Yesterday I posted that it would be two weeks until the crew installed windows. Imagine my surprise when I swung by the apartment on my way to something else and saw scaffolding and the new living room window in place! The contractor faked me out, and I am so not complaining.

Here is a terrible cell phone snapshot taken in the dark:

img_0594There are a couple of things to comment here. One, the window seems to start lower down than the kitchen window next to it. I can’t tell if that’s because of the wider trim on the kitchen window. I hope they will indeed trim out this window to match the others (the fact that the scaffolding is still up suggests that). Second, the glass part of the bathroom window appears to be significantly smaller than the old window, and the frame correspondingly wider. Before it was a window that afforded a surprisingly good view for someone standing in the bathroom, so naturally now I’m worried that this window will be too small to let in light and access the view.

I tried to take pictures from inside too, but they were hopelessly bad. The view of Oslo by night is, nonetheless, everything I had hoped for. It will be so nice to sit and watch the lights sparkle from my sofa (whenever I actually acquire a sofa…).



Oops. As I feared, my contractor is freaking out a little over my plans to have the plastering done and the bathroom and kitchen stuff delivered. I probably should have just been more patient and allowed for the fact that the contractor would prefer not to have the other stuff happening simultaneously. I think the problem is that I don’t have any experience with the logistics of this kind of project. On the positive side, this discussion has resulted in him sending me a list of what’s going to be happening the last half of the project:
This week (week 48):
  • The painter will start working on prepping the walls and ceiling
  • The plumber will start working on the bathroom and kitchen
Next week (week 49):
  • Starting Monday the 5th the crew will apply? install? lay? the screed to even out the floor
  • The painter and plumber will complete whatever is left for them to do
Week 50:
  • The crew will install the waterproof membrane and tiles on the floor in the bathroom
  • Starting Monday the 12th the crew will install windows
  • Starting around Wednesday the 14th the crew will lay the radiant heating
  • On Thursday and Friday the 15th and 16th the crew will lay the wood floors
Week 51:
  • On Monday and Tuesday the 19th and 20th the crew will install doors and trim
  • Starting Wednesday the 21st the crew will prep and paint the trim
  • The electrician will install outlets and lights toward the end of this week

It’s such a relief to have a rough timeline. This way I don’t have to wonder so much. I’m most eager to see the new living room window opened up, so it helps to know there’s no use anticipating that being done for another two weeks.

And I do think it’s going to work out with the plastering and installation of cabinets and all. The key point is really the screed, since that is a product that will have to dry before it can be walked on. Once that hurdle is over, I think things are going to be ok.

Waking up

In my bedroom I’m planning on adding a string of Christmas lights on a timer to my dupatta bed curtains somehow, though I’m still pondering how to work that out. I think it would be great to have them come on for the hour before I typically fall asleep, and then turn on again for the hour between when I wake up in the morning and leave the house.

I got the idea from someone in an online discussion group (you people will know who you are!) who has a light on a timer so that they don’t have to check their smartphone to see if it’s still the middle of the night when they wake up at random hours. They know that if the light’s not on, it’s too early to wake up, and can relax and try to fall back asleep. Just that small act of checking a clock or smartphone is often enough to jolt one out of a resting state. Since I struggle a lot with insomnia, it would be great to know that I can close my eyes again and not worry about the time if the Christmas lights haven’t come on yet.

I have the custom curtain rod for the alcove on order. I already have most of the dupattas I’ll need. The other day I found a nice nine-meter string of lights, so now all I need is a timer and some brads to attach the string of lights and I’ll be good to go. Oh, and I guess the crew has to finish the renovation too. Derp.


Um, I’m allowed to change my mind, right? After recently writing that I don’t want tiles, I think I may have just fallen for some.

It all started because I was telling a colleague on Friday that I was headed to IKEA and a dreadful store called Megaflis (translation: “mega tile”) after work to figure out what to do about my backsplash. He jokingly said, “whatever you do, don’t go to Bella on Bygdøy Allé!” Bella is a really high-end tile store specializing in Italian tiles. Famous last words.

