The next step in the process was to hire an electrician to add an extra circuit breaker, additional outlets and bright lighting on the ceiling of the studio. This is not an inexpensive part of the process and we had to allow for this major expense in our overall budget.
The room already had a lovely ceiling fan with soft, warm lighting and recessed lights. These were suitable for a living room or den but when it is dark outside and there is no natural light, these lights weren’t sufficient to provide the type of bright, clear, true-color lighting I need.
I find track lighting works well because you can point each individual light in the direction or toward the surface you want to illuminate. For the size of this room, the electrician advised I needed three sets of track lights.
From previous experience I have learned it is best to have the electrical work done prior to the installation of the cabinets. The electrician relocated two of the electrical outlets which would have been covered by the cabinetry. In addition, he added a separate circuit breaker for my professional-grade steam iron and sewing machine. I always plug my machine into a surge protector for added protection from power surges or lightning strikes (not that we need to worry about those here in Southern California but it is a good safety precaution.) Unfortunately, I wasn’t home at the time the electrician did the work so there are no photos to share of this process. However, even with all the work the electrician did by relocating some outlets, adding others, and putting lights on the ceiling, he didn’t leave a mark on my freshly painted walls.
Let me say right up front this saga ultimately has a happy ending, so keep that mind as you read.
The installation of the cabinets was the most frustrating and angst-ridden part of the entire process involving many phone calls, tears and even one very heated confrontation with the owner of the installation company. However, I want to be as transparent as possible so you can see we all go through tough times and have to overcome problematic situations. We learned a lot and by sharing these lessons it’s my hope you might benefit should you ever decide to undertake a similar studio design process.
After the cabinetry had been delivered and left to acclimate in the studio space for about a week, the installation date was scheduled for the Monday following the July 4th holiday weekend. You may recall the romantic road trip where my husband whisked me away and I blogged about it. We left on the Thursday morning after July 4th with our college age son at home because he had to work that weekend.
On Thursday afternoon while we were driving up the California coastline, I received a phone call from the owner of the installation company asking to change the installation date from the following Monday to the next day (Friday). I explained I was not at home and I would be there on Monday as we had originally planned. The owner insisted. Again, I said no, adding that even though our son was at home, I would feel more comfortable being present. The owner was not swayed. He explained his team of installers needed the work (or they wouldn’t get paid, thereby laying guilt on me) and I would be doing a really nice thing by allowing them to come to the house on Friday to install the cabinets. Bottom line: He pressured me. He assured me he or his son would be there to oversee the process and everything would be installed perfectly. He promised I would arrive home on Sunday evening to find my studio finished, with everything in place. I finally and reluctantly agreed.
Big mistake. BIG.
No. HUGE MISTAKE.
(Notes to self: 1. Never allow yourself to be pressured to do something that doesn’t feel right. 2. ALWAYS insist on being present when this type of expensive installation work is being done.)
Our son didn’t have to be at work until the evening shift on Friday so I asked him to be ready to let the installers in the house at 7am when I was told they would arrive. They didn’t arrive until 9:30 am. Our son finally asked them to leave at 5 pm since he had to leave for work. I received a call from the owner explaining they needed to come back early on Saturday morning to finish. I asked our son to be up early to let them in and again, they arrived at almost 10 am. They worked throughout the day (our son sent me text updates) and at one point he told me they asked him to turn on the TV so they could watch the World Cup. At the time, I felt a niggling feeling and it seemed a bit unprofessional to me but I quietly chided myself thinking perhaps I was being unreasonable. They left in the late afternoon and told our son they were finished. Incidentally, neither the owner or the son came to the house to oversee the installation as had been promised.
I was excited to arrive home on Sunday evening to see my studio. When we walked into the house…into my studio…I was stunned. Not in a good, excited way. It was an “oh-my-gosh-what-on-earth-happened-to-this-room?” sort of way. They left such a mess! There were boxes, sawdust, and trash strewn around the room. They had moved various things such as office chairs, boxes, my sewing machine and a myriad of other items to the adjacent room to work and then left them there. Nothing was put back as had been promised. Some cabinets were left without knobs or handles installed; just holes for screws.
