… or Renovations for THEM?
By Jeff Salter
Topic: If you could remodel/redecorate any room in your house which room would you choose and what would you do to it?
As I often do, I’m gonna focus on a slice of this topic. So take a seat, put your feet up, fasten your seatbelts (if need be)… and read my whale of a tale.
Prior to the event(s) I’m about to describe, my only remembered “renovation” involved taking-in the side porch – which we used as our primary entrance – so we’d have space and plumbing for our washer and dryer. This was at our Mound Street home in Jonesville LA… and we accomplished this shortly before I got a job offer in a distant city and we relocated. [Hence my blog’s sub-title: that extra space was enjoyed more by THEM… the new owners.]
I should inform you that the 1350 sq. ft. house in question – in north Bossier City LA – had been constructed in 1971 and had AVOCADO-colored range and dishwasher, dark wood paneling in two rooms, and carpeting infused with the smoke from the previous owners’ cigarettes and the accidents of their unknown pets.
To set the stage for the following, be aware that several unrelated timelines were at play: (1) my wife was between jobs and completing her AA degree, (2) I was realizing that my early retirement and relocation was definitely in the works, (3) various calamities with the appliances and fixtures caused action / expense on our part, and (4) we’d never had any budget flexibility to DO anything with that house except cope with what we had and wish we could make it better.
Until, that is, everything changed.
In my mind, the entire affair is a blur of activity, disruption, and expense which occurred when all of those factors converged and we had to get the house fixed sufficiently to sell. What I recall is an unceasing torrent of activity involving everything from roof repairs, replacing facia boards, new gutters, new garage door (& the motor that opens it), removing the aggressive bee hive from our chimney, repairing the huge resulting hole in the chimney, new kitchen appliances, new countertops, new flooring throughout, and paint inside and out. Such is my blurred confusion about this massive undertaking that the highlight – or lowlight – for me was when we couldn’t use the front door or back door for two days and literally had to climb through one of the bedroom windows to enter / exit our house.
[DENISE] — Jeff doesn’t remember most of the major elements in the choice of window entrance. It was toward the end of his work day and he witnessed none of it. Julie and I had been painting. The floor installation man explained (as he was leaving) that he would not be back for two days and the section he’d just finished – at the front door – could not be walked on for that entire period. We should find some other way to get in and out and, by the way, don’t walk on the tile anywhere in the house until the adhesive cures!
Standing outside the front door, we realized we were stuck. All communication devices were inside – cell phones and house phone. (Besides, Jeff did not even have a cell phone at that time.) We needed to pick up more paint… but the vehicle keys were inside. We needed to clean up before going anywhere… but the showers were inside. We were thirsty… but the coiled water hose was inside the closed garage. [No coded garage door opener, either.] We moved to the shade of the back patio to think.
All three of the outside doors touched tile. The floors for the kitchen, dining, both living spaces, and hallway to the bedrooms… were all newly tiled. Why did we not simply move to a motel for those two days? In hindsight, we should have. However, at that point, we were painting the outside of the house with the tunnel vision of deadlines and multiple project stresses.
With all the doors blocked, our only access would be windows. The easiest to use – full floor-to-ceiling window in the master BR – faced the street but we didn’t want the neighbors to once again see this house’s inhabitants climbing in and out of that portal. [The former owners’ children had constantly used this window as a door… according to our neighbors!]
The two largest windows at the rear of the house were the kids’ former bedrooms. The smaller BR – formerly Dave’s quarters – had become a storage area for Jeff’s military collection and boxes were stacked from floor to ceiling… even partly covering the window. That left the larger BR – formerly Julie’s quarters – as the only viable opening. Normally, both windows were latched from the inside. Fortunately, I’d left it open a crack so that King Sipper could enter and exit during all the renovation.
I think, now, the paint fumes must have influenced our thought process. Because that window ledge was nearly five feet above ground. It was a sliding window — making an entrance roughly 3.5 feet by 3.5 feet if shoved fully open. Now, we assumed, a short ladder was all we needed!
Well, I also required a generous “lift” from Julie, since I could barely get one leg up and through the opening while keeping my keester from falling back out of the window. In the course of this maneuver, we both laughed so much that we couldn’t see through our tears.
Imagine our screams of alarm when Jeff suddenly appeared (out of nowhere) and calmly inquired, “Why are y’all climbing through the window?” [He’s never moved that quietly before!]
Julie and I did take pictures of Jeff (later) climbing through that window. I’m searching for them now… but I fear they may be lost forever. Hmmmm.
[ ## Jeff again ## ]
My wife, however, remembers this insanity as a series of projects, over a period of some 2-3 years. In her retelling, in about 2002 we bought a new fridge… changing the color palate from avocado.