I dutifully went to both Megaflis (where I found a few things I could live with, but nothing I really liked) and IKEA, where they have a nice and simple white acrylic panel that can be made to measure called Klingsta that I am seriously considering. I would probably be more enthusiastic about the acrylic panel if it weren’t for the fact that it’s from IKEA, a place I loathe. For someone like me, who easily succumbs to sensory overload, it is a really difficult place to shop. Nonetheless it may still be worth braving the cacophony since the panel has a really nice look and feel.

Out of curiosity, though, I searched online for the Bella website after I got home, and discovered that they have Tonalite “Kraklé” tiles, which have many of the same aesthetic qualities that I really love about traditional glazed Moroccan tiles. Sadly, Moroccan tiles have all but disappeared from the market here in Norway; I haven’t been able to find them anywhere. I had originally planned on Moroccan tiles because I had loved them for years. I think maybe the fact that I can no longer find them is actually what put me off tiles for this project in the first place.

If I were to go with the Kraklé I would get rectangular tiles and lay them in a herringbone pattern with relatively narrow grouting. I adore herringbone, and had originally wanted it for my wood floors. Sadly, herringbone floors would have been way too expensive, but it might be a nice touch to have a little bit of herringbone in the kitchen. The price of the tiles themselves is surprisingly reasonable.

I searched high and low on the internet for an example of the look I have in mind, and the closest I’ve come is this image from a project done by the interior design firm Falken Reynolds, which is based in Vancouver, Canada:


The two options (acrylic panel versus Kraklé tiles) would produce drastically different visual effects in the kitchen, even with the same countertop, floor, appliances and cabinets. If I go with the white acrylic panels, I would paint the walls some color other than white. One color I have long considered is a gray-blue called Alladin. There’s also one called Fredfylt (“full of peace”) that I like, thought that may be more of a bedroom color. The visual “energy” of the room would be in the walls, and I would be able to change it fairly easily with just a few coats of paint. The acrylic panels would be clean, neutral and utilitarian, but maybe a little clinical.

If I go with the tiles I would choose one of the many strong colors Tonalite offers, and the walls would be the same white as the cabinets. That would make the tiles the main design focus of the room, and the effect would be bolder and more quirky than the acrylic panel idea. Here are two of the colors I’m thinking about:





I think the tiles (especially the Viola ones!) would stand out quite dramatically, since there would be few visual distractions. They would essentially function as two solid blocks of color, one on each side of the room, with little to disrupt them, and the rest would consist of a kind of neutral box made up of the matching white of cabinets and walls, the pale ash floors, and the window looking out on the fjord.

ETA: I wasn’t clear! I would tile the full walls between counter and upper cabinets on both sides of the room, not just the areas behind sink and stove. Both walls are about two meters long. Essentially it would look like the picture above that I ganked from Falken Reynolds.

Jobsite, week 4

This is going to sound really cliché, but I can’t believe it has already been four weeks, or roughly halfway through the major part of this project. The apartment is now almost completely drywalled, though no work at all has been done on the bathroom. I find that a little worrying, but the crew has been so efficient up to now that I’m going to trust that this won’t be a problem.

One of the nicest, if smallest, changes is the larger of the two hall closets, which used to be kind of a disaster with a big pipe running through it, dark wood paneling and a really hideous sliding door. Now it is looking very tidy (pictured to the left along with the smaller closet to the right, as seen from the kitchen):

The bump out is where the ventilation ducts run through the building, so there is no avoiding it, unfortunately, but I still think I’ll be able to turn this into a useable storage area. It’s nice to start with a clean slate. I’m probably just going to hang curtains in front of the two closets. The opening into the kitchen is twice as big as it will be in the end because they are going to put a pocket door in there.

I was also pleased to see that they moved the outlet for the ceiling light in my bedroom:


The patch job is just a few centimeters to the right of where I’m planning on installing a ceiling-mounted curtain rod, so that would have been a small disaster. One of the small things I did this week, by the way, was order the ceiling-mounted curtain rod. It’s 223 cm long, so I’m not quite sure how I’m going to get it home from the store in Oslo, given that I will have to walk a good long way and then commute by ferry. I hope I don’t thwack into people along the way!

The living and dining rooms are looking very tidy now that the drywall is up and the crew has cleared all their equipment out of it in preparation for starting work on the floors. They  also covered the big beam in drywall:



For the first time I’m getting a real sense of what the room is going to feel like, though I’m still dying to see the difference the new window will make. I’m so excited to see the next steps. They say they need the engineered wood flooring delivered by 9 December, so I need to make sure to order it in time.

