Tuesday, April 29, 2008

One Year Anniversary

(sounds of popping corks and balloons at the Greenridge Chronicle, with lots of confetti and children flying)

It's been one year since we bought this house. One whole year. We took possession on this very day, too. Hard to believe. (to be honest, I forgot and Richard reminded me this morning but now I'm excited all over again)

One year since we moved to this city, too. The kids, when I reminded them that we'd been here a year, responded by saying "We're sick of moving around, can we stay here for a while?" Sure, kids, at least until your mother and father get itchy feet again, I thought, but I didn't say anything. I've seen Mutiny on the Bounty.

So, without further ado, I bring you a few of my favourite flashbacks from:

The Reno That Seemed To Take Forever!

Here's the large stucco box house when we first bought it. Note the hedge-like objects in front, as well as the expanse of grassy lawn. It's not a strikingly beautiful house, but when we did our whirlwind Real Estate Tour, this was the only house that we could afford without going into indefinite and bone-shivering debt seemed to fit the bill. We saw 18 houses in one weekend - and that was with the kids. We were looking for a south facing yard (garden potential), 4 bedrooms, and room for an eventual study/studio. This was the last house we saw before we had to dash for a late ferry back to the mainland. I think we were in it for a total of 16 minutes. On the ferry back our realtor called and said that it was going really cheap because the owners had bought another place and were in a rush to move. I couldn't see us doing this for another weekend, so I leaped foolishly into a marital abyss and talked Richard into putting in an offer.

"It's really big," I said.
"The yard is massive!" I said.
"It'll be great!" I said.
"It better be," said Richard.
"All I see is a lot of work," said Richard.
"We hate it, it smells bad inside," said the kids.

I think I gulped nervously and said a silent prayer at this point, because the offer was accepted. The fact that it turned out to be the only offer they'd had didn't help matters any.
The house had had only one set of owners - a couple who'd raised their 5 kids here. They were very nice and delighted to sell to a family but they were, dare I say it, rather challenged in the modern decor department. There was burnt orange shag everywhere (and it covered solid oak floors). There were smoked glass mirrors covering one entire wall. One entire wall. They were also a big fan of the trend known as The Textured Wallpaper Look, and they favoured a style with very busy geometric patterns. The kids fell silent when they noticed this. There was also a profusion of wallpaper borders, slapped one on top of the other, seemingly for years. I counted 9 layers. None of us had noticed any of this during the 16 minutes we'd spent in it 2 months previous. It was very sobering.
Never mind, I thought, that's what we're here for. We're handy. We're not afraid to put in a bit of labour. Now of course all I think of is those aliens from the Simpsons chuckling and saying "foolish humans!" but then it all seemed pretty simple.

We renovate.

We move in.

Foolish humans, indeed.

While Richard went inside to survey his New Project for the next few weeks, I put the kids to work started work on the hedges almost immediately. I am not a particular fan of the Large Green Hedge. Dull, dull, dull. I want colour. Excitement! Texture! I hadn't quite bargained on the difficulties inherent in removing fifty year old roots, though, so my texture and colour experience wasn't quite as immediate or dramatic as I'd expected. But as you can see from the photo below, Dominic is a tenacious kid. He didn't seem to mind.

Wonder of wonders, a window appeared behind some of them. The previous owners had obviously misplaced it long ago, because the shutters were painted a different colour from the others. We also found: a bottle of rum, a Calgary Stampede hat, and a still sealed-but-long-since-evaporated bottle of Coke. Really old Coke. Oh, and several empty beer bottles. Did I mention that the family we bought the house off had raised 3 boys here?

The picture below was taken this morning, three hundred and sixty six days later. I don't know if you can see the front lawn very well, but the Formerly Grassy Area has been transformed into a Lozenge Bed With Accessories. We also replaced all the windows. Here's the front of the house...

And here is another view of the front yard, as viewed from the Lozenge Bed, which is bisected by a little slate path. It's a long and complicated story as to why it's named that way, suffice to say it involved a weird HGTV show, Max and his whims, and a fond moment of maternal madness.

When we first entered the house, what struck me most was how, err, reminiscent it was of my childhood: the shag, the smoked glass - many other charming touches abounded but I will spare you. The only things that were missing were the avocado green washer/dryer appliances, but that was because they'd taken them with them. Why they didn't take the bright blue bathtub, toilet and sink as well was a bit of a mystery to me. Fortunately, I was able to persuade Richard that those fixtures and I would not be able to co-exist harmoniously in the house (told you I jumped into a Marital Abyss, good thing he likes hauling me out of them or I'd still be in there with my blue bathtub).

Pictures of the bathroom, did I hear you say? Mais oui! I just happen to have a couple right here...

Here is the During picture. Believe me, I'm doing you a favour by not showing you the Before shot. It might damage your retinas. There were at least 6 layers of wallpaper, all equally lurid (you could see where their sympathies lay during the 60's), two layers of plywood on the floor (they'd even covered the heat register), and no electrical outlets at all. The sink had a spray hose but the hose itself ended after about two inches. Oh, and did I mention that the window wouldn't shut? The 14 layers of frilly window curtain might have been one reason the owners didn't notice, of course, but I sure did. Hmm, looking back on it, I think I cried at this point.

