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Waffles and Spaghetti

Experiencing a home renovation from the husband’s perspective

My favorite food may not be waffles with syrup, nor is it spaghetti; but the analogy remains apt. Stereotypically, men are compared to waffles: straight-cut grid lines, with syrup that settles into its dedicated spots in an orderly fashion. Women are widely analogized as spaghetti, which creates layers and pockets, where the beginning of one piece cannot be found from the end of another. Partaking in a home renovation project becomes a life experience worth documenting when that waffle meets spaghetti… and, well, the rest is not quite yet history. A construction project often involves more than one person or chain of communication. There can be a spouse, designer, contractor, architect, and multiple other trades involved, where everyone envisions their tasks and responsibilities through their own lens. While I would never profess to be an expert, let me take you through my experiences to date.

First off, divide your roles. My wife fielded the design choices — selecting finishes, creating looks, and conferring with the design trades where applicable. I’m not entirely sure what the final look of each room will be, and that suits me just fine. I took over the mechanics of the project: discussions with the contractor, electricians, etc. And the budget. Yeah, that one was on me. Creating a detailed plan with expectation of roles was huge for us; the more specific the contingencies, the more functional the renovation.

My biggest dilemma is always how to divide my time between work with its own responsibilities and this project. The more time I spend on site, the less time I focus on working. It’s a catch-22 situation.

I know this is not the same with everyone, but when I look at a problem, I think with simple boxed solutions — that waffle with its straight lines to contain that sticky syrup. Usually my response is different from what other parties involved in the project will decide on, which results in a conversation of practicality (me) versus creativity (not me).

The bottom line is finding that place where they coexist, and it does somewhere.

Here are some examples:

> There was an “emergency” to repaint the shade of blue that was “absolutely so many shades off.” I tried to see it; I really did. You tell me blue — my brain divides it into navy blue and baby-boy bris blue. I don’t see anything in between. I’m an ineffective pair of eyes to bounce those ideas off of, which is why it works out that it seems like my wife has enough eyes for… both of us?

> Hardwood or carpet? Practicality — hardwood. You’ll sell me up the river with the best stain-proof products out there; all I see are lollipops stuck to the fibers of the carpet. Out.

> When your wife insists on a fluted, farmhouse sink, and only in taupe ceramic, nod and say, “Okay.” Buy it quickly, then return it just as fast, because ceramic is di­fficult to kasher.

> Research plans, pricing, and purchases before you start your project. Make use of the Internet for its e-commerce potential to compare prices, read vendor reviews, and meet with multiple people in the industry before signing with one. Plus, reading objective information helps you see the benefits in your spouse’s preferences and the holes in your own.

> Sometimes you’ll find a furniture piece that your wife claims is exactly, exactly what you’ve been looking for. For us, it’s become the Infamous Kitchen Table. Although we keep ordering it weekly, and getting emails that it’s out of stock as soon as we check out (odd), it would seem that it is the Only Kitchen Table on Planet Earth. I offered to bring in the succah table and even wipe it down, but for some reason that isn’t hitting home. (Even odder.)

> Pot light, flush mount, wall sconces? Of course, pot lights. Less maintenance, less cost, clean ceilings = easy and simple. I won’t say whether or not my vote won that round.

> Finally, while I’m all for budgeting conservatively, in many cases you get what you pay for. To save money long term and aggravation short term, consider going with trades that aren’t on the lowest end so that you get the best bang for your buck — scheduling and quality included.

For me, it’s kind of a one-step-in, two-steps-out type of involvement. You want to be involved enough to sort of know what’s going on, but at the same time you don’t want it to consume you. One thing is for certain, I better learn how to make spaghetti… and quick.

Elchanan Rabinowitz is the co-owner and operator of Toronto Buying Group and used his clout as the husband of a certain editor to land this article.

(Originally featured in Family Room, Issue 009)

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