grumpy about the construction project (why, architectural review board, why?)

Our addition is advancing.  Last week they dug out a bunch of earth and poured concrete footings.IMG_9248

Yesterday they built the cinderblock foundation walls.IMG_9326

I don’t know what’s happening today, but it involves white gravel–looks like crushed granite. Maybe a drain field?IMG_9330

Because the location of the addition is in this cramped space between our house and garage, and because we have slopes and tight property lines to the sides of the structures, everything is being wheelbarrowed or carried to the addition space.


That work sucks. I’m keeping a cooler full of sodas and water out there for the crews, but there’s little I can do to to improve this poor mate’s plight.

Meanwhile, somewhere in La La Land, the architectural review board, aka the ARB, is giving us grief.

Pretty House

Here’s our pretty house. This is an old photo. We don’t have the red on there anymore, and we removed the shutters, and we have some dark blue trim now, and also actual gardens instead of so much grass.Untitled

But I can’t take a current photo because right now it looks like this.IMG_9249

By the way, that PODS storage box sitting in my front yard is about as attractive as a lot of additions I see in the neighborhood, all of which have been approved by the ARB of my little city.

Okay, so look up at that first photo of our house — can you see the little breezeway between the garage and the house? That’s the site of our expansion, just that little bit. An eight-foot addition, running the full depth  and height of the house. The roof line will stay exactly the same, including the shed dormer, It’s all just stretching 8 feet to the right, with a couple new windows. We’re having the cream city brick recycled from the side wall to the front, so the addition should be totally seamless. Visually, you’ll never know we added to the house.

Cream city brick is A Thing around here. Apparently it isn’t made anymore, so the only way to apply new cream city brick is to find recycled brick. Can you say cha-ching? It costs money, lots of money. Homes that have it are supposed to be awe-awe-awesome, but in this down real estate market coupled with midwestern cheapsk—- uh, frugality, no one actually is willing to pay a premium for it.

Still, we heart our house, so we’re having them put that blessed brick on the pretty front side of the addition.

Ugly House

And here’s our ugly house.IMG_9259

Can you believe that’s the same house? This is the butt end of the house, and it is butt ugly — a  three story blob hanging out in our back yard.

The side is kind of ugly too and covered in wires.


How lovely to have a second story porch staring at the roof of the garage over the breezeway. Where my children can go out and, after electrocuting themselves on the low-slung 20-kabillion-kilowatt main electrical line into the house, tumble over the railing onto the erstwhile concrete slab or stone walkway.

That side wall is coming out so the house can stretch. Bye bye cream city brick.

And here’s the breezeway we’re filling, viewed from the backyard. It’s kind of ugly from this angle too, isn’t it? I think so.


Anyway, real cream city brick veneer is so expensive. Kristi our architect told us we could save a ton by using wood siding to match the wood on the house (not vinyl or some other crappy material, mind you, but actual wood), and we said YES PLEASE in less time than it takes for my dog to sneak a puke onto the only nice wool rug in the house. We decided modern plumbing in our new kitchen was more important than non-structural brick in the back corner.

It won’t be perfect from the back. The last eight feet of the house will be clad in wood head to toe; so on the bottom half, brick will meet wood on a single contiguous wall. Meh. But honestly, it’s going to be the cramped back corner of the house, invisible from the street. And these photos, taken from the future back corner of the house, show you who will see it.

IMG_9263 IMG_9267 IMG_9265

Nobody. Just the deer, raccoons, and coyote that wander through and leave their dung for our dog to sniff. No one will ever see that back corner or care about it, except (hypothetically only) us.

Kristi went to the ARB meeting in April and thought they approved our plans. There was a Great Debate, in which everyone was like “yaaawn nice plans go for it,” except for one young fuddy-duddy architect who was all “ARCHITECTURAL INTEGRITY DEMANDS BRICK ON THE BACK AND SIDE ELEVATIONS OF THE ADDITION.” Nonetheless, the ARB told Kristi they would “recommend” brick, not require it. End of story?  Of course not. We just learned that the approval memo for the permits says “require.”

Seriously? Does this view have any architectural integrity to begin with?IMG_9259

Don’t get me wrong. I love me a beautiful building, even if it’s plain. I do see that the windows on the first floor diminish from right to left in a cute little pattern. But the windows on the second floor are randomly placed, and what’s up with those mushroom vents? It’s not plain; it’s plain ugly. It will remain plain ugly whether the left end is clad in brick or wood.

Having the ARB tell me I have to care about this back corner makes me feel a rage well up inside me against the puny-minded beaurocrats who are using my renovation as a venting point for their sorry, small-minded need to impose their vapid and emasculated will arbitrarily on thoughtful, super awesome peeps like Anthony and me.

It’s almost enough for me to feel a kinship with Ayn Rand and go dust off a copy of The Fountainhead, and then I can go into the special ARB meeting that’s being convened to address this sorry issue and bellow at the board members in symbolic protest, “I AM HOWARD ROARK!! How dare you impose your empty vision of nothingness upon my greatness??”

NOOOOO. Did I really just say all that?

No no no no no. Reboot. Ayn Rand is an over-rated woman-hating fool. Howard Roark is a smug, asshat misogynist driven by unadulterated ego and lacking what would be an attractive modicum of modesty.

Damn you, ARB, damn you for causing that shit to ever come out of my mouth!!

Hold on while I get some soap in my mouth and wipe this greasy feeling off my skin and give myself a culture war colonic.

* * * * * * *

Okay, all better. I’m back on the left where I belong. Right, so we saw the memo saying we have to apply brick and had a mini-shit fit. After a few hours of raging, I announced to Anthony, “I’m gonna write a letter! And take photos of some of the ugly renovations in our neighborhood that the ARB has approved!” Anthony chimed in. “Don’t just send them photos. Let’s make powerpoint slides!”

Never leave a lawyer and an economist alone to stew in their emotions.