Saturday, June 28, 2014

Let's Talk about Those Floors (My Red Oak Floors are Pink)


Don't try to tell me those floors aren't pink.  And BUSY.

This particular "welcome to home-ownership" party was WAY less fun than the "let's drink champagne in the backyard and feed cheese to the visiting cat while I pee my pants from drunk-laughing so hard" party.

Backstory: I have been dreaming and scheming for a long freaking time about what kind of floors I wanted in our someday house; replacing or refinishing the floors was always an integral part of my house plan, along with painting the walls white-white.  The floors came before furniture, before kitchen or bathroom renovations, before my big life dream of someday having 17 kittens snuggling next to my body all at the same time.  A well-executed floor sets the tone for the rest of the space and hot damn, there are some seriously beautiful flooring options out there.  Getting the beautiful flooring I've been dreaming about into whatever house we bought was a big, serious deal and something about which I was crazy excited.

By the way--I get that this is totally frivolous and not a real problem, but I have a pretty fancy life and this made me sad so let's just pretend it's a real problem.

The week of our house inspections, I had two flooring guys come to the house to give me a bid, as I wanted to get the floors done before move-in instead of having to deal with the mess/inconvenience after we were living there.  One of the flooring guys refinished my parents' floors last summer and did a beautiful job.  The other guy came on the recommendation of two friends who have recently used him.  When the second guy came to look at my floors, I showed him several photos of light, Scandi style floors and asked if that was a possibility with my floors.  His response, "Of course.  If that is what your heart is set on, we will make it happen for you."  I knew a lot of companies avoided Scandi floors because the process to get them can be time consuming and complicated.  When I expressed this to him, he said, "A lot of people won't do it because they don't have the expertise.  We have the expertise." So I went with guy two.  Guy one was going to be out of town for the first good bit after our closing date and slightly overbid guy two anyway, so it seemed like a no brainer and I felt super proud of myself for taking care of business and getting a really great floor refinisher who was going to make my floors look exactly like the ones on Pinterest booked to start immediately after we got the keys.

Anyway, we close 9 days early and my mama and I spend hours and hours and hours removing the carpet in the bedrooms (it was brand new so a friend took it to install in her living room) and painting our asses off.  We are masochists, so it was fun (also my mom brings good snacks and believes in drinking wine while renovating).  I also removed all the baseboards in preparation for the floor refinishing and had a super patient friend who pretends I'm not obnoxiously needy come remove a gnarly built-in from the dining room (he took it home, and to my credit, his girlfriend also thinks it's gnarly so the thing is living in his man-den).  It was a lot of work but so, so gratifying, especially as we saw the house become more what I wanted--light, airy and a little more modern.  Seeing it start to evolve was so inspiring and motivating and I was floating on clouds all day every day, even as my body became bruised and sore.

We finished all this work last Sunday since the floor guys were on the calendar to start Monday.  I met them at the house about 8:00, showed them the same photos I had shown their boss, they said, "great, we can do that," and after leaving my phone number with them saying I was never more than 10 minutes away and to please call if they needed me, I left them to do their thing.

Wednesday morning, I got word that they'd have samples ready for me to look at at noon.  A bit later, they said the samples wouldn't be ready by noon after all.  No big deal--I've wasted enough of my life reading design blogs to know not to expect strict schedules to be adhered to with renovation work.  At 2:00, I called to check in and was told they'd just leave me the samples when they were finished for the day and given instructions to circle the one I wanted for them to start applying in the morning.

Eeeeeeeee!  It was happening!

So I drive the three minutes from my office to the house after work to look at the samples, with (my fault) pretty clear expectations in my head, having shown everybody all the photos of what I wanted and having heard several times, "great, we can do that."  DUMB MISTAKE.  Do not have expectations-.  They will ruin your life.

All the samples were pink.  The whitewashed sample, the water popped white wash and the natural.  All pink.

Because my wood is red oak.

I knew my wood was red oak, but I fell for all that talk about "your floors are red oak" and "we have the expertise" and "if that is what your heart is set on, we will make it happen for you," and I made the mistake of not doing my homework and not asking enough questions.

So, the pink samples.

side note: This was also our one year wedding anniversary so instead of funky town, H got a bratty wife crying into her beer.  We did have a sweet little picnic in the backyard--I'm not a total asshole.  I was just mildly sad because my life was horrible and disappointing.  Happy anniversary, honey.

I looked at the samples for a good long while.  My mom came over and looked at the samples.  I had a friend who is a now a neighbor come over and look.  H looked.  We all looked at the samples and we all decided yes, they were pink.  We didn't get to the part of deciding my expectations are realistic, but at least my eyes read color somewhat accurately.

So I called the office and told them I was kind of surprised all the samples were pink and was there anything that could be done?  "Well, you have red oak."

Yes.  But remember that time you told me I had red oak floors and then you looked at the pictures of what I was dreaming of and hoping for and you said you had the expertise to make that dream a reality?

