Boxed up and ready...

Well, almost ready.

The old couch is gone, the bathrooms are bare, all the closets have been cleaned out and all that is left is to pack up our clothes and empty the pantry in the kitchen. And that will happen as soon as we have a pretty little piece of paper from the city called a permit.

This living in limbo is hard for me. It feels disruptive but stagnant. And messy and disorganized. And that is a place I am not very comfortable being in. I get that. I like order. I like being tidy. I like to know where things are.

And I know that our mess is self-created and self-chosen which makes me very aware that my complaining about is extremely indulgent. And it makes me feel bad that I feel bad because in the world of problems to have, this one is basically ridiculous. But it's what we are dealing with and it has unsettled me.

All I can do is to simply be ok with what is. And to embrace the mess. And to see the joy of having Central Station in the dining room. 


Salvage work: Wood panelling

Today's progress….



Not that much of a big deal, but it helps to feel like we are moving forward while treading water.

These walls will be getting demolished completely but the redwood panelling was too nice to waste, so we removed it today in the hopes that we can re-purpose or salvage it in some way.

Already feels brighter.


Back at Kinkos

Everyone keeps saying "not bad" about the comments and questions that we are getting back from the city. We were expecting another round - we all were. Not because the architect and engineer had not done their work because there is something running amuck in the city's building and planning departments. Botched plans and stop orders and a law suit and a flood of people wanting to build the perfect home have caused this small town building/planning dept to become overworked, overly-code crazy, overly-intense and overly difficult to work with.

But like any other bureaucratic entity, there are rules. When one learns the rules and the players, it tends to make dealing with such entity a little easier. And if not easier, well then less frustrating. So I am learning. I am learning to be the squeakily wheel. I am learning that taking the 3 minute walk to the office and talking face to face gets me much better results than sending an email or calling. And I am learning that a smile really does go a long way.

And I am learning that we will get our permit when we get our permit and there is nothing more we can do about it.

For today, I am re-submitting plans that include addressing our existing retaining wall, the framing for the new skylight, the "proposed" placement of our new duct work for the new upstairs furnace and some energy calculations for the new laundry room. Basically, busy work and details that have NEVER needed to be addressed on a permit set before, according to our architect. But we joined the game and now we have to play by the rules.

Ann brought me her set, I picked up Kevin's set in San Francisco and then I headed to Kinko's to print 3 copies of the 1-page construction management plan that I hacked together. $4.50 a piece. There goes another $15.00. Doesn't seem like a lot but if you realize that the whole set is 17 pages all together and we have to supply 3 sets each time we submit/re-submit. That's over $200 each time. And we have now done this 3 times. You can do the math, right?

I fold it all up - the way I was taught to fold them and then drive back to City Hall with my stack of expensive paper. I walk to the Building Department counter and hand it all over.

"Re-submittal", I say.

"Ok, looks like it's all here. We should be getting back to you in about 2 weeks." they say.

And just like that, we start the waiting portion of the game all over again.


Urban Ore

Every part of me wants to use recycled materials. And during a recent visit to Urban Ore in Berkeley I found all kinds of vintage and new sinks still in excellent condition.

But we're not remodeling that kind of house. We're remodeling a house for a very specific market and I have to keep that in mind.

So, I'll keep these sinks in mind for my next small project.


Saying goodbye to the weird...

We are getting down to bare bones. Blank walls, empty closets. And I am starting to see realize that we are getting rid of the weird and bizarre and strange. Don't get me wrong, we'll still have plenty of character and am imperfect house but mucho of the really bizarre will be gone.

And believe it or not, I am getting slightly nostalgic. But I have to start somewhere, so here it goes.

Goodbye to the green tile countertop, green subway tile floor and space age bathtub.

Goodbye to the strange nook in the dining room that used to have a sink.

Goodbye to the bizarre space above the nook whose purpose we have yet to understand.

Goodbye to the laundry in the hallway closet.

Goodbye to the open walls that insure to privacy anywhere.

Goodbye to the pink carpet and patch of tile and our vintage wood burning fireplace. (Ok, the fireplace is the farthest thing from weird, in fact it is downright amazing, but I can't put it anywhere legally because it is not EPA compatible and it would rust immediately if I put it out on our deck.) So it's goodbye.

Goodbye to the chartreuse Japanese soaking tub.

Goodbye to the stair landings that were built on top of windows.

Goodbye to the escape hatch that connects the two upstairs rooms.

Goodbye to the bathrooms whose ceilings open up into the rooms in which they are located.

Goodbye to hacked construction like how this ceiling fan was mounted to the ceiling.

