Renovation Chronicle: It’s Done, Take a Look

The workers have packed up their tool boxes, and hauled away their saw, drills and some dusty bags of grout. They’ve left behind a renovated apartment.

The gut renovation of our Queens apartment is done. We’ve moved in, unpacked most boxes and begun to turn this strange place that was for so long a construction site into a home.

Oddly, I’m already feeling the renovation hubbub’s absence.

Since August, my days and nights have been consumed with the make-over. I obsessed over the finish of subway tiles, the dimensions of the refrigerator, the look of lights. I exchanged a blizzard of emails and texts to our architects and contractor over choices like a nice-but-affordable toilet.

During off hours, I ventured over to the apartment, eager to see the latest bit of progress, from the sight of the shower drains to the hanging of kitchen cabinet doors. Often, I brought my young son, who tiptoed into his bedroom closet and smiled at the mention that this dusty mess of a room we were standing in would soon be his.

The renovation was always stressful: We had a tight budget, short timeline and I’m naturally indecisive confronting decisions. (And, boy, are there a lot of decisions.)

It all became a regular part of my life. The architects, the contractor and his workers even became a kind of social circle. The contractor, Halit Dervishaj, told me his life story while replacing the kitchen floor, starting with his escape from Kosovo during the Balkan Wars. Over dinner and drinks, my wife Sumathi and I traded stories of meeting, dating and getting married with the two architects, Juliet and Jhaelen Hernandez-Eli.

A highlight was a trip with the contractor and architects to a nondescript stone warehouse in Queens. It was a cold day. I ran my fingers over the various stones that could be our countertop. I watched a bulky machine loudly cut granite. At first sight, I loved the dark, veined slab that a crane hoisted into view and is now ours.

What I came to appreciate is why some friends are serial renovators. There is something appealing, alluring, even addictive about taking a space and making it your own. For me, it was the adult version of an early childhood dreaming of, and then sketching out, fancy spacecraft, high-tech cities and intergalactic civilizations.

We had an idea for a home, and with the generous help of the architects and contractors, the support of family and friends and the tolerance of neighbors, we created it.

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