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The 'DemoGate' Christmas renovation


GEORGIA GREEN STAMPER grew up on a tobacco farm in Owen County. Her third book of essays, “Small Acreages” is now available.

This year — though our holiday will cradle the religious traditions we hold dear, time with family, and the music and flavors of the season — will be forever etched in our memory as The DemoGate Christmas. But I should begin DemoGate’s byzantine story at its beginning...

In April, when we were still vacuuming December’s pine needles from forgotten corners, Ernie’s chronic back problems escalated. Leaning over our 30-year-old bathroom sink, which stood an old-fashioned 30 inches from the floor, aggravated it even more.

“Well, let’s replace it with a taller one like they put in new houses,” I said. All the big box stores had such cabinets on display. However, before I could reach for the car keys to dart off to Home Depot, we both had an epiphany. If we were going to replace the old vanity, why not replace the 30-year-old shower with a snazzier-looking version and the stained and cracked bathtub, too? And wait — if we knocked out a wall, we could create the walk-in closet of our dreams!

Yes, we have watched too much HGTV. Soon, however, we realized we were only home remodelers in our fantasies. Confusion set in.

“Yeah, if we’re going to do this much, we probably need one of those design-places to help us.” The impressive design-place guy showed up on Friday, talking smooth, and promised to get back to us on Monday with plans, pricing, and schedules.

After multiple unanswered calls to him over the next two weeks, we learned through the grapevine that he was having “family problems.”

Undaunted, we engaged another design place, and that fellow took off like a racehorse. He buried us in an avalanche of samples and sketches. We made our choices and independently engaged a carpenter to knock out the wall to create the new closet. The wall came crashing down on July 5, and design-guy came out on the morning of July 7 to finalize the details for the bathroom fixtures and pretties before ordering. That afternoon, he was fired.

But not to worry, his boss said — one of their other staff would assist us. The replacement design-guy called once, and then, poof! He vanished. Was he fired, too? Or were we doing something to drive away these design people? “Well, I didn’t say anything to offend them. I did my best to flatter them. What did you say to them?” I asked.

“Me?” Ernie replied. And so it went, each of us insisting we’d given our likable, tactful best to these prickly, brittle folks.

Since we now had a gaping cavity between the bathroom and the rest of the house, however, we had to hustle on and find yet another design place to supply the fancy stuff for the bathroom.

“Your wall is already gone?” The design woman gasped as she uttered that question. “But it will take a minimum of 10 weeks to order a custom cabinet, and if you want quartzite — you do want quartzite, don’t you, in the shower?”

To be honest, I’d never heard of quartzite. I’d seen marble in old bank buildings, and we replaced our Formica kitchen countertops with granite about 10 years ago. But it turns out this quartzite stuff is whacked out of the ground, too, and is the new “in” rock for bathroom showers. Never having been “in” before on a new trend, we said, “Sure!”

The quartzite men came out to measure and stood around with worried looks. Would our old house collapse under the weight of 900 lbs. of stone? But after banging on all the studs in the basement and in the walls and the roof, it was determined that the house was up to the job. Relieved, we realized that we now wanted quartzite more than anything we’d ever wanted before. How quickly the soul is surrendered to vanity!

And so, we committed to quartzite, the Rubicon of bathroom remodeling, and there was no turning back. Little did we know then the measuring for quartzite would never end, that it would be recalibrated again and again before every single inch was irrevocably cut.

Before the quartzite could be touched, however, the shower floor and drain had to be installed out of — guess what — old-fashioned tile. This required a different installer because the quartzite people don’t touch tile. And the tile guys don’t do drains — plumbers do those — but somehow, they have to get the tile ready for the plumber — and the plumber can’t plumb until the tile is done and — well, you get the idea. We, of course, needed an oddly shaped drain in an odd color, and the tile guys (or maybe the plumber) had never seen one before. But after multiple false starts over the next month (and only one punctured water pipe), the shower drain was installed, and the tile floor was completed.

About this time, I began to worry that Ernie and I would not live long enough to see the project completed. Or we’d be in a rest home, and the kids would sell the house to ingrates with no taste who’d rip out the quartzite and the exquisite linear drain and — oh, how I grew to resent those people who were going to one day live in our house and ruin it.

But I’ve made my peace with them. Life is short, after all, and the last laugh will be on them anyway because I know how long it would take them to remodel this bathroom again. Indeed, our painter will still be here long after we are gone, and the custom shower door will still be on backorder.

The holidays are upon us now, and we’ve decided to go ahead and host a DemoGate open house on Christmas Eve in our unfinished bathroom. Or maybe we’ll aim for Valentine’s Day or the 4th of July. But y’all stop by, OK? (Anyone have a recipe for bathtub gin)?


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