Thursday, September 3, 2015

The House that Started It All

I can tell you with 100% confidence that there was never a time I wasn't completely obsessed with houses.  Apple/tree.  My mother is, and has always been, completely obsessed with houses.  There is, however, a difference between those houses you've loved forever and those houses you've had close enough to your grasp to imagine living in forever.  This morning I drove by the house that started it all for me; flipping the switch between fantasy and albeit deluded reality.  When I was 19, I was about a year into my first career job.  I was really into that job, but also kind of hated it.  Driving around in the country with my friend K was a frequent respite.  K usually wanted to drive so she could smoke (no smoking in my car!).  K drives too fast and has a fiery Italian temper that never quite cools off.  We were both always breaking up with our boyfriends and pissed as hell at them for...something.  We would end up in little towns and buy lottery tickets from the junkiest looking carryouts.  We were quite superstitious about where to buy them, certainly there's no way we'd win buying them from a conveniently located BP. For this fanatic superstition, you'd think we'd had success with the method.  K liked to drive in the country because she could drive fast and there wasn't anyone in her way.  I loved it for the exposure to old, interesting houses.  She never understood my love for old houses and I never understood her love for trayed ceilings and kitchen islands with fifteen levels of countertop and other "builder upgrades".  K wanted new new new and I wanted old old old.  She also never understood my desire for a flat-front house.  She likes houses with 25 bay windows, a turret, a portico, and any other appendage one can imagine.  What we had in common was an ever-strengthening sense of domesticity. 

Anyway, it was first on one of these drives that I saw the For Sale sign on this dream house of mine.  It wasn't far off in the country, nor was it old.  But it was a flat-front colonial nestled among big trees.  Of course at 19, I had no business even thinking I could have bought it.  It was $319,000.00 which was about $310,000.00 over my budget.  I would drive by it constantly.  I picked paint colors for the wood siding and toiled over which shade of blue to paint the front door.  I was quite sure Kentucky Blue was perfect.  The house, of course, would have been painted white before the seller's car was out of the garage.  This was before Zillow and The Secret. Despite the lack of real estate photos and Oprah teaching me to make a vision board, I had that house imagined down to the lampshades.  This was all in September.  By January, the new owners had moved in and I begrudgingly accepted I had missed out. 
I had no interest in seeing that house for many years.  It stung.  Not because I couldn't buy it when it was for sale, but because my life veered so far from the life I imagined in that house.  I felt foolish.  As if anyone's life follows the course he/she's imagined. 

This morning, I read this excellent post by my friend at the Hot Flash Homestead and it really stuck with me.  I've been off this week and have a few projects going. One of which is testing shades of orange paint.  As everyone knows, sometimes you just have to step away from the swatches.  So I figured I'd go get another coffee.  Coming out of line, the urge hit me to drive by that house.  I'm just not sure why. 

33 comments:

  1. So ... how did you feel seeing it again? Also, orange is HARD. Worse than picking a gray or a white even, in my opinion.

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    1. I actually felt really sad! I don't even think I'd want it now though. I still love it, but wouldn't want 100% shade. I would love to see it white though.

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  2. That is a very charming house, Stephen! Reminds me of the ones in New England. Funny to read this post because there is a home in my neighborhood that I stalk.....have admired it for 20 years! I drove by it the other day......still love it! Keep us posted. Loi

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    1. I don't trust people who don't have at least one house they stalk! I'd so love to have an ooooold New England house. Hmmm...kinda like yours! I do wonder about ghosts though. With my luck I would get the ghost of some maniacal personal trainer sea captain who slammed doors and pushed stuff off mantles when I was eating my fifth lobster of the day. Do you or your neighbors have ghosts?

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  3. But it's idyllic, look at that setting in the woods!
    I too can be crazy about houses. Last year we tried to buy one I have daydreamed about for years, I had already planned the new garden in my mind, planned the parties I would have on the terrace... then it was for sale and I went insane! I had it fully re-decorated (in my mind) by the time we made the offer, listing price no conditions. Well I wasn't the only insane maniac about that house, a couple came in at $200,000 above asking on the first offer- yeah we had no chance.
    So we spent 9 million dollars on our house to renovate once our dream house was no more... however there is a house around the corner that I stalk and if it ever goes on the market all bets are off.
    Funny I've had orange on my mind, I was putting together a camel and orange outfit this morning, such a good colour for this time of year. What are you painting orange is what I'm wondering?
    How lucky are we two posts from you this week!! XO

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    1. Dani, I am in an endless line at Timmie's which seems the perfect place to respond to a Canadin comment. 200K over asking! Ouch. I love your house and am glad you stayed. It is such a lovely home. But I have a problem with IPP (imaginary party planning) too. That's when I buy shit on eBay at 3AM! Haha! The orange is for my station at the salon! I'm just going to jump in today and hope for the best!