I think the crew is excited about the project. One of the carpenters called me on Friday about something and he kind of gushed over how great he thinks the apartment is going to be when it’s done. That’s certainly reassuring.

Leveling up

My son is really into World of Warcraft these days, so much so that video game vernacular is seeping into the way I think about things. I had thought I was more or less done with all the decisions that had to be made on this project, but I’m realizing that those were just the major decisions, level 1 in video game parlance. Now that I have completed that one, I have unlocked an entirely new level of decisions that have to be made.

The easiest one has to do with lighting. I have asked for LED downlights in all the rooms except the two bedrooms (I just couldn’t justify the extra expense there) so I’m going to have to locate two nice ceiling fixtures at some point.

A more complicated and expensive quest in the video game of my renovation is figuring out what will go inside the kitchen cabinets. It turns out there is a whole slew of options for what kind of drawer organizers one can have added on, and I have to make the decision by the end of this week.

Then, as if that weren’t enough, I have to make a really major decision about the state of my backsplashes, and this too has to be finalized by the end of this week. Originally I had planned on microcement for the kitchen walls, which would have given me a very clean, water resistant surface that would have been perfectly fine as a backsplash. But since I decided against microcement in the kitchen, I now have to figure something else out. My choices seem to be A) tiles, B) some kind of water resistant panels, or C) the same CaesarStone as the counters. A remotely possible D) might be to plaster just the backsplash areas. A really exciting E) that I love the idea of would be old timey tin tiles (the kind of tin ceiling tiles you find in nineteenth century buildings, at least out west in the US, not sure about other areas).

A) I’m not super excited about tiles, in part because I find all the options so overwhelming, and in part because they can be visually busy. It was almost miraculous that I worked out what to use for the bathroom floor tiles so painlessly. On the other hand, tiles can be beautiful and can also be changed relatively easily.

B) Laminate panels is what I had before. They were plain white and high gloss and easy to clean, but they buckled a bit (probably from steam) and the seams got a little scruffy. They’re definitely cheap and convenient, and might be a good short term solution while I save up for something I really love. IKEA has a bunch, although I am trying to boycott them.

C) I priced out the CaesarStone option yesterday, and the price is very high (though not beyond reason). Another problem is that it only comes in sheets that are 2cm thick, which would be total overkill. I think I would love the seamless and clean look, but I don’t think it’s a good option. Maybe? Still thinking.

D) I also don’t think plastering is a good idea. I would still have to go through all the trouble of choosing a color, and it would still entail a lot of work and coordination to make it work. I guess for me it was all or nothing for microcement in the kitchen.

E) This leaves me with tin tiles. As I was thinking about this post I started poking around on the internet and found this company that even delivers internationally. They have clear instructions for doing it yourself and a bunch of different options. I’m going to think seriously about this as an option!

Oh, and there’s actually an F too:

F) The kitchen company has plain white glass panels too. I actually already have one on order for behind the stove (I thought there might be too much staining on the microcement). Maybe I should just order a second one for behind the sink and call it a day?

What do you think?

Timing is everything

A couple of days ago I was fretting over the timing of the three parts that need coordinating: construction crew, plasterer, and kitchen/bath deliveries and installation. Today I finally touched bases with my kitchen/bath guy and nailed down the dates. It’s complicated because each thing is happening in a different week. Here in Norway, people refer to the weeks by number when planning stuff (today is the first day of week 47, for example), so I don’t have exact dates, but rather numbered weeks for when things will happen:

week 48? (28 November – 2 December): plastering the bathroom (There’s a question mark here because I’m not sure it will be ready by then. Last I checked there was virtually no progress on the bathroom beyond framing in the walls, and there is a LOT of work to do there. Eep! Luckily the plastering can be done in week 49 if necessary, possibly even into week 50 in a pinch.)

week 49 (5 – 9 December): delivery of bathroom cabinets

week 50 (12 – 16 December): installation of bathroom cabinets (There’s not much to install, so it won’t take more than a few hours.)

week 51 (19 – 23 December): delivery of kitchen cabinets (Coincidentally, this is also supposedly the end of construction according to the contractor.)

week 01 (2 – 6 January): installation of kitchen cabinets

There’s just no work that gets done in Norway anywhere between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day, so I’m stuck without a functioning kitchen until January, including stove and refrigerator because those are both built-in along with the cabinets. That means my living room will be filled with uninstalled kitchen cabinets and the like for the entire holiday season, but it will be worth it in the end.

