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.]
Dear Madman of LAShire,
I’m still available at a very reasonable rate with loads of experience of working with paint grade people and madmen!
Sir Sean (master DIYer)
Master Carpenter Seanset,
It might be cheaper to fly you out here and have you do it. Not sure I could afford your beer budget though.
We are crayon-grade around here so you are way ahead of us. Remodeling your kitchen should give you tons of great material for this blog.
What’s crayon grade? Sounds fun. I don’t want it to give me bunch of material. That would mean something had to go wrong. I want it to go smoothly. Alas, nothing does in my life, so yes, blog material coming.
Craigslist, dude. I know you’re familiar with it for the normal stuff, but you can find AWESOME appliances, cabinets, granite slabs, tile – you name it, it’s out there – usually an order for one of the Beverly Hills types you mentioned who changed their mind. And without the pesky planning and deskwork required by a design-build that most contractors hate, I’d bet they’d see a simple afternoon of demo and installation as easy money. Also, you would necessarily even need a contractor-level installer…
Regardless of how you’d go about getting the labor, I’d definitely check around on Craigslist for the “parts”. You might be shocked at the “spoils” you can glean. I was!
Apologies for the delayed reply. Life stuff got in the way. First, it’s good to hear from you. Hope you are well and having fun in life.
Great suggestion about CL. I’m Mr. CL. I hadn’t thought of it. I’ll check it out. Perhaps there will a Beverly Hills type who wants to adopt an individual who happens to look stunning with a bag over his head.
We’re currently remodeling our kitchen, too! Well, let me rephrase that. Our house is formerly a duplex and we’re basically trying to remodel the entire upstairs apartment in order to make the whole thing a “real house”. We decided the kitchen would be the first major project so Adam recently tore out the flooring and a few cabinet and, immediately realized it was going to be a MUCH more expensive and time consuming project than we anticipated (we’ll be doing 80% of the work ourselves). So now we’re living in a total disaster area until we figure out what the hell we’re going to do. We’re seriously considering just sanding and re-hinging the existing cabinets, slapping a fresh coat of paint on ’em and calling it good… for now. I guess I never realized it, but we’re totally paint grade people as well. Best of luck to you!
Hello to you. Doing the work will save money, but it does take more time. I learned this when I did a bathroom remodel myself. 6 months later . . . . This time we’re looking forward to the three weeks the contractor promised, which is especially important for a kitchen as we eat there.
Best to you and apologies for the late reply,
Gee, even the LA contractors are pretentious!? Must be in the water. Don’t let them make you feel less-than: saving for your daughter’s college is WAY more important than solid cherry cabinets. Just any kind of kitchen redo is a big morale boost, I think. Don’t stress and try to enjoy the “process.”
Yes, it must be all states that have certain contractors like this, huh? I don’t know about college for my daughter? What about making it on her own so her parents can have a higher-grade granite? 🙂
Wishing you the best,