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Extra Virgin -  April 2010

Home A pounding headache, scratchy eyes, dry mouth and rising nausea are all well known symptoms of just having survived… a bathroom renovation.

It all starts with the innocent dream of eradicating the seventies tiles and mossy grouting that have plagued you for years, and soon, you’re giddy under the influence of magazine cutouts, drunk on endless tile and tap options, and high on the fantasy of toasty, under-floor heated toes. You’re invincible; it’s going to be the best damn bathroom in the history of bathrooms!

And then, the first builder’s quote comes in.
OK, so now you’ve lost a little of the intoxicating fizz, but that’s all right, you tell yourself, because redoing your bathroom will raise the value of your property, so you’re not really spending, so much as investing. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to rethink some of your initial, fevered choices, and downgrade a tad: possibly scratch the skylight and the German taps?

Zoom in on two weeks later: your hair is disheveled because the mirror is in shards in the dumpster, you’re wearing odd socks because you’ve had to move out of your bedroom during the building work and forgot to ensure that you had everything you needed before you did, and you’re standing in the centre of a tile shop (for the third time this week), swearing. ‘What do you mean those mosaic tiles are out of stock? I was here yesterday and there were piles of them? I just need one little sheet!’

And then, in a steadily escalating tone: ‘Where did you just say I have to go to get one? You’ve got to be #$*@%* kidding me!’ It’s not pretty.

To be fair, nothing about renovating is pretty. There’s rubble on the driveway, holes in the ceiling, ancient pipes revealed in all their degenerating ghastliness, and so much dust that all you need is a rake and a few choice stones to create a convincing Zen garden on your kitchen floor.

Zoom in on one week later: your hair is now disheveled and so filthy it’s ready to crawl off your head in disgust, you’re wearing your husband’s painting trousers, one gumboot, one slipper, and a pillow case, and you’re standing in two inches of toilet water and swearing (note the recurrent theme). ‘Why didn’t you tell me you needed that special, insanely expensive and impossible-to-find plumbing attachment before ripping out the old one?!’ Your cats/dog/lemur/children haven’t been fed, your work is so behind it’s ridiculous, and the spreadsheet you made outlining all possible costs before the renovation began is now shown up to be a work of laughable fiction. What were you thinking?

Zoom in on some weeks (we hope) later: believe it or not, you have a brand new bathroom! The tiles are lovely (and almost all straight) and the bath and basin are gorgeous. In fact, you’ve created a fresh, gleaming sanctuary, which is going to come in very handy for soaking away that headache and washing the dust out of your eyeballs.