Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Floor Plan

Being that this project has been simmering in my mind for the last two years, we went through many floor plans.

While I feel that nothing ever really changed in these plans, but an inch here, an inch there, and things did change. I then got cold feet and wanted to hire a kitchen designer. I paid this woman $180 and I didn't end up taking any of her suggestions, and she then turned out to be a flake anyway. (This is apparently a serious problem with home renovations...)

Thankfully, my cabinet maker, as well as my contractor, talked some sense into me, and I signed off on the plans.

The cabinets went into production 1 week ago. We demolish in 3 weeks. Woohoo.

I am going to upload the final plan and show you. Soon, I promise.

Friday, October 4, 2013

How My Mother Bought Cabinets

This is a short post.

I didn't think twice about this when my mother remodeled her kitchen. Now that I have spent about 8 hours with my cabinet makers, and another 8 talking to my contractor about the cabinets, and probably about 20 hours looking at drawings and reading about cabinets, this is really incredible.

My mother went out one morning, went to Home Depot, and came home with a receipt for all her kitchen cabinets two hours later. The cabinets showed up about 1 week later.

The end.

Thursday, October 3, 2013


I have lived through two remodels previously.  The first belonged to my parents.  Seriously, I think my mother woke up one morning, decided this 60's kitchen needed to go, (the year was actually 1992.) She hired a contractor, who turned out to be a disaster, and started down the road to perdition.

The problems with her remodel:
1. They didn't really think things through. They didn't have time! They were raising 3 kids, my dad was in graduate school part-time, and they were raising 3 kids. I also think it is my parents' pattern that they tend to rush through any issue related to real estate. They are people minded, not stuff minded, and remodeling a house is about stuff, and that is just not their thing.

2. Because they are people minded, they hired a 'contractor' who really needed work. The reason he needed work was because his work was shit. Really, it was.

3. Because the contractor was incompetent, the sink, skylight, and window, did not line up. None of these three items lined up. It was really ridiculous.

4. Because my mom is not into stuff, she was not into micromanaging stuff. Therefore, she didn't catch #3.

5. They ended up firing that 'contractor.' I actually should just say that they fired the guy. The guy was actually not a contractor. They had to find a new contractor.

6. The whole thing took FOREVER. FOREVER.

Thankfully, because my parents had decided to obtain permits for all the work, the house has not collapsed. The house also got sold a few years ago, so that the misaligned kitchen now belongs to someone else. When I drove by last year, the skylight and the window were still misaligned.

Dreadful. DREADFUL!

This is the only picture I could fine on the web of its exterior, see how the skylight is just so slightly off?

My second experience with a remodel was at the townhouse we owned prior to buying this abode.

My mistakes of that remodel.
1. The 'contractors' were really just a bunch of guys pretending. Do you see a theme here? You would think I would have learned. To my defense, I didn't pick the contractors. (The short version is that my father-in-law was going to remodel his rental property and sell it, and we enthusiastically said that we wanted to buy it, so we went with the contractor he was referred to by the realtor.)

2. I didn't know anything about remodeling. For instance, these guys put down laminate flooring and lined up all the seams. Seriously, it was ALL lined up, so that you have this glaring line down the middle of the room. The problem wasn't aesthetics, but that hello! Laminate flooring, when lined up like soldiers, will buckle. Oh, and did the floor buckle. About 3 years after the work, we had to replace it all. These guys' work was really just shit.

3. Because we didn't know anything, all the problems were found AFTER we moved in. And we had to hire Mr. L to fix just about everything. He fixed the leaky shower, he fixed the plumbing.

Do you see why my sweet husband thinks this is all just a great hassle?

Although, that kitchen did turn out quite cute. And after we fixed the floor, see how smooth and flat it is?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Can I revise the contract?

I sent a text to my contractor's lovely wife, Erin, yesterday. After I signed off on the plans and wrote a check to the cabinet maker. The text said, "I bought cabinets!"

Or so I thought.

When my dear husband came home, I told him the 'good' news. Now, you have to remember, that nothing about this remodel is good news to his ears. It isn't that he is withholding all my joys, it isn't that he doesn't want me to have a beautiful space to cook and supervise homework, aka yell at the kids. He just doesn't want the hassle. He doesn't want his eating area to be demolished for 2 months. He doesn't want to wash dishes in the bathtub for 2 months. To my "good news," he said, "Really? I haven't really looked at the plans." To my credit, I showed it to him last week, after my fourth meeting with the cabinet guys. To his credit, I only showed it to him once. As he said, "We go back and forth at work at least 3-4 times about decisions at work."

Oh my goodness.

