned, amidst dirt and encircling wildlife (cats and raccoons abound under these circumstances). I may, in fact, have the pleasure of renting my own bin and cleaning up my own construction site - note to reader: that's not my idea of time well-spent if I don't source a solution somehow (esp. since I paid people to do this 3 times over). Ever tried to find a hardscaper in July??

Alas, while I'd love to shut my black out blinds and just ignore it all / not live in a total fish bowl once the sun goes down, they're not on the windows because the blinds peeps didn't cut them optimally the first time so they had to refine them and, apparently, this takes longer than making them in the first place.

The lighting also continues to need refinement. I will say, last night some shit was seriously put into perspective when the electrician incorrectly positioned his ladder, while aiming to reach a misplaced pod, and almost killed himself. No joke. It's utterly MIRACULOUS that the worst of it is needing to refinish a part of the floor that was damaged. He managed to jump off the ladder just as it grabbed at his freakin' crotch?! and somehow it didn't crash through a piece of glass / wreck the upstairs railing / destroy walls etc. But really, who the fuck cares about a floor that can be fixed. I am so glad that guy had good reflexes - though his placement of the ladder, in a two-story section over a stairway, was utterly stupid. It's strange when near-disaster becomes good-fortune. PS: The floor held up spectacularly, all things considered. It's scuffed but there's only the tiniest dent. Oak is truly superior wood.

The evenings are the challenging time. That's when I have to look around at everything that's not adequate, though it should be. That's when I can't find any of the things still in boxes, so that I can live in my house like, well, I actually live here. That's when I see the peeps and the feral animals peeking into my backyard. That's when I have to shore myself up for whatever bullshit is going to come the next day - and the dozen people who will arrive starting at 8 am (if we're lucky). It's a mind-fuck to, on the one hand, loathe the activity (because it's SO disruptive and I'm so angry about the trades being here largely to fix things they did inadequately in the first place) - but also to be so grateful for it because it's the only way the affronting problems can be resolved.

I'm so out of my comfort zone. My house is generally my best reprieve from over-stimulation - except for now, when it's the sole source of all that stimulation. Tahiti is looking pretty good right now, just sayin'.

No question, this house is not photo-worthy on any level. I know that this end-stage is a moment in time, if one that feels interminable, that it's always darkest before the dawn and all that shit - especially when you have to live amongst it while it all unfolds. Mercifully, we have internet again, after 4 days without (which is a serious issue when you work from home as Scott does), which means I can once again mood alter with the only thing that vaguely undercuts the sickening anxiety - Grand Designs. Somehow, watching the more complex, expensive, visionary and miserable projects of other unsuspecting home renovators really takes the edge off. I mean, those people have it BAD. I'm also availing myself of terrific weather and patios with good cocktails.

I realize my narrative needs to change. It needs to change because I don't want to be the bitter lady who spent 4 years of her life (once all is said and done) realizing something beautiful, only to begrudge the process to the extent that joy can not be found. I used to be friendly and optimistic. Right now I'm brittle and mistrustful. A smudge ceremony is in the near future. As necessary, so will be an appointment with a therapist.

Forgive me for my angriness - I don't do things half-assed, including feeling the feelings. I promise that, as soon as I have the slightest amount of bandwidth, my goal will be to reveal the many beauties of this home - and to appreciate them with the requisite gratitude. I just need a bit of time.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

The Eyes of the Home

I should not be writing this post right now. I should be packing or shopping or cleaning or confirming something. I know this because my husband is so in my face that he could blow an eyelash off my cheek. So. much. bossiness. I get it. We're at that primal moment when war behaviour is destined to emerge. The kid's gone so he can't control her process. That leaves me.

Just for the record, I know that when you're moving next Saturday, you have to pack all the things before that day arrives. I don't need to camp for a week.

But that's not what this post is about. This post is about my choice of windows. Unquestionably, I knew what I wanted: Crittalls, from UK. They're steel framed, generally single-glazed (esp. in olde days) because they are designed for a temperate climate. I love the skinny horizontal mullions. I love the black frame, the smallish panes. They walk that tightrope of old, industrial and new. When facing a small, green space, there is nothing more beautiful IMO. They're moody but they let coziness shine through.

Crittall Windows
Photo from the Crittall website linked to above.
Alas, the only Cdn vendor that approximates this look is Pella and the cost was going to be about 54K for 2 walls of windows. Yeah. Partly that's cuz I live in Canada and everything here costs much more than elsewhere in NA and prob than most of Europe. We have few economies of scale.

Ironically, had the original builders not fucked me over, I could have bought these windows 4 times and been no worse off. But that's not how this process goes.

In the absence of the Pellas, the architect suggested something unappealingly generic so Scott and I spent a weekend redesigning the drawings and came up with what we call "a little bit Crit". We pulled this look off for 12K (but note the full window budget was 25K and we replaced all windows in the house except for those on the third floor which was renoed 5 years ago):

Small portion of the back wall of windows - only decent shot I've got, currently. 
These are vinyl outside (to last through the winter), triple-glazed and wood on the inside, painted black.
Notice the absence of casings. We inset the windows and finished with a U channel (in stark contrast to the fancily cased Victorian windows at the front of the house). We offset the vertical mullion and skinnied up the horizontals.

But until earlier this week, while I LOVED the windows, both Scott and I were vaguely dismayed because they didn't look Crittall at all:

This is the other back wall of windows on the second floor - aka Kristin's sewga room, re-envisioned.
See how un-Crittall those gorgeous windows are? By later this week they'll look like the downstairs ones inasmuch as they'll be painted black.