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  4. Absolutely love this post....the road not taken or house in your case. And that is an absolutely beautiful house, I can understand it being the object of one's plans and dream designs. I also stalk a house, which now belongs to my neighbors across the street. But as they've invested thousands in fixing it up and are nowhere near done, plus they need to drill a new well ($35K) on a practical level I am thankful we did not take that road. It would have financially ruined us! And yet the house still speaks to me whenever I'm in or around it. Sigh. I guess just because it's the road not taken does not mean we've completely stopped dreaming about it....

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    1. Oh that's the trouble, isn't it?! The fantasy houses often have lots of problems! I'd love to see more of the houses in your area. I don't have a strong idea of the look there. I can't imagine your neighbor's house has as lovely a view as your house!

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  5. Love this, I have been a house stalker/dreamer my entire life! Your writing is so fabulous!

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    1. Thank you, Cindy! I hope you're doing well!!

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  6. I can easily see why you were so obsessed and I loved this post! That kind of house is right up my alley.
    We are moving to Nashville this fall (Wait, did I just write that? We haven't officially announced it yet. Oops! ;) and I am struggling to find a house. I am obsessing over realtor.com every free minute I get - it's becoming ridiculous. I did find my dream house on a short trip down there in July but it is an hour west of the city and I am just not sure about the location. Sigh.
    House hunting/stalking is so much fun but not when you cannot find one that makes your heart sing. :(

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    1. How exciting! I can't imagine how hard house hunting is from afar. There are so many houses that look great online and like shit in person; and so many more that look unsightly in vulgar real estate photography with fish bowl effects yet look lovely in real life. Hard to be missing that in person element. I'm so excited for you! This is a long time coming!

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  7. what a great story. and a perfect house to obsess over. i've had so many house obsessions. believe it or not i'm actually living in one. i saw my house about 20 years ago and could never imagine being able to live in it. heading over to hotflash now...

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    1. Thank you! Oh I'm not surprised at all that your cottage was once a dream. It's such a special house and could easily capture anyone's imagination! Any idea as to when you'll go back?

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    1. Haha! Well I've certainly been looking at a lot of houses, but that's nothing new. What's funny is I really don't want this house anymore. Mainly for the lack of sun. Nowhere to put a garden! But I still love it.

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  9. What an elegant house, perfect to have as your dream house. This is such an interesting idea for a post - I have had 'stalk' houses all my life, just a few, which I like to see from time to time. After two building two practical houses to raise our children, finally about ten years ago we bought a house which just happened to have the look common to all my 'dream' homes. We are quite blissfully happy here :)

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    1. Oh how wonderful to finally choose a house for your wishes and needs! Congratulations! Thank you. I do still love this house!

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  10. We really, really need to get you over here. We wouldn't even go sight-seeing we would just cook and go house-hunting! Because seriously? If you want to obsess over houses? Say old houses? Provence isn't exactly shabby. But oh my did your Sea Captain ghost comment made me laugh!! After we sold the house we loved in Arles (had to, hello 2008) the buyer (also an American) stopped me on the street a few years later and said "why didn't you tell me it was haunted?!" and I was like um d'uh - the foundations are Roman. With 2000 years of souls rolling around, how could it not be?

    I do love this pretty house you shared but agree with you - sun is good for the heart!

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    1. Ahhhh! I so want to! I just need about two months off and $30k. Haha! I'm sure I could convince contessa to sail with me. How incredible that your old house had a Roman foundation! I believe I recall you telling me that your house in Gahanna was also haunted. I'm hoping I'm just not in tune with that frequency as I've never had any real experience. Sometimes I feel a lot of energy in things I pick up in antique stores, but that's about it.

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  11. Ok the first thing I noticed was Barbie in the side mirror. That house, not so sure SAJ... those trees so close to the house... creepy.
    Anyway, being 19 is the best thing and the worst thing; thank heavens we all survived!
    Like you, when I was young, I just loved houses and remember so clearly the ones I loved. My current home is a happy little nest, friends come in throw themselves on the sofa prop their feet up on the coffee table. Make yourself at home why don't you?