You have to know that he manages details for a living. The man builds software, and that, my dear readers, includes a whole lot of details that are constantly changing. He is also very rational and logical, and therefore, he does not like to rush.

That, is the opposite of me. I want to think about an issue, think about the pros and cons, make a decision, and just move on. This trait works for me at work. At my job, I just have to think things through, within 20 minutes or so, make some decisions, and go. Because humans are not robots, and I work with humans.

Getting cabinets made, though, is more like working with robots. You gotta make the best decision. There is no going back.

I sat there, and went through the plans with him, while he ate dinner. It felt a little like getting my homework checked by my mom. Although, actually, she never checked my homework. I am guessing that is what it would feel like. He had a few good suggestions, and some that made me think of words that would not be appropriate for me to use in public.

I e mailed the cabinet guys, and called them this morning. They pulled the cabinets off production. THEY WERE ABOUT TO DO SOMETHING TO MAKE THEM!

I am sure I am not the first person to have done this, nor will I be the last person to do this.

I will tell you tomorrow the actual issues with these cabinets.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Other problems

Aside from the risk of an ever expanding project, home renovations can be challenging, because, such a project can bring up lots of other issues.  Issues within ourselves. For instance, because such a project can be expensive, the issue of money is high up on the list.

For me, this project is difficult because it shows me, glaringly, this simple fact: I really don't know what I want. I don't know what I want in life. 

Some people talk about knowing a certain house is their forever home.  I have no idea what that is like.

Some people know that a particular town is their forever town. I have no idea what that is like.

While Hubby has lots of opportunities here in the Bay Area, and I have a pretty awesome work situation set up, and the kids love it here, and I love the park behind our house, I honestly don't know if this is our forever house, or our forever town.

We live in the suburbs, and I think wistfully, about the way Hubby and I started our marriage: in a city. Not just any city. THE city, THE BIG APPLE. Funny thing though, because we were in graduate schools at the time, we actually never considered staying there. Also, circumstances did not allow us to stay. These days, I dream about sending my kids on the subway so that they can go places on their own, without me driving them around. That I could walk around the block and get my hair cut, that dinner could come to me via a bike delivery dude, or dudette. Perhaps reading the paper on the subway, on my way to work? Being able to go hear a concert at Lincoln Center and get home in 20 minutes. Go see the Rangers play and be home in 20 minutes. (I better hurry, Madison Square Garden is moving in 2023.) Since moving back here, I have not heard a concert in San Francisco, because it just takes too long to get there, deal with parking, and drive back. To see the Sharks play this past week required us to sit in traffic for an hour to get there. Then we paid $25 to park the car.

Therefore, if my heart is in NYC, why bother renovating this?

This fantasy has huge implications about lots of other things, for instance, what do I do about my job? But that is another post for another blog.

Anyway, when I think about the kitchen reno, I think about all this stuff. It just gets tiring, you know.

For now, we are moving forward with this kitchen reno. We still have to eat and live while we are here, right?

As for the actual work. I will ordering the appliances tomorrow, and I will be signing off on the cabinets this week.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Problems with Renovating...

There are many problems with renovating, (I am Captain Obvious, apprently,) and I plan on high lighting them here.  The first though, is that the project will inevitably grow.

The idea has been to get a new kitchen, but the desire has grown to fixing the fireplace.

The fireplace is love here, as the sellers had put it all together so beautifully. Once we moved in, however, the ledge became a place where my kids land their crap, I mean, prized possessions. Lego assemblies in various degrees of completion, drawings of various sophistication, library books, crap, crap, crap. I would show you a picture of it, but I am too sheepish to do that.

Moreover, we are Chinese people, and as we have been raised in earthquake country, all we ever heard was: Why would you use a fireplace? There could be cracks and you could set a fire! The toxic byproducts! Carbon dioxide! You could die!

Therefore, we have no use for this.

And I want it out. OUT! It is really a matter of life and death. 

It is also of utmost importance to get build-in cabinets for the aforementioned crap.

See, the scope of the project is expanding. 

This, is the number one problem of renovation.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Pros and Cons

As I promised, I am going to share with you our thought process about this.

My strategy when I have to make a big decision that I am conflicted about is to create 4 lists. In this case:

1. Pros of renovating.
2. Cons of renovating.
3. Pros of not renovating.
4. Cons of not renovating.

You might think that section 1 would be essentially the opposite of section 2, but it doesn't quite work out that way. (By the way, this is a therapy tool.) 

Alright, here we go!

1. The pros of renovating: I would be able to utilize the space better, I would be more efficient. I would have a stove that can boil water more efficiently- the current electric stove clicks on and off and it takes about 10 minutes to boil water. It would be pleasing to my eyes, and my guests will have a better place to sit when I am making a meal, and finally, if we ever sell the house, an open kitchen is highly desirable.

