Friday, April 6, 2007

New Home

And a Good Morrow to You! As many of my friends know, I recently purchased and moved into the World's Smallest Condo. It's all of 466 sqft (or 469 if you want to believe the appraiser, or 460 if you want to believe common sense. But I will take 466 and be done with it). I had been searching for a condo for about 6 months, with the aid of a friend and realtor, Annie. Annie is the bari sax player in the Seattle Women's Jazz Orchestra (, and I am lucky enough to get to sub with them sometimes. So I enlisted her services, and we went searching. My original criteria were simple: something $200 000 or less, in a nice neighborhood, plenty of light, no carpet, a parking space, and a balcony. It often felt like the search for Who Fits The Glass Slipper - places would be gorgeous, but overpriced. Or have something insane, like a view of the water, but no balcony. Or be too far away from where the action is. A sub-requirement was that I be able to conduct off-hours tasks (like getting a cup of tea) via walking or biking. My aim was to use my car as little as possible when I am not commuting to and from work. I finally found it. A diamond in the rough. Annie warned me that the guy was a smoker, and that his agent wanted to meet us here, because the guy was weird. The asking price was $185 000, and it was in Ballard, which is a very desirable neighborhood. Who knew? We could smell the place as we walked down the hall. We entered to a cloud of thick cigarrette smoke, and, as Michael Jackson put it, "the funk of 40,000 years". To put it in perspective, the largely stained mattress had no sheets on it, there were dirty, yellowed boxers strewn about the floor, and we were scared to touch anything. Large, bad-hotel-art covered what little wallspace was left after the crazy guy's massive dark furniture was done covering the window and door. The place was, quite literally, a shithole. But the view was to the south, there was a large shared deck, it was on the second floor, and the building was built in 2001. Needless to say, I purchased it with an eye towards rehabilitation.

Here is one of my many "Before" pics. Note that he is covering up the sole source of incoming light in this place by placing that whacked-out Pan-flute-playing-diaper-dude over the window, as well as the ugly, oversized cabinet next to it, covering the door.

Did you notice the lack of sheets upon his mattress, and the filthy sheet that is curled up on the corner, there? I wish I could take smell-pictures. This place smelled like a smoky bar after a night of serious grossness.

Here is a picture of what, at this point, is generously called the kitchen. The expansive electronics collection this guy had puzzled me. I mean, I'm an engineer and I don't yet have the 42" flat-panel TV that this guy had. But check out his desktop computer, if you can spot it amongst the miasma of filth:

We had to offer asking price, and we had to offer a closing + 5 days, which ultimately meant that the crazy guy got to live here for 5 days after we closed the sale. Yay. I came in the day the crazy guy moved out, and almost started crying. The deal was that he was supposed to clear all his crap out, then hire a cleaning woman to come in. (Really. That was one of the sale stipulations.) It seemed like he had only taken most of his furniture, some of his clothes, not all of his prescription pills, and left me with a miasma of dirty laundry and rotting patio furniture. I called Annie and left a very colorful voice mail on her phone.

Things started to happen once the "crap-removers", as I like to call them, came in and hauled everything away. Annie was nice and even had them remove the carpet, which improved the smell factor by about 100. Then Carol, the cleaning woman, came in and worked what magic she could. She worked for two days, even though he had only paid her for 10 hours. She worked 4 hours on the toilet alone. And there was still a large, nut-brown stain in the "exit nozzle" area. Bless her heart, she did the best she could. She never even got to the tile floor (in the kitchen and bathroom). I even hired her on for three extra hours so she could wash the walls down with TSP (tri-sodium phosphate; a toxic chemical used to strip crap off of walls before painting. Crap like cigarrette tar).
[Note: I was going to paste a picture in here, but the blogger is picky about where I can put pictures... look at a later post :-) ]

Then my friend Gary the painter came in and worked his magic. I selected espresso, acid green, and Tiffany blue as my colors du jour. (Being that I had already done a great combination of red, orange, and magenta when I lived in Maryland, I thought it time to try something new). He did an excellent job, though the whole job cost me about three times what I originally thought it would.

The next step came in installing the laminate (think Pergo) floor. I purchased it from Lumber Liquidators, and got an excellent price per square foot. The color selected was a light maple tone. I asked my friends Mark and Tony to come install it, and got the boyfriend to help them, as well. (I intended to help, but with three guys there, I ended up entertaining Tony's wife, Minyee). It's amazing how easily a free meal will get people to do things for you.

