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The Money Pit – or Redecorating the Condo from Hell!

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I’ve not posted on Blog Critics since my landmark expose on Peep Abuse that appeared Easter weekend. I have a very good excuse. I’ve been redecorating my 1,200 square foot condo.

I call it the Condo from Hell, but it isn’t really that bad. During the last big Texas oil boom of the 1970’s, former governor John Connolly spearheaded the construction of our condos. You may remember him for another reason. On 22 November 1963, he survived after being shot that day in Dealey Plaza. JFK did not. Eventually Connolly went bankrupt and almost everything he owned was auctioned off in a very embarrassing public display. My condos were part of that auction.

Consequently, things have always been very interesting around here. Connolly started having financial problems when he was halfway into construction. Fortunately for me, the earliest construction was of the units where I live. I live in one of the better-made units. This isn’t saying much; trust me.

After a few years of living in a resort community, you get to know which contractor to call and which to leave alone. I learned the hard way. By the time I was ready to start working, full of new ideas (thanks to Martha Stewart), I ended up on Jody’s four-month waiting list.

Fifteen years ago, when renovating my father’s huge 60-year-old flourmill, turning it into an art gallery and gift shop, my patron saint of a movie was The Money Pit with Tom Hanks and Shelley Long. After a long day, and when my wonderful contractor would disappear to do a little deer hunting, I would go home, put on the movie, and just be thankful that “it wasn’t worse.” Trust me, it can always be worse.

My sister, a survivor of one massive home renovation and then recovery after an Easter morning house fire, likes to call it “a chain reaction.” I wanted to put a small closet office on the top floor of the condo. Currently I am using the dining room and table as my writing desk. I also wanted bookshelves. One of the great drawbacks of being a writer is books. You simply cannot write without books, especially research material. My books were everywhere. I could find nothing.

I’ve been talking a good redecorating game for several years. I had an idea what I wanted to do on my one large wall, but just couldn’t quite come up with anything practical. My condo is multi-level. The entrance is on the top level, where my kitchen and dining room are, along with a fairly large closet where I had nearly six feet of wasted space. In a small unit like mine, every square foot counts.

First, though, we had to remove the 30-year-old washer/dryer unit that occupied a very large closet. I have no closet space. I live alone. Why do I need a washer and dryer? I gave it away and coughed up about twenty bucks a month to have sheets and towels done over at the local laundry where they even fold them for me! I now have a linen and utility closet. I was ready for the chain reaction to begin.

I am a very crafty person. The little entry office I had built about three years ago for my books was overrun with crafting things. I needed a new closet. I was also at the point where I could not even begin working on the foyer office closet, or the living room bookshelves until the carport walk-in closet was built.

It is a thing of beauty – eight feet long and twelve feet tall. To save money I took four of the six shelving units that were holding my books in the living room and stacked them in the new closet. The entry office was now clear. I could get to the bookshelves. The other two shelving units went down into my new linen and utility closet.

The living room has a cathedral ceiling, the highest point being something like twenty feet or so from the living room floor. The dining room juts out above the living room, but still we’re talking a wall twenty feet long and twenty feet tall at the highest point. That’s a massive amount of wasted space. My problem was the fact that I just can’t afford to have custom made bookshelves.

For nearly two years I fought, argued, and avoided what I thought were incredibly tacky runners that my contractor, Jody, calls braces, brackets, and pre-made shelves. Thank heaven for Martha Stewart. I saw a decorator wall in one of her magazines. She solved my problem. The new shelves would be fourteen feet high and were something like fourteen feet long when completed.

Do you know how many eight-inch shelf brackets it takes when you put braces every sixteen inches apart and need to hold well over a thousand books? After five sets of shelves were completed, we used nearly two hundred of them! Do you know how difficult it is to find two hundred eight inch white shelves? Do you know that there must be half a million (a slight exaggeration) different systems? Brackets from Home Depot or Lowes do not match brackets sold by Ace Hardware. I went through about fifty white, eight inch by two foot laminated board, fifteen five foot, and a dozen three foot shelving boards.

Because everything was pre-cut, and all Jody needed to do was drill holes in the wall for the braces, I saved nearly a thousand dollars. I ordered everything from my local Ace Hardware, most of it at one time, and was given such a discount, I think all the shelving ended up costing me about eight hundred dollars.

Jody ended up costing me about a thousand dollars. If I had not decided on two additional extravagances — a three foot fountain I picked up on EBay for about one seventy five with shipping (half of what they were running in the local nurseries) and deciding to mosaic my ‘desk’ with very tiny tile — that little orgy would have ended up costing about two fifty. I was fortunate to have a contractor who was constantly arguing with me about what things would cost and how much money I was spending!

With the exception of the spontaneous bar made with eight by two foot shelving, I spent nearly two years investigating what I would do. I kept a yellow paint chip taped on my Martha Steward sea foam blue walls for over two years. In the end, I opted not to paint, but only touch up the Martha Stewart sea foam blue. (FYI, a practical person saves a paint can or stirrer or something with a touch of paint in it for future reference. No one has ever referred to me as practical.)

My mother has frequently informed me that I spent enough money on decorator magazines and books to re-carpet the dining room. In the end, though, I think all those copies of Martha Stewart Living and Better Homes & Gardens decorating magazines saved me quite a bit of money. My next quandary is to come up with an excuse to keep buying them.

I should mention that back in the winter, I managed to catch my 25-year-old oven on fire. Yep, I’m a terrible cook. The coils in the stove were ruined. I needed a new oven, but I just couldn’t get to it until everything else was finished. When I finally get around to replacing it, I’ll pull out this horrible carpet I have and put down some light colored linoleum. Then, we start rebuilding kitchen cabinets. Have I mentioned I’ve discovered that dirty gin martinis, shaken not stirred, do help one get through the redecorating process? Oh, I also want to put white tile down on the cement floor of the balcony off my living room.

Then…No, I’m not going to move. I like the location. Shaken, not stirred.

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About SJ Reidhead