Sing it with me, “What a difference a year makes…. 8,760 little hours….”
A year ago today, over the course of about 10 hours, our house flooded from the inside. With damage to about 50% of our home sweet home, Harry and I decided to make lemonade out of lemons and proceed with a remodel that we had planned to do...in about five years.
Having never done this before, I soooo naively thought that we’d start right away. That maybe we’d be done by fall, or at the very latest, by Christmas of 2014. Well, this is what our house looks like. One year to the day after the flood:
Um, wow. She looks great, doesn’t she?
Now, what you can’t see are the hours of design and architecture work. The weeks in finding the right contractor. The months to get everything just right for final permit approval. There’s also a gorgeous and wildly expensive new retaining wall that no one will ever notice, and hundreds of pounds of concrete and rebar, forming the foundation of what will become our new downstairs.
All of that in a year.
So, here’s the thing. Whenever I get frustrated about this whole situation (which is all the flippin' time, by the way…), I am reminded of the many things I’ve come to understand along the way. Here are the biggies:
1. As my friend Julie Brown said to me on the night of the flood, “That was the hand of God. Y’all never would have started this remodel on your own. And now it’s gonna happen, and it’s gonna be great.” She was right. On every single point.
2. Miraculously, everything that would have been demolished if we ever got around to the remodel is exactly what was destroyed in the flood. (Should I mention that whole “hand of God” thing again?)
3. Note to self: buy a house that is slightly falling into the street. That way, when water starts to fill the upstairs, front bathroom, only the front half of the house will be destroyed.
4. Insurance is a godsend. Get it and keep it. You never know when you’re going to need it.
5. Things may take longer than you think they should, but they take exactly as long as they are supposed to. Given all the decisions that had to be made between November 22, 2013 and today, there is no way on earth our plans then would have been as good as they are now. We needed to give each step the proper curing time.
6. Some people say that the key to having it rain is to get your car washed. I say the key to having it rain is to pick up your construction permit from Town Hall. Then sit back, and watch it pour. For days. You’re welcome, Northern California. You’re welcome.
7. If you’re going to live in a 600-square foot guest cottage (really, a converted garage) with four people, it’s better to have two of those people be 8 and 10, as opposed to, say, 13 and 15. Especially if those two people are boys who will surely grow big, stinky feet.
8. One day we will look back on this time in the cottage with great fondness. And no, I’m not even remotely kidding. It’s weirdly special and together-y. I’m also pretty sure that it will take weeks for us to spread out again, once we have more than one room to occupy. We'll just wander the new house in a tight, little cluster.
9. Work with people you want to invite into your life everyday. This is especially important when some of these people arrive at your home every morning, while you’re still in your pajamas. This was one of the best pieces of advice we got at the very beginning. (Thanks, Erin.)
10. Trust. In yourself, your spouse, your children, your choices. Trust in your architect, in your designer, in your contractor. Patttabhi Jois famously said of yoga, “Practice, and all is coming.” I say, of remodeling, “Trust and all is coming.” My contractor, however, says, “Wine helps.” So there’s that, too.
11. The thing you think you’ll miss won’t be the thing you’ll miss. I thought I’d miss space: separate bedrooms, a living room, a bathroom not shared with elementary school boys. What I actually miss are people. I miss having people over, having them fill and overflow our house, and then hike up and around our hill. I miss having a place for friends and family to stay for a week, a weekend or even one night. I miss the sounds of parties, of playdates, of book club, of girls' night. I miss having new families over to welcome them to town, and I miss having old friends over to watch the Giants win the World Series. The good news is that the new house will be better equipped for all of this than the old one. But the bad news is I’m growing impatient with what feels like a forced construction quarantine.
So this is where I am, one year in. And I’m sure this list will grow as the months go on. Our contractor says we’re about a third of the way through. But is that a third from November 22, 2013? A third from the date of the permit? A third from the day the jack hammering started? Who knows. All I know is that it will be done when it’s done. And then we’ll live a heck of a lot of life in it.
As Julie told us on day one, “It’s gonna be great.” And you know what? I believe her. 8,760 percent.
PS: Here are our wonderful resources for this remodel. I can't recommend anyone more highly than this incredibly talented, patient, dedicated and lovely team of people. I promise to share pictures of their beautiful work when it's all said and done!
Designer: Julie Brown, re:design
Contractor: Kamran Misaghi, Kami Construction