2. The cons of renovating: I will probably be overwhelmed, we will have to eat out of take out containers in the garage for at least 8 weeks. It will be expensive, the food and the renovation, that is. We can use the money to do something else, like vacations, or saving that for retirement. Also, what if we move in the next few years, who knows if we would be moving to Manhattan?!

3. The pros of not renovating: I know how this kitchen works. It is predictable, I have managed to feed everyone for the last 4 years, it is just fine.

4. The cons of not renovating: It may be more difficult to sell this house when the time times. I will probably be dreaming of moving somewhere all the time. We have less stress.

The thing is, the cons of not renovating is mostly about my heart issues, issues of discontentment. As I have slugged through them in the last two years, I can't say I  have gotten more content. But I can say that I think the desire to make my life more efficient is winning out. And I figured that the cons of renovating will be an opportunity for me wrestle through some other issues of my heart, such as irritability and anxiety.

Alright. I will be the first to admit that this is a purely a first world problem.

In slugging through this first world problem though, my relationship with Hubby has grown. I have come to know Hubby's priorities better, I have come to see that he loves me in ways I don't love myself. For instance, he prioritizes my sanity above basically everything.  I married a good one!

I can't say enough that I am so spoiled. Spoiled to live where I do, to have a very nice kitchen, to have the ability to get my dream kitchen, AND, to grow in my relationship with Hubby and God at the same time.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Beginning

This blog is going to chronicle all the trials and tribulations of our kitchen renovation.

All the trials and tribulations will all be self inflicted. It is really foolish, actually, to undertake this project as I am not creative, I don't have an "eye" for style, and I don't ask good questions about things I don't understand. Just to clarify: I definitely don't understand house construction. 

But, I am going to do it. Or, at least, I think I am going to do it.

Back in 2009, when the financial world crashed, and when unemployment rate was rising, Hubby and I were able to buy a beautiful house. (It is true, we are totally undeserving of this house, and we are totally spoiled.) We were about to make an offer on a different house on a Monday in September, but happened to find this listing on a Saturday night, and I decided to just go see it. It wasn't in the neighborhood I had really wanted, but we kept getting our low ball offers rejected in the neighborhood I had wanted. My darling sister happened to be flying in on Sunday, and she and I went to the open house first. As we walked through the house, all I could think was, "Crap! This house is beautiful, I want it."

Hubby and I went back to see it, and we couldn't believe what a gem we had found. The house was adjacent to a pocket park, it had a long drive way, the yards were beautiful, it had an outdoor eating area, and it was just more than all the other crappy houses we were trying to buy in a "nicer" neighborhood.  If my memory serves me right, I think Hubby had said, "Sh$t! There is more to this house?"

We made an offer.

We got outbid.

Hubby took Zoe, who was just 2 1/2 years old and knocked on the door, begging the sellers to reconsider.  I cried.

Then, a miracle happened. The escrow "fell out." As we were in the backup position, we bought the house, on Hubby's birthday.

When we moved in, I thought the house was just perfect.

Oh, the ugliness of a human heart is that it would never be content.  (Partly because I actually believe my heart would never be content with what this world has to offer, you see, I believe that I am not made for this world. I am made for something better, an eternal life with God, that makes everything here seem shabby and ugly.) Anyway, about two years later, I started thinking, "Hmm, this kitchen is just not right. I don't like it anymore. I deserve more."

Three little ugly words: I deserve more. I am fully aware that just 24 months ago, I had thought, "I totally don't deserve this house." It had taken a miracle for the other buyers to terminate escrow. Nope, amnesia kicked in, and I decided this kitchen was not good enough for me anymore.

The sellers had actually refaced the cabinets, replaced the appliances, and changed out the counter top not too long before they sold the house to us.  And I decided I deserved more: Stainless appliances, granite counter top, more storage.

Hubby and I talked about it. I started meeting with contractors in 2011, I read design magazines, I talked with friends who had renovated. I saw friends' new homes with amazing kitchens, I secretly judged those people with beautiful kitchens but ordered take out all the time, because I was discontent and jealous.

Hubby and I had talked about it, then decided to shelf the project. He and I were working so hard, kids were keeping us very busy, (whom am I kidding, they still keep us busy.) It really wasn't a good time.

I decided to shelf it permanently: We would just move.

But I loved the park, I loved our dear neighbors.

I will tell you about the on-and-off drama that continued for the last two years, as well as the details of all the "passionate discussions" we had as we go along here.

As of Friday, the project is on: I wrote a check for the deposit for our new cabinets. (Hopefully the check won't bounce.)