Thursday, September 8, 2016

De-Southwesting, Session 1

As it happens, this last year of moving from one quirky place to another has increased my tolerance for just living in a space. While I haven't by any stretch, turned a blind eye to the outdatedness of any given abode, nor have I refrained from commenting on the garishness of décor. However, I have learned to just live with it.

Eric on the other hand, has spent the last year waiting for the time when he could engage in house projects once again. In some ways, this has, by contrast to me, diminished his tolerance. In this house, the object of his first angst was the tile.

Anita's kitchen
By all rights, the tile WAS ugly. Original to the house, the tile was an unfortunate byproduct of the early 90's, an era that resulted, I am sure, in the suicide of more than one interior decorator. Original to the house, the tiles were an homage to southwestern archeological digs, their facades vaguely resembling the decayed pottery remnants of bygone generations, the designs faded and nearly unrecognizable... in pink and beige and crème.

The tile surrounding the front door lasted about 2 weeks. One Friday night, Eric said "I can't take it any more. That tile has to go." And it went, replaced with a 12x18 modern grey tile that fits our decade much better. Taking advantage of the "you've moved, here's a coupon" offer from Home Depot, he also went and picked up tile, mortar, and grout for eventual future projects.

While I was in the Dominican Republic the week before the Ascent, (because why not go to sea level three days before climbing a mountain?) Eric tore out the tile in the kitchen. This was made infinitely harder by the realization that the tile had been put in before the cabinets, and spanned the entire width of the floor. Additionally, the mortar used to secure said tiles was apparently applied with a thickness that rivaled that of the stage makeup applied to Harvey Fierstein during his turn as Edna Turnblad in Hairspray.

An air chisel was required for effective removal.

For those of you who are not aware, and air chisel is the indoor, household-approved (?) version of a jack hammer. Eric reported that while expensive to rent, it decreased work time by about 80%. That's not to say that it made this project easy, because once the massive amounts of old tile were chiseled out, the remnants had to be hauled out, a processed that filled not one, but three 32-gallon roller totes that are NOT taking themselves up the driveway, as much as I would hope.

In went the new tile. By "in went," I mean the tedious, laborious process of measuring, dry fitting, cutting, mortaring, and finally grouting tile over a series of days while attempting to maintain productivity in ones 9-5 job. The kitchen somehow grew from "average size" to "cavernous" in some sort of Alice in Wonderland-style mind mess.

By the time I got home, the tile was done, save a couple of corner pieces that went in the next day. The floor looks awesome - so much better than that old tile. Good job babe!

The rest of the house looked a little like a dust storm had hit it... thank you, air chisel. Confession: I was a total jerk about this. As happy as I was about the new floors, I was a mean, nagging shrew about the dust, and that was wrong of me and I feel bad. Mortar dust is apparently fine enough to go through walls, and insipid enough to penetrate your soul. Mortar and tile dust had drifted everywhere, and with people coming to stay with us that weekend, and then the next week, it was a race against the clock to get everything cleaned and in working order again. While I was running the Ascent, Eric, my long-suffering partner in crime/home remodeling took Old English to our hardwood floors, which made them glow like teenagers in love, with the same amount of greasy sheen until we performed a synchronized-swim-like duet on them, taking towels in hand and underfoot to rub in the well-overdue conditioner. By the end, they looked great, and no one fell down and broke anything walking on them. We also ended up basically redoing all of the cleaning we had done just weeks ago, and then some. We exorcised the remaining microscopic southwestern kitchen demons out of house just in time for two rounds of guests.

The second round of guest left on Tuesday, which meant we immediately purchased paint and went to work on the walls, since I had said something genius like, "Let's not put the baseboards up until we paint the walls." I wasn't thinking that would mean that we would have a stack of baseboards in the garage, not to mention the moulding we had to take off of one side of the pantry door to install the tile below, complete with exposed brad nails that had a knack of being just where you were at the right moment to poke a hole in something important (like a toe or a shirt.) However, the "Flesh Tone #4" paint color used throughout the kitchen, dining room, and living room just doesn't go well with modern grey tile, and the sooner we got rid of it, the sooner the kitchen would be closer to our envisioned future-state.
Our kitchen, phase one complete
We have more people coming this weekend (I need to buy a guestbook.) The race was on again. Most of the first coat of paint went up Tuesday night, and the rest of coat one and all of coat were added in a marathon session Wednesday night. The baseboards were reattached Thursday evening, and we cleaned and reconstructed.

There is still more to do in the kitchen. We want to paint the cabinets white (whether we do this or hire it out because my OCD can't take drips or brush marks remains to be seen), and the countertops will need to be replaced. They photograph pretty well, but the reality is that the 20 year old, 12-inch granite tile is buckling in places, the grout is stained and chipped, and there is a pink fleck over the black and white field that sets Eric's teeth on edge. However, those are projects for another day.

Now, about that accent wall in the bedroom...

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