Shabby Chic

25 Jun

Letterbalm Kitchen Under ConstructionDear LetterBalm: My house and furniture are so scruffy and worn out, that I’m embarrassed to invite people over to return the favor from when we were guests in their homes. My husband and I have good jobs and earn enough money to do a makeover of the living and dining rooms and install a new kitchen. My husband complains about the likely cost and has been promising to redecorate for the past three years, but he won’t make a move. I think he’s embarrassed because he’s not very handy around the house. What can I say to make him agree that we need to do this and we need to hire outside help?

–Dilapidated

Ms. L.B. sympathizes with both of you. On the one hand, you’re frustrated because you can’t budge your husband off the couch to pick up a sledgehammer and knock down a wall. On the other hand, he’s tacitly saying, “I don’t know how, and even if I did, I don’t want to. Besides, it will cost too much.” You have to break through this impasse. Get several competing bids from experienced contractors with good consumer history. Go online first to a gazillion websites offering advice on choosing a good contractor – setting job parameters, protecting yourself from scams, and pertinent questions to ask. Check out your candidates with the Better Business Bureau, Angie’s List and other vetting groups (and, if you and your husband feel a contractor is making grandiose promises, don’t hire him). Use a similar process if you hire a home decorator to select furniture and furnishings. You might also talk with friends who are happy with contractors and decorators they’ve used. Discuss this with your husband first – especially cost and timeline. He may fear the disruption, thinking he has to live with dropcloths and drywall forever:

Abner, we’ve reached a turning point with the house. We need expert help. We can’t live with the shabbiness any longer. My God, the couch is popping springs, the living room rug is threadbare, and the kitchen has seen better days. I’m not saying we have to do a renovation worthy of This Old House, but we do need to improve our home. I’ve done some preliminary research on contractors and decorators and pricing, and I’ve talked with Herm and Joy who recently had a kitchen renovation and were thrilled with their contractor/architect. I think it will be cheaper than we think, and I have found lots of good questions to ask. Also, we can determine – with some limitations – how long the project will take. Would you be amenable to meeting with several contractors to see what they offer? Of course, we will vet anybody we’re thinking of hiring to be sure they’re reputable and work well with their clients. I’ll bet we can get moving on the project sooner than we think. And, the sooner we begin, the faster the drywall, painting and all that obnoxious stuff will be done. You probably have some ideas on what you’d like to see in the renovated spaces. What do you say? Can we get started?

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