Last week, I made the commitment to meet you here every Wednesday and share the process and progress of the remodel of my new digs. Who knew how challenging that would be? I’m not a quitter and showed up as promised, although six months from now you may wish differently and we might both end up with commitment phobia.
In self-help literature, “fear of commitment” is the avoidance of long-term partnership or marriage. The concept is often much more pervasive, affecting school, work, and home life as well.
The term “commitmentphobia” was coined in the popular self-help book Men Who Can’t Love in 1987. Following criticism of the perceived sexist idea that only men were commitmentphobic, the authors provided a more gender balanced model of commitmentphobia in a later work, He’s Scared, She’s Scared (1995).
The use of the term “fear” or “phobia” imparts an inherent linguistic bias. It recasts specific lifestyle decisions (such as bachelorhood vs. marriage, or a conscious decision to remain childfree by choice) implicitly as generalised, irrational phobias while failing to identify, describe or address an individual’s specific motives. For instance, the men’s rights movement, citing high divorce rates and expensive alimony and legal costs, would speak not in terms of “fear of commitment” but of “marriage strike” to reflect their position that non-marriage is an entirely valid, logical position based on rational consideration of the very real economic factors involved.
True Story: I have a very real fear of the “very real economic factors involved” in this remodel.
Here we go. Let’s start at the beginning.
Hubs and I only saw the house a couple of times before closing. The previous owner is a 90 year-old woman I would love to meet. The house was in the same family for 75 years, until we came along. It is one block off a historic district and her heirs were happy we plan to update the house, instead of tearing it down.
In preliminary schematics, plans made were based on “Information deemed to be accurate, but not guaranteed.” Real estate mumbo jumbo, if you ask me. Very few of the dimensions provided to us before the sale were remotely close to accurate, something I’m used to as a designer so not terribly surprising. Plan A got scrapped before it saw the light of day.
Now, we’re moving on to Plan D or E. I’ll have to look it up.
We bought the house because of its location, its potential, and its location. We are in-between three major universities and can walk to any one of them in less than 10 minutes. Near several hip restaurant and retail districts, we can over-indulge on dessert and fool ourselves into thinking we burned off all the calories on the walk home.
So far, the junk I’m carrying in my trunk is mostly from something called a Redneck Taco.
The first amazing thing that happened at the #SDGCottage came a few days after closing. In the house alone, while trying to field measure a very complicated floor plan, a severe thunderstorm planted itself directly above the house. The electricity went out–it was already 90º–so I headed down to the basement to stay cool until it came back on.
The house has cast iron pipes that are so corroded on the inside it’s a miracle a trickle of water gets through. Somewhere in time, the previous owner wrapped the pipes in old newspapers to insulate them. I found it interesting that news of another Nashville Symphony event was on prominent display.
As lighting struck and thunder boomed all around the house, a small piece of newspaper floated to the floor. It reminded me of the feather in Forrest Gump, slowly twisting and turning its way down to its resting place. Thinking about something else, I absent mindedly looked down to read it, say the way your husband pays attention when he’s on his iPad and you ask him to look at the floor plans you’re drafting for HIS new house.
Anyway, as I started reading that floaty piece of paper it seemed fate was knocking at the door. The article was about a new faculty member at my alma mater, O’More College of Design (when it went by a different name). The date on the paper was 1977.
The irony of the subject matter wasn’t lost on me.
I never heard of Mr. Brush, but spent half my childhood in buildings he designed. I grabbed my phone to take a photo and, within seconds, water came running through the old garage doors. The article was ruined, but not before I caught its image. I’m a graduate and member of the Board of Directors, and this was still news to me. I always thought the school taught fashion and graphic design from its founding, but it isn’t true. A few colleagues and former professors were as surprised as I was, saying it was a sign the house purchase was meant to be.
“Kismet” was the word used, I think.
When the storm passed and the electricity came back on, the HVAC unit decided not to return with it. After checking the breakers, I walked outside and discovered the compressor had given up the ghost.
Of course it did. Maybe it missed its old family; maybe it took offense my deodorant wasn’t holding up in the heat. Who knows? It laid down, never to rise again.
And then this happened: Water begin to magically appear in the formerly dry basement.
You might say, “Well, duh, Kathy. A deluge descended upon your domicile!” And you might be right, except for moisture began to come up in the middle of the basement. The edges of a stone foundation are always susceptible to leaks unless it’s properly sealed. We knew it was an issue to address ASAP, but the storm had awakened a different monster, one hidden underground.
