Key West contractors rise to the TV challenge.
Prospective TOH homeowners sometimes ask — in the nicest way possible, of course — "What exactly is in it for us?" It's a legitimate question. After all, we are proposing to 1) repeatedly and for several months barge into their house with a TV camera; 2) document for 10 million viewers to see some of the most personal and expensive choices they will ever make; 2.1) question some of those choices in front of the same 10 million; and 3) make their home a national quasi-landmark that passersby will gawk at for years to come. Beyond the donated or discounted lumber, windows, flooring and appliances, we point out a less-tangible benefit. If chosen, their project will move along unlike any renovation in the real world. Building materials will appear by FedEx, the best craftsmen in town will somehow find time in their schedules, work will proceed on weekends, all in the name of bringing this baby in on time — TV time, that is. We owe our shows to PBS on a rigid schedule, and the job will, come hell or high water, conform to that schedule. It's this aspect of our involvement, in fact, that many former TOH homeowners report as the most valuable. "It was like pulling a band-aid off really fast," said one. But as Michael Miller and Helen Colley — and the craftspeople they've hired — are finding out, every blessing has its attendant curse. As this is being written, there are precisely three days (two of them on the weekend) left to go in Key West. The jobsite is barely controlled chaos, and it's been getting there for the last week. During the TV crew's last visit, the subcontractors had already begun to bunch up. Perry the painting contractor was priming away above Carlo the finish carpenter, who was installing a valence around the living room above Howard the flooring contractor, who was fashioning an inlay of curly heart pine beneath Steve the trim man, who was putting up new urethane crown molding as John and Mike the cabinet installers walked by beneath him with another box of kitchen cabinetry just off the boat from Italy. This is known in the trade as "guys stepping all over each other" (as well as by another, far cruder name), and it's every subcontractor's nightmare. Far better it would be for each trade to work in peace and quiet, an oldies rock station on the radio perhaps, or some Brahms, each task accomplished efficiently and in its turn. Yet the Key West guys are rising to the challenge with humor and grit, doing high-quality work despite the battle conditions. And as our architect/homeowner Michael looks on in professional horror, we must gently remind him that this is business as usual at TOH jobs, that soon we will be gone and order will be restored and that someday he and Helen will look back and say this massive outpouring of goodwill, cooperation and hard work was one of the most valuable things that happened to them during the winter TOH barged into their home.
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