Sunday, March 11, 2012

This old house: apartment makeover, first steps

Our apartment is about to come under scrutiny. It’s funny how this makes me crazy, but it does. Our landlord is coming into town; he lives overseas for most of the year for his job, and he actually hasn’t been in Ottawa since we signed the lease…which, you can imagine, made some of the minor repairs that come with a move-in a bit more difficult to deal with. Lucky for him (and me!), Brian likes working with his hands. 

BEFORE: former tenants' dining room (sorta)

AFTER: we made it our living room.

I was looking through some photos that we took of the apartment when we first moved in. This is a habit I got into long ago, as I’ve found that even the nicest landlord can sometimes turn into a raving Mothra when you try to tell him that that hole in the wall was there when you moved in. Flipping through these photos, I realized something nice: while we’re still pretty far from completing our ‘nest’ the way we envision it, we’ve come a long way from the way the place was lived in by two bachelor college boys. 

The gap in the door.
Our bathroom: owls!

Brian's shaving set, a prized possession.

Our bathroom door is still crooked. Well, to be fair, the walls are crooked, as the house is sinking down into its own belly. The reason the door appears crooked is because, while the house sank and the door began to rub incorrectly in its jamb, someone clearly started shaving off bits of the wood. Now the door has a gap at the top that is wide enough to stick my hands through. It’s a cosmetic issue only…except when we have guests over and suddenly it’s awkward that you can hear everything so very easily.

BEFORE: former tenants used as TV room in attic.

AFTER: we made the TV room our bedroom!
More decorating to come, on a forest friends type look.

There are parts of the apartment that I absolutely adore. The pot rack that Brian installed on the kitchen wall is a lifesaver, and has eliminated the horrible clanging sound that usually occurs during cooking as we dig for the right pan. With the warm weather approaching, we are eager to set out seats on our little balcony, and when we eventually reorganize the art room/studio upstairs, it’s going to be the sunniest, coziest place to craft stuff on a Saturday morning. 

BEFORE: tenants' old bedroom #1.
AFTER: our new art room/office, instead of bedroom.

At night, we climb the stairs to the attic level and crawl into our big bed, under the cheery covers we picked out. I miss Jon Stewart because we lowered our cable TV plan to afford our rent, but Brian will play Big Bang Theory repeats on his laptop for me ‘til I fall asleep. In the morning, I’m greeted by warm yellow walls, even though there’s almost no natural light filtering through the tiny windows. 

BEFORE: former tenants' bedroom.
AFTER: dining room/workout room, and study area.

This is the backdrop against which our lives are lived. This is where we cry, laugh, whisper, and shout. This is where my friends can come anytime they need to chat; it is where I experiment on Brian’s gastrointestinal tract with my cooking endeavours. Every morning I shower in the tiny tub with the hot water pipes whistling and knocking in the walls. Every night I cringe a little at the roaring highway traffic zipping by a meer 50 yards from our heads. I have a closet where I effectively can find all my clothes, and just this week I separated my socks from Brian’s so I’d stop pulling on the wrong ones in the morning. 

BEFORE: kitchen.
AFTER: our wonderful pot rack!

I want more time with the house. I feel like we just started to get to know each other, and then my attention was pulled away for a standard out-of-the-house workweek. Today we created a chore schedule, and it’s my sincere hope that we can start DIY’ing more of our furniture (some needs a coat of paint badly), and making curtains.

The landlord’s impending visit makes me nervous. It’s as if I bought a used car and a year later, the original owner shows up and examines how I’ve maintained it, and what dashboard toys I’ve chosen. I worry he will sneer when he sees my wok and Corningware is stashed with the linen, or that he’ll flip out about the toothbrush holder Brian installed because we have no bathroom counter. With its imperfections, tiny spaces, and odd shape, this is the most I’ve ever modified an apartment to fit my needs; and while I think we’ve been pretty ingenious so far, I don’t want this man to pass judgement on it. 

One of our many items needing paint.

Still, the last guy slept on a mattress on the floor; if the landlord’s going to sneer at my hidden pans, he must have fainted when he saw the garbage bag of inexplicable onion skins that were stashed in a deep kitchen drawer by the last tenants. Oh, wait—he didn’t see those because we had to clean them out.

My happy place.
This post was really just an opportunity to show you some photos of our efforts so far…but as I’ve written it, I realize how far I’ve come in three months. While I’m clearly showing signs of possessiveness about the place, I think I can safely say that I’ve fallen a little in love with it, too. Of course, this morning I had hot water for my shower, so that colours my sentiments today. But yeah, I kinda L-word this place. Just a little.

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