In March 2016, right after moving into our new place, David and I realised that our kitchen was in dire need of an overhaul. The woman who lived in the apartment before us was a slovenly wench, who had allowed the place to putresce into filth and disrepair. The kitchen (and bathroom) cabinets were all water-damaged and mouldy on the inside, so it was imperative to replace them as soon as possible.
Hahaha, did I say as soon as possible?? Forthwith, the best laid plans!!
I got busy designing our new kitchen using IKEAs 3D kitchen design programme. It’s basically like baby-CAD, allowing you to enter the dimensions of your room and then play around with inserting different IKEA products and colours. It’s pretty fun to use and I spent hours and hours on it trying to create our perfect kitchen. Or at the very least a better kitchen.
So, the idea was that once we’d figured out the design, we would replace all the yucky brown floor and wall tiles, and then install the sexy, sparkling new kitchen. Since IKEA would do the installation of the new cabinets, we just needed to find a tiler who would also do us the favour of smashing and removing the offending cupboards. Easy, right? No. The deal is, if you want to get anything other than minor work done in any apartment on Palm Jumeirah, you need to get a permit from the developer, Nakheel. And they only issue permits to companies that have Contractor’s All-Risk Insurance. What is CAR insurance? I have no idea, but I do know that not many companies have it. Because it’s expensive as fuck. I looked it up and it seems the only companies that can afford this crazy insurance are the big ones, the construction firms that build apartment blocks and malls. So, after getting a few quotes, we realised that the tilers we could afford couldn’t afford the insurance. Catch-22. Dead end. Plans on ice.
As we are wont to do, we moved on with our lives and we kind of got used to the shitty brown kitchen. It was gross, yes. It was damaged, yes. But it was functional, so we normalised it. I guess that’s just the brain’s way of dealing with crappy situations, and as a defence mechanism it worked a treat because we continued using the kitchen for the next nine months without too much drama. But still… existential kitchen discontent crept in. Slowly. But surely. Until it became impossible to ignore. We needed to get back on the horse and find a company that could fix our awful kitchen. Oh, and don’t think we didn’t consider the old let’s-renovate-the-kitchen-without-official-approval trick. We thought it through and concluded it just wasn’t worth it. We live in a very strange country and we don’t know the consequences of breaking rules like that, so we wanted to do it all above board.
And then, out of nowhere, we had a stroke of good luck. A colleague of mine mentioned that she was renovating her place, and how impressed she was with the guys that she had hired to renovate her bathrooms. They’d been recommended to her by her previous renovators who had exclaimed that she was “Too fussy, madam!!!!”. I thought, “Eureka, they sound perfect”. And so I reached out to MobiCon to ask them for a quote and to see if they could get all the necessary permits from Nakheel, and lo and behold, it turns out that they could.
But there was a hitch (as if there wouldn’t be a hitch). The permit was issued with the proviso that no floor tiles were allowed to be removed. If we wanted to put new tiles on the floor we had to do it over the top of the existing ones. WTF? Apparently the home owner’s association carries some pretty heavy clout around here, and one of their main priorities is protecting residents from excessive renovation noise. How delightful. But not very convenient for us. We had a representative of Nakheel come to the house to tell us this and to ensure that the contractor was fully aware of the restriction. An Emirati man wearing national dress, Mr B. cut an imposing figure as he loomed in our beige kitchen. But somehow, during his fifteen minute visit, David and I convinced him to approve the removal of floor tiles. Yeah, it shocked the hell out of me too! How’d we do it? The old-fashioned way, of course. We grovelled and pleaded and prostrated ourselves, and promised that there would be NO complaints of noise from ANY of the neighbours. He looked suitably dubious and said that if there were any complaints (even just one) he would shut the whole thing down, regardless of how incomplete the work was. Scary stuff, particularly as people in Dubai seem to be rather fond of dobbing, as opposed to the more civilised option of knocking on your door and having a quiet word.
So, two days before work was to begin David and I went around to the neighbours that were most likely to be affected by the noise. We introduced ourselves, explained what was going on and offered gifts of appeasement – chocolate (the really good stuff of course, this was serious business after all!!!). And it worked. Even though the tile removal was hella noisy, no-one complained, and I consider that to be a minor miracle.
The work was supposed to take 10 days but of course it took closer to three weeks. And for three weeks our house looked like the set from Mad Max. Everything was covered in a fine, grey dust. Including us!!! Also, for three weeks we couldn’t cook anything, so we either ate salads for dinner or had take-out (guess which one we did more). And for three weeks, we couldn’t do any laundry, since the washing machine fittings are in the kitchen. Three weeks, friends. I got down to one pair of underpants!! And yes, I suppose I could have hand washed them but that’s just not my stripe. Neither is sending them out to be washed by a stranger. Ew! (Click on the thumbnails below for a description of each photo)
Anyway, after the tiling was all done it was IKEA’s turn to come and do their thing. They installed the entire kitchen in just one day. At one point there were seven guys working on it. It was impressive to watch. Once the kitchen was in, we had to organise electricians and plumbers to hook everything back up again, as well as getting the gas reconnected. We wheeled and we dealed and somehow we got everything completed by the evening of 24th December. Our first cooked meal in our brand new kitchen was going to be Christmas lunch. Perfect timing. To celebrate, we had beer and pizza for dinner (old habits die hard). (Click on the thumbnails below for a description of each photo)
The next day I started preparing our Christmas feast while David put on a load of washing (one pair of undies, remember!!!). I was about to put the cake in the oven when we noticed water streaming out in tidal waves from under the washing machine. I experienced a sinking feeling (egad! our new kitchen was ruined in less than one day!!!) but there was also a feeling of just getting on with it. Nothing was going to ruin Christmas lunch. We mopped up the water, and I continued prepping the roast while David called the plumbers back. It took them a while to fix the problem (blocked pipes or something like that) but I kept cooking that damn meal around them and their tools. And it turned out wonderful. In fact, it was everything that a first meal in a new kitchen on Christmas day should be.