When my wife and I moved to our present home she it made it clear she wanted an older house in an established neighborhood. To our mutual delight we found a house on a shady street in an older residential area that inspired nostalgia. If you looked down the sidewalk you almost expected to see Wally and the Beaver heading your way. In walking distance was a bucolic park and shopping and dining was less than a mile away.
But of course with an older home comes issues. Over the past five years we have painted our dining room twice, painted our formal living room and furnished it, replaced two hot water heaters, rebuilt our deck in the backyard, replaced one air conditioning unit and repaired the other, repaired several gas leaks, put up outdoor ceiling fans on our pergola, covered our cracking pool deck with flagstone, bought a new heater for the pool, a new dishwasher, and put hard wood floors in our master suite. But that was small change compared to what loomed next.
Most newer homes have large roomy bathrooms attached to the master bedroom. In older homes the bathrooms tend to be smaller. This house is unique in that it has 4 1/2 baths. We have a full bath in between our son’s bedrooms. Additionally in one of those bedrooms is a tiny bathroom with a shower, toilet, sink, and some storage. In another part of the house is an additional master suite with a full bathroom and walk in closet, and outside we have a 1/2 bath off the deck. To make things easier I turned that other master bedroom into my office and took that bathroom as my own. This left my wife with her own private bathroom off of our bedroom.
The problem was my wife didn’t like her bathroom. She didn’t like the colors, the fabric around the mirror, the tub, the toilet, nothing. The vanity top was fading, the toilet when flushed would stick and it was so small and low you felt like you were sitting on the ground, the tub had handles in it that made soaking for her uncomfortable, and her cabinet doors would not shut. Even her make up mirror was cracked. Given that for most people the bathroom is where you spend a lot of time first thing in the morning, if you don’t like that space that is not the way to start your day. And if Mama isn’t happy, nobody is happy.
After a lot of thought I told my wife we should renovate her bathroom to her liking. Now to her credit she did not push for this. My wife is fiscally conservative but I pressed her on it. I told her that this was our last house and that I wanted her to be happy. Selfishly if she is in a good mood all the better for me.
Given the size of the space I thought it would be a simple and relatively low cost project. I swore I would never build a house or do a major renovation because of the vicarious experiences I had with friends and also being familiar with that business given my banking background. But a small space like this, I mean how bad could it be?
We went to an established contractor who did nothing but renovations. Their reputation was impeccable and the staff was first rate. But after our first meeting I felt the onset of a throbbing pain in the exact same place where I carry my wallet.
In one of my earlier blogs I wrote about the top ten things a husband should know about married life. Number seven on that list is that your wife is going to want your opinion on things like colors, types of tile, wallpaper, etc. She will make her own decision but you need to show you care. So I began sitting through the process of picking fixtures, what type of toilet, flooring, etc.
The truth is we made an excellent choice when we selected our contractor. They were invaluable in helping us with our selections, explaining the differences between the various items we were looking at, and they put together a computer presentation that showed us what the bathroom would look like upon completion of the work. After getting over the fact that this bathroom would cost the equivalent of a small German luxury car we signed the contract and put down a deposit. That’s when the fun began.
First we had a portable toilet put in our front yard. Now that is required by law but it still gives your property a certain panache it didn’t have before. I also learned from a neighbor that one day a guy on a motorcycle pulled up to our house and actually used the facility. Equally humorous to me was that he used it even though there was sign on it that that said WOMEN.
When they tore up the floor we were showed that there was water damage. That meant a change order. I signed off on it and took an ibuprofen. I also found out I had to pay for the change order in full right then and there. I wrote the check and took another ibuprofen. That added a couple of days to the work. Then we saw they only replaced part of the floor. I took an ibuprofen and showed my wife. She got mad and wrote an e-mail. I proofed it, softened it, and then persuaded her to delete it and call the project manager instead. She did, he came out and looked at the work, and agreed to credit some of our money back. A small victory and no one got hurt.
Then we had a period of bad weather. While this was an indoor job for some reason that slowed things up. Then the floor we wanted was four pieces short and, those pieces had to be ordered, so the floor remained partially done for a few weeks.
One day I came home after work, walked in the bathroom and in my jolliest voice cried out, ” Hey they put the vanity in.” Instead of a joyous refrain of “I know isn’t it beautiful!”I was serenaded with all it’s flaws. The legs are too fat, the drawers aren’t deep enough, there was supposed to be a basket underneath. It ended with ” IT LOOKS NOTHING LIKE THE DRAWING!” This was further complicated by the fact that her design specialist had left the company.
Once again I prevailed upon her to call the project manager to come out and see it. He did, and he agreed with my wife. They reviewed the drawings, made some modifications, and it was sent back to to the carpenter. Of course as they took it out the back door they stepped on the drainage pipe attached to my air conditioner and snapped it off.
After the vanity was redone it was painted. I came home after work, walked in the bathroom and in my jolliest voice, ( sound familiar?), cried out ” Hey they painted the vanity.” Instead of a joyous refrain of “I know isn’t it beautiful!” I was serenaded with how awful it looked compared to our other furniture. It felt funny to the touch, it didn’t show wood grain, it was too dark, etc. It ended with “IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE STAINED!”
Once again we called the poor project manager. He came out and agreed to change it. The painter came out, painted one drawer, and smart guy that he was he showed it to my wife and asked her to compare. He also said politely that bathroom vanities are not furniture, they are cabinets. Of course it was at this point that I heard my name being called. Curses! I was forced from the safety of my office and was now having to once again abide by one of the ten rules of husbandry.
After walking in and being briefed I surveyed the room. Staring at me was my wife, the project manger, the painter, and his assistant. I knew a lot was riding on the words I was about to utter.I swallowed hard and said that if she recalled I liked the original color and was in favor of not changing. She gave me a long look and to my relief agreed. I couldn’t see it but I know the project manager and painters were mentally high fiving me.
At this point we were home free. A job started in late January was finishing up in late April. I no longer had to trudge across the house for my middle of the night bathroom breaks and my wife now could do all her morning magic in her renovated deluxe salle de bain. Earlier this week, as she emerged from her toilette looking fresh and fabulous, she peered at me and said ” If we move the kitchen door to where the window is we can add granite countertops and make them extend so we can have a breakfast bar. Of course we will have to redo the cabinets too with new hinges and hardware. I also think we should change the stove from electric to gas.”
I turned slowly, opened the cabinet door, and took out the bottle of ibuprofen.