"Well, with red oak floors, the red just comes through kind of no matter what you put on it."

 Damn it all to hell.

The next day, I showed up to talk to the guy who was actually doing the floors (not the company owner) and said I understood my floors were red oak but did he have any ideas about what I could do to neutralize the red/pink because that really, really was my absolute number one goal, even more than getting light floors.  He pretty much said "No, not really.  It's red oak so pretty much no matter what you put on there, the red's going to come through."

Having researched a good bit on the internet, I asked if he'd ever tried wood bleach.  Being a super super experienced floor guy (not being sarcastic--he really is pretty awesome), he of course had used wood bleach, but mostly for removing stains.  I asked if he'd be willing to try bleaching to see if it removed any of the red, and because he was an insanely patient and kind guy, he was up for it.  He didn't even make me feel like a wackadoo.

So a couple of hours later, I got another call that my new samples were ready, and here comes the awesomest part.  My floors are not 100% red oak.  Red oak responds pretty well to wood bleach and the red oak boards were significantly lighter/more neutral.  My floor is red oak interspersed with white oak.  White oak turns yellow-green when exposed to wood bleach.

Long story short, I panicked and succumbed to the awful tendency to feel bad for taking up someone else's time (even though I am paying him for his time) and picked the natural finish instead of the whitewash I had been hankering after for months and months.

WTF was I thinking?  To be fair, the floor guy said he thought the natural stain was the closest to the photos I had shown him of what I liked/wanted.  And I believed him, probably due at least in part to the fact that I hadn't had lunch yet and it was after lunch time, but also because none of the finishes looked anything like what I wanted and with the pressure of having 12 hours to drastically change expectations that had been simmering for well over a year, I didn't say, "hey, let me think about this for a bit and let you know as soon as I am sure."

The photos at the top was taken the night after the sealer went on.  The first time I looked at the floors, my heart sank.  Objectively, I know these floors are beautiful.  I know it is a luxury to have a house where every room except the bathroom is covered in smooth, fresh wood floor.  I know a lot of people would love to have these floors in their home, but I am not one of those people.  I would never in a million years go into a showroom and pick this flooring for my house, even if it were free and came with a lifetime supply of the best ice cream in the world.

I walked away for a good bit, thinking perhaps my initial reaction was due more to the floors being different than I expected than them actually being awful.  NOPE.

I cried.  I debated whether it was worth calling the company and expressing how bummed I was about the color.  I pouted for an embarassingly long time and said something unnecessarily snappy to H when he got hungry for dinner and started making a cup of noodles (our second year of marriage is looking good!).  I decided, ultimately, to call the floor company.

Mind you--I am not really an asshole.  I never totally grew out of my bratty phase and I generally have pretty specific ideas of what I want, but I also understand those ideas exist in my brain and don't always translate to reality, so I'm deliberate in not holding others to those expectations.  In this case, I knew the floor company had done quality work and had done that work honestly and on-time, and I believed they felt they were crafting beautiful floors that I would love.  However, knowing I'd kick myself if I just let the process go forward, possibly missing an opportunity to rectify the problem, I left a voicemail with the company saying the floors were beautiful but I was super disappointed because they were so much more pink than I had expected based on the sample.  I may or may not have been holding back tears.  I'm sure it sounded pretty pathetic.

I know.  They're floors.  Still, I didn't sleep much that night as I worried about the extra cost of sanding the floors down, worried about the floor company saying, "tough cookies" and having to live with pink floors FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE, worried about having to move out of our current house before the new house was being ready due to floor-related delays, worried about why I care so much about flooring options, worried about whether this is a sign that nothing in my life is ever going to go right again.

I inherited this "let's save our worrying for the witching hours" trait from my mother.  Thanks, Mom!

Anyway, long story short (just kidding), the owner called me the following morning before their shop even opened and asked me to go to their office where they had red oak flooring installed with the exact same finish they were applying to mine "just to see."

The floors in their office were beautiful.  They were installed directly next to some ash floors (which is a wood I would have considered were we installing new) and the red oak was strikingly similar to the ash--a tiny bit more yellow, but still very light and neutral and markedly different from the floors in my house.

The owner was so GD nice and patient.  He offered to start over (though I assume it would still--fairly--come out of my pocket) and apply a darker stain to try to neutralize the red but emphasized that with time, my floors should lighten considerably and he felt very strongly that within about six months, they would start to more closely resemble what I was hoping for.

I can't say this made me feel immediately better, as the flooring company's responsibility ends Monday when they put their last coat on and I'm not going to know how these floors are going to end up for another year or so, long after the flooring company is out of the picture.  Yes, I can always start over or choose to install engineered wood over the existing floors.  That outcome just isn't ideal due mostly to cost and the inconvenience of having to move out of our house for a week.  So for the moment, I wait and hope and let my little brain do its magic of growing accustomed to the floors so I don't notice their bothersome hue anymore, at least until (hopefully) that hue changes.

