Paradise On The Beach

Like Jesus, my father was a carpenter. Also like Jesus, I learned the trade but had other plans for my life. In case you're nervous, that's the end of comparing myself to Jesus.

While most kids were busy tearing things apart, I was learning how to build them. For me, daycare consisted of going to work with dad. With scraps of wood and a few nails, I would build little airplanes, towers, and bridges.

I also discovered early on that I knew how electricity worked. Once old enough to drive, my Pinto wagon delivered my services all over town. I retrofitted a castle with electricity. Yes, I said castle; as in stone complete with roof corners that look like rook pieces from a chess boad. The only thing missing was a mote.  However, it didn't take long to learn that the real money was in commercial work. I got a gig to wire up a new retail/service building. I made what I thought was a killing.  Meanwhile, the general contractor who paid a sixteen year old kid to single-handedly wire the building saved himself tens of thousands of dollars. I was blissfully unaware.

Sadly, I hated every moment of this construction channel. The only thing I wanted to power up was my guitar amp and distortion pedals, and the only thing I wanted to build was an audience.  I didn't realize just how much I would appreciate these skills later in life. It wasn't until just after my 40th birthday that I finally apologized to my dad for not appreciating the gift earlier.

One such use of these skills is the Tamer Condo. The Tamers are a couple from Dallas who were looking for a beach retreat.  They wanted a place to escape when the weather at home was less than ideal.  Based on my experience with Dallas, they will probably want to "escape" to the condo for about 50 weeks per year.

The Tamers found their condo on the beach in San Clemente, the ultimate beach town in my opinion. Standing on the balcony for the first time staring at the 220 degree ocean view was an amazing experience. Turning around and looking inside the condo was also amazing, but for all the wrong reasons.

The condo could charitably be described as mountain cabin, but it really felt like you were inside the home of some Keebler Elves.  It was like a chipmunk had exploded.  Countless trees had selflessly given their lives to skin every square inch of this place, and they had sadly done so in vain.  In addition to problematic asthetics, the layout was no better.  The kitchen was so dramatically divided  from the rest of the living area that you felt like the room was designed for folks with Leprocy.

My task was to both modernize the look and open up the living space. Also, they wanted it done in less than a month. The Tamers went to work selecting surfaces while we went to work filling up twenty refuse bins with Pine. We were able to open up the kitchen completely to the living room while creating an oversized island perfect for entertaining.

Where there wasn't pine, there were mirrors installed to help create the illusion of more pine. Removing all of this destroyed all remaining drywall. Since we had plenty of electrical work to do, off it came. Same for the ceilings where a not-so-subtle spanish texture had been liberally applied to hide patches and cracks over the years.

Another job was to create a laundry room. In a thousand square feet, this is quite a challenge. Still, I had seen what Ikea can do with five hundred feet. Knowing that American ingenuity has to be superior to Norwegian, I was able to create a double-doored laundry closet with plenty of room for supplies. Recessed lighting went in throughout, as did gas cooking. In the sixties all electricity was going to be free through nuclear power, but that didn't work out as they had planned.

The balcony became my work area. Splitting my time between working on my laptop on other projects, assembling Ikea kitchen cabinets or just eating a burrito; everything was better on the balcony.

The bathrooms were stripped down and redone as well. The tiny master shower gave way to a walk-in doorless shower complete with natural pebble floor. Stone and rock surfaces were perfectly selected by the Tamers. More accurately, they were selected by Ditto Tamer with clear instructions for me not to let Michael know the cost. To this day he continues to ask why his doorbell was $3000.

We didn't quite make the three week goal I had hoped for, but about a month after we started the Tamers were entertaining guests. We came back in a few weeks later to install the home theater system and complete some loose ends.  The only bad part about the timeline, is that I could have used another few weeks of that balcony.