Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Oaklanders are coming!

As part of their Renovation Road Trip extravaganza, I got a visit from Chris and Meryl of Picardy Project. Meryl and I have known each other for about a year online but had never met in person. That always makes me nervous, so I obsessed over the state of the house in the days leading up to their visit. You'd think that would mean I would attempt to fix or hide my shoddier work but my brain went into stupid mode and said "YOU SHOULD BUY AN ENORMOUS PLANT."

So instead of buying renovation supplies to make their work go faster, I bought a new plant. Because you know Chris and Meryl would walk into the house and immediately judge that my air isn't pure enough. I found a bamboo palm (Chamaedorea seifrizii) at Ikea, which is one of the top plants for removing toxins from your home.

Oh my god, what am I talking about? Sorry, I'm so sleepy today. Anyway, Meryl and Chris showed up and it was immediately like we'd known each other forever. I highly recommend letting them in, should they ever arrive on your doorstep.

I didn't have any major projects for them to help with; instead I had a long "homeowner fatigue" list of things I could probably do myself but I'm tired and a little worried I'll do it wrong, and also there's a new episode of Revenge on the Tivo and those cookies won't eat themselves in bed.

First up: that hideous light fixture over the kitchen sink. This is what it looked like right after I moved in.

I took it down halfway when I painted the kitchen and the wiring looked strange to me. Chris took down the fixture and confirmed that, nope, everything in there was pretty normal. I felt really silly. I'd spent all this time with an ugly light when my wiring was totally normal! He got the fixture, an old piece I bought on craigslist three and a half years ago, rewired and hung up in less than an hour.

I've been wanting to repaint the kitchen, so this should be just the motivation I need.

Next we moved to the living room, where I was pretty sure there was an electrical box in the center of the ceiling, hiding beneath a spot where the plaster looked a little different. Chris climbed up into the attic, confirmed that there was indeed a box there, then carefully excavated the box and revealed the wires.

You know how normally when you hire an electrician or a plumber they'll use a sledgehammer to open a tiny hole in the wall? And then they'll leave dirty fingerprints everywhere, necessitating touch-up painting and a ton of patchwork? Chris and Meryl don't do that. There are tarps and careful placement of hands and no additional patching or painting required.

You remember how my wiring in the kitchen was supposed to be weird but it was just fine? Well, ha ha Chris, I TOLD YOU MY WIRING WAS JACKED. This is where everything got a little frustrating. For Chris, that is. Electrical is his gig, so Meryl handed him tools and assisted with testing while I braided Meryl's hair and tried to convince her to move to Portland. I was useless. The rest of the day was mostly Chris wandering from ladder to outlet to attic to ladder muttering, "This just isn't right."

Greetings from the attic.

It turns out there is an extra wire in the ceiling box. A whole bunch of weird stuff runs to here and we can't tell if the light that used to be here ever had a switch hooked to it. Despite digging around in the insulation in the attic and chasing wires, we just couldn't figure it out.

We decided to leave it for a professional electrician, one who we can pay to swim around in the attic insulation. Chris recommended installing a new switch and running brand new wire to the box. I asked him if he'd cut the switch box hole for me, because I didn't want an electrician to do it. I don't want to patch and paint this room again.

So he made me a perfect one. Then he and Meryl spent the rest of the afternoon in a shame spiral, convinced that they had failed because they hadn't magically fixed the fact that my entire house is wired imperfectly. There was a rush to fix anything else I could throw at them.

Shaky bathroom vanity? It's properly anchored to the wall now.

Strike plate that would fall out of the door jamb because the screws were stripped and the holes were way too big?

The holes were filled with toothpicks (a This Old House trick), then four-inch screws were driven in. The strike plate doesn't fall out anymore and it will make it much more difficult for someone to kick in the door.

All the sticky parts were lubricated and weatherstripping was put up. It was like Christmas but without your drunk aunt saying something shitty to you.

Please come back, Meryl and Chris, because I've thought of 600 more things I need help with. I promise none of them are electrical.


  1. What an incredible couple -- I went over and read about their road trip and was amazed! The internet is a strange and wonderful place when you can make good friends like this out of the thin air of cyberspace. Nice. And they did a great job on your projects!

  2. Aren't they great? And they drove SO many miles to do it.

  3. You were visited by angels? Angels with tools? And electrical and plumbing skills? I'll pray harder now.

  4. They swore an awful lot for angels.

  5. We've been here 7 years and I could still come up with a fine list for them to tackle...I'm a lame homeowner.

  6. You're not lame. I'm fairly motivated that way and I'll *never* fix everything that needs fixing.

  7. Next time they are around...send them my way too! I'm amazed by "handy" mind just doesn't think that way. Love the new kitchen light...very cute. Believe it or not, we just installed the kitchen toe-kick last weekend. Of course, I you can't see it except when you come up from the basement...but I KNOW it's there ;-)

  8. Oh my gosh, come install toe kick at my house! Ours is missing from beneath our dishwasher. :)

  9. Just discovered your blog. I'm the owner of a very similar 1939 "ranchelow" over on N Holman, for which I also paid over asking in the midst of the downturn. I wish I could get someone to work on it for free!

    Is your HGTV segment online somewhere? Would love to watch it.

    The house looks great btw, congratulations!

  10. It looks like they pulled the video of my episode offline--I think HGTV is phasing out My First Place. Sometimes it ends up on Hulu for a while. Thanks so much for your kind words about my house!

  11. We have a great electrician--if you want his number.

  12. Sharon, you are wonderful--I'll email you for it. Thank you!

  13. Wowser! Those kids work well. I love your new-old kitchen light - it's perfect. (And it took us three years to replace the bare bulb in a guest room with the light fixture I bought on eBay. We clearly don't believe in rushing things.)

  14. The BEST angels swear ;)

    I have been rejecting commenting on anyone's posts about the trip because I'm so sad it's over. I guess I'm hoping that somehow if I don't comment it means the trip will start again... who knows. And starting to write the posts for our blog for next week about visiting everyone's house is even more B.S, I miss everyone!

  15. Sara @ Russet Street RenoNovember 15, 2012 at 6:59 PM

    I love the part about Chris muttering 'this just isn't right'...I can totally hear him saying that!

  16. I felt so bad--he was so annoyed with my house!