We closed on the house on June 16th, and rushed over to find. . .a mess. The sellers left an attic full of mattresses, old computer equipment and junk, a basement full of more junk, including a broken washer, a commercial mop and bucket, their dog's choke chain collar, a horrendous odor, and numerous leftover cans of paint, and more stuff on the main floors, including clothing, unused checks, an ugly fake leather recliner and lots of pennies. Oh, and they left their Rottweiler tied up in the backyard. Clearly, we have a lot to do. And did I mention the (early whorehouse) red walls?
We'll spend the first few days ridding the house of the previous owners' stuff. Besides the aforementioned items, they left their son's bicycle (which we hope to sell at a rummage sale) and a bunch of old car tires and car parts, a wet/dry vacuum in pretty good shape, a wrought iron cheapo table and two chairs (also to be sold at the rummage sale),
a non-functioning power lawn mower and a couple of dirty barbecue grills.
Our neighborhood is not designated as a historic district and has seen a lot of neighborhood conditions through the decades since it was built in 1929. At its birth, our house was probably the height of luxury. It has built-in china cabinets with art glass and coved ceilings in both dining rooms, crown molding and stained glass windows in the downstairs living room, French doors to the sun room which also sports crown molding, leaded glass in the living and dining rooms on both floors,
a floor-to-ceiling built-in in the upstairs kitchen
and built-in linen cabinets on both floors, gorgeous arches,
original woodwork throughout, original cast iron kitchen sinks with drainboards,
and hardwood floors throughout. Our house was built during that brief time when real fireplaces were considered unnecessary because of central heating and therefore, originally, our house had at least one faux fireplace. By the time it was in our hands, however, that fireplace and flanking bookshelves had been removed and vinyl tile had been installed over that portion of the subfloor in the downstairs living room.
It was these "good bones" that saved us from buyer's remorse.
Monday, June 20, 2005
Thursday, June 16, 2005
It's not in a historical district and the neighborhood isn't posh, but our house has beautiful arts and crafts features and deserves a new life. We will be like careful plastic surgeons, first doing no harm. Our goal isn't faithful restoration, but we are mindful of its style and grace as we renovate. Most of what we want to do is to fix what time and careless remodeling has inflicted on this 1929 duplex.
It was Spring 2005. The housing market was crazy and interest rates were low. It seemed like a good time to jump in and actually buy a house, one we both could live in and enjoy. We were a middle-aged woman and her twenty-something daughter. Or, to hear her tell it, we were a twenty-something woman and her middle-aged mother. What did we want? An old house, preferably a duplex where we could each have our own space, preferably bungalow style. Character. That's what we wanted. And that's pretty much what we got. But being novices in real estate, we only saw potential, not the whole picture. And two and a half years later, we still see a lot of potential, but also an endless supply of hard work and expense. Would we do it again knowing what we know now? We just don't have a single answer for that question. There are multiple answers, and most come with qualifiers. Love our house, hate all the problems, but we just keep goin' down home improvement lane, never knowing what's around the bend, just keep singing those homesick renovation blues. . .