Home Diaries Best Pictures Road Trip
Saturday, 19 February, 2000
Dear Friends, Family, and Others (I hate to leave anyone out),
Well, I inspected the new place today. It's scary. Real scary. Maybe not scary like packing up in ten days and moving to Ukraine but no to be taken lightly either. This is not remodeling, it's new construction. But I am getting ahead of myself so I'll go back to the beginning.
On the 16th of November, we took a step none of our friends have done and put down a deposit on an apartment of our very own. We'd been looking for a few weeks and fell in love with a charming "San Francisco style" place, just behind Marianne's school. About 1300 square feet by US measurements. It needs some work but that's what we wanted, a PROJECT.
From the outside it's pretty standard for old buildings here. Five floors of apartments, two per floor. A bit run down but in the process of being remodeled one apartment at a time. Now is our time.
The original kitchen was cozy, especially for the original family of 6 or 7 but we knew it would be replaced. We got the keys on December 27 and actually walked through "our place". By now, the cozy kitchen looked just bare and primitive. It was dawning on us that we had taken a serious step.
But the charm of the place was still there. The emptiness just made it easier to see the nice details in the doors, floors, high ceilings and original trim. The pictures on left and right are from the "Living Room" which we will transform into a Great Room with kitchen, fireplace, copper-top bar and new stained glass doors. Emphasis is on the "will" because that's a ways off.
In January, our designer/architect Lena finished the basic remodel design and enabled us to hire a contractor. Basically, the remodel is fixed price. That's both good and bad. We know what we'll spend but it's almost as much as the purchase price of the apartment. The first two weeks of the builder's contract, "all" he did was get permits. Fire department, sanitary department, building maintenance department, architectural department, and the Historical Building Committee. We're not exactly sure why the building is historic but it is pre-Revolution and that alone probably makes it historic around here. Of course, all this time all we see is money going into payments and nothing happening at the house.
Then, about ten days ago, demolition started. I'm not sure why demolition starts from the bottom up but it does. It was pretty exciting to see how we will be able to see from one side of the place to the other. One day I stopped by after work and still could smile. After all, it was progress and so what if it's a bit drastic, these contractors know what they're doing. Probably.
So today, four days after the scheduled end of demolition, I walked Marianne to school and went to inspect our new castle. Remember the bare and primitive kitchen? This picture shows that it really can't be called bare anymore but primitive probably still fits. There's junk three feet deep so I don't think we can say demolition is "finished".
But the scary part is seeing
details for the first time. Like "The
Crack". That's a load
bearing wall with two floors and a roof above us just waiting to
crash down. But not to worry, we actually knew about that problem and
the architect has some sort of repair scheme that will make it as
strong as new. (I wonder how strong THAT was?)
Of course, there's a new ceiling section. This cracked and corroding concrete will be just above our new bed. I've got nightmares already.
Speaking of ceilings, there is a bit of detail just to give a feel for what the inside of this place is made of. The old wallpaper covered a variety of materials - plaster over brick or lath (wood strips) or, in some cases, Soviet-era wall board. That's why all walls but the bearing walls are being torn down, even if a wall will be redone in the same places.
So, there is dust and destruction everywhere. Ceilings that we wanted to salvage are falling down. The old plaster on walls may not be good enough to salvage either. And we haven't even tried to get the wallpaper off yet. Or look under the floors to see what cracks and crevices lurk there. But the next progress payment is due tomorrow. That's the only thing that's on schedule.
picture is taken from
where the new kitchen will stand. Maybe it IS possible to imagine the
new stained glass in the doors and the new finish on the old floors.
And the fireplace just to the left of the glass doors. And the copper
bar from which our celebratory champagne will be poured. And the wall
of glass shelves in the library leading to the front porch.
Maybe this markup helps the imagination. Maybe.
John and Marianne
Home Diaries Best Pictures Road Trip
Originally mailed February 19, 2000. Reformatted for the website May 19,2001. Again reformatted January 16, 2017