When we moved into our apartment seven and half years ago it was in “estate condition.” This is New York Real Estate lingo for absolute disaster. It was a sponsor apartment meaning even though the building had gone Co-Op in the 1980s some tenants remained renters and the landlord just waited until they died or moved until he could sell the apartment. So in we walked to an apartment with 80 years of lead paint, linoleum layers upon linoleum layers, fake wood paneling and a kitchen and bathroom that hadn’t been touched (or cleaned) in about 30 years. We were young, had twin 4 month old babies, and knew that this was the best apartment we could afford – and that we even lucked into – this being Manhattan and all. So we put in our Ikea kitchen, a new bathroom and the best floor refinishing and paint job we could afford after spending most of our savings on a down payment.
Now we’re seven years in and everything is falling apart. The microwave – kaput. The dishwasher sounds like a motorboat. Our fridge broke down in the heat of July. The dimmer switches stopped dimming, the floor boards creak and moan, the paint is chipping and cracking despite our contractor swearing that he skim-coated the walls, and most of all we’re still looking at furniture that we swore would be temporary when we moved in with infants but now has become unwelcome permanent members of the house. Luckily I won a consultation with an amazing interior designer at our school’s auction and called her up hoping that she would come over and whip up floorplans and furniture ideas that would be both shockingly low in price and amazingly cool in concept.
Well, it didn’t go exactly like that.
Instead she walked in and I could almost see the sadness in her eyes. This was not going to be as simple as flipping the couch and bookcases to opposite ends of the room. No, she regretfully informed me our apartment needed a serious facelift. A Joan Rivers style suck it in, pull it up, and reconfigure it makeover starting with a massive stripping of all the prewar woodwork (and the 90 years worth of paint), a new wood floor and a true skim coating of the walls. No new furniture or lighting fixtures, or anything really until the underlayers and bones were put back into perfect shape. Why spend money on Chanel if you’re going to forget the Spanx underneath that makes it all look good?
And I agree. But, of course our entire redecorating budget disappears in a puff of lead dust once it becomes a renovation budget. There’s the part of me that’s angry that our contractors didn’t do it right the first time. The part of me that wishes we knew what the hell we were doing when we bought our first apartment and a huge fixer upper at the same time. And the part of me that thinks we won’t be in this apartment for more than a couple of more years so who cares (but knows deep inside that that is what we thought over seven years ago when we bought it and yet here we are.) I often think of what Oprah says on those Nate Berkus redo shows where he swoops in and works his magic – that a home should rise up to greet you when you walk in the door. I feel like my home is sitting in its underwear with its hands down its pants, nursing a six pack and flipping the remote, barely registering my existence when I walk in the door. And really, no one needs to see that.
This post originally appeared on nycmomsblog