Renovation: Condo and Memoir

When I bought my snug condo last October, I promised myself I would not get involved in a long renovation project. There was nothing really wrong with the place, except for being a bit stuck in 1984, when the building was built. (The photo above is the dining area as I first saw it.)

Well, nothing wrong except for the 20-year-old carpet. Carpet and my lungs don't get along. And carpet replacement isn't really renovation, or at least not much. It's pretty simple. Carlos Ornelas, the head of maintenance at my condo complex, pulled up the old carpet, and my fabulous Cody contractor, Jeff Durham, drove to Santa Fe to meet me and install plank floors. 

Only there was a rare October blizzard the day Jeff left Wyoming hauling his workshop trailer. By the time he arrived at midnight, he figured he was hauling an extra ton or so of snow and ice. Still, he plunged right into work the next day, and by the time he left at the end of the week, I not only had gorgeous new plank floors and baseboard, I also had a chic ceiling fan-light in the dining area, thanks to my artist friend CC Barton, who had removed it from her house down the hill. 

The dining area with new plank flooring and the new ceiling fan/light (the old one is sitting on the floor–it went to a good home). 

The new floors looked so great that I decided to have Carlos paint a few of the walls something other than white, to add some color. That wasn't really renovation either, just paint. 

The living room, with plank floors and paint–and Arabella, who rode all the way from Wyoming in the back of Red, my truck. 
The living room, before the not-exactly-renovation improvements. 

With new flooring and paint though, the kitchen really looked tired. 

The kitchen before (you can't tell how shabby the cabinets are in this photo, or that the breakfast bar is so tilted you could easily roll marbles–or food–off of it.)

So I decided to have the cabinets refaced and the counters replaced, plus I bought new appliances at a fall sale. None of that was really involved, and it would all be done before I moved anyway, so it wasn't really much renovation.


Well… Actually the kitchen didn't get finished until February, because of the usual issues–stuff we didn't expect to have to fix, the holidays, appliances that got delayed, and so on. But it was worth the wait, no doubt about that. 

The dining area and the kitchen after renovation. The breakfast bar is level, the cabinets aren't ugly, and the appliances all work.

After the long kitchen process, ultimately satisfying as it was, I said to myself, okay, No. More. Renovation. 

And I didn't listen. In March, Nick, the manager of our condo association, announced that he had negotiated a bulk buy for good-quality windows and patio doors to replace the 35-year-old not-great-quality originals. He was looking for owners interested in pioneering the replacement project, which the association would manage with a contractor Nick had selected and vetted. So of course I signed up. 

Because… I feel like I've found my forever-home. And because I had saved up money to buy my small van-camper, and when that fell through, I figured I might as well invest in improving my condo.

Also, replacing the old windows in my Cody house with new ones in the same style but more efficient showed me what a huge difference that can make, in comfort and a smaller energy footprint. Since I live and work in my condo and I care about climate change, those matter–along with beauty. 

So this week, my living room, which had been looking pretty settled, went from the photo above to the photo below, as Jose and crew of Twins Construction took out the old sliding glass doors, which leaked so badly it was ridiculous, and put in the beautiful and solid new ones.

Except… the manufacturer sent a door that opens from the right side (from inside) instead of from the left. So this door is tacked into place until the correct one is made and shipped, in about three weeks. 

The rest of the project went more smoothly, if not more quietly. Removing the old doors and windows, and cutting a new door opening from the guest bedroom to the patio where there was just a window before involves pounding the stucco off the walls outside, and pounding the metal drywall corners off of the inside. Which makes for dust, and–did I mention this?–noise. A lot of both.

The new door opening from the guest bedroom to the patio in progress. 

The door in place and trimmed, waiting for touch-up paint. 

But oh! The new windows and doors are solid, beautiful, and well-insulated. My condo is now much quieter than it was before construction, and the temperature stays constant. So its definitely worth the cost and disruption. 

The new window in my bedroom/office. 

After the adventures of the past week, I promised myself that I am NOT doing any more renovation.

At least not until fall, when I think I'll tackle one of the bathrooms, which both have stupidly low counters and tub/shower units showing signs of leprosy…

I am doing some renovation to my memoir-in-progress. I read the first 20 pages of Bless the Birds out loud before submitting them to another publisher. As I read, I "heard" some places that could be improved, so I did a bit of revision. Just as with my condo after Jeff painstakingly laid down the new plank floor, once I made some improvements to those first twenty pages, I could see other parts that needed work too. 

So I'm reading through and renovating the story, paragraph by paragraph, page by page, chapter by chapter. My aim is to go from darkness to light, grief to laughter, even as the story cycles through Richard's brain cancer and death. I'm highlighting our shared terraphilia–our love for life and for this Earth. It's not easy, but it feels right.