02 December 2007


One day, I ran into a familiar face at the grocery store and racked my brain to remember through which contractor I knew the person. As it turned out, he ran a club where I'd performed. Yikes! I was a little too immersed in the project for my own good. He did, however, share the experience he and his wife (Jennifer O'Neill) had with contractors when they renovated their home the previous year. "Yeah", he said "They'll take your money, do a bad job and then make you out to be the guilty party for their shoddy work and rant at you if you expect the work to be done right." Or something to that effect.

Only then did it start to dawn on me that I was not alone in my experience. (Always a comforting moment.) Up till that point I was thinking that I must be asking the impossible or impossible to work for or hopeless at supervising workers on my own property.

I had always enjoyed reading Dominique Browning's editorial essays at the beginning of House and Garden issues and finally got around to reading her book Around the House and in the Garden. The timing could not have been better. The following paragraph stood out like a neon sign.

"I have a friend who, even years after its completion, could not talk about building her new house without crying, her experience with the contractor had been so devastating. I stood in my own newly renovated kitchen one day and watched rain drip from the ceiling. The roofer who finally showed up to fix what I thought was a leak pointed out that the doorsill in a room above the kitchen had been installed backward, so naturally rain was flowing into the house. It's been ten years since the renovation, and problems still crop up. Then there was the new furnace, which lasted a mere seven years of its lifetime guarantee (a concept, by the way, that is sheer fiction, lifetime being a self-defining characteristic—if it is broken, its lifetime has ended), installed incorrectly by a plumber who had the nerve to offer a discount on the installation of the next one. So I started all over again with another plumber. Each new contract I sign is an act of faith, and it is signed with a prayer that the work will be done, and done well, that ill will won't haunt the premises." Dominque Browning, Around the House and in the Garden (New York: Scribner, 2002 p.135)

After making my links for this post, I've discovered that the December 2007 issue of House and Garden will be the last. You can read Dominique Browning's final editorial here.

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