Here's my point: I looked and looked and looked at those windows all the freakin' time and I couldn't figure out where we went wrong. I mean, I was more than happy to get with the windows I got, but (not being a profesh designer and all) I couldn't understand why they didn't look Crittall. And then it hit me - they needed to be painted black.

I know - really self-evident. Perhaps I seem dim. But till I figured it out, it eluded me.

My other points are these:
  • You can design whatever you want. Whether you get it in the end depends on many factors outside of the scope of your control but, in theory, you're in charge.
  • You don't need to spend a zillion dollars - but you do need to be creative. Also, unless you're REALLY creative, you will need to spend to some extent. 
  • Break it down. What do you like about what you like? You really need to see what's going on in a granular way in order to recreate a look.
One other point: As I continue to go back through years of posts wherein I discussed design and what was then the impending renovation, I'm pretty amazed to find that I spoke about doing all of the things I've actually done, to some extent or another. To suggest I don't have a process is flat-out wrong. My process is dialoguing here. You don't need a mood board if that board is already in your mind.

On that note, I can no longer ignore Scott bellowing at me from the third floor. Off to roll up a mattress prematurely.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

In Which I Remind You that Renos Suck

Lest you think we're sliding into that "reno sweet spot" (what with our move back to the house happening on July 14), please be assured that there is no such thing. On today's laundry list of compelling issues that just slide off one's back (sort of), the motor on our furnace blew and it did something to the gizmo to cause all of my pipes associated with my new AC unit - and the actual AC unit - to freeze solid.

Let's look at the bright side: We're having a massive heat wave so the unit should be thawed by tomorrow morning when our HVAC guy comes to fix the situation. Moreover, our HVAC guy is one of the few trades I can respect - and he's giving us a huge discount on the fix. (He was not the cause of the issue!)

On the less bright side: the heat wave - in the absence of working AC - means my paint is drying at the pace of an actual snail.

Also, it would be good to know when my 12 new doors are going to arrive, like, optimally before I move in - not that anyone can tell me.

Oh, and the counter people (aka the Princesses from Vaughan, as I now refer to them) have advised that they can't confirm our installation date and time until Monday (the day they're supposed to arrive) because the person who looks that up on the computer is away. Also they just don't give a shit about my tiny job. It didn't go over well when I suggested that it must be rather difficult to run a professional business the size and scale of theirs without having, perhaps, 2 employees (out of 100) who understand how the computerized booking system works. Yeah, I know. Not my most strategic move but I'm ready to explode.

Then there's the fact that extreme heat may impact drying timelines for my final floor seal - which could have implications for all kinds of things that I cannot broach right now without becoming vaguely hysterical.

Also, the fix for the stove vent (you may recall 4 separate trades managed to mess this up independently with nary a second thought) is entirely sub-optimal from my vantage point. My husband spent 5 months designing the most beautiful mechanical wall you've ever seen - which is no small feat in a house that's 15 feet wide - because his hate-on for the ugliness and wasted space produced by bulkheads is rivaled only by my profound disappointment in this entire process. The only reason I didn't go full-on reno-zilla is that he swore to me that a 4-inch high valence, coming down from the ceiling,  truly wasn't going to bother him and he begged me to let it go for everyone's sanity.

By the way - this is merely a short-list of today's issues. I can't remember them all without looking at a spreadsheet. (Wait - now I remember but I just can't bring myself to write it down.)

Add PMS to this list and it leads to a fun tale about how, today - when I ran out for 5 minutes desperate to find something to eat between multiple work crises while simultaneously having a heady debate about tiles with Scott, on the phone - I had to quickly switch gears to lose my shit on some idiot who decided to cut in the line I had been standing in for far too long. I didn't even start the argument. She had the audacity to imply that I was being rude by not tolerating her breach of protocol (Canadians tolerate) and, at that point, I was done. Oh, that woman didn't know what hit her (namely a barrage of multi-syllabic in-your-faceness, the subtext of which was fuck off bitch). It was quite a spectacle. Unsurprisingly she backed down a) cuz possession is 9/10ths of the law and the cashier was already checking me out and b) when you go at someone without cause and that someone comes back at you hard, you gotta carefully consider how crazy she actually is.

When that was done, I remembered that I was still on the phone with Scott. He confirmed that I was "scary like a lawyer" and then he decided it might be more fruitful to talk about tiles tonight.

Over the past few weeks, I've heard first-, second- and third-hand tales about multiple people who can't get any traction on their renos, currently in play. Like none. They're, 6, 10, 18-months in, living in their basements, eating takeout, bathing their children in a kitchen sink. While I'm incredibly critical of the broken-ness of the building industry - and I will continue to be this way until I find a way to fix it (and I will find a way) - these stories make me understand that I do have traction - albeit builder-grade* (the worst concept ever). Sure, it's taking a veritable furnace of life-energy from two perfectionist overachievers who should probably be more mindful of their health, but I will move back into that house in less than 2 weeks - and I will have bathrooms and a kitchen - if not interior doors. Goddess-willing, I will also have initial backyard hardscaping, blinds, wood beams, a sexy barn door and a bunch of new kitchen gizmos (if no furniture, cuz really, who has money for places to sit?)

*On this topic, is it not sad that this term refers specifically to mediocre workmanship. Like, you can have good work or you can have "builder-grade". Take back the night, Builders. Find the pride in your industry because you're the only thing standing between us and the devolution of architectural value everywhere.