Monday, November 20, 2006

Job done - except for a door handle

One of the reasons we chose the home we now live in was it's potential to expand to meet the needs of our growing family or, more accurately, the growing needs of our family. While the four bedrooms upstairs, the decks and the section around the house provide plenty of room to sleep and move around outdoors, the open plan area downstairs means that we all tends to end up on top of each other in the combined kitchen-diner-living-office area. Unsurprisingly, this lack of privacy and space can lead to frayed tempers, heated debates and the odd slammed door.

Before - utility room and office area

Most Kiwi homes seem to have, either by design, conversion or addition, a second living space variously called a family room, rumpus room, kid's den or sleep-out in the case of a separate unit. Half the ground floor of the house was taken up by a double garage with a utility area in one corner and, even during our first viewing, we were measuring and planning how we might covert it into another living space. In the months since we moved in, the garage was used as a storage and dumping area while we settled into the house. However, once I had built a new shed next to the house and moved the remaining boxes, bikes, bits and bobs in to that, the way was clear to convert.

After - office area and door to utility room

We called in a local builder, John, who replaced the automatic garage door with a window and ranch slider, rewired the space with halogen lights and lots of power outlets, built two stud walls and relined the ceiling. This neatly divided the space into a large sunny L-shaped room opening onto the front of the house and a smaller laundry/workshop with a door to the side passage. With the building work finished, SWMBO donned her 'Changing Rooms' hat and set about painting the rooms to her usual standard - those who saw how she transformed our London flat will know what she can do with a few cans of paint. With the decor sorted, John the builder returned to tile the utility room and last Friday, after I had smoothed and filled the holes in the concrete floor, we had underlay and carpet fitted in the larger room.

Before - the view from the homework/craft area

Not one to let the kettle go off the boil, SWMBO cracked the whip on Saturday to push the project to completion. As she headed off to a business seminar with her direct marketing colleagues in Auckland's CBD, I juggled the usual 'taxi' run to the sprog's dance classes with picking up a few last minute things to complete the conversion. Once back home, I relocated our home office furniture and family computer to the designated 'office' corner of the new space and installed and configured a new wifi network and broadband connection to serve the whole house.

After - the view from the homework/craft area

The last major job on the 'Honey, do!' list was to hook up our old UK television/video combo to a budget DVD player that sprog No.3 won in a school competition a couple of years back. Having warned that, as a UK unit, it'd only play region 2 DVDs, I and the kids were pleased to find that it happily plays DVDs from both regions 2 and 4 - a nice surprise in this day and age of locked-down formats and built-in obsolescence.

During - the not-quite-finished snug area, which will double as a guest room when fully furnished.

The next morning brought Sunday, the supposed day of rest, but any thoughts of kicking back and doing nothing were soon banished. In an up-to-date twist of the ancient practice of bartering, I agreed to trade a breakfast meeting spent business coaching friends through the planning needed to expand their business for a three-seater couch they no longer needed. After trailering it back to the house and installing it under several excited sprogs, we all sat down to a brunch brunch of bacon, eggs and homemade baps.

Before - garage door ready for removal

Soon after that, the guy who cuts our grass turned up to repair the damage his wife had visited upon our water tank connection with a brush-cutter two days previously. This is no small matter- like most of rural New Zealand, there is no mains water supply here and precious tank-stored rainwater is all there is to last us the summer, unless we order in extra deliveries by tanker lorry at some expense. No sooner was the repair done than a guy turned up to buy the garage door we'd removed and sold on Trade Me, the local equivalent of eBay. The bundle of lovely green dollars barely touched my skin before they passed to the clutches of SWMBO, who announced that she was off to look at beds for the guest area of the new room. After two days with barely time to draw breath, I was beginning to wane and as the afternoon wore on, the sore throat I'd been nursing all through a hectic week at work decided to undergo its own conversion into a head cold and a raging temperature.

After - ranch slider and window replace garage door

Having decided that a hot lemon and honey would ease my fevered brow, I was boiling the kettle when SWMBO rang the house. From the checkout at the bed store, she announced that they could deliver the bed she had just purchased but it would be an extra $60, so could I kindly hitch up the trailer and go and get it please? As I hooked up the trailer and start the Pajero, I found myself thinking that, should I ever undergo reincarnation, I would inevitably be reborn as a water buffalo - one destined for a life yolked to a plough in a paddy field with SWMBO as the whip-cracking rice farmer. That said, an scant hour later, I was back home with the new twin trundler bed unloaded, unwrapped and installed in the new room.

For all the hassles and the 'drama', as they say round these parts, the flexibility the new rooms offer us is more than worth the effort. We now have a separate utility room where the laundry gets done, the big freezer sits and I can colonise a small corner for a work bench and tool racks. The main room is now a place that offers a snug hidey-hole where the sprogs can hang out with their friends (and, no doubt, boyfriends in the years to come) and guests can sleep in comfort when they visit; an area from which SWMBO can build and command her growing skin care and supplement empire and a light and airy table for the inevitable homework, crafts and hobbies in the years to come.

I was going to close by saying that the only outstanding task on my list is to fit a door handle to the utility room door but, as is the way in this house, another job has just been added with SWMBO informing me that 'the new fangled wifi-server-thingy' is not working. If you are reading this, then you'll know I have fixed it and am back to just the door handle.

1 Comments:

Peter Gough said...

Trust the door handle has now been installed ;-)

Great to hear that all are well and it sounds like you're well and truly settling into the Kiwi way of life.

Pete

6:12 PM  

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