Chop and Change
I’ve been leading a double life. I’m an editor by day, and in the evenings and on weekends I become a home remodeler.
For the past four years, my husband, Tom, and I have been renovating a 40-year-old condo in center city Philadelphia. Our decision to renovate was a no-brainer. We got the unit for a reasonable price (all right, it was cheap). And it’s in a good building and a neighborhood that I love.
“Needs a little work,” the realtor said cryptically.
“Define ‘little,’” Tom gave her a sideways glance.
We went to see it. She wasn’t kidding.
By the end of this year we will have replaced everything except the walls and floors. Literally everything is or soon will be new: kitchen, bathroom, appliances, windows, light fixtures, heating units, even the closet doors. In a neighborhood where other couples have matching dogs and track suits, Tom and I have his and hers Home Depot credit cards. Contractors in our neighborhood know us by our first names. I’ve learned to be quite the tape-measure holder.
I’m not complaining, mind you. The condo is looking fantastic. And sale prices for units in our building spiked upwards after we bought it, so we’re confident our rather hefty investment (gulp!) will pay off.
As anyone who has done a major refurbishing can attest, remodeling is both exhilarating and exasperating. When is the HVAC guy coming back to finish the work? Will the tile match the new kitchen cabinets? How long will we be without water in the bathroom? What do you mean we have to order custom-sized doors?
Luckily a few catalogers and e-merchants have been very helpful throughout this four-year odyssey. For example, we were looking for some light fixtures. We’d made some unsuccessful trips to specialty stores before visiting one of my favorite Web sites, www.catalogcity.com. We clicked on “home,” then “lighting,” and discovered Bellacor, which offers a terrific selection of fixtures. We were hunting for two wall sconces: the two-bulb type, antique brass, glass shades, no more than 20 inches wide. Bingo, we found them. And we ordered some track lights for the new kitchen while we were there. Even better: Shipping was free! Love that.