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    1. Haha I know! This is my problem, I am terribly attracted to old kinda scary houses. This particular one isn't old at all (built in the 1980s I think), but the trees are a little spooky. I'm used to that and like it. But my dream of all dream houses is the Amityville Horror house! I love that house so much. I've never seen the movie and never will, I'm already scared enough. So it is funny that I'm so drawn to houses with that element to them. Your house sounds perfect! It really is no use having a house if people aren't comfortable in it.

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  12. We really do torture ourselves, don't we? I'm still haunted by a house I desperately wanted nearly 20 years ago. 77 acres in the middle of nowhere, a huge red brick Loyalist farm house with gingerbread trim, a wrap-around porch and huge Gothic window above the front door. Perfection. Two huge maples stood at the foot of the drive. I swear I fell out of the car when I first saw it. It was condemned and stood empty for nearly a decade, but holy shit I would have lived in a trailer for years had it meant bringing it back from the brink. I drove by it a few years ago, and the red brick had been taken down and replaced by some horrific composite siding, the porch was torn down, and I just stood at the end of the winding driveway shaking my head at what could have been. Gah!

    Hope you found your perfect orange! Our kitchen is painted in a colour called Chinese Lantern, and when we go to repaint, we're going for orange again. Love love love orange!

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    1. Hello! How are you?? How's Odin? Oh that house sounds so lovely. 77 acres! I would love to have that much land. Orange is so difficult. But I think I'm happy with my shade. The actual painting will go down tonight, so let's hope I'm still happy tomorrow morning. I'm not familiar with loyalist style...I'm going to research that. I have another house that I still dream about that was on ten gorgeous acres and full of original 1910 woodwork. It was three full stories and soooo big. Too big. But gorgeous. It sold and the new owners had it listed a year later with many of the original woodwork removed and many more rooms unfinished. Glad I didn't buy it but I still love the idea of it. Not sure I could have dealt with the hour long commute either. Oh and then there was another 1901 colonial on 20 acres with three post and beam barns that I longed for. It was priced soooooooooo low. Ahh. wouldn't it be fun to see everyone's houses they've loved and stalked?

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  13. Is the color of the house the color you were wanting when you were yearning? It is lovely. Old is so good even though worlds of problems can happen. I love thinking about all the other people that cooked in the kitchen or took a bath in the tub.

    Of course I have wound up in a house that is a bit like legos. It has been added on to a million times and looks a bit crazy. But the oldest part is 1895. But not a charming 1895. A bit of a shitbox 1895. Then an addition in the 60s and in the 80s and by us just a few years ago. And it isn't even big! lol

    I sooth myself on Zillow. all.the.time

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    1. Oh it would be painted white so fast! Haha I don't hate the blue, but think it would benefit from being brightened in that setting. I had no idea the core of your house was so old! That's so interesting!

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  14. I'm obsessed with Janet's house..she writes The Gardeners Cottage Blog. I think about it often and dream of being inside it. I don't know why I cannot get it out of my head. I bought Sharon Santoni's new book My French Girlfriends and now I have some French homes to dream about....and gardens.
    Your dream house is quite lovely and if it were painted white it would ooze charm....it's funny how we get these ideas in our heads. I'm off to visit Homestead now...

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    1. I love her house, too! It's so serene and well curated. I'll bet she's obsessed with it right now waiting to get home! I love French style but personally lean more English.

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  15. I think houses are a healthy obsession, as they have a practical purpose as much as an aesthetic one. It wouldn't hurt to indulge once in a while. Besides, looking among houses can make you reassess the vision for your dream house, which is rarely set in stone. There are always a lot of deciding factors, such as time, location, and the price. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the matter. Cheers!

    Naomi Walters @ Chicora

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  16. Hello, I found your blog through the Gardeners Cottage and found so much inspiration, colour and enthusiasm for life within. Your special house is indeed very beautiful, maybe it is not the house you wanted but what it represented, calm, belonging, comfort, things you have now created in your own home. I have a house that has the same effect on me but tell myself it's not the house I want but the place it stands in because it represents so many things I strive for (living in the middle of the woods, the rustic, self sufficient life etc). Lovely to meet you. Betty

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    1. Hello Betty! Thank you so much! I don't think I've found that here, but I'm glad you have! Haha :)
      I think you're exactly right. At that time, that house seemed to be the embodiment of who I wanted to be.

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  17. i've only read two posts and your blog is like reading a great novel that i love and never want to end. it's so late now though on the east coast, but i will be back to read more :)

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