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Friday, February 4, 2011

Once Upon a Remodeling Project

Once upon a time, there was a lovely woman (pictured at right) who had a lovely husband and four lovely children.

They all lived together in one big house that had lots of "issues."

But usually the family was happy enough to turn a blind eye to the sloping floors and the old pipes and the iffy wiring. They all knew they would get around to fixing it "someday."

Despite that, every now and then the woman and her husband, over a delightful , delicious family meal, would forget themselves and say things like, "Wouldn't it be great if we remodeled one of the upstairs bathrooms." They would share dreams of double sinks and a modern tub and freshly grouted tiles. They smiled at the idea of designing an oasis of comfort and pampering within the walls of their very own home.

Always, the lovely woman, so as not to dwell on things she knew she could not have in the near future, would forget about the conversation and focus on driving carpool and fixing snacks and writing books and magazine articles and being an all-around outstanding wife and mother. But all of that changed one fateful evening. She returned home from one of her very smart and athletic children's soccer games to find a tub on her porch roof.

And when she rushed up the stairs to see what had happened to her lovely, lovely husband, the scene that greeted her was this:


And her dastardly, sledgehammer-wielding, grinning husband stood in the rubble, prouder than puddin' of what he had done. Well this lovely woman and this lovely man suddenly found found themselves at odds with each other. He began pressuring her to pick tile and choose flooring. She uttered unseemly and unladylike phrases and threw epithets as if they were dishes in a Greek restaurant. Their four children all crowded into one bathroom with them every morning and every evening. And to this once happy family, it seemed as if life would never be normal or drywalled again. It was scary what they had become:

If only they had known about Diane Plesset's book, her manual, really, The Survival Guide: Home Remodeling, their status as a lovely, happy family might have been preserved. It has questionnaires and surveys and checklists (ladies of the house certainly do love to fill out questionnaires and checklists) to help homeowners wrap their heads around what it is they really want out of a room remodel. Planning guides, with worksheets, take homeowners step-by-step through budgeting (there's more than one approach to determining a budget, and none of them include yelling louder than or pouting more emphatically than your spouse).
Although she is from California, Plesset should have been a southerner, because she clearly knows the importance of good manners. She devotes an entire chapter to remodeling etiquette. It''s important to know when, and when not, to tell someone how "stupid idiotic" towel bars in showers are.

The Survival Guide: Home Remodeling is an honest look at the entire process, from the dinner discussion of "Wouldn't it be great . . ." to the deciding what to do and how to do it to the getting it done. She outlines the details, while at the same time offering a reality check for people who think it'll be a snap to get a bathroom gutted and rebuilt in a week for $1000. Not only that, but she tells readers something no one else does: you might not feel happy the whole time and your spouse is going to tick you off and your furniture will get dusty. Knowing those things beforehand definitely softens the blow and makes them bearable.

As for the lovely little family, they can't wait for happily ever after to start. And it will start a lot sooner now that they have a survival guide.


Jamie said...

Our house is 110 years young. During our very shoe-string redo of our main bathroom our claw-foot tub sat our behind our house on the driveway for six months. We did throw a blue tarp over it lest anyone think to call us redneck.

Lucy Adams said...

There ought to be a support group for people like us.

And I think when that tub was on our porch roof, people did call us redneck.