We’re done with our kitchen. After 16 years of Home Depot cabinets with sagging shelves and broken drawers, a tile countertop with missing grout and a stove fan that circulates air into the kitchen, we are ready to upgrade – to experience the good life of smooth granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, and glass-tile backsplashes.
We are ready to stop lying to friends who visit: “we’re planning on re-doing this whole thing soon.”
We are ready for an adult kitchen.
Or we thought we were.
What we believed would be a fun and exciting transformation has a been a self-esteem roller-coaster. And it has to do with living in Los Angeles, where it’s damn easy to feel poor every day.
Yes, interviewing contractors delivered the harsh message: we are “paint-grade” people.
We are the people who don’t choose the stained, hand-picked maple cabinets or the stone mined in a remote area of Brazil, polished with coca leaves, and hauled by donkey to the United States.
We are the people who don’t have the unlimited funds to give the contractor a platinum American Express card and instructions to “go wild.”
Could we afford the maply-goodness of stained cabinets? Probably, it’s all home equity. But it’s still our money, the money we worked for. And we elect to save it for a rainy day. Four-thousand dollars to us is not a trivial amount. We’d like our daughter to get a good education. And 4K in her college fund today may be a big deal to her in eight years. Or we hope it will.
So the contractors have come and left their bids and stories of larger, better jobs in larger, better cities – Beverly Hills, Calabasas, Encino. “We’re doing a 30-million dollar remodel in Century City. Some computer-guy and his wife. You’re much happier than they are though. They agonize over every detail. They love to micro-manage.”
(Translation: Money will buy you a great kitchen, but it won’t make you happy? I have my doubts.)
Or this gem, “It’s good to see construction here in the Valley picking up. That’s a good sign for the economy. It never went away in Brentwood and Beverly Hills. You couldn’t drive down a street there without construction.”
(Translation: The 1% did okay while the rest of the country was hurting, but they weren’t enough to create the jobs for the many. The middle class is needed for that.)
The paint-grade people are needed to get the party started.
So, the search continues for the right contractor, the one who walks into our kitchen and doesn’t tell me romantic stories of past million-dollar remodels and 30K custom-built dining-room tables. Who doesn’t feel the best jobs are in high-income zip codes. A contractor who doesn’t frown when you tell him you want painted white cabinets.
Yep, when I find that guy or gal, I’ll write the check. Until then, life in our paint-grade world goes on. And it’s a good, happy world to be in.*
[*Exception: when remodeling a kitchen.]