That's Richard and my dad, labouring away. Originally they'd both said (suspiciously in unison) "You can't have a new bathtub because that would mean removing the walls and that's really too big a job" but then Richard discovered some rust on the tub and decided that maybe we should get a new one (diving into a marital abyss of his own, let us note). That was after I'd bought some amazingly beautiful $300 taps, thinking that since we weren't getting a new tub I could splurge a bit (but we don't need to get into that...). So, four days before my parents left for 5 weeks in Italy and Greece, Richard and my dad removed the walls and floor in the bathroom. Did I mention that neither of them had ever done such a thing before?

Here is the After shot.
It took about 12 trips to Home Despot (some more panicked than others), a crowbar, a shop-vac full of dust, lots of wallboard, 8 hours of exhausting yet daring-in-its-methodology tiling work (the tile, c'est moi), a brand new tile cutter, a new bathtub, toilet, sink and taps, a tiled floor, paint, and countless hours (and bottles of beer) of very hard work, but we now have a bathroom we love. I loved it so much that I wouldn't let the boys use it for the first 2 months.

In the end, after much bribery I gave in.

Come to think of it, if we'd had any suspicion that we'd be still working on the house, 5 weeks after that first day, we might have run for the hills. As it was, I ran for the back yard several times over the next 5 weeks.

One of the more striking changes inside the house was Max's room. It was one of the places where The Textured Wallpaper Experience was most evident, and Max was, sadly, not as enchanted with this experience as the previous owners had been. He was also the one least thrilled about having had to move, so, in an effort to appease him, I rashly offered to redecorate his room.


Here it is before we started working on it. Rather innocuous, other than the Texture of course, don't you think? It was roomy. It had a pencil holder screwed into the wall. It even had a lilac in full bloom right outside the window. Never mind that the window couldn't open. That's what we have imaginations for, right? And who wouldn't like a nice beige carpet? What's a few stains?

(is any of this working on you? it didn't work on Max either)

So I peeled off all the wallpaper. I peeled off the carpet. I peeled off the borders. And the polyester flounce. I tell you, I don't know what I was thinking, because after I'd removed everything, look what I found:

I suspect it was one of the boys' rooms, with all that black. It also had approximately 8,271 dart holes in the walls. Don't ask me how I know. Let's just say that me and my very large tub of pre-mixed Polyfilla spent a long time in here, working our magic.

Eventually I had the room filled, painted, and redecorated. Richard put in some laminate flooring. Max was mollified. Thank goodness. It wasn't pleasant seeing him lying on the floor, talking sadly about sleeping bags and hair shirts and eating worms in back yards.

Here's the finished product. The colour is known as Geoffrey's Room and for a brief moment we toyed with the idea of renaming our eldest, just for the sheer entertainment value of it all, but Max put the kibosh on that one. He was, as they say, not amused. At all.

He liked his room, though.

And now, let us turn our gaze back to the outside before this silly retrospective nonsense brief tour is over.

The View

No snickering please. Right this way. Quickly now.

A room with a view is no small thing. It was the one thing that convinced me that this house had potential, because it is perched on a hill, looks slightly southwest, has a massive sloping yard and gives the impression of being in the middle of (almost) nowhere, no mean feat considering that it's a city house - 5 minutes from town. It's also seconds away from this nature sanctuary. We walk here almost every day.
But there were a few things that detracted from the view, or, rather, The View, at least initially. They were all tall, with lots of green leaves. Some of them were quietly invading the drains. Some of them were looming over the roof with obvious mossy intent. And some of them were just plain overgrown. Here is what we saw from the deck, looking south, when we first bought the house:
If you look lower-middle-right (picture above), you can see Brian, the college kid who helped us to see this trestle bridge (picture below), which had been totally hidden from view up till then:He also removed a drain-invading, foundation-lifting birch, trimmed a large and menacing chestnut, and limbed the pine in the front yard, just in case it lost another branch to the roof in the winter storms.

And after all that we sat on the deck and contemplated our new project. So far so good. When I look out this way it all seems eminently worth it. Cheers!


Anonymous said...

Wow, that is a lot of worth. But it looks great. And I recall from my visit to your lovely city just over a year ago that there are some fantastic views to be had.

Nicola said...

It looks lovely now.

When the real estate agent showed us this house, we bought it because of the yard. The house had been lived in for a year by tenants who'd abused it, and we made it better again...mostly. Still haven't renovated every room, 14 years later!

Homeschool Journey said...

Hey Sheila,

Congrats on the reno of your house. We've been here six years and still renovating. There was so much work to be done that we had to tackle it one room at a time. I'm tempted to show my own renos, but need a good reason to switch topics on my homeschool blog - maybe if you tagged me - hmmmm. Or you could put up a mister Linky - just sayin.

Samantha said...

Wow Sheila! I'm impressed! All of those renos done in a year. I'm feeling a bit of a slacker ;-) We have been working on our house for five years now, and the yard doesn't look nearly as nice as yours. Of course, you know me. I tend to be easily distracted... Thanks for sharing the pics :-)

Ladybug Mommy Maria said...

Nice job - wow!

What color blue is that in Max's room?

I really like it - and we're moving this weekend!

sheila said...

Thanks for the comments. I'm sure what enabled us to do them all in 5 weeks was the fact that we weren't actually living in the house during that time - we were living in my parents' place (they were away in Europe). I don't think we would have managed much, especially the sanding and refinishing of the oak floors, if we'd been in the house the whole time.

Ladybug: the colour is known as Geoffrey's Room.

Homeschool J: you don't need an excuse to change topics on your blog! Leap, girl, into the Abyss!

JoVE - too bad your visit didn't coincide with ours. I would have liked to have met you.