Browsing Archives for Construction Diary

Salvaged Medicine Cabinet

July 8th, 2009

Originally posted October 2007

Over the course of building our house, I have had a few very minor disagreements with my builder, Dennis.




A few months back, he did not appreciate my decision to leave the pine treads and risers on the steps to the loft unpainted.   I had originally told him that I was going to paint them and with that in mind, he did not choose flawless boards for the treads. Some of the boards have tool marks, and some minor dents and dings, but I don’t mind. I think they look rugged and edgy and cool and I am just going to apply a few coats of polyurethane and call it done.  





Dennis does not agree, and would have chosen perfect boards if he knew they were going to be left exposed to every eyeball that ever looked their way.  






He also does not like this medicine cabinet.

That is to say – he does not like that I am not going to re-finish this medicine cabinet.

When he first saw it, he asked me if I was going to paint it.

“No” I said, “I think I am just going to leave it like it is.”

“With all that peeling paint?”

“Yes – I think it looks cool.”

Dennis shook his head, sighed deeply, rolled his eyes and said, “You are a dingbat.”

I bought this medicine cabinet at Architectural Salvage in Kansas City. I bought it because according to every single home design article I have ever read in Country Living Magazine, This Old House, Country Home, BHG, Popular Science, The New Yorker and National Geographic – if you don’t have a piece of salvage in your house it is not really a house. It is really more like a hovel…or a cave…or a hole in the ground. Desperate to live up to the standards of these style setting tomes, I went out and got me some salvage.






I must say that I do really love this cabinet, and I do really love the peeling paint. I am not just some sort of mindless, catalogue junkie, magazine article directed, bunko playing, ceiling fan watching housewife without a brain. Dingbat is a much more accurate description.





It is pretty ain’t it?

I woke up on Thursday morning, looked out the window and saw a familiar truck parked in my driveway.  A truck that was a fixture around this place for over a year.  A truck that I used to tuck little envelopes inside of, under a spare pair of pliers or a hammer so that it wouldn’t blow away.  Envelopes with checks inside to pay the owner of this truck for all of his hard work. 
Because this truck belongs to the man who built our house.  
When I saw that truck, I threw some clothes on and rushed downstairs to snap a few photos.  I had to take the photos quickly,  because I was not going to be able to hound them all day long with my camera as I now have a job.  When I told our builder, Dennis and his crew that I would not be able to take pictures of them working on the house all day long, they just sat down on the grass and started sobbing.  
I had no idea that my taking pictures of these men working on my house meant so much to them!  
Okay – actually that is not true.  Actually, when I told Dennis and his crew that I would not be able to hang around them all day long taking pictures while they worked and ask stupid questions about what they were doing and why they were doing it and how they were doing it, and what they were going to do next… and  oh dear!!! if you don’t mind…  I would like to change everything you just did… etc…etc…  
When I told them I wouldn’t be able to hang out with them all day long… they all got tiny little smiles on their faces.  
Yes… tiny little secret smiles and I could kinda tell that on the inside they were dancing an Irish jig and hoisting massive mugs of frothy brew above their heads and tossing nearby barmaids into the air, and catching them and then dancing a Russian jig while balancing a shot of vodka on their heads and then tossing a Siberian husky into the air and catching it and hugging it tightly and then…  Okay – well maybe the whole Siberian Husky thing is a bit much…  but I don’t think they were very disappointed when I told them that I was not going to be able to document their every move.
I am pretty sure they were not disappointed at all.
Not even a teensy bit.  
But I was…  
Look –  Jordan grew a beard over the winter!  
Anyway… what I mean to say is that they spent Wednesday installing the screens on our screen porch and giving the front porch one final coat of paint.  It was so nice to see them.  I am so glad that Dennis and Jordan built our home.  Even if I did torment them the entire year they were building it, by being a constant nuisance with my camera, and my changes, and my questions.  
They tolerated it amazingly well.  
Dennis keeps talking about retirement.  He seems to talk about it particularly a lot whenever I am around.  But in my dreams, the Country Doctor and I build another house about fifteen years from now.  A much smaller, much more affordable house. 
 And how could anyone except Dennis build it???
Who’s up for another construction project being blogged!?!?!  
Raise your hand!  

I think that counts as a hand raising. Yes… I think it does.

They finished before I got home.  I didn’t even get to say goodbye!  But I did get the address of the new house they are working on now.  Moohahahahahahah.  Moooohahahahahaha!!!

Men At Work

March 3rd, 2008

The foundation for our house was dug in early September. After years of dreaming, planning, and drawing hundreds of houseplans, we had a hole in the ground. I drove out to the site one hot afternoon as a work crew was setting up the forms to pour the basement.

Three pick up trucks were parked around the building site but there were no workmen around. I decided that they must have all gone to lunch in one truck as I got out of the van with my four year old son. My son scurried up one of the big dirt piles as I slowly walked around the foundation snapping pictures. As I approached the back of the hole I noticed some boots beside one of the trucks. Wait, those were not just boots, there were also legs…attached to the body of a …man! No wait – two men. Two men were lying down in the shade under the truck taking their lunch break. I was a little surprised to find them there, but tried to pretend that I had known they were there all along. I nodded and smiled at them and continued to circle the foundation taking pictures.

As I rounded another corner my perspective on the basement changed and I saw another man stretched out in the shade at the bottom of the hole. He had long flowing white hair and looked sort of like a wizard in jeans in a t-shirt. I waved at him and tried to remember if when I got out of the van I was picking my nose or talking to myself – because I was so sure that no one was there. As I completed my walk around the foundation I suddenly noticed another man quietly sitting in one of the trucks with a cold drink. He raised his hand in a slight wave. I slight-waved back.

It was odd how the men were separated from each other and so quiet. I suppose it was just a way to have an efficient break maximizing your rest without having to go somewhere for lunch. The silence was pronounced, but they didn’t seem like the kind of men that would be chatty under any circumstances. The strangest part however was not the quiet or the odd places they seemed to be in (under the truck?), or even the wizardy appearance of the guy in the hole, but rather how I felt suddenly disassociated with my own house. I mean I had planned, and drawn, and sketched, and sharpened pencils, and learned to draw elevations, and read books, and articles, and clipped magazine pictures and figured out a virtual reality architecture program, and measured staircases, and ceiling heights and porch depths, and taken pictures of every old house that turned my fancy to get to the point of actually building a house. And now walking the perimeter of the foundation of my dreams there are suddenly four strange men involved.

Four strange men I have never seen before. Four strange men I do not even know their names. Four strange men hired by our general contractor to build the foundation of our house. And suddenly I feel like I am a trespasser. I feel like an intruder. An intruder in my own dream.

The men were just men – hard working men on their lunch break. It was not their job to shake my hand or tell me that my foundation was the most spectacular foundation they had ever had the privilege to work on. And it was not really my job to shake their hands or critique their work or ask a bunch of questions since I had no idea what to ask and I know nothing about building a foundation. So instead I climbed the dirt pile with my son and looked at the hole some more and snapped a few more pictures. I was trying to make myself feel like this was my building site and this would be my house and I had every right to be here. But I didn’t. I felt like an outsider. So I loaded up my son and we drove home. Later that evening I crept back out to the site and walked around again. This time I was really alone and the house felt like mine again.