Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Wally World Christmas

Since it's the holiday season, when people usually focus on positives, I'll try something new on the blog: an entire post without complaints.  Here goes:

We pulled up to the house on Wednesday and people were working.  Drywall was being handed through Isaac's bedroom windows.  The front door was wide open, and fresh subflooring had been laid on the porch.  I marveled at how sturdy the porch felt, after having been forced to hopscotch across holes overlaid with old particleboard for so long.  I stood on the porch, waiting for the kids and Abby to round the house, and was happy with the progress I was seeing.  I mentioned the flooring to Isaac and he looked at me incredulously, as if to say "no, Dad, there were never holes in this floor."  Still, progress, satisfaction.  It was nice, because it's been a while since I had that feeling.

Then I went inside.

(This, for the casual reader's benefit, is usually the part of the story when things go dramatically downhill.)


Not since the windows were painted several months ago have I been as excited to go through the house.  Guys were up on ladders mudding the drywall in the great room.  Walls had sprung up everywhere, and we had something we've only been planning for so long: Rooms!  I walked into my bedroom for the first time since it had been separated from the kitchen; it's not so bad!  Maybe I'm looking at it from the perspective of someone living in a 600-square-foot basement with three other people, but my 90-square-foot bedroom actually looks, well, if not spacious, then full of a lot more possibility than I had thought.  The closets are walled too, and with the borders finalized it looks like we might have an actual choice as to where our bed might go.

Downstairs, the family room is the big surprise: it's huge!  And bright!  We had been so worried walling it off would make it a long, narrow cave, shut out from all the light that streams in through the kids' rooms.  But no, it's immense!  And full of light!  And, get this: the light was not only coming from the windows, bur from light bulbs!  In the ceiling!  That were turned on!

The kids rooms are walled too, and although Isaac's room was filled with a mountain of garbage bags, it didn't matter.  Why?  Walls!  The laundry room?  Walls!  The guest room?  Well, too many walls! (They walled over a section that's supposed to have been left open for storage...)  The bathroom has no walls yet, but that's because they're waiting until the porch is finished, since not doing so would risk getting the new walls wet in a storm-- like the one that's happening right now.

Overall, a full 18.5 months into owning this place, I shouldn't be excited about walls, I know.  I should be living there, learning my new surroundings, getting used to my new commute on the Red Line, sitting next to my gigantic Xmas Tree and my fireplace and my dog.  (Okay, that last one is only in my dreams...)  But regardless of what's happening, I am excited about the walls.

And while I promised I wouldn't bitch during this post, well, okay, here's my attempt to continue not doing so.  We've been waiting for a timeline from our contractors for months.  Since we got back from London, actually.  And it's not that we've been meek and haven't wanted to ask more than once; we ask on at least a weekly basis, if not more frequently.  Well, this week we got our timeline.  It says all the work will be done on the house by the end of January, and the only things that will happen in February will be things like the final inspections and walk-throughs and stuff.  Makes sense.  So the timeline gets delivered to Patty at the mortgage company and she's not happy.  She pretty much turns around and says she needs a new timeline-- one that doesn't extend into February.  It's been a week now and I haven't heard a peep from our contractors, but what I know is that their idea is that we'll be in there within about six weeks, and our financiers want it to be sooner.  And the only way our contractors will get their money is if the financiers are happy.  So, that's all I'm saying.

(Patting myself on the back... I think that was a non-bitchy paragraph.  I think.)

So where we stand right now is about 90% drywalled, with electric and water hooked up and running.  Cabinets are ordered, appliances have already been delivered.  Still having communication issues with the contractor, but they've communicated to us that we'll be in in about six weeks.  Porch is half-done, rooms are decently-sized.  And to top it all off, the dining room chairs Abby wanted are actually comfortable, even though they're made entirely of metal.  (I didn't talk about those at all, but I will include a pic at the bottom for those who are interested.)

While we were at the house, I finally met Lee, the contractor working with not only the Windmill next door, but also the Pagoda and the Swiss Chalet.  He offered us a tour of the latter two houses, which we hadn't been in for almost two years.  For those of you who might not have known us back then. we actually responded to the real-estate ad for the Chalet back in February 2011, but since there was just too much work in that place for us to stomach (ha!), the agent showed us the Pagoda and the Bungalow since we were already there.  We were really intrigued by the Pagoda, but didn't want our kids to be "those kids who live in a pagoda."  Honestly, both of our families and most of our friends already think of us as the weirdos of the bunch, so that would've just added to our reputation.  Anyhow I jumped at the chance to look, and we weren't disappointed.  The Pagoda looks amazing: they've unearthed some original screens inside, and outdid our excavation by digging out an entirely new lower level.  Our biggest practical problem with the Pagoda was that it was only 1,400 square feet, but with the addition it's gonna be just about the same size as the Bungalow.  Moreover, Lee took a lot of the original local-quarry stones from the foundation during the excavation and re-placed them outside in spots where they look totally original to the design of the place.  Beautiful work, and made me very jealous, since I think most of our stones disappeared, despite my requesting that all of them stay put.  (But no bitching, so on to the next house.)  Across the yard, the Chalet's still well behind even our house, but the work inside is amazing.  The top floor has been converted from a hodgepodge of small, cramped rooms with slanted ceilings into a spacious master suite, complete with hidden storage compartments behind the HVAC system.  The ground floor has been developed so thoughtfully that the new flooring was laid underneath the walls, just in case any future owners wanted to reconfigure without worrying about replacing or matching up planks.  And a mysterious grotto underneath, which predates the house, is being converted into a wine cellar with a natural low temp and hi humidity.  Oh, and the incredibly expensive but gorgeous cedar shingles they put on the houses that we thought would cost about $40,000?  Yeah, Lee found a mill in Canada that made them and shipped them directly at wholesale, and he says they ended up costing about the same as the higher-quality shingles from Home Depot.  Seriously, I'd say I wish I had met Lee while we were considering contractors, but I am pretty sure we wouldn't have been able to afford him.  It's fantastic, however, to know our neighbors are going to have such awesome houses.  (Once again, we'll be the bad element in the neighborhood...)

But our house is our house, natural grotto or not, and our house is now walled; and in six weeks or so it should be Wahled as well.  (Insert laugh track here.)  While there are still a lot of issues that need to be worked out, I figure since it's Xmastime, I might as well think of the happier Bungalow-related thoughts now.  Once Santa's back at the North Pole, though, all gloves come off.

What we believe will be our new dining-room chairs;
three in copper and three in red lacquer. 
They're pretty cool, and are actually very comfy.
Very modern, but will offset the traditional style of
the dining-room table we inherited from my grandmother.

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