The Loh Life is writer/performer Sandra Tsing Loh's weekly take on life, family, and pop culture in early 21st century Southern California.
Hosted by Sandra Tsing Loh


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 If only home reno was as simple as on "Fixer Upper"—  The popular TV show featuring Chip and Joanna Gaines.  These toothsome Texans show an anxious couple three falling down houses—

 The couple picks one—  Chip and Joanna sledgehammer it, tear off the "ship lap"— Repaint it cobalt, festoon it with design elements from Joanna's handy online store— Stainless steel fixtures, antique farm lamps, throw pillows thatsay "Gather"—  Two months later, the Gainses pull apart life-sized photo panels of the old house to reveal the new, and the couple weeps with joy!

"You have to live in Texas to be on the show," says my friend Jan. "If it were LA, you'd spend a year just waiting for permits."

"I like how easy they make it," I say.  "The couple just says what they're like—She says: 'I'm a homebody.  He's outdoorsy.'  They go away.  Two months later they magically return to a landscaped backyard terrace that 'brings the outdoors in'—"

"With a throw pillow that says 'Nature,'" adds friend Mary. 

"Exactly!" exclaims Jan.  "In Eagle Rock we just wanted a drought-resistant yard!  This master gardener—  That's right, master gardener—  Her estimate included 10 hours of design at $150 an hour and we had to participate!  There was a lengthy questionnaire about our 'aesthetic goals' and 'plant preferences'—  And I'm going, 'I already went to college!  Just plant something—'"

"With a throw pillow that says 'Water,''" says Mary.

"Contractors!" I say.  "I was trying to get just the outside of our house repainted.  The same color.

From Angie's List, I got three estimates.  The first—$20,000!  Done in two weeks.  Seemed like a lot.  Second—$11,000!  One guy.  An artisan.  He estimated it would take him two months."

"Until he falls off the ladder and breaks his hip—then years could go by," says Jan.

"Third estimate?  $3500.  Done in three days."

"How is that possible?" Mary asks.  "Is the paint radioactive?"

"Oh no," I say.  "The crew shows up on time, 9 a.m. on Tuesday, they're professional, they're neat, they're focused.  They measure, cover, tape—"

"And the second day they don't show up," says Jan.

"Oh no, the second day more painters show up.  There are 12 of them, working 10 hours a day.

And then, in slow motion horror, I'm taking out a calculator, trying to figure out how much they're getting paid.  The house looks great but I feel terrible. So I brought them cookies."

"Add a throw pillow from Joanna's store that says 'Guilt,'" says Mary.

"Oh no," I say. Too expensive."