It’s an expression I first encountered years ago in an article that explained how your eyes get used to something and you sort of ignore it … are blind to it.
I bring this up because the people we bought the condo from didn’t notice or care that there was a bare light bulb on the laundry room ceiling. There was a refrigerator almost in the dining room. There was a broken front door. But when buying a new place, you see all the possibilities. You see a 25-year-old townhouse in need of some TLC.
And with that, our Columbia adventure began.
We both dove in — my husband, Arnie, into his new job as executive director of the American Society of News Editors at the Reynolds Journalism Institute here at Mizzou, and me into the remodeling.
Did I mention worrying though some sleepless nights at first? Here we were ― new job, new city, new home. I didn’t know a soul. I didn’t know the city. I didn’t know the stores. I didn’t know my zip code! But I did know we wanted to get the job done as quickly and cheaply as possible, yet still have something that looked great when we were done.
How to do that? It was easy when Columbia opened its arms. There are so many nice people here who helped in all my confusion. I spotted Can Do Crew’s truck at Lowe’s, called them up, and Will Lewis led the rehab. His slogan is “No job too small,” and he isn’t kidding. He also gave me the best advice: Do it all at once. I was only going to do the floor, furniture and bathrooms in Phase 1 and then tackle the kitchen.
He was right. Don’t let it drag on and more importantly, don’t mess up the completed projects. New flooring could be scuffed up with all the heavy appliances going out and coming in. Our new furniture would get dirty with the kitchen demolition. Lewis also steered me to Johnston Paint, where I met Courtney Loganbill.
“Can I help you?” she asked.
“Are you good with color?” I countered.
“Very,” she replied calmly.
We were off to the races. She was fun to work with and our choices of paint colors, tile, carpeting and wood flooring were spot on. I can also be a Nervous Nellie, and Loganbill was great at handling all my questions and concerns.
“Victory has many fathers; defeat only one.” That adage became my motto.
Lewis and Loganbill did the heavy lifting, but there were many others who made this remodeling experience exciting and, more importantly, successful. DKB’s Wes Wise helped me find my cabinet hardware and a white one-bowl sink, and he made my soapstone countertop dream come true. Bright City Lights’ Becky Cornelison would listen to me describe what I was looking for, pull out a product book and suggest the perfect light fixtures for all my trouble spots. I bought all our kitchen appliances and bathroom vanities at Menards because the staff was incredibly knowledgeable about the brands, features and benefits, all the while honoring my budget.
There are still things to do. We need a chair in the bedroom and a table for all the cable TV gizmos. I have to be careful because I don’t want to become house blind to those spots.
We are settling in. We transformed the condo in six weeks and made it ours. My early concerns and worries are distant memories. One early memory, however, remains clear. I was at The Market Place shopping, and decided to have lunch there at the darling little restaurant. Since I’d never been there before, I was trying to figure out the chalkboard menu — what to have, where to sit — and apologized for my vagaries: “Sorry, I’ve got the ‘whirlies.’ I just moved here and I always seem to be a bit confused. Um, OK, I’ll have the …”
She was, as so many others have been, very kind, warm and welcoming.
Will Lewis’s Tips For Working With A General Contractor
- Get a bid. It’s a starting point. But make sure, if comparing to others, that it’s apples to apples. Talk it through with each other. You want to find the right person. They want to do the right job, the right way for a price that’s fair for each of you. Be mindful that haul-away time and disposal is costly.
- Change orders happen. Problems arise or unforeseen issues have to be solved. Talk it through with each other.
- General contractors are not usually decorators. Yes, they have seen purple on walls but the right paint color is a personal decision. A color expert can tell you how light will react with it or that there are shades of green in that gray. A general contractor can get it on the walls with precision.
- Get referrals. Good contractors are proud of their work and their reputation.
- If something isn’t right with the job, tell your contractor. They want you happy, as per No. 4!
- Involve yourself with your project. Stay up-to-date with progress. Manage and discuss timelines, next steps, firm and squishy deadlines. Be a second set of eyes for your contractor.