Hopefully it's clear that I feel at least a little self conscious about letting myself become so upset over such a relatively small thing, but the it's not really just about the floors.  It's about moving out of the dream world of Pinteresting my imaginary house and plopping me hard into reality, which is a kind of sucky process.  It's like how you remember your last vacation versus actually being on vacation and starting your period the second day but it's a week early so you didn't bring any tampons and you're somewhere rural and non-English speaking so you have to look up words in your translation dictionary to explain the issue you are having to the young man working the register because the only available sanitary supplies are pads from 1984 and they are on a shelf BEHIND THE COUNTER and and you only brought bikinis to wear because it is a beach vacation and you quickly recall why you started using tampons in the first place because of that one time at summer camp when the super hot camp counselor asked why you couldn't join everyone at the water park.  And then you get an itchy, welty rash all over your tummy and realize you have a severe allergy to mangos and tacos, which is pretty much what's available to eat.  And then you get attacked all over your body by a jellyfish right before you hop on the six hour plane ride home. That vacation is my pink floor saga.  It wasn't bad.  It just didn't quite match up to expectation.

So I keep looking at the floors, giving my brain bits here and there to get used to.  I'm remembering that the purpose of this house isn't to be a dream home but rather the home in which we live the next part of our lives.  I'm remembering that there is an amazing pear tree in the backyard absolutely loaded with fruit, and all of the incredibly nice neighbors have already come over to say hello.  I'm remembering I won't be examining the floors when we have dinner parties or spend Sunday mornings doing the crossword.  The floors matter but they also don't.  I want a very specifically kind of beautiful home, but that idea will evolve as we live there, as ideas do.  And hopefully, fingers and toes crossed, the floors will lighten.  But if they don't, they don't, and the lovely thing about floors is there are lots and lots of options, one of which is to just decide they're fine because they happen to be the floors that live in our perfect little house.

This house feels more like home this week than it did last.


Friday, June 27, 2014

Coming Home

Our new bedroom window, looking out on the fruit trees in our backyard.

As most of you might know, we bought a house.

It was a house we came very close to missing; priced a bit over our budget, it didn't come through the automatic mailings from our realtor of properties coming on the market.  My mom, whom I had repeatedly told, "it's too much" when she would excitedly call me about cute houses she found (whose owners she almost always befriended, hoping it would convince them to sell us their house, and also because the woman flipping loves talking to people), found this one for us.  I at first blew her off but something nudged me to take a peek.  And then another.  And then, nervously, to show H (silly to be nervous--I think he might love it even more than I do).  And then to finally, FINALLY, call our realtor with the news.

This was the house.

It's funny...I didn't subscribe to the idea of just knowing a house was the right house while we were looking.  It seemed an impractical approach for such a big decision, but really, I didn't subscribe to it because none of the houses we had looked at were it.

We made our very best offer (a bit above asking) two days later and three weeks after had the keys.  Props to the team who made that happen for us, for real.

So we've been painting and tearing up carpet and having the floors refinished and dreaming about kitchen remodeling and buying special cat pheromone plug-ins to (hopefully) help the filthy babies with the move.  I was full of steam (tearing out three rooms of carpet and painting every single surface in that house--ceilings included--with my mama in the first week) for a good bit.  And now.  Now the quiet sweetness is settling in, knowing this is home we are going to.

Moving is a funny thing.  I have deeply loved this house that has kept us warm and safe for the past seven years.  It's the house where we have become who we are.  It's the house where I realized every wall needn't be a different color, where I proposed to H and planned our wedding, where two little obnoxious kitties decided they would allow us to be their people, where we've built friendships and prepared Sunday dinners, where we've fought and grown and learned and sighed and laughed and watched way too much fucking Netflix TV.  This house is in a neighborhood that has become exponentially better over the past seven years, so much so that I was at first convinced we needed to stay here to continue to be a part of what is happening (it's okay--it will happen without us and we will celebrate it all the same).  As excited and ready as I am to move to this new home, this new chapter, as excited as I am to notice what changes it carries into our lives, I leave our current home with the deepest, sweetest gratitude.

So we will hopefully be moved next week.  We're waiting on the floor refinishers to finish their work.  We've been starting to move some less important things over as we are able.  I started scrubbing cabinets in our current house today and will clean out the closets this weekend.  It is happening.

I have not made a secret of the fact that this year has been what I might generously call a "growing year."  It has been harder than I admitted even to myself, for fear admitting the difficulty was also admitting a small doubt of my ability to not be lessened by it.  As I neared my birthday on June 20th, before we knew of this house, I was ready to chalk the year to up to one that wasn't intended to bring joy but rather learning and introspection, hoping within that acceptance that my next year would be different.  And then the house came a bit more than a week before my birthday and I realized the year had started with a marriage and ended with a home--two hugely happy, long-awaited events that sandwiched some growth I don't think I'll fully comprehend for a good long while.

Not bad for year 28.