February 28, 2006

Old house, new decisions: formula for torture

It was simply, let us say, the latest Moment of Truth, in what has become — all hyperbole aside — the Home Renovation From Hell. OK, that’s a bit over the top. But the frustration levels for my personal boss and myself as we navigate the fix-up of our dream bungalow are increasing exponentially on a daily basis.

And we’ve only just begun.
I shall spare you details of the roller coaster ride that was gaining approval for changes to the home in a historic preservation district. The folks at Landmarks, Planning & Zoning and the Building Dept. were all helpful. Really. Which did not prevent our Gastrointestinal Distress Meter from rocketing to 11 on more than one occasion.

I shall spare you the multitude of decisions that had to be made before our most patient contractor, Jim Phillips, could even give us a number for the project. Dimmer switches? Molding around the edges of the hardwood floor where it meets the walls? Beadboard or drywall in the attic? Computer networking hookups? Etc., etc., there’s a million of those.

I shall also spare you the emergency room-quality trauma of the heart attack moment of sticker shock that came when we received that project number. It was actually a reasonable figure for what we want, even if, ahem, 50 percent over what we naively thought it would cost.

I shall also spare you most of the details of how we are slashing our way through that original estimate so that the house might still approximate our Prairie Style dream, while not reducing our affordable diet to Chef Boyardee.
One example should suffice.

We labored over kitchen layout. ’Tis a common exercise in the Iron Chef era. We arrived at a design that seemed both aesthetically pleasing and efficient. A problem did arise with the price for kitchen cabinetry. Without revealing the actual cost, let’s just say the estimates for custom drawers and shelving, was, uh, mucho, mucho dinero.

So, in search of something more reasonable — after all, they are just cabinets — the boss and I headed to one of those big home improvement supply warehouses that are cropping up like kudzu at every major intersection in town. We set up an appointment with our own personal Kitchen Design Guru (25 years in the biz), gave her the specs, let her work her magic and returned for the solution to our problem.

Her price was right — half of custom-made. That’s a good thing. But not the whole story.

There’s always the Go to Jail card.

Kitchen Design Guru leaned across the desk, pointed sternly to her computer, and reprimanded us like a third-grade teacher who caught us passing notes, “Your design will never work! The refrigerator placement is all wrong. It stops the flow of your whole kitchen. You need to move the refrigerator next to the wall ovens, that’s the way I have my kitchen.”

“But, but, we really thought it through, and we want some counter space next to …”

“That’s fine. It’s your kitchen. You can do it any way that you think will work for you. But this design will never work.”

Woe unto us. We’re not worthy.

So we’ve got a decision to rethink, and the cabinets to nail. And room colors. And carpet choices. Bathroom fixture decisions. Walk-in closet decisions. Landscaping decisions. Decisions, decisions, decisions. Pass the Prilosec OTC.

Thus we come to the specter of the upcoming Louisville Home, Garden & Remodeling Show. It’s going to be at the Fairgrounds March 10-12.
We will be there along with lots of other folks. This stuff is big now. And such a show, at this very time, is — at least theoretically — the answer to our quandaries. Hundreds of vendors offering every type of counter top, floor covering, cabinetry, you name it, that we could possibly need. All in one place at one time. I’m sure we’ll get plenty of offers to come visit our new abode for free estimates.

The boss and I are looking forward to it. Silly us.

There’s a devilish little carpenter, wearing his work belt, standing on my shoulder. He’s whispering in my ear, “How many Corian options do you need to see before you make a decision? Do you really think you’re going to find the cabinets of your dreams at the ridiculous price you want to pay? Do you have the intestinal fortitude to confront the possibility, no the certainty, of even more options?”

At which consideration, I ask myself, “Is mixing Prilosec, Nexium and Pepcid at the same time advisable?”

And this question for Jim Phillips, “Can we plug in a number for acid reflux therapy?”