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.
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.