Saturday, March 2, 2013

911. House

It was the sixth house we’d seen on that particular Saturday (this was after a year of looking).  Definitely not a love-at-first-sight, hafta-have-it, sort of thing.  In fact, I distinctly remember informing The Husband that “I would never buy a house where you can see the refrigerator from the front door,” and then I mumbled something or other about “bad feng shui” and “feeling hungry all the time.”  Of course we wrote a full-price offer on the spot.    

The market was drunk on its own inflated sense of fabulousness, we found ourselves in a multiple-bid situation; no one cared if you could see the refrigerator from the front door of this 1913 Craftsman.

The inspection came back with some sobering news:  a crumbling foundation. 

Apparently, a crumbling foundation held together by chewing gum and a prayer is not a deal-breaker for me and The Husband.  Nor is knob and tube wiring.  Nor is ancient plumbing, complete with renegade roots.  Our Realtor told us that the seller would pay $17,000 for the repairs out of escrow funds before we took possession. 
We nodded like we knew what that meant. 
Four weeks later, we got our keys.  And then the real work began.

We spent two years listening to our beleaguered house tell us what it needed:  refinished hardwood floors, new stained glass built-in cabinets dividing the dining room and living room,
refurbished antique light fixtures, new air-conditioning, a re-enameled and rebuilt blue 1950s O'Keefe and Merritt stove,
new exterior paint, new landscaping and a freshly-painted deck,
and finally, a gutted-down-to-the-studs bathroom restored to a 1930’s Art Deco style (the previous owners had “modernized” it in the late 1970s with Harvest Gold carpeting and a plastic tub insert).  I chose a cast iron tub for a replacement, along with retro jade-colored wall tile, shiny black octagon floor tile, a white pedestal sink, and nickel fixtures.  The bathroom looked like Greta Garbo could get ready in there, or at least take a nice long bubble bath.    
With every improvement, with every patch of bad plaster repaired, I pictured the house giving me a hug, cheering, “Yes, this is what I needed!  How did you know?” 

And then we did the unthinkable: 
We moved.

Some nights I dream of that house, our first, and I convince myself that it will send me a postcard detailing its latest adventures:  “Picked lemons off that tree in the backyard this morning—you would have loved it!” or “Saw another great California sunset from the back deck—wish you were here!” But mostly I am glad that I could do my job, my temporary job of restoring the beauty the house held, the quiet beauty lurking beneath the surface.  In 100 years, I hope someone buys my house, the one I’m in now, and says, “Don’t worry, I’m here now.  I’ll save you.” 
And she will. 



  1. Oooh, I loved those pics as much as the ones you shared awhile back from that great house!

    1. thanks! (am I getting repetitive?) thanks!


  2. I've never met a Craftsman I didn't fall madly, irrationally, instantly in love with. So for me, this was like looking at house porn.

    Seeing the stove reminded me of this article, "My Antique Stove: A Love Story" by Susanna Styron. You might enjoy it:

    1. see, girlfriend, this is why you are my best cyber pal (don't tell marianne)

  3. I love your ex-little Craftsman and hope the person that bought it took good care of it. I don't know if the majority of people have the same experience but I think some of us view our first home kind of like we view our first love. It remains special in our hearts. I went back after 30ish years and looked at our first house and found it unrecognizable. When we lived there it was just wall to wall charm and wonderfulness for about three years. (in the mid to late 1970's) Just like first loves you just can't go back but that doesn't diminish the memories and the joy that you/we derived from our first venture into home ownership.

    1. it was 2 gay ladies who bought it, so YOU KNOW they are taking good care of it. I stopped worrying when I saw one of them Windexing the house key.

  4. Please come redo my house. Right.Now.

    1. on my way!!! (do you have girl scout cookies?)

  5. You know I adore this house and all things Craftsman. You are an intrepid hero in my book! (And that bathroom! *swoon*)

  6. What a gorgeous house! Too bad you moved away. I love the claw-foot tub thing. I always feel like we live in a Sucrets box. People tell me I've got too much stuff in there. I, on the other hand, think we've got too little house AROUND the junk. Yeah. And someday you can come to and see my freshly rejuvenated house...probably five months after we've moved out of it. Until then, I've got this clue bat for the naysayers about my muck...:o)


When you write a comment, it makes me feel like I won the lottery or at the very least like I ate an ice-cream sundae. (This has nothing to do with the fact that I did just eat an ice-cream sundae.)