Words by Tara Pepper

As I sit here writing this blog, I feel like I’ve come home. I’m here in my living room sitting in my writing chair. Does that sound weird? Let me explain. Bobby and I have been renovating our living room and dining room for the past month. Or, more truthfully—Bobby’s been renovating it. All I did is to decide on the design and colours; he’s done the majority of the work.

During this time, however, my favourite chair, my red chair, the one that I love to enjoy my weekend coffee in, to read the paper in, to sit and write in, has been turned upside down with its legs sticking up the whole time. Today, finally, it’s been turned right-side up so now I’m sitting here with my laptop on my lap and my feet on the coffee table: totally, supremely comfortable. Just like that joyous feeling that you get when you enter your sanctuary after you’ve been away for a while. Mmm… it feels so good!

The last time we decided to renovate, we needed to totally gut and re-do the two bathrooms upstairs. I’m not sure why, but one of them was leaking into the kitchen ceiling, so of course we needed to fix that too. We interviewed contractor after contractor and tried to evaluate who had the best pitch. Talk about drama, not to mention expense—this was not going to be a cheap undertaking.

We finally decided on a contractor that we liked and then set out to get it done. I did the design and have to say that now, even a few years later, I still love my bathrooms. Maybe I should have been a designer…  hmm, no, probably not! Anyway, I chose all the cabinetry, fixtures, lighting, tubs, toilets, sinks, taps, shower stuff, vanities, tiles and so on, and then flew to Australia for a month—now that’s the way I think renovations should be done!

Bobby and the boys lived through the nightmare of a powder room and a full bath in the basement for them to use, while the two other bathrooms were totally gutted. The leak had caused mold to form within the walls; I understand it was disgusting to see all that black stuff growing. The ceiling in the kitchen had to be totally ripped out and redone, which was fine since it was a very ugly “California” ceiling to begin with. Did I mention that I chose the pot lights and pendants to be installed once the ceiling was torn down and re-drywalled? More time, more money—it’s never-ending.

By the time I got home from Australia, all the work was pretty much done. There were only a few finishing touches left, like the glass surround of the walk-in shower that took the better part of the next month to be completed. Every time I used the shower in the boys’ bathroom, they gave me a hard time! Bobby described the horrendous experience they’d had with all the construction—the mess and the filth but all I had to go on were the before-and-after pictures. Poor me!

Now it’s time for us to do the living, dining and family rooms on our main floor. These won’t be major renovations, but after being in the house for almost 20 years, it was time to replace the ugly carpets which after my last birthday party were totally stained with spots of red wine and other things I’m not willing to identify. At least I know my guests had a good time by the evidence left behind!

While we’re doing the renovation, I decided that it was time to change the claret red of the walls to something more soothing and to get rid of the doors that stopped the house from having that open-concept feeling (the doors to the front hall and kitchen). The ugly carpet was to be replaced with the hardwood we’ve always wanted, and that proved to be the hardest decision of all. There are so many choices out there that it really was a challenge.

Bobby decided to do the majority of the work: filling the myriad of holes in the walls, tearing out the carpet and putting 700 screws in the floor to secure it (i.e., to stop the squeaking). He painted with the moccasin colour I opted for on the walls.

Then it came time for the contractor to come in and do the floors. We chose medium brown hickory floors in a diagonal pattern instead of straight across. It took them a full day to finish that. We also replaced the two-inch baseboards with six-inch baseboards. One important thing that I haven’t yet mentioned is that I took off for San Francisco in the middle of all this work. Hmm… is this a trend? I’m good at design, but let’s be realistic: do I want to be here during the mess? No way!

The final furniture was moved back into the room just yesterday, and Bobby and I played with picture placement today. The rooms are amazing—they look huge! I love the floors and the new colour on the walls. Everything fits. We’ve pilfered furniture from other rooms and will need to go and replace it with something new. How exciting! I’ll go back to work tomorrow and Bobby will finish bringing in all the stuff from the cabinets, etc. It’ll soon be done. Hooray!

But wait! Remember I said the family room was to be done too? That hasn’t yet been started. My upright grand piano, which has had its home in the dining room forever, is still in the front hall and will have a new home in the family room, but can’t be moved there until it’s ready.

And then there’s the dust. I could write a novel in what’s on all of the surfaces, everywhere, even upstairs. Yuck! I’ve already made all the choices for that room. It was just supposed to be the carpet, but now that’s changed. Our contractor, Raffi (who is also our neighbour), was here the other day, and what did he say? “You know, you really should do the family room in hardwood too, for resale value.” And his lovely wife, Anette (the designer), also has many ideas of what we should do… so maybe we should.

So now the plans have changed. I want hardwood in the family room. And while we’re at it, the natural wood wainscoting is kind of old—we should probably replace that too. We could put a nice chair rail and baseboard in there, or not. And what about the fireplace? It will either need to be repainted or resurfaced. So many decisions, so little time. I just want it done.

But of course, I’ll make the decisions, decide on the finishes… and then I’ll schedule my next business trip when the time comes for the actual work to be done. I’ve managed to avoid the majority of the chaos by being away; did you really think I’d be here through this one too? I’ll have to start working on my travel plans right away!

Up next: I’m already thinking about a kitchen reno, and a trip to Borneo! Until next time!