Shortly after the flooring was installed, the Murphy bed installer came to do his job. I selected a Murphy bed from Emerald City Closets in Seattle. I ended up having them do some custom work, because I have a large (14") mattress, and so they had to make a bigger cabinet to hold it. Again, I selected a light maple tone of MDF to go with the flooring, and some brushed nickle handles for pulling the bed down. In the end, I removed the bar that is supposed to flip over the mattress and has the bed-feet attached to it, because it was still too much of a squeeze on my giant mattress. The bed works wonderfully; it was an ideal solution to saving space in this tiny place.

Had I extra money, I would have had Emerald City Closets build up additional storage to flank the bed, but I did what any enterprising person in their mid-20's would do; I went to IKEA and bought shelves that fit the space. This meant that I had to spend about $150 more than I intended (the shelves I wanted were about 1" too wide to fit into the prescribed nooks). The shelves conveniently fit the large plastic IKEA boxes (Lekman?) that I love for storing big things like wool rovings and knitting/ spinning supplies. They also came in the light maple-ey color.

Now that I have moved in and am starting to unpack and get organized, a few things remain to be solved.

1) I need closet storage. Today I plan to head out to the Container Store, for they have a free closet-organizing program consultation they will provide before trying to sell you some of their Elfa line of closet-stuff.

2) New track lighting needs to be bought. The old tracks not only are stained with tar and cooking funk, they are incompatible with the new generic track lighting connections. I found some cute brushed-steel looking ones at Home Depot for around $40 each. I figure one in the kitchen, and one in the living room, to replace a sad little pot-light with a stained globe, will suffice. It may even allow me to get rid of an IKEA lamp that needs to be glued back into serviceable condition.

3) Once I get organized and get my clothes into the closet, I need to CLEAN THE TILE FLOOR. Despite my efforts at multiple moppings (once with TSP and twice with Simple Green), and a tile-by-tile scrub with Simple Green and a plastic scrub-sponge, my socks still turn black when I walk on the tile for more than a few minutes. It is time to break out my vinegar and hydrogen peroxide cleaning duo.

4) Eventually, I want to get a flat-screen TV and install it above my fireplace. It is materialistic, and I already do have a serviceable CRT TV, but it takes up room that could be used to house my 90 year old dresser that my grandpa made and I refuse to part with right now.

5) I want to start up my outdoor deck garden. There are some discount pottery places I am going to go visit in the near future; I am very excited about having a deck garden again. I just got a spot in a Community Garden here in Ballard, but I want something pretty to greet me in the morning :-)

6) I need to buy some window coverings. I actually don't use window coverings anymore (I used to live in an 8th floor apartment, my bed was adjacent to the bay window, and I didn't close my blinds for over a year, so I feel no need to hide behind them), but I feel like the windows look sort of naked without them. I am going to buy some bamboo roll-up blinds that will fit neatly within the window openings, and stay tucked out of the way during the day.

7) Plant holder. I have a collection of orchids, ferns, African violets, and succulents that need to be elevated off the floor. I thought I saw one at IKEA, but I'll have to go look again.

8) Eventually, I will invest in new furniture. A new couch and coffee table, and possibly a side chair, although right now I am using some wobbly wooden dining chairs that my brother donated to me while still in Maryland, and they are great as a stepladder substitute, as well as for when guests show up and want to sit somewhere other than the couch. I suppose eventually I can relegate them to the outside?

I was originally considering getting the Murphy bed with the couch that appears to be directly in front of it, but those things are cheaply constructed and not as comfortable as my current couch - a donation from an old coworker in Maryland. It is sort of an unoffending olive color, striped chenille fabric, and has feather filling in the back cushions. A great napping couch. Although the wooden feet tend to fall out if you insist on moving the couch around. Plus the couch-in-front option is no longer offered by Emerald City Closets, and they said it cost $1000 when it was offered...which is the price of a good couch.

9) Gas grill. Need a small one. Enough said. Looking on Craigslist.

10) Patio furniture....?.... I haven't decided whether it will be worth the space for a small table and chair(s). I'd rather devote the space to my incoming worm bin (from a coworker- I am very excited to have a compost repository), BBQ, and plants...but we shall see.

11) I need to clean the oven. I am scared to cook in it till I get it done. I tried running the oven's "self-clean" cycle, and I got smoked out of my condo (acrid, burnt-food, eye-watering smoke that stank up the place for a whole day) in about 10 minutes.

The oven cleaning actually may be an ideal task for today. I am going to visit the boyfriend (he is stationed at the local Naval base on a submarine), and I could spray in the Easy-Off before leaving, since I won't be back till Sunday morning...*musing*...

So, in the end, the condo is coming together. And I love the view, even if it is tempered by symbols of capitolism: Denny's, Goodyear Tires, Walgreens, and Wendy's are all in my immediate view, and there is a Safeway just to the east.

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