Monday, August 1, 2011

The Green Mile

Today is a momentous day -- momentous in the "holy crap I can't believe how hard this has been and we haven't even STARTED YET" sense.  Today our architect sent us the final conceptual drawings for our house renovation.  For the uninitiated, this means we've finally agreed on what the thing should look like.  Easy, right?  Yeah, not so much.

A little background:

My husband "Victor" (har har) and I lived in Chicago with our young daughter until the year she turned three.  School was just around the corner -- and since the public schools mostly suck in Chicago (sorry, Mr. Mayor), we became part of the Vanishing Four Year Olds phenomenon and moved to the suburbs. 

Before long we found a truly crappy house in an awesome location, and thought "SCORE!  This is what all the real estate guides tell you to buy!"  (Note: the real estate guides are not married to Victor.  More on that in a minute.)  Never mind that this awesomely located house had been sitting on the market for nearly a year when most houses in the area sold in days.  Never mind that the seller's real estate agent had given up and told us to just go knock on the door.  We're fairly dense people.  Zombies could have greeted us at the door and we would have made an offer.  A low-ball offer, but still...

The house itself was a train wreck.  I'll post pictures because you wouldn't believe me if I told you what we saw.  It was so bad that we left 5 minutes into the tour, laughing and shaking our heads.  But, like a bad boyfriend, we just couldn't walk away.  We knew we could change him.

So we bought the piece of crap.

We immediately started sketching up renovation plans, because it was pretty unlivable.  The vintage 1-car garage was too small to pull into, and I could touch the cabinets on both sides as I stood in the center of the galley-sized kitchen.  We agreed that we would start construction right away.

That was four years ago.           

It's hard to explain what's taken so long.  Naturally, I blame Victor.  I fell in love with him for his rock-steady personality.  Unfortunately, rocks aren't known for their speed.  Of course, he could counter by saying I'm impulsive and prone to action over reflection, but that's not true.  OK, it is, but at least we'd have a freakin' garage by now.

Anyway, nine months ago I got tired of thinking about it and went ahead with a request to the village to let us build an attached garage.  The variance request was granted in March, triggering a six-month clock within which we have to be in for our building permit.  AHA!  This will get things jump-started!  Brilliant!

Silly me.
So now we have 7 weeks left in  our six month window, and we haven't started construction drawings yet.  The world's most patient architect has redone the conceptual drawings about four hundred times. We've gone from a simple garage + porch enclosure to garage + new kitchen, family room, mudroom and guest suite with bath.  We've moved the new laundry room to every possible location except the roof, then finally putting it back where she had it in the first place.  And while the process has driven me positively insane, I will grudgingly admit that Victor's question-everything approach has resulted in a much better product.  It also means we will be missing the north face of our house in December.

We now have 7 weeks for the architect to create a complete set of construction drawings, for the civil and structural engineers to produce their reports, for the disappearing tree guys to reappear and cut down 3 trees, and for us to find contractors we haven't pissed off yet. 

Stay tuned.

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