“I saw the flyer in the mail.
I never look at mail marketing flyers. Ever. This one caught my eye; it was our neighbor’s house on the northwest corner of Indiana and Washington. It sold in one month.
It’s not unusual for properties in our area of Wheaton to sell quickly. Our neck of the woods is four blocks from downtown Wheaton. A pleasant ten-minute walk to downtown Wheaton. But, when my eyes focused on the photographs in the mailer, I saw a beautiful, pinch-me perfect kitchen.
Then a slight feeling of panic struck me. I casually walked into my kitchen which is the original kitchen of the 1921 mission style home we purchased back in 2011.
And as I typically do—being the hyper-aware person that I am—decided at that moment a bigger kitchen was needed.
Dave and I resolved to go through a major kitchen renovation. We would take our galley kitchen and expand it 25’ x 16’ with all the newest appliances.
Did I neglect to mention that neither one of us has ever gone through a kitchen renovation? Or any other sort of renovation for that matter? I really can’t count the time I was seven years old and my dad turned our porch into a living room. I only recall this because I impaled my foot on a nail, and my mom was yelling about scurvy or something.
The basic rule of thumb in any sort of major investment is to obtain three estimates. We followed that rule.
The first guy seemed to run his company on a sad island with a population of one. I could only assume this because his proposal was based on a single visit and the presentation of his proposal was one page. He was a no-small-talk kinda guy, and to be quite honest, his lack of swearing made me uncomfortable. Oh, and he left us to hire all the subs.
Speaking of one-page proposals, Air Room doesn’t do anything using one page. If I can recall anything about Air Room, it’s the fact that they waste a ton of money on marketing, the up sale.
Have you ever walked into Target, with the sole purpose of buying cheap sunglasses and walk out of there with a new showerhead, broom (with attachable dustpan), assorted colored highlighters, and some Jack Daniels (they had it on sale), even though you didn’t need it?
This is an example of Air Room’s waste of money on marketing.
For people who get easily distracted like me, the paper is shiny.
The photos seared through my pupils, and it appeared that I was immediately transported into that glossy photo of a gorgeous kitchen making kale, and we don’t even eat kale.
I need to mention the curly-haired blonde lady who helped us. I can’t recall her name. I can recall her personality which was a heaping scoop of hyper Evangelist with a smidge of Billy Blanks thrown in. Each proposal they provided was basically $70,000 over our budget. They never took our budget into consideration; it was always what Air Room wanted.
Maury from Normandy came to our home and Dave and I liked his informality. So far—ten seconds in—he seemed just like us.
Wait. Nobody is just like us.
He had a forthright approach which we found refreshing. He wasn’t trying to sell us the Taj Mahal. He was genuinely trying to help us put on paper and then later concrete, wood, quartz, and slate, what we have been conjuring up in our brains for the last few weeks.
We walked outside to look at where the addition was going to go. I had asked Maury if they were responsible for the tree. The beautiful 72-year-old oak that we were going to dismember and murder to make room for a bigger kitchen.
To gain more equity in the home as we rationalized.
Instead of Maury saying, ‘That beautiful tree has had a good life. We can use her to make more shiny marketing materials,’ he instead just said, “No.”
He provided us contacts to remove our tree. Dave and I are not strangers to tree removal, and we know we got robbed with the first tree we had to take down. The second tree we decided to remove ourselves which landed on a part of our fence and slightly damaged a small animal refuge area of our environmentally conscious neighbors.
We gave Maury our number to meet on a budget, and we gave him a vision of what we wanted in our new kitchen.
Dave and I liked Normandy because:
1.There weren’t excessive, shiny marketing materials to magically transport me into a cashless world where everything is free and thinking that I really could be the next Julia Child given a kitchen the size of New Hampshire.
2.What we had envisioned from our minds and with suggestions from Maury, the plan was precisely what we wanted.
3.We felt they had our backs. Sometimes when you go through something major in your life—and I would rank a kitchen renovation high up on the list of major stuff in your life—right next to needing intervention if you put your Christmas lights up ten minutes after Halloween—you need someone to say, “Back away from the ledge. I got this.”
However, we suppose the most important point to make is we unexpectedly took on this renovation the same way you would tend to a newborn. We had so many questions, but Maury provided us with answers that didn’t make us run for the hills like a plain white van which slows down but doesn’t offer you candy.
When we met the boss, Matt Weber, he slightly reminded me of Hermey, the wanna-be dentist elf from the 1964 classic version of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. I only say this because he had this big flip of luxuriously thick blonde hair, which was shortly shaved a few weeks later because of the intense, humid, and sweaty heat wave that hit the week after we removed our air conditioning units.
As you can imagine with four German shepherds and the recent fallen old oak that now brought on the attack of stink bugs, our newborn renovation, as well as its naïve parents, were hot, sweaty, and killing flat smelly bugs for weeks.
I gave Matt a hard time at first. I freely admit it. I talk a lot of smack for someone who falls over when putting on their underwear. But, I just wanted to be sure he knew how to deal with difficult people.
At the same time of getting to know Matt, we also met a wide range of different crews:
1.The first group had to pour the foundation. The man who was in charge was probably yelling in German because it’s a lot scarier than yelling in English. He kept his guys in line, making sure they were doing their jobs and not standing around like one of our local cops at the barbershop.
2.The second crew came to build the framing and knock down the wall. The crew’s boss, Nick (who was really Leonardo DiCaprio researching for his new movie role as a mob boss in the construction business), was great. Him, along with the rest of his crew, were professional, clean, kind, and liked my dogs.
When they knocked down the wall, the heat wave was gone. The cold snap decided to see how fast I could lose a toe to frostbite. This was also the time they discovered asbestos above our old kitchen area.
I played on an asbestos floor when I was a little kid which probably explains a lot. I think my mom fed me asbestos every morning before I went to school. Oh, wait. That was oatmeal with lead paint chips.
So, things were at a standstill for a few days to determine if the asbestos was good or bad (it was good), and then get someone in here to remove it all. On that day, my home took on the image of a triage unit with men covered from head to toe in protective sterile, white clothing. The surgery took place to remove the benign asbestos from our frozen premises.
Matt sent in samples to the ZAI Trust, and I submitted paperwork to them. It was nice to get some cash out of it and didn’t even realize the trust existed because we were new parents to a newborn renovation, which was still being developed. Normandy had our backs.
The men who took care of our tilework, ductwork, insulation, siding, electrical, plumbing, drywallers, cabinet installers were very nice, courteous, patient, and tolerated all four dogs as well as myself as I strained to understand what they were saying to me.
At least within my home during these tumultuous times, anyone I came across was very accommodating, and I tried to be the same in kind.
Don’t you wish everyone could be like that?
After all the planning, dust, stink bugs, sawdust, dirty dogs, heat waves, cold snaps, hammering, drilling (thank goodness, I’m deaf but my neighbors aren’t), tree cutting, and feeling displaced with everything out of place, we are finally finished.
Don’t ask us if we’re happy. I wouldn’t be writing this if we weren’t. Our kitchen looks exactly as we had envisioned it. Only better.
Thank you to Normandy for hiring Maury Jones and Matt Weber and contracting subs who know their business. I plan to take beautiful pictures and post on social media naming your business and praising the transformation.
Of course, you can always take professional pictures and put them on shiny paper for marketing purposes. We wouldn’t be opposed.
Dave and Nancy Chovancek
Your Best Clients Ever”