Sometimes a house is a friend, not just a passing, useful, rain deterring
tool, but a connection you will have and keep dear forever.
tool, but a connection you will have and keep dear forever.
Four or so years ago I found a best friend, or how I more often phrase it—my baby. This was a house that held my deepest dreams and my most practical desires. I remember explaining to the realtor on the phone "I want a house with a huge yard, the house can be small, I want something that needs to be fixed but has good bones. I'm not in a hurry, but if it is the right one I want to know about it." I wanted a house I could call a home. Her quick response was "I know of a house that just came on the market, it may be way too run down for you but go by and check it out." She gave me the address and I immediately dropped everything to go look.
I drove up the long driveway lined by a mowed lawn that was mostly weeds and Bermuda grass. All I could see from there was a dilapidated garage door and the peak of a roof that may or may not have been the house. I parked and walked around the garage to a covered patio (really a carport, but I refused to call it that) with an outdoor fire place, right beyond was giant yard that swept back until it ran into a grove of oak trees. I was in love. I stepped up onto a concrete patio that ran along the house and peeked in through a very filthy window. A massive brick fire place stood immense and dramatic in a large living-room with wide, old oak flooring. I called her then and there. "I love it! It's perfect. What to I do now, I definitely want it as long as the structure is sound."
I can't portray how excited I was. Here was a rough gem, so rough that all my fantasies from childhood could finally be filled with this old house. As a kid one of my biggest dreams was to find an old abandoned Victorian house and slowly but surely bring it back to life. This wasn't a Victorian, it was better, it was unique in ways I couldn't expect.
It took about five weeks to get the house into my name. A harrowing five weeks I must add. There was many a moment I doubted my decision; the smell alone made me wary enough to ask to see several more homes before I was clear this was the right one.
I had a handful of friends and friends of friends come check it out with their contractor eyes turned on. All had the same thoughts: It looks sound but you never can truly know til you buy it and start working, it would take loads of money which they knew I didn't have to put into it, and lastly, they loved the house too. It truly was special.
We moved in with only a toilet ready to go, we slept in the hall and had no kitchen for at least a month. The first night I knew, I really knew, I was finally at home. I felt more settled and at ease in this musty, unkept set of walls then I had at the lovely suburban house I had been renting the year before. Cement driveways and well kept lawns made my skin crawl.
Thanks to the help of a team of guys and my parents loan of some cash, we made the bathroom and kitchen the way we wanted and lived with the rest of the house as it was. I remember my friend telling me, "Now what used to be the worst part is the best, and what was tolerable before is now the worst." She was so right.
I designed the good spaces just how I wanted them, so that although it cost more than if I had used Lowe's cheapest ceramic tile, it came out better than I ever could have hoped. I have learned, and this is only for myself someone else may prefer a different plan of attack, but I have learned to make what you can fix as wonderful and tasteful as you can, and then the rest follows, maybe slowly, but at least you know where you are headed.
Sadly, my perfect house is not in my perfect town. After only a couple of years in the house, we realized we needed to move to a place that had the same impact on us that that house had had on me when I first met it. Southern California has never been a place that speaks to me, and it took two tries to get us up and out to where our heart truly lies-- the Pacific North West. But I miss my friend, my baby, the deep shutter of connection I felt as I lived under that roof.
It was an incredibly hard decision to part with this baby of mine. But I have worked hard to let go and am ready, getting ready, to say goodbye for good. Hopefully the new family that moves in will love that house with the same immense passion that I did.
BEFORE AND AFTER
Outside the house in the first few days of ownership (pictures from this post):
The patio fireplace:
An old chicken shed in the back, so rotten we had to tear it down:
Sleeping in the hall:
Old kitchen, far worse than the picture shows:
Wall of the kitchen to the living-room that was removed:
Bathroom in all its beauty. There was even a spot of blood on the floor. So gross:
The redone kitchen from the living-room:
Open bar to the kitchen that was used all day long and was the best way to hang out with friends and the kids while I cooked:
The brilliant stove we found on Craigslist . . . (Two ovens, a dream I've had since I was a kid!!)
We eventually put in the back splash, I had poured the concrete counter tops myself and had botched a couple of places. We decided to have the person who had laid our tile come back and fix up my funky spots and put in the back splash properly. He did such a nice job. We used ceramic coasters as accent tiles to bring in more color.
The stone sink was a bit of a challenge. It came from just a few streets over, at a small shop where the husband and wife import them from China. The wife is Chinese and either her family makes them, or they help select them. Anyway, I had told the guy helping us with our bathroom that we were going to have a drop in sink. I didn't know the plumbing changed entirely depending on what kind of sink you use. So part way through the bathroom creation I showed up with this baby. The guy was horrified, but had to agree it was pretty amazing. Usually they are used for fountains, but hey, the walls were all slate, and it brought the feeling to the bathroom I was searching for.
He suggested a copper faucet. Plumbing fixtures are far from cheep, and once he realized
we had no intention of trying to stay in the box, it felt like a burst of interest came in. He
was ready to experiment.
The patio where we spent most of our time:
We had all our parties and holiday meals out there. The ten foot table fit almost everyone:
And at night even if it was just us, a fire made the whole space incredibly cozy:
For now, I will love this house just a little bit longer and work to have it finished.
To read more about this house and see more pictures check out these posts and these.
All my best to everyone
This post was inspired by Compass's"Starter Stories Project". They asked me to write about my first home, which, anyone who has followed my blog would know is a very irresistible subject for me. Thanks for reading.