It seems the water main had a leak somewhere between the house and the meter, and the rain gave it a big old push.
Thanks for that, Universe.
We checked the meter to see if the dial was spinning. (If it’s turning at a high rate when the water is shut off inside the house, you can assume there is a problem outside.) After popping the heavy steel lid, it was apparent there were two problems to address ASAP. The meter wasn’t functioning at all. No spinning, no turning, no pirouettes. I called the water company and they said the meter was probably “dead.”
First the compressor, now the meter. It doesn’t bode well, does it?
Their records show the previous owner paid the minimum sum of $14.95 for as far back as the online records go, 10-15 years at least. They sent a technician out to bury the dead meter and we got busy lining up a contractor to dig and replace the broken line. With the first pass of the backhoe, things hidden underground began to pop up like that giant worm in Tremors. Four kinds of pipe rose up, as did the first of many foundation killers.
Gah. The budget took another hit right out of the starting gate.
I imagine the realtor advised cutting down the foundation plantings to give the house curb appeal. The stumps were covered by beautiful beds of ivy until digging began. Years of neglect gave them time to make sweet cozy love with the granite and mortar.
I hired Nashville-based Groundworks, LLC to dig out and fix the immediate problem, and we still have a long way to go before everything is fully repaired. (If you need their help, let me know and I’ll pass along their deets. They will be helping me with more of this before we get to their specialty, foundations and brickwork.)
Not very designery or glamorous is it?
Oh, and our first water bill was over $50 and nothing happens there except for the occasional flush! So much for doing what’s right, thank you very much.
That covers “The Bad,” thus far, so let’s get to the fun stuff…Let’s look at some of “The Fugly.”
You can, and should, be jealous of the high-tech security system that came with the laundry room tacked on the back of the house. Hey, I’m not looking the gift of twin screwdrivers in the mouth and am now the proud owner of dozens of pegboard hooks and exactly one(1) rocking cupboard latch. Call me Grateful.
It’s a long way from Home, but I’m not complaining. The luxurious laundry room will be…um…relocated to another area of the cottage.
The custom wiring out there isn’t quite up to snuff either. The On and Off position labels are reversed, so we’ll have to fix that top switch. It looks like a good part of the roof is coming off, so the switch that controls how it opens and closes will have to go too.
Just so you know, I like my roof On. It keeps the interiors dry.
Happy Thought: The switches and sockets may go, but we’ll always have this photo.
We may go BIG––high-end my
friends friend!––and spring for 16 penny nails, because the 10 penny nails holding the support columns in place look a little, well, little.
And who cut that beam? That was a bad idea, a very bad idea that will cost big bucks to fix.
There’s more badness where that came from and you’ll see it here all in good time. I mean, we need to save the decor for Before and After posts, right?
So, to leave you on a positive note, with a peek at some of “The Good” we kept in mind while signing the closing documents and work to remind ourselves of everyday since.
Like Granny Smith apples from our new very old tree…
The treasure trove of crystal and brass door knobs is more than I can carry in one bag…
And last, but not least, before the ink dried on the deal––like a few weeks before––I kind of committed a crime in the name of all that is holy and beautiful. I drove past the house and decided to take measure of the backyard, to see make sure we had room to add a garage, and found a plethora of peonies by the rag-tag carport.
The house had been empty for about a year and they needed love, so I took them home and put them in a silver champagne bucket and photographed the heck out of them.
Turns out, if you close one eye and tilt your head to the left, peonies look like cupcakes.
Since you closed one eye and tilted your head and I stole flowers I didn’t own yet, you can have the photo. Post it on Instagram. Make your friends hungry. I would say it stops cupcake cravings, but that’s a flat out lie. It stokes them. Here’s the link.
That sopping wet soil we dug up in the front yard? Turns out it’s rich in all the right ways. Our old house is only eight miles down the road, but I couldn’t grow fruit or peonies. The soil is that different.
Spring had not sprung, neither had the leaks, when we signed the contract and we had no idea what surprises were hiding, Good or Bad. I’m guessing there are a few more Oopsies outside the house and am pretty sure I’ve seen most of the Fugly inside the house.
Lawd. I sure hope so. There can’t be more.
Puh-leeze share your renovation dreams and nightmares in the comments. I can’t go through this alone. Technically, that’s not true. I can, but don’t want to. To quote one of my wisest children, “I can’t want to!”
Talk pretty to me,
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