Chennai Flat Construction Update

This blog was begun to document finishing the interior construction and decorating of an apartment in Chennai, India while we live in Chicago, USA. As of fall 2010, the apartment was a concrete shell with walls, but no doors and no windows:

Today, it’s still a concrete shell although it does now have floor and bathroom tile:

Plus they’ve installed an antique carved wood main door (can’t wait to see it!!), windows and French doors to the balconies. So at least the interior is protected from the elements now. Well, weather elements at least. Human elements, not so much (photo via Pink and Green Mama):

Our contractor is still seeking a locking mechanism for a 6-inch thick door. So yeah, you could just open the door and walk in. And we need to find appropriate handles for an antique door — no shiny gold please! I have nightmares of this:

Attack of the shiny brass handles!! The Fenesta windows arrived with shiny gold handles. That’s the standard finish. Not what we wanted and we asked to change them (it was too late), and our contractor must think we’re the most incredibly picky people. Poor guy, we’ve really only just begun with our pickiness! Actually I don’t think we’re unusually picky — it’s just that India is new to so many homeowners having so many options and being so actively involved in the details of the building and designing process. Choice is not always better, though. I highly recommend this book, The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less:

I think of this book many times when I’m confronted with entire aisles of toothpaste choices, shampoo choices, cereal choices …

But for home decor, we do enjoy exploring the choices and deciding what we want. We enjoy that more than things like cutting grass or mundane errands like buying deodorant and detergent, that’s for sure.

So for the India apartment, we’re just operating as we’d do here in the U.S., but we’ve found it’s difficult to accomplish what we want from afar. That may be an obvious statement to some readers, but we’re optimistic folks and we were optimistic last October (photo via motifake):

Now we’ve been through some minor battles and we have emotional scrapes and boo-boos. For things like, finding appropriate hardware for a 6-inch thick antique wood main door that was a major splurge in cost, and we don’t want it messed up. Yes we are helicopter parents over this main door. Finding a farmhouse sink for the kitchen (I may wind up shipping one over). And we don’t think we should have to pay 40,000 INR for old wood beams for the kitchen ceiling:

So much, in Chennai, for just old wood beams?? Or are they talking about making new beams look old? We’re not entirely sure. We’d rather recycle what’s already existing. We don’t even need many beams. Hopefully this isn’t sticker shock. I mean, old wood beams, how much should they cost?

Communicating the bathroom tile design — where the architect drawings mysteriously come back looking very different than what we originally agreed upon, and oops the tile was ordered based on this mysterious changed design, so tile must be returned and re-ordered and the design re-worked. Good thing we  communicated enough to catch that before the thinset, tile and grout were applied. Of course these things also happen during renovations where you’re present in the flesh. We’ve been there, done that with our Chicago home so now we realize what we’re up against. This is just how it is. It’s not easy.

So we’ve taken a break. On top of my husband’s growing business, my full-time job, needing time to eat and sleep, cats that demand attention and we happily oblige, keeping our house and property clean and our clothes washed and pressed, and of course blogging, there’s not much time to be vigilant about the Chennai apartment.

We plan to visit Chennai in July to make major decisions in person. Keep me in your thoughts, I’ve never been brave enough to venture to India’s climate in the summer! So until then, construction is on hiatus and I’m having fun “seeking design inspiration” which  my husband calls “surfing” however this is not idle time, it’s “important research.”

Next post, back to the fun stuff. I just had to dispense with this construction worry, lest anyone think this is all fun n’ games. At least when it is complete, I think we will value it all the more.





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6 Replies to “Chennai Flat Construction Update”

  1. I think you are brave to tackle a design project in India from afar. It will be interesting to see who wins on which points in the end. They will on some things, for sure, and as you stand there flabbergasted, they’ll win you over with there impossible charm and lovely smiles. And when it’s all said and done, you’ll have an apartment in Chennai, lucky you, and this will all have been so worth it! Curious to hear how your trip goes in July. Good luck!

  2. Thank you Leslie! We shall see what happens! Some things we realize later weren’t worth worrying about too much, once you have things like a dining table for everyone to sit around and talk and laugh. Really, what matters?

  3. It is a booming time for buying flats in east Chennai & the land prices are highly increasing, so I like to advice you that this is the perfect time to buy the land in Chennai.

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