And then there were the walls. Oy! My freshly painted walls! The installers had added some wiring for the desk and hutch and left huge, patched holes in the walls!
The desk hutch cabinets were left without glass shelves (they had been ordered too large to fit) and wires were left hanging without the lights having been installed!
The computer desk drawer in the center of the built-in desk had the folding door installed upside down which meant my laptop wouldn’t fit inside rendering the entire drawer completely useless. Worse still were the hutch cabinets which had been installed flush with the ceiling instead of at the same height as the other cabinets! This resulted in the two hutch drawers being mounted so high on the wall they were essentially unusable, not to mention everything in the room seemed off-kilter!
I was angry. Heartbroken. Upset. Frustrated. It was Sunday evening so there was nothing I could do but fret and stew until I could make phone calls early Monday morning. Not surprisingly, I couldn’t reach the installation company owner and ended up leaving multiple messages which were not returned. I called Mouena at Home Depot and left a message for her. I finally spoke to the owner’s son who said he would stop by later in the afternoon to assess the situation, which he did. He agreed the job was indeed unfinished. He spent almost two hours cleaning up, installing additional hardware (there were excess handles and too few knobs), assuring me they would send a team out to correct the mistakes. He pointed out, however, in the “fine print” of the contract it clearly states they were not liable for any damage done to the walls during the installation process. (Hmph. Next note to self: 3. Read the fine print and understand what is and is not covered.) I thought back to when my cabinets were installed by the team through Lowe’s in Virginia. They didn’t do any damage to the walls so I had “assumed” it wouldn’t be an issue with this installation. The son assured me their team would correct the other issues but I would need to hire an independent painter to re-paint the patched areas of the walls. I wasn’t happy about having to incur yet another additional expense.
After another day had passed, I finally received a call from the installation company saying they would send a team on Friday. On Thursday, I was told the team would come Saturday instead. Essentially, yet another week had passed while I waited for this process to be finished. I could feel all these long weeks adding up to months.
On Saturday, the team began the process of making the repairs and changes. It took them most of the day to remove the hutches which left marks on the ceiling. At some point I’ll have to hire someone to repaint the entire ceiling. For now, it’s simply not in the budget. To our shock and dismay, we were told they couldn’t fix the upside down desk drawer front.
At this point I had been as patient and understanding as I could possibly be. I’ll be honest. This was the last straw that broke my camel’s back and I hit the proverbial roof! I firmly asked them to contact the owner immediately! After all, this error essentially made the desk entirely unusable. Had I just paid thousands of dollars for a built-in desk I couldn’t use with my laptop?
The owner begrudgingly arrived (after all, it was a Saturday.) He told us there was nothing more his team could do and immediately instructed them — right in front of us — to “pack up and get out of the house quickly.” My husband and I were both astonished at his attitude and rude behavior and we were furious! Kent immediately called the general manager of Home Depot and while he was on hold, I had a very, very heated exchange with the owner who continued to be rude and unreasonable and he got in his car and drove away. Yes, there was shouting and there were tears. We couldn’t believe how we were being treated after we had been so accommodating on more than one occasion!
In the end, one of the two installation guys sat on the floor and quietly worked on the desk drawer. He got creative and jerry-rigged the drawer front with the hinges on the bottom, so the drawer front would fold down instead of up. This created enough clearance for me to put my laptop in the drawer with my computer monitor on top of the desk area. My husband and I thanked him profusely and tipped him well for his kindness. The owner never followed-through or offered an apology for his unprofessional behavior. Needless to say, I wouldn’t recommend his company should I be asked my opinion. The biggest lesson we learned though, is that it’s okay to say “no” and stick to your guns. I should have followed my gut instinct and waited for the originally scheduled installation date.
It took another two weeks for a custom, Corian countertop to be cut and installed. And I did have to hire a painter, buy more paint and pay him to fix the patch marks in the walls. But we finally began to feel as if we were in the home stretch.
Next up: The Studio Part 4.