Monday, 31 August 2009

The inspiration, minus the chandelier

We finally ordered the two sets of french doors that will lead to the back yard. God, for the time it took us to reach our decision one would think that we were redesigning the Taj Mahal. It would be but a slight exaggeration to say that pretty much every window manufacturer in the city had the dubious honor of bidding on the Tall House's rear portals. Modern doors, classic doors, wood doors, aluminum doors, doors with transoms, doors without, black doors, white doors, name it, we have a quote for it.

Now we pride ourselves on (pretty much) knowing what we want. But in this case it took us forever to figure it out. It's funny how one can spend years imagining a space, obsessing about it even, and still hesitate when it comes time to chose the final materials. It was as if we were conscious that our decision would forever change the Tall House and that we needed to make sure that it would be for the better.

That and of course, money. During one of our many visits to countless showrooms we fell hook, line and sinker for the most beautiful doors we had ever seen. Tall, dark, and exceedingly elegant they had our hearts racing and our mouths watering. French doors in all senses of the word, these beautiful panels of glass and wood seemed to have been taken straight out of a chic Parisian apartment or Provençal villa. They had the capacity to elevate any space and we dearly wanted them in ours. Our quest was over.

Then the quote came back. The doors were a good $5000 more than any of the others we had seen. For a while, we actually considered it. "We could cut else where", we reasoned. "Worse come to worse we would put the $5000 on the line of credit, it would be paid back within a year"... I actually stayed up at night thinking about those doors, worrying about the money. Because I knew all too well that spending that little bit extra now would start a financial hemorrhage that we would no longer be able to keep in check. Those doors would lead to the most expensive heating system, which would lead to the most custom of custom kitchens, which would lead to...

And neither of us has the time to work a second job.

Then something wonderful happened. We went back to the showroom and were shown very much the same doors but in a man made material as opposed to wood. And they were gorgeous. They were also within our budget. Our only sacrifice would be that the doors couldn't be the whole 104 inches high, we would have to have a transom.

So at least now, as we wait for the 12 weeks it takes for the doors to be manufactured, it will be the anticipation that will keep me up at night and not the worry.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Because our budget is so limited we have to do what ever we can to stretch it. This week that meant ripping out the narrow hardwood floor boards in order to expose the wide planks of the sub-floor below. This is the same flooring that we previously restored on the top story to spectacular results. It is a painfully frustrating and slow process, with three nights work only uncovering about a third of the surface. It is also the first project that has truly tested our resolve as the work could only start after we put the kids to bed. So each night last week after 8:30, we would grudgingly don our dusty work gear and armed with crowbars and hammers descend to the first floor. 

Although we've had a wet, cold summer so far, things had heated up considerably last week which caused us to work with both front doors open as well as all the windows. Despite the late hour, these open doors were all the invitation that our neighbours needed to pay a social call. Merv from down the street, who has been restoring his house since long before we moved in, stopped by with one of his helpers to compare notes. And Maradonna himself, a little unsteady from a few too many post hard-days-work libations made an appearance, sagely entering through the front door this time, and exuberantly shook Manu's hand, seemingly truly impressed by all the work that had been done since his last visit. 

As dirty and sticky and fed up as we were, this one man drunken cheering section spurred us on. And despite the sweat streaming down our noses and our terrible lack of visibility we kept on for several more hours that night, content in the knowledge that our hard work was really and truly paying off.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Ever since we bought the Tall House, we have always envisaged the first floor as being one big, beautiful, open space. But never once did it cross our minds that the simplicity of having no walls would end up being so complicated. The Tall House being so, well... tall, needs extra support on the lower floors if it is to remain standing once those walls come tumbling down. Enter the 35 foot, hundred pound per linear foot Grand Pooba of beams. 

Like the kings of yore who would send their courtiers to prepare the castle for their arrival, The Beam too had a retinue of its very own: Pierre our ever trustworthy contractor, PF his exceptionally talented senior tradesman,  and Louis the newest member of his crew. It took Pierre and his men two whole days to prepare for the Beam's arrival. Cement footing was poured in the basement, floor joists were reinforced, other various small beams were installed not to mention a truckload of temporary steel supports as well as five Genie Lifts that would eventually raise The Beam to its final resting place, the first floor ceiling.

So when that Wednesday was finally upon us the excitement was palpable. Our hearts raced a little faster and the children, as if sensing our anticipation never really made it to the breakfast table that morning, preferring instead to streak around the living room screaming at the top of their little lungs. Even Pierre and his crew, usually so discreet, were talking just a little bit louder that day.

And then It arrived. As was befitting its stature, the Beam made its entrance onto the Small Street with great pomp, on the back of an extremely large flatbed trailer. With an entourage of its own courtesy of the steel company as well as its own master welder, the Beam left no doubt as to its importance, in case the indicator of size was not evidence enough. Never ones to miss out on a spectacle, the residents of the Small Street too, were out that day to greet and pay homage to the Beam, lining the side walk and gossiping excitedly amongst themselves.

Then with nary a trumpet sounding nor even a car horn beeping, the Beam was quickly and quietly lifted from the truck and within minutes its nose was already through the front door. Sensing that things would move rather slowly after that we regretfully wrenched ourselves away from the scene, Manu to catch a plane to The Other Big City and me to go to my office, thankfully just a few blocks away.

Although, I'd promised myself I would wait, I could barely contain my excitement by noon. So by 12:07 precisely I was climbing the exterior steps of the Tall House. And there it was all 35 feet of it, the welding finished and everything, fully installed and holding up the house forever more. 

As I stood there quietly watching the men continue to take down the temporary columns I could finally see it all coming together. My eyes welled up as future Christmases and birthdays flashed before them and the sounds of laughter from upcoming family dinners filled my ears. And that's when I finally knew that we had been right all along, that the Tall House truly was as beautiful as we had always imagined. And that it was our Home.

Before embarking on this whole adventure, we had only a casual relationship with dust. Although far from being neat freaks, we are lucky enough to have help in the cleaning department. So up until a few months ago dust was only something that accumulated briefly at the end of the week before Manon, our cleaning fairy would come and magically make it all disappear. But now despite Manon's infinite talent, dust is everywhere.  It sneaks in between the floorboards and through the cracks around the door jam, it even comes in uninvited through the windows...

We are in fact now so familiar with the stuff that we have actually learned that there are indeed different kinds of dust. There is the everyday-living-in-the-city variety, thin and fluffy. There is the fine white dust that comes from plaster and lath. And then there is the evil black dust, the Darth Vader of airborne matter, that is forming its own mind meld on the residents of the Tall House and causing us all to freak out, just a little. The black stuff is insidious yet seemingly unstoppable. And despite a thorough cleaning of the floors late last night, still caused our two little angels' feet to turn black by breakfast.

Needless to say we can't wait for the black plague to have passed, and are fervently hoping that once The Beam is installed that we will have seen the last of it. 

Suddenly plaster dust is looking really, really good.

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