There is so much more that is weird and bizarre. Perhaps it is time for me to create a video walkthrough…


Waiting for a permit

We still don't have a permit and there is nothing we can do about it.

And that is it. I don't know what else to say.

The last time I posted about the permit process was on June 18. We waited patiently for the 5-6 weeks they said it would take to get back to us. And at exactly the 5 week mark, with a bit of gentle nudging, we got back a set of 30 comments that needed to be addressed on our set of plans. And from what I was told, 30 ain't so bad.

Our architect and engineer got to work with extra scribbles and arrows and pictures and drawings while I got to work sorting out LED certified lighting fixtures and the like. And 2 weeks and few small setbacks later, we had a revised set of plans. I even learned how to create a Construction Management Plan. If you care to know what that is, let me know.

"It should take about 2 weeks." I was told.

And 2 weeks would have been Monday. And today it's Friday and though another set of 6 comments are there on the computer screen at the building department, our plans are sitting on the desk of someone in the Public Works department, waiting to be given a written approval. And of course that guy - well he does't work on Fridays.

And there you have it. That is how it goes.

So we won't move into the city tomorrow and we can't start demolition next week and we don't know how to lock in the contractor when we have no idea when we will actually get to start this project.

Guess that means we can go to Traintown tomorrow instead. I know one 5.5 year old who will be thrilled to the gills.


Feeling overwhelmed

Today was just one of those days.

I got overwhelmed. Really overwhelmed. I can feel it coming on. I go from clear minded and energetic to dull and cloudy eyed. And tears are just under the surface, ready to burst onto the scene.

Today it came from a 2 hour conversation with a contractor we may hire and his "plumbing and heating guy". Too much information, too many choices, too many options that cost too much money on top of not enough breakfast, no childcare and not enough space to digest it all.

I started to tune out at the 90 minute mark at the moment when I felt like my head was going to explode. And then was basically not present from the rest of it. At the end, I wanted to do was throw in the towel and walk away. And I cursed the house and my life and our choices.

But I have learned to let all of this just be and then let it pass. Todays reaction was squelched in less than 20 minutes. I have learned to name it and observe it and not get completely steamrolled by it. And that well, to me, is amazing progress.


Packing up the non-essentials

I wish that I was actually writing a post about how demolition is going or that we found dry rot under the bathtub, but we are still waiting for our building permit. So we are waiting. And packing.

And we are packing because within the next 2-4 weeks we will be moving out of our house into our apartment - our 700 sq foot apartment in the middle of San Francisco. And believe it or not, we are strangely excited.

I am excited about the simplicity of living in 700 sq ft. I am excited that there is less to clean and less to maintain. I am excited that there is a familiarity to it. I am excited to be in San Francisco. I am excited go to the movies and out to dinner with my dear friends who still live on that side of the bridge. I am excited to see how two little boys respond to living in the city.

And though I am certain that these rose colored glasses will quickly fade, I see this as an adventure and a gift. For it will have an end. And that end will mean that we have come to the completion of a major house transformation.

Before anything can end, it has to begin. And for it to begin the house needs to be empty which means we need to pack. So pack I did.

I started with all the non-essentials which will basically remain packed until we are done with the remodel and moving back in. The benefit of moving into 700 sq feet with 4 people is that you can only have essentials and it becomes unbelievably easy to differentiate between the two.

Boards games and tablecloths and candle sticks and hiking maps and binoculars and books oh my. So much I have already almost filled the first room.

It's amazing what is non-essential. 

What's even more amazing is how strangely peaceful it is to walk through an empty house with empty walls and shelves. There is just white space and a lot of it.

Wondering if we might just keep it that way.


Everyone's got a guy

Everyone's got a guy. An electrical guy, a plumbing guy, a heating guy, a drywall guy.

Even our architect has a great floor guy.

This is the language of construction - something I am learning everyday.



I mean why? Why would you not make the top of the DIY wainscoting level with the bottom trim of the window?

Little stuff like this just makes me kind of crazy.

Basically, there is stuff like this all over our house.


Trim anyone?

Basically, we have more types of trim in our house than the Home Depot.

Kind of ads to the charm. And the character. Or the schizophrenia.

Some is painted, some in stained, some is white, some is brown.
Some is traditional, some is classic, some is old, some is new.

Some is 1", 2", 4" and 6". I feel like I could write a Dr. Suess book about it.

If we did nothing else, and just changed out all the trim to match, it might seem like a whole new house.

And of all the choices, you might be asking "What kind of trim will you have?"

You will just have to stay tuned...