The Perfect, Not-Perfect, House

by Stacey on Sat Apr 18, 2020

When the sellers of our current home accepted our offer, I was thrilled.  This would be Kevin and I's first house after years of living in apartments that we couldn't renovate, paint, or change in any way to suit our needs.  Finally, we had a place to make our own! But it was far from perfect.

Why did we buy it?  Let's go back to the beginning.  One sunny and warm August weekend, we took a walk around the neighborhood where we were renting.  Kevin, myself and our one-year-old daughter were paused at a sidewalk when my phone chirped.  It was an alert from one of the many real estate apps I was obsessively checking that summer, and it was notifying me of an open house a few streets away.  We decided to go.  After all, what's the worst that could happen?  It's only at the extreme top of our price range ($1,000 from our outrageous upper limit, which had recently been increased from a prior reasonable upper limit).

We walked in, full of hope.  You would think we would have realized after five months of house-hunting in this incredibly competitive market that we were about to feel crushing defeat.  But no.  Somehow we still managed to stride in with smiles on our faces.  Oh naive Stacey and Kevin.  How wrong you were.

So in we went!  And this is, more or less, what we saw.  (When we took these, the dated furniture crowding every corner and wall had been removed).

What's that? You can't see the details? The photos are too dark?  Aaahh, yeah, that's the wood.  Stained wood.  Dirty wood (note the long, rectangular space a rug had been in the kitchen).  Oak, pine, rough sawn, anyone's guess really on the rest.  And it didn't just grace us with its presence in the kitchen.... 

It covered the entire bottom floor, quite literally.  All of the wood had been stained drowned in a deep dark brown.  In the picture above, that rough sawn timber took up half of each wall, and the entire wall on the left side with dark stained bookcases and a dark fireplace on the right.  The only window in that room is the one you are looking at.  Not helping matters, the owners' furniture took up a good portion of the living areas, making the space feel cramped.

Good news: someone else had the same reaction we did!  We weren't alone!  Halfway through our tour, I noticed another young couple standing at the far end of the kitchen.  Their faces were drawn, overwhelmed, and seemed completely at a loss.  I overheard one half of the couple say something about "just" blowing out a wall.  Her significant other darted her a look with a face that could only be interpreted as a HARD no.  They stood huddled on the corner of the porch for ten minutes, either discussing the impending end of the world or the state of the kitchen (it was a true toss up). 

The scene of the crime: where we found our (maybe) competitors.  I still don't know what wall they wanted to "just blow out," but as anyone who has ever lived through a home renovation in an old home can tell you, there is no such thing as "just" blowing out a wall.  But more on that another day.

We went home and drank our feelings.  (I'm a lightweight so I drank one glass of wine and most likely cried, although the details are fuzzy).  But over the next few days, something weird happened: any time I had space to think, I came back to that house.  In an act of what I can only now describe as pure desperation to find us a home, I drew the floor plan of the house.  Just the floor plan.  No furniture, no dark walls.  And I marked the things that would be easy to change out.  Like the peninsula in the kitchen, and the pedestal sink in the upstairs bath.  It was remarkable.  Once I could no longer see the dark wood, old furniture, and dated furnishings (I'm looking at you, brass door knobs), I could see the potential.

Once we got the house down to the basics, it actually fit everything we said we needed in a home.  (Except for Kevin who, for some reason, was set on needing a master bathroom.) It was just that I couldn't see it through the decor that was clearly meant for someone else.  Refinish the floors; minor kitchen demolition and reconfiguration; add a breakfast nook; paint all the doors, trim, and baseboards, update the appliances. All of these were things we could do, given enough time. I was shocked.  And we were sold.

After a couple of rough negotiation processes, with months in between each, we finally had the house of our very future dreams.  With enough work, we knew we could turn this 189-year-old house into our forever home.  Stay tuned as we fill you in on what happened, and what is happening, to turn that pipe dream into reality.