Friday, July 20, 2012

The House - The Look


Note: this post was initially written May 30th, and amended July 20th.

So, we are trying to buy a house. If we succeed this means we are officially grown up. For some reason, in our set of philosophies, having a child does not make you a grown up. We got close last year when we bought a car, but we still felt like we had some wiggle room, some general maturing to do.  But now we are able to nod sagely when people use words like "mortgage," "equity," and "PMI."

This past weekend we looked at eight houses in two days, which is just a weird and exhausting process.  You kick a family out of their home for an hour, and then walk through it judging every choice they have made in the time they have lived there, as well as every choice made by every family who has ever lived there, and snarkily using such phrases as "crown molding" and "updated kitchen" and "open plan."  In the process you learn a lot about yourself and your spouse, such as the fact that D is alarmingly tolerant of wallpaper and carpeting that I find horrific, we both love craftsman style, and ceilings lower than ten feet make feel like the house is trying to kill me.  People, you know you are not shocked by the fact that I anthropomorphize houses.

So after hours and hours of walking through other people's lives and trying to imagine our life in their place, I came to a certain realization about houses.  There are two kinds of houses: the first kind is a house.  It can be a great house, it can become a great home even, but it will always be just that.  Roof, walls, floors, ceilings, appliances.  While everything doesn't have to be new or updated, usually everything works and is well laid out and makes sense. There can be beautiful spaces inside and out, and it can become filled with beautiful memories for you and your family.  You can be very happy in this kind of house. We saw several of these houses over the weekend, and one was a very top contender.  We live in one of these houses now, and have had three years of insanely happy memories within its walls.  But we have had a very hard time naming it.  Usually we just call it the Rochester house.

The second kind of house is different.  It is not just a house, and it is not just a house with character.  It is a character.  These are the houses you do not have problems naming. They don't have to be glorious mansions or big country houses a la Downton Abbey.  Our first character house was about 1,000 square feet, but every square foot was busting with elderly teacher charm.  There were foxes worked into the decor everywhere, a bright purple bathroom with black cats in red hats painted on the border, and a pastel quilt painted on the 16 foot high wall in the master bedroom.  You had the walk through the downstairs bathroom to get to the guest bedroom, which was formerly a sewing room, and the upstairs bedroom had a bay window seat.  We called it the Fox Den.

In a house, you have to contribute the entire story.  Your belongings, your voices, your memories are what fill the house.  In a character house, the house is another character in your story.  We didn't just have a New Years Eve party in the Fox Den, the house was there with us when we had the party, when we cooked our very first spaghetti dinner as a married couple, and when we brought home our foster daughter Joyce for the very first time.

We saw a lot of both kinds of houses over this weekend, and both Don and I agreed that we could be happy in either. But when I dig down deep, and am honest with myself, I know that I am usually happier when living in a house that contributes something more to our living arrangement than a roof and four walls.  A house than can contribute its own history and style and even opinions. A house that can say "Oh no, that color is never going to look good with my wood trim," or "Yes, a porch swing is exactly what I needed here!"  I have an active imagination, and I like having a house around me that I can have a conversation with.

It should go without saying, but I'll say it anyway, that when buying a character house, it is best to find one whose character you can get along with!

This weekend we went back and forth with a lot of arguments, but kept coming back to one house in particular who would not be ignored or passed over.  To say that it had character would be a gross understatement.  It was built a hundred years ago, and seems to have spent the passing century just building up awesomeness and weirdness.  It has been a duplex and possibly at one time a triplex.  It has been the home of doctors, families, dogs, and during the 1980’s was restored by a fabulous gay man.  There are stairways to no-where, secret basement rooms, nooks, crannies, a secret hot tub room on the second floor, sky lights, built-ins, butterflies, and four fireplaces all in a three story craftsman prairie style brick and stucco house.  

Don and I are already fighting over the name.  Don thinks that Shatterly Place fits it very well, but I feel like that will either be heard as Shat-erly Place or Slaternly Place, neither of which are really awesome.  I, being slightly more insane, feel that the house has revealed to me that it's name is Maurice and that it is the house incarnation of the recently deceased Maurice Sendak.  Don hates this with the fire of a thousand suns and now we have agreed I will never bring that up again under the threat of having all Maurice Sendak books removed from said house.  Except for here, on my blog.  Ooops.  Just don’t repeat it.

We put in an offer yesterday, and are keeping our fingers, toes, arms and legs crossed!

Update:
It is now the 20th of July.  I am updating this blog post from the den on the second floor, which is the room adjacent to the secret hot tub porch.  We packed all our belongings into a moving truck on the 30th of June, drove to Indiana the 1st of July, bought this house the 2nd of July and moved in that very same afternoon (thank you Jim Lee, T J D’Agostino, Paul Sacquitne, Cliff Arnold and Kevin Healy for all of your moving help!).

I promise to post a Part II to this series with lots of pictures soon!

We still have not decided on a name.