Friday, June 17, 2011

House destruction

Padded closet in downstair hallway,
leading to living room
We've been a little busy lately, taking Norwegian tests, ranting against the bureaucratic red tape of nursing licenses, hosting a few visitors, and tearing down walls. We have found ourselves in a rather traditional division of labor (man do heavy work, woman tend to child), and thus Erik has logged many long hours at the "new" house alone, while I keep the home fires burning. My main contributions have involved ferrying literally tons of wood refuse from inside the house into a giant waste container in our driveway.

The house, as you can see from these pictures, is essentially gutted. Only the kitchen remains untouched. We will be building a new kitchen in an entirely different part of the house (essentially in pictures 4, 5, and 6), and the old kitchen will become office/playroom space. This will allow us to use the old kitchen while the new kitchen is being built.

At least, we think this is the plan.

Week 1: no more closet
When we first bought the house, we called an architect recommended by a friend. He cancelled our first appointment about 45 minutes before we were supposed to meet. Hmmm. . . excusable, perhaps, if it was a family emergency? But when he failed to show up for our second appointment, we decided he wasn't worth the trouble.

Next we met with a architect who is a native English speaker. We hoped this would make the communication process easier, at least for me. We walked through the house together, and explained to him our vision of moving the kitchen, and adding an addition that consisted of a living room downstairs and bathroom and 3rd bedroom upstairs. We gave him computerized floor plans of our ideas, along with a "must have" and "would like" list.

Today: looking through walls (where the closet
once was) into future dining room, and where we
believe the addition will go.
I met with him a few days later, alone, when I dropped off some city plans. He tried to convince me that we needed to build an apartment in the basement to live in while we completed our renovations. He was really, really worried about our time frame (which is completely unrealistic, but that's our problem). I left his house in a panic, nearly in tears, beginning to wonder what the hell we've gotten ourselves into. And I was so confused about the process--who was leading who? It didn't feel right to be questioning the professional in his methods, but I never felt like we were on the same page, let alone speaking the same language! When the three of us met for a second time, he produced drawings (done on the spot, not prepared ahead of time) that were not at all what we had discussed. After over an hour of sketching and tracing, he drew our original plan. "So, this is what you want? Exactly like you wanted before."

Erik on the day we bought the house
"Uhhh. . . yes."

"Ok! I can do that!"

Well. . .  sorry, buddy, but you won't. We had already met with architect #3 the day before. And while #3 was more of a strong, silent, typical nordmann, we got much better vibes from him. We felt like he was actually listening to our ideas and respected the amount of time, energy and knowledge we had invested in this project. And best of all, he didn't seem to think we were totally nuts for taking this on.

A few days after we bought the house.
But, two weeks later, we're still waiting for plans. Concrete plans, anyway. Erik met with him today, and they discussed other possibilities of the addition. We hope that next week we will have something on paper, something we can play around with, and actually begin moving forward.

Because, you see. . . there is kind of a time crunch. We move out of our rental house in 2 weeks. Yes folks, that's right: 2 weeks. We'll be house-sitting for some friends here in Lillehammer the following 3 weeks, but after that we are not sure where we'll be staying. My parents will have ended their British Isle RV tour by ferrying and driving to Lillehammer, so we will have a 24ft. RV in our driveway, at least providing us with sleeping space! That will be fun for about 2 nights!

So, stay tuned. People (and me) keep telling me all these encouraging tidbits: "It's an adventure!" "it's only a few months!" "You'll laugh about this in a few years!" "It'll be so worth it!"

And my favorite: "At least it's not winter!"

Erik and parents, one month later (today)

Greta's room, when we bought it

Today: Greta and Pappa in her room!
How awesome is a bathroom with no walls?
Super awesome!
(This will become part of the front entry).
Remember this lovely sight?
What it looks like today.


  1. I just caught up on the last few months of your blog and want to say, Congratulations on your new house! Very exciting! Clearly you've got a ton of work in front of you but it's going to be so fantastic when you're done. Or sort of done, which is often how it is with houses---that's how it is with ours---and that's okay, too, as long as it's done enough. :-) Lykke til med arkitekten. And with everything! I'm looking forward to seeing more progress photos here.

    And congratulations also for taking your Norwegian exam! I'm going back to language school almost full-time in August to prepare for my tests, so am really interested in your experience. I hope you get good news about your result very soon.

  2. Oh my! But keep thinking about your future house - it will one day be fantastic! I love the (former) wallpaper in Grete's room. Are you sure you wanted to take that down? ;)

  3. Hi Emily - Don't worry! When I was 5 my parents bought a 90 year old house in northern Wisconsin. I lived my entire childhood in various stages of deconstruction. For weeks we didn't even have a septic system, my parents tore down walls, and we lived at friends houses and out of a tent. I remember having nightmares for a long time that the house would fall down since for a while we had to jack up an entire side. But - that said - there were not lasting scars, and the house is now full of stories and memories of all the hard work my dad put into it. Good luck!