This week we’ve been working on the guts of the house—and by we, I mean our handyman Gustavo Portillo with M.J. assisting at times and me peeking over their shoulders trying not to panic when things get ripped out to Make Things Work in our kitchen and bathrooms. Take a look.
We knew the refrigerator wasn’t viable when we bought the house. The cooktop was down to one working burner and we suspected something was up with the tired old dishwasher since the newly refinished floorboards were buckling in front of it.
Gustavo pulled out the dishwasher and it was clear that there had been a leak there for a long time. Figuring that if three of the four appliances were going to be replaced, we might as well take advantage of some incentive pricing and upgrade them all.
But the cabinets needed to be modified to accommodate the newer appliances which required someone with carpentry, plumbing and electrical skills. Gustavo has them all plus a calm, steady presence that keeps me from
freaking out getting agitated when I hear the latest installment of What’s Wrong Now.
For example, none of the bathrooms have working ventilation fans. The guest bath and powder room fans were disconnected (too noisy, perhaps?) and there was no fan at all in the master bathroom–just a heat vent and a central heat lamp/light. Curiously, there was a mysterious vent outlet on the wall outside the master bath that looked like it should probably lead to a fan. Gustavo did some precision surgery on the ceiling and discovered a vent all prepped and ready to go but we needed a fan. He sent me off to Emperor Electrical Supply in Oakland’s Chinatown to pick up a Panasonic fan. I wanted to snap a few portraits while I was there, but that seemed rude. Let’s just say the place was full of characters as well as electrical supplies.
I brought two fans home—one with and one without a light—and decided to go with the lighted fan at the toilet end of the long narrow space and move the central light a few feet over to the shower. Maybe it’s because as a kid I’d occasionally step into the basement shower in our farmhouse and find crickets, grasshoppers or sometimes even frogs, but I do prefer a lit shower.
Finally, we played musical doors throughout the top two floors. The front entry houses three doors—a central front door flanked by the garage door on the right and bi-fold closet doors on the left. The front door is made of redwood and maple with medieval-style hardware including an elaborate speakeasy; we call it The Hobbit Door. The other two doors are made from unpainted fir with traditional panels. Everyone agrees that all three doors are good quality and likely upgrades from the original (plain?) doors, but since the style and color of the fir doors don’t match The Hobbit Door or compliment the modern architecture, the floor stain, or the white washed ceiling—the whole entry feels jumbled.
Interior designer William Anderson recommended we just trade out the side doors for simple painted white doors to clear the clutter. Painter Steve Vaughn has also been working on cleaning up the front door to give it a more contemporary look—more on that later.
Gustavo is reframing the closet opening to accommodate a smaller flat door which should approximate the dimensions of the garage door. We’re also replacing the powder room door with a plain door so that all the doors on the main level, with the exception of the front door, match. That frees up the powder room’s existing paneled fir door to replace the broken pocket door by the shower/toilet area of the master bath—which will also match two small paneled closet doors nearby. Still with me?
These are all projects we would have dealt with slowly over time had we just moved into the house. (Maybe–I was raised in a large family where you learned to make do and move on.) But having this month to work on small but significant construction projects means Team Pritchett is knocking them out before we move in. Then we’ll be back to putting things off as usual.