Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Hallelujah-on-a-bicycle drove by today spreading the gospel of spring to all residents of The Small Street. We don't know Hallelujah from Adam but he brings us great joy. A reed thin black man with a rather unruly beard, Hallelujah cuts quite a figure pedalling along on his beat-up old bicycle. And on warm days, when the hallelujahs float through the wide open windows of The Tall House it makes it seem like its the most beautiful place in the world.It is also the single most important reason why we will never get air conditioning. Hallelujah!

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Okay so here's the thing. We know we're nuts but we do have a plan. Really. Well, sort of.

Our dear tenant will be leaving on the 1st of June. The wait has overstayed its welcome and we are ready to move on. There is so little that we remember about that part of the house. The late 80's reno job is nothing but a foggy memory in our sleep deprived parents-of-young-uns brains. Is there a hardwood floor under the carpet? Are there any original architectural features left? What are the mouldings like? How about the view? The electrical is newer, but is it as funky as in the rest of the house? And the plumbing? All will become clear on that glorious June day.

Once we have taken stock the real fun will finally begin. The biggest lesson learned from our previous stage of renos is that professionally done demo jobs don't come cheap. We paid $7500 to have our fourth floor stripped. So this time around we will be doing it ourselves. A whole two weeks of our precious annual holiday time has been allotted to this task. Apparently wielding a sledgehammer is therapeutic. With any luck we will come out of this experience with the serenity of the Dalaï Lama, although I know of very few Buddhist monks who are in the construction business.

We do have preliminary architectural drawings for the main floor but nothing has been finalised yet. And seeing as we are trying to keep costs down in this phase we will try and find our own solutions. In keeping with the times, the whole space will be open concept except for a minuscule powder room and a large closet (young children have a LOT of stuff). Here's the conundrum: seeing as the house has a rather small footprint of about 700 square feet per floor, finding a place for even the most minute of powder rooms is no easy task. Put it near the entrance way and it will be mistaken for a coat closet, put in in the back of the house and it eats into the kitchen space, put it near the dining area and run the risk of people being to embarrassed to use it during mealtimes... it is a problem that even our esteemed architect was unable to solve. But there is nothing like a blank canvas (or an empty shell) to inspire one. And although we have no pretensions of being Mies Van der Rohe, we do art direct for a living. Could laying out a page be so different from laying out a floor plan?

Even though the money is limited, we have budgeted for a few key elements: plumbing and electricity will be left to the professionals as will all the structural work. And lucky for us our contractor Pierre has agreed to act as a consultant whenever we feel that we are truly out of our depth.

So... is it June yet?

Monday, 6 April 2009

We bought a house. Well a duplex actually. A long, tall, beautiful, four story victorian dream. It was decrepit, it was falling apart, it was everything we were looking for. With a naiveté fueled by too many hours watching home renovation shows, we hired a great architect and drew up a wish list. New windows! A wine cellar! Skylights! 3 bathrooms! New kitchen! Move the stair case! New balconies! New brickwork! Landscaping! It was going to be breathtaking. It was going to be fabulous. It was going to be four times our budget.

Yet our dream remained intact, it would just be achieved in stages. Intent on doing things right, we hired a general contractor and watched from the sidelines as the fourth story was transformed from something out of the Blair Witch project to something more reminiscent of a Greenwich Village  brownstone.

We were thrilled but broke. Our $125 000 had bought us one story replete with new plumbing and electrical, a raised ceiling and newly insulated roof, replaced an old skylight, rid us of an old shed in the back yard and afforded us some new brick work. A drop in the bucket as the house is still falling apart.

We had blown our entire budget and then some. As we planned our next move, we laid low for a year, had our second child and hoped that all the good vibes from our loving family would somehow rub off on the house. Well, love may conquer all, but it knows diddly about living in a ruin.

We were ready for the next phase. We gave our tenant notice, doubled up on reno shows, devoured decorating magazines, scoured the internet for DIY renovation tips and planned our vacation around the demo work. Not to mention an entire FOUR MONTHS experience watching how the pros had renovated the fourth floor.

We could do it too, right?

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