The planning stage

An eerily familiar personal account of renovating an apartment, from the male point of view. Part One.

By MIKE BENN
October 10, 2007 10:29
3 minute read.
The planning stage

fd. (photo credit: )

 
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Some people joke that the ultimate test of any relationship is whether the fragile bond between two people can survive the rigors of building or renovating a house. Having recently purchased a second-hand apartment, Carmela and I feel as if we are now starring in our own reality TV program…with elements of Survivor, a pinch of the BBC's Changing Rooms and just a dash of a Vincent Price horror movie thrown in for good measure. Although the apartment is only a few years old and is in top-notch condition, we have the onerous task of not only designing the interior according to our taste and style, but also of converting a flat which previously housed a three-person family into a comfortable, aesthetically pleasing abode for a five-person family. Over the past six months, Carmela and I "exchanged ideas" (now wasn't that diplomatically put?) until we finally reached agreement on most issues. The negotiating process has been difficult, with give-and-takes by both parties concerned. However, having successfully reached the final stages, we've decided that our next challenge will be applying the skills that we developed in the fine art of negotiation to solving the Middle East problem - a task which seems like it may be a lot simpler in comparison to the decisions and compromises that we've made in planning the interior design of our new apartment. During the budgeting stage, Carmela wanted one thing and I wanted something else. We both fought for what we believed in, until eventually we reached a win-win situation that both of us could live with. Carmela got her brand new, side-by-side, state-of-the-art fridge... and I got my spanking new, hot-red plastic rubbish bin (with a lid) which was on special for NIS 30. Nobody gets the better of me! Recently, while lying in bed in our previous apartment, Carmela asked if I could switch off the light in the stairway. I patiently explained to her that I preferred to leave the light on, as its small but effective globe shone enough light into our bedroom that it enabled me to see the clear route between our bed and the bathroom, if (or rather more realistically, when) nature and my prostate called. "Why don't you ask Haim to provide you with a night lamp in the bedroom of our new apartment?" Carmela replied with a cheeky grin. (Author's note: Haim is our friendly building contractor/renovations specialist/handyman/receiver of great amounts of our hard-earned cash!) Her comment had definitely stimulated my gene for innovation and got me thinking about finding a solution for the majority of the male population over the age of 50. My first brilliant idea (let's call it Plan A) was to request that Haim insert a small series of lights into the floor tiles - just like the floor lighting in the aisle of a plane - that would be strong enough to illuminate the route from bed to toilet, yet not so overpowering as to disturb my beloved slumbering wife. (Carmela is normally a fairly light sleeper. Even the tiniest stimulus of a change in light or sound will wake her, causing her to cry out - "What? Where? When?" before rolling over and falling back to sleep.) The above option is obviously better than Plan B, which involved setting up a series of flaming torches or beacons to mark out the route from Point A (place of sleep) to Point B (place of urinary relief). Plan B is clearly better than Plan C, which had something to do with the nightly insertion of an indwelling urinary catheter. Then again, maybe it would just be simpler to leave on the light in the stairway. Another area for disagreement was the choice of tiles for our bathroom makeover. We took totally different approaches to choosing a suitable tile. Carmela's approach was to stand back and look at a wall of thousands of different ceramic squares of varying size, shape and color, and say, "I like that one, that one and that one." She had an uncanny ability to pick out the three most expensive tiles anywhere in Israel. My technique in choosing a tile was quite the opposite. I get up real close to the tiled wall - so close that the actual tile color and pattern become a mere blur - but close enough for me to read the very finely printed price tag. "Fifty shekels a meter: looks good to me." And so the negotiations between Carmela and I continued. The results of our combined attempts at interior design are the equivalent of fusion cooking - sort of like Yemenite malawah with an Australian Vegemite spread. All in all, I think that the end results are going to be really great, and something in which our bank can be really proud of investing so much money.

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