[DENISE] — Step # 1 was in the late 1980s when we replaced the dishwasher and flooring for the first time. White finally replaced that awful avocado! The flooring went from total avocado to a floral patterned vinyl with a hint of green to tie in to the avocado built-in stove (which remained).
Step # 2 was replacing the avocado green carpet in the great room with light blue carpet and wallpapering the upper walls of the dark wood paneling of the dining area section of that great room.
[ ## Jeff again ## ]
Step # 3: Later, when Denise was between jobs (about 2003), she got around to a kitchen project that had been on her mental list: sanding and repainting the cabinet doors. With the new cabinet appearance, she finally “liked” the awful color/pattern of the 1971 kitchen counters which she’d hated for the preceding 23 years.
[DENISE] — I wanted a new kitchen… with a completely different configuration! I wanted new countertops and new cabinets! But I had NO money to spend on such a project…. all I could afford was a couple cans of paint. So, I sanded and painted the cabinet doors. I still liked my vinyl flooring and selected colors from that flooring to use in the paint. Narrowing down the colors is the hardest, most time-consuming aspect of such projects. You know I did NOT want anything in the avocado-green spectrum! The flooring had beautiful shades of rose, blue, yellow, and green. The popular paint color of that period was khaki. I didn’t want brown. So what did I choose? Celery Green and Marsh Green! [I can’t believe it either.]
[ ## Jeff again ## ]
If I had known at the time that she was painting anything in our house the color of CELERY, I would’ve moved out!
[DENISE] — I painted the cabinet doors with the lighter, pale celery… using the darker marsh green for the cabinet framing and bases. Beautiful! Once the base and doors were completed, I cleaned and reinstalled the old hardware. At that point I was prepared to campaign for replacing those hated countertops, but surprise! The new paint had transformed the appearance of those ancient countertops. They looked new! After all those years, I finally liked my countertops! Why hadn’t I panted the dark wood cabinets and doors some 20 years before?
[ ## Jeff again ## ]
Step # 4 – possibly 2004 – was replacing the 1971, avocado-colored, built-in range after its oven went out. Since the new range was standard sized and the former green monster had been designed for small apartments, it required significant modification of the old countertop. At that point, the same installer also rigged a space above the range vent for our microwave, thereby freeing up a modest section of our counter.
Somewhere in here, with our daughter’s help, my wife repainted the entire exterior of the house. I know I was involved in part of it, because I remember dealing with the facia boards and hauling the ladder / scaffold around the house. Suffice it to say, there was paint on my hands, too!
Step # 5 – sometime in 2005 – was initially required after one of the pipes beneath our kitchen sink sprung a leak and flooded parts of three rooms. By this point, the other timeline – my decision about early retirement – had firmed up, so we approached this repair with an eye toward what ALSO needed to be done to get the house ready to sell the following year.
After that leak was fixed, we had that same plumber install a new sink and a new dishwasher with a tan-colored panel in front. I’ve forgotten the how and why of the countertop, but we ended up having to re-do that entire horseshoe-shaped array… thereby finally ridding ourselves of the 1971 countertop that my wife had hated (but which finally looked “okay” after she re-did the cabinet doors).
Instead of replacing the combination of carpet and vinyl flooring – after that newest water damage – we opted for ceramic tile (popular at the time) throughout… except for the new carpet in three bedrooms. When you redo the entire flooring, you end up with your fridge in the living room for a few days, your couch in the garage, and all outside doors blocked so that the only entry is through a bedroom window at the rear of the house.
As already noted, I’ve lost a good grasp of the timeline after that. All I remember is tackling all those projects from the sixth paragraph (above) – in order to get the house ready to sell. That included spackling the 999 holes in the walls of the kids’ bedrooms – sports posters by Dave and NKOTB posters by Julie – more paint of inside walls and ceilings, various mopboards and quarter-rounds replaced, etc. At some point, I dismantled a vast array of shelving I’d installed a few years earlier when I was making space for the additional Y2K supplies I’d been stockpiling.
After we removed all the clutter and relocated our household furnishings / belongings to KY, our empty house in Bossier City looked fine and dandy. It sold for nearly double what we’d paid in 1980, even though we hit the market at precisely the point it transitioned from a sellers’ heyday to a buyers’ bonanza. [Our agent’s typical turn-around time had been 11 days for a new listing to sell. Ours took 11 weeks and involved some three dozen viewings.]
As I believe you’ll perceive from this muddled account – since these renovations occurred over such a protracted period – we actually did get to enjoy SOME of those improvements while we lived there. But the way we left that dwelling was the way we wished it had been when we moved in 26 years previously.
[DENISE] — My take on remodeling / renovating / redesigning — Just do it! If you wait until you have the designated funds, you’ll never get it done. Start painting NOW… so YOU can enjoy the fruits of your labor (and expense)!
[JLS # 597]