Saturday, November 5, 2011

Chalet Shenanigans, Chapter 4

Renovation Rules

Once we finished with the notaire and officially owned the house, (which is called Chalet Ruisselet, or Chalet Near a Little Stream), we drove directly up the drive with plans to start immediate demolition.  This is how we roll.  We are crazy people.  Ahh, see, none of you really know THE REAL US because I’ve only been writing this blog since we moved to Switzerland.  Because we RENT an apartment in Lausanne and our landlords live directly below us, I think they might notice if we started ripping out walls and jackhammering through the floor even though we really want to and we have to restrain ourselves on a daily basis.  I don’t think we are even allowed to paint, if you want to know the truth.  I’m not sure because I haven’t been brave enough to try.

But, now that we OWN something, we are off like hounds to the scent.  Happily for us, Mr. Big and I each have our own different paths that we follow when a renovating a house or a commercial building.  This time will prove to be no different.  We pull up in the driveway and say to each other,  “Off we go then.  Ta ta, luv, see you next Wednesday!  Come find me if you do anything really spectacular!”

Here’s the key to a happy marriage and a happy project:  don’t try to do anything together.  Ever.  It will end in disaster.  Trust me.  In fact, the more square footage you can put in between you and your spousal unit, the better.  If he is working in the upstairs bedroom, you should be working in the basement.  Get it?  Meet for dinner and compare notes.  Works every time.

Our General Rules For Renovation Projects work so well because he and I operate in two completely different solar systems .  I tend to gravitate to the THING THAT IS BUGGING ME THE MOST AT THAT PARTICULAR MOMENT, get rid of it, fix it and make it pretty.  That’s my modus operandi in a nutshell.  Mr. Big, however, just wants to wreck stuff.  He finds the biggest project that involves the most power tools and the most demolition and the most dust and he is as happy as a pig in slop.

For example, take Day One.  Day One, I just wanted to set up the air mattress so we would have some place to sleep, go to the grocery store so we would have some wine and cheese and make sure the fireplace was working so we could light a fire.  Mr. Big wanted to take four doors off of their hinges and dismantle the jambs because they were giving him claustrophobia and making the hallways “too squishy”.  So he did and I sat in front of the fire and had some wine and cheese.

At dawn, though, on Day Two, I was up and at ‘em, Atom Ant.  I had decided that the thing that had to go first was the pink and purple kitchen.  Oh, let me be more specific.  The pink and purple kitchen with the orange terra cotta tile floor and the red painted stenciled flowers on the cabinets.  Yeah.

So, I was up with cows tearing out the backsplash, taking the tiles off the floor, pulling the oven and hood out onto the patio and generally having a heck of a good time.

Mr. Big wakes up groggy, stumbles into the kitchen and says, “Um, what happened to the oven?”

I glance up, way up, actually, because I am sitting on a tiny footstool dislodging floor tile with a hammer and chisel.  I nod in the general direction of the kitchen door and say, “It’s on the patio.  Why?  Did you need to bake something?”

“Er, no, just wondering.  And the microwave?  And, um, the countertops?”

“Already in the dumpster with the range hood and the backsplash.”

He knows he is in violation of The Renovation Rules just by virtue of asking me these questions, but I am in a forgiving mood because it is not even 8 o’clock in the morning.  Technically, he should not even be stepping foot into the room where I am working, but I will let him slide because I know that all he is really concerned about is if I have thrown away the coffee machine or not.

“Um, honey”, he ventures tentatively, “will there be any coffee available this morning?  Or should I look elsewhere?”

Snookums!  Good Christ, of course there is coffee!  What do you think this is?  Guantanamo Bay?   Look, there’s the Barbie fridge, still intact, and, directly on top of it, voila!, the coffee machine.  OK, now, only in Europe is the fridge the size of an under-the-counter appliance upon which one can put things.  In America, if one put something on top of the fridge, only Yao Ming could reach it.

Off he went, coffee warming his little fist, to do whatever he wanted to accomplish on Day Two.  Which, apparently, involved a Sawz-All because the house shook when he fired it up.  I didn’t even have to leave the kitchen because I knew that he was attacking the bathroom-slash-powder room.

Here’s the deal.  Europeans don’t get the concept of the powder room.  I don’t know if it is because they don’t have guests or entertain, or what, but they just don’t get it.  They are trying, bless their little Froggy hearts, but they are not there, yet.  Consequently, you wind up with the most bizarre bathroom configurations imaginable.  The most common attempt is to put a separate toilet, by itself, somewhere near the living room.  No sink.  No, no.  The sink AND A RANDOM SHOWER/BATH is in another room by itself, somewhere in the general vicinity.

So, say I am having a party and a friend wants to “freshen up”.  Do they go in the room with the sink?  What if they have to pee?  Do they go in the room with the toidy and then go into the room with the sink?

  And, why is there a shower in the first place?  Do we need this extra shower?  It is adjacent to the living room.  It’s bizarre, I tell you.  And don’t even get me started if there is a bidet involved in the equation because it just makes my little head spin.

Anyway, I know what Mr. Big is up to.  He has a plan to turn the two weird bathroom configurations into one room.  Picture this:  there is one skinny, little coffin of a room with just a toilet sitting in one end of it.  (I wouldn’t even pee in it.  I felt like Patty Hearst.  It gave me the creeps.  The outside of my calves touched the walls when I was sitting.)  Then, directly adjacent, there is another long, skinny room with a sink at the end and a random shower.  You know what’s coming don’t you?  Mr. Big was taking out the wall in between so we could have one normal sized bathroom with A SINK AND A TOILET IN THE SAME ROOM.  No so much to ask, right?

However, it was not going well.  Major curse words were coming out of the two bathrooms.  Why?  Ah, well, that is a story for another day.  Let me just say this.  We are not dealing with sheetrock and framing here, folks.  This chalet was built “en madrier”.  And there I will leave you until next time when you will learn that “en madrier” are big boys’ Lincoln Logs and why French children within one half of a kilometer radius of our house now know multiple swear words in English including, my favorite, Rat Bastard.

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