I’m trying to figure out a cheap temporary solution for the lack of kitchen. I may need to buy a hot plate and a mini-fridge to tide me over. I will have functioning water from the sink in the bathroom by 16 December, so as soon as everything else major (like floors and paint) are done I can move back in.

I also have to figure out when to hire movers for the big items, but since it’s the holidays it may be hard to find someone for exactly when I want them. I don’t need much stuff to begin with; the most important thing is to get out of the MIL and start doing all the small tasks that are my part of the job. I can get by with a camping mattress and a few basic kitchen items for a while.

Jobsite, week 3

Hurrah for drywalling! It makes such a dramatic difference, and the rooms are finally starting to look and feel like actual rooms. Here’s a bit of a tour of the parts that are drywalled (there’s still a lot left to do). The first picture is looking from the living room toward the dining area and my bedroom:


Plenty of room on those walls for art! The bedrooms will clearly be the gloomiest part of the apartment. They were much darker than  the rest of the rooms, which were lit up with glorious sunshine this morning when I went up to check out the week’s progress. Here’s a view of the new second hall closet, now looking more like an actual closet:


The contractor thinks I should buy a standard 50x60cm wardrobe to insert into the opening. I may start out by just putting up some shelves and hanging a curtain in front of the opening, and wait and see whether I want the insert or not.

Here’s a shot looking from my son’s bedroom toward the bathroom and kitchen, which aren’t drywalled yet. You can also see the main hall closet:


Then there’s my bedroom, which is an odd little space with a big window crammed into the corner:


I still think it will work though. I measured the opening for the alcove (just off camera to the right) and it will easily encompass my bed, so I’m relieved about that. The only problem is that the electrician put the outlet for the ceiling lamp smack in the middle of where I plan to have a curtain rod for the alcove:


I really hope they can fix this without too much trouble. I’d like it moved 50cm to the left (about where the seam is).

The most exciting part of this week’s progress, however, is that the floors are now insulated. They’re filled with drill holes from where they blew in the insulation, as illustrated here in the hall:


There is already a noticeable reduction in the noise level when you walk on the subfloors, so I am very encouraged that the end result will be a real improvement in sound insulation. This subfloor will be covered by leveling screed, a sound barrier, radiant heating and engineered wood flooring. Surely I’ll be able to walk around and live like a normal person without my neighbor screaming (literally) at me anymore with all that between us?


Jobsite, day 12

Again not much to report. I stopped by the apartment last night and there were no major changes of note. The crew has been working on the wiring and on some of the plumbing. This is that slow, dull phase of a renovation when necessary but unremarkable tasks get done. The demolition and framing happen so quickly and are so dramatic that it’s hard to be patient when things seemingly grind to a halt.

I’m having some trouble figuring out how to coordinate the three separate working parts of this project: the contractor’s crew, the guy who will be doing the plastering in the bathroom, and the delivery and installation of the bathroom (and, later, kitchen) from the manufacturer. I really need to make some phone calls to double check that I have all the dates for each phase right. The contractor’s team has to get the bathroom ready up through the drywalling, then the plasterer needs a certain number of days to do all the necessary layers of the plastering job, and finally the kitchen manufacturer has a set date for delivery and another for installation. Here’s hoping I haven’t messed the timing up!

Aspirational tiling

There’s not much visible progress to report so far this week, but I did have an interesting email exchange with my contractor about the tile floor in the bathroom. I was having trouble visualizing what the transition from the main part of the floor to the shower stall (which will be a few centimeters lower)  would look like, so he sent me this snapshot from a previous job where they also used hexagonal tiles:


There are some details that are different (aside from the obvious that these are black and mine will be white) but it really helped me get a sense of what my floor will look like. The shower stall will be narrower and there will be a door that opens and closes rather than a fixed glass wall, but the difference in floor level will be the same, and these tiles are the same size.

I had been thinking that maybe it would need some 10x30cm rectangular tiles to make an edging on the upper level, but looking at how tidy this job looks, I’m not going to bother. I’m very excited about my choice now!