Design on a Dime in time for New Years: Part I


While I was in Kansas City visiting Chad on my (long over-due) quarterly break early in November I had a brainstorm for a Christmas gift for Miss Cathy. I got the idea to makeover her condo (a la one of the design shows on HGTV). Think “Design on a Dime” and not “Divine Design”. For one thing I’m not blond or Canadian like Candice Olsen (y’know) host of the big budget “Divine Design” and I certainly don’t have the $30 to $50 thousand dollar budgets that she spends on her gorgeous transformations.

I’d done some redecorating, a sofa here, a microwave there, what I mostly did when I moved in was alot of purging and deep cleaning that (to her defense) she simply can’t do anymore.

No, what I had in mind (and about as much money for) was something more along the lines of “Design on a Dime” the show where the challenge is to use a modest budget (usually around $3000.00) and a lot of creativity to achieve their goal.

I’ve been living with Miss Cathy for about a year and half now and the best I can say about her décor and decorating is that it’s dated-lost somewhere in the 80’s. Unfortunately it’s not the high glam or kitsch one thinks of on (now classic) TV shows like “Dynasty”, “Dallas” or even “Who’s the Boss?”- it’s more like “who was the decorator?”

Not to knock my mom or her taste (well, I am actually), we all like what we like-but does hers have to be soooo tacky and tasteless?

Quite frankly, it was depressing to wake up everyday and walk out of my little, dull white walled room with old beige caret down a hall of powder blue “faux” shag carpet (it may have been shag at one time, I’m not sure, whatever it “was” it is now a soiled, matted mess) and continue into the living/dining room covered in the same hue. There’s textured beige wallpaper (some peeling a bit around the edges-looking as if it’s given up and just wants to lay down after holding trying for decades to be tasteful and failing) and there’s the heavy “Mediterranean” furniture that was made of some material not known to man but other than wood (and heavier than a Sequoia) and not found in any province of Italy that I’ve ever seen.

Every surface is covered with knick knacks, bric a brac, chotchkes, keepsakes from a lifetime (and remember she’s seventy-three) of collecting (more like hoarding but I promised myself in the new year I’d be kind (er).

And did I mention the stuffed animals (again)? They sit on every surface either along with or instead of a chotchke. There were over one hundred in the living/dining room alone when I first moved in here and I bagged up over half and put them in the storage room but the few that remain seem to have multiplied somehow and they’ve taken over all the seating again…….but I digress, back to my “desire to design”.

Suffice to say, it was definitely time for change and seemed the perfect Christmas gift for Miss Cathy (and trust-for me, too).

Now that the idea was born I just needed to put a budget and a plan together. Upon hearing my idea Chad immediately volunteered to fly out and help but ultimately that didn’t work out but I really appreciated his gesture. I hadn’t thought about help until Chad then I thought,”Fuck, if Chad was going to fly out to help what about Tony?” so I not so much asked but called and enlisted the support of my brother, (but I soon learned in a later conversation that he would be laid up in early January through February recuperating after surgery on his Achilles tendon so he was going to be useless to me-other than financially) So, the bulk of the execution of the plan would still fall to me.

In keeping with the TV theme I thought it would be great if I could somehow get Miss Cathy to leave for a week in say, February and that would give me time enough to re-paint and re-carpet the entire condo and replace/upgrade one or two major appliances in the kitchen. So, the germ of the seed of the idea to re-decorate was born in the Midwest and I came back East eager to put my plan in action.

Early in December I started to research costs and materials, trying to stick with my (arbitrary) budget of $2000.00. I soon realized the challenge was going to not only be trying to blast Miss Cathy out of her home for a week but also trying to stretch my dollars to accomplish all that I wanted.

I got three estimates for wall-to-wall carpet. I learned that I needed about 1000 sq feet of carpet and in order to get any of the “deals” I’d negotiated the carpet needed to be installed sooner than later (throwing my schedule of a February makeover out the window and making me re-think the order in which I got things done). Originally I wanted to paint first, make a mess without having to worry about the floor then laying the carpet last). But, with no guarantee that the prices would be honored into the New Year I decided to re-vamp my “plans” and just go with the flow and let “bargains” and “deals” dictate the schedule.

I negotiated (to me) the bargain of a lifetime for the carpet (little did I know what was ahead), I was having the entire condo re-carpeted, the installers would be responsible for removal of the old carpet AND “moving” the furniture as they worked to install (there is usually an “extra” fee (per item of furniture left on the floor during the install) charged for furniture moving which can be very steep. The other estimates I got ranged from $2,200.00 to $2,800.00 (without furniture moving).

“Mike’s Carpet” (a local company that ran an ad in the “PennySaver” believe it or not) agreed to do the work for $1,500.00 cash. Granted, this isn’t the finest quality wool or Berber carpet but it’s new, it’s clean and with just me and Miss Cathy toddling around on it-how much wear and tear could it possibly get. The best thing is that it’s all the same color, “Raw oyster” (a light beige) instead of the crazy quilt of colors on the floor now-living/dining room/halls-powder blue, my room –dirty beige and Miss Cathy’s room….wait for it-blood red.

With the carpet scheduled to be installed on Wednesday the 21st, I asked Miss Cathy if she could arrange to go over to her girlfriends house for the day-sort of a septuagenarians’ “play date”. I told her I had a surprise that needed her out of the condo and to my “surprise” she said “sure”, called her girlfriend and agreed to be gone from 8 am that day till 5 pm.

With her onboard, and without any questions from her I was feeling good. It wasn’t going to be the complete “reveal” that I’d envisioned when I first came up with idea but I’d resigned myself to the notion that a series of mini “reveals” could be just as effective-fingers crossed, it was all about to begin….

Next week: Design on a Dime in time for New Years: Part II

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