Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Greener Pastures at My Feet

A number of events transpired lately to make me house-unhappy.

First, I'm having all sorts of concerns about our larger family and the number of bedrooms.  To be very clear: WE HAVE PLENTY OF SPACE IN THIS HOUSE.  We currently have three bedrooms. They're all very big bedrooms: the boys share a bedroom and Trixie is set up in the same room as Fritz and I. The third bedroom is our guest room. This is a situation that will work for, uh, maybe two more years. Then we need to renovate (or/and give up the guest room).  Just thinking about the time and effort and capital needed to convert some of the loft space into bedrooms – or finish the basement – is giving me a gigantic headache.

Second, the sales price for houses in our neighborhood skyrocketed this summer, with home owners on our street selling their homes for 35% more than they paid for them just three years ago. Which is good and bad. In this retelling of events, it's bad, because that kind of profit potential made me wonder if NOW is the time we SHOULD be selling our house.

Third, I recently went to look at new model homes. What a mistake! Kind of like watching cable television, walking around in model homes made me think about all sorts of new ways to spend money. And then there was the new model home that really spoke to me. I felt like the floor plan and the style of the house were designed just for us – for my family. Where was this house four years ago when we were buying?!? I felt all sort of bitter about the compromises that we made buying our current house: Stupid columns on the porch! Window mullions! Dumb muted palette of colors! I'm not conservative like that! I'm modern! I want a modern house! (WAAAH!)


In times like these, I find it good to review all the great things I ALREADY have. So I started making this list of all the things I love about our current house.

1. Solar Orientation: warm morning light, lots of light during the day, the long streaks of evening light. Good for house plants!

2. Kitchen Sink (Kohler's Smart Divide): It's huge and small at the same time. See how the dividing piece is only half the depth of the sink? It's like having three sink sizes in one! It truly is a smart way to divide a sink. We put this in after we bought the house, because the builder didn't offer it.

3. Washer and dryer in the basement. The house came with a laundry hookup on the main floor, but we added one in the basement and use it instead. Very old-fashioned of us, right? Unlike the hookup on the main floor, in the basement there's lots of space to spread out, fold, and sort laundry, nevermind the space to allow clothes to line dry. I like that.

4. Unfinished basement. (Bonus points in combination with #3.) It's especially great for those who like to zoom around on riding toys. In the winter or in the very hot summer, there's plenty of space to ride/jump/swing around down there. And, lest I forget, plenty of space to make a pond puddle to ride through.

(I confess that I may not care so much for either the unfinished basement or the laundry in the basement if my kids were older and more independent.)

5. The edible landscaping. We're constantly working on this one. So far (this year) we have: raspberries and strawberries, blueberries (barely surviving!), currants, apples, cherries, peaches, mint, cilantro, basil (21 batches of pesto to date), parsley, and garlic. We were more ambitious in our annual plantings last year; but it feels awfully good to be able to "take a year off" and still have some edible stuff.

6. Modern Fan's Ball Ceiling Fans: this one is 3 parts aesthetic and 1 part functional. I love how these fans look, but they work just the same as our Hunter fans. However, the Ball Fan was much, much easier to install than the Hunters, therefore it gets 1 part functional love. I started thinking about how much I love these fans when I started thinking about moving to a new house - Would I have to leave the fans behind? Oh sadness! But this is mostly me being silly because they're easy to buy (and install) again. Trixie really likes them right now, too.

As long as we're talking about fixtures, I should add Rejuvenation's Astron pendants over the kitchen island to my list. Although, also easy to re-buy.

7. Landings on the Stairs: it's funny, because we lived in 1000 square foot rentals for years. When we moved here, we suddenly had almost three times that space. Fritz and I felt like, "Ah, a big house, with big spaces, we can spread out and stop tripping over each other." Then the boys took to playing on the stair landings for hours at time. It seemed awfully ironic that we suddenly had all these big spaces for playing in and the boys repeatedly choose the smallest, most trip-inducing place in the whole house for their toys and bodies. SIGH. But it does make me love the landings, which are perched above the main living area.

8. Bamboo: you're sick of hearing about it, but it really is so calming and relaxing to look at. I think after the next (2014) grow season, it's going to be the perfect height and density. So excited. I would be sad to leave it!

9. Wood on the Kitchen Island: I can imagine some perspective buyer hating my wood island. I can almost hear them saying, "Why in the world when you put wood on the island, when all the cabinets are white?" But you know, I love that wood. I love it as counterpoint to both the cabinets, and now, the glass mosaic tile backsplash. Not a day goes by that I don't look at the wood and swoon a little bit over how rich and tangible the grain feels. OMG what if some future owner paints over it? Shudder.

10. Mother's Day Maple Tree: a gift from Fritz and the boys the first Mother's Day we were in this house. It turns red in autumn! Just like a sugar maple from New England! Although it's not a sugar maple because sugar maples don't like Colorado. Apparently it was the last maple tree at Home Depot when they bought it and it certainly looked like the runt of the batch. But three years later, it's thriving. This year it's the biggest tree in our yard.

11. Scratches in the Floor: There's a lot of these. We were handed more or less perfectly finished wood floors and now they are full of scratches. Most of the scratches run across the main living area, past the dining table, towards the main door. And they will always remind me of our dinnertime during these years with kids under 6 years old. Noah and Mattias would (will?) eat dinner in 90 seconds flat, and then ask to be excused, and once excused (we force them to sit at the table for 5 minutes), they sprint back and forth and around the kitchen island. They haul each other on blankets, they do piggyback rides on uncles and grandparents. They drag things with them. They scratch the floor.

Wood, in my opinion, is one of those materials meant to "weather," meant to be scratched and bumped and (ACK!) stained. I refused to even consider any type of pre-engineered wood floor for this reason. So, yes, the floors are already mightily scratched. But they are scratched with memories. (Go ahead, laugh, even I snickered a little bit when I typed that.)

12. Seeing Through the House: well, this is esoteric observation of someone who spent too many years in architecture studio. Nonetheless, I like the floor plan of this house, which - from a few select perspectives - draws your eyes through multiple interior and exterior spaces. This is predominantly accomplished by a feature that the builder called a 'courtyard.' But I think that 'courtyard' is a little regal for what is a just recess in the exterior of the house. From this recess protrudes the deck. And therefore, from a few places, one can see from interior to exterior to interior to exterior. It's like our house is a visually permeable sponge.

13. Ability to go plant shopping in our own yard. This year is the first year that we've had an abundance of happy, thriving plants in the yard. Want some more tall grass? Just divide the ones we already and have replant them. Want more thyme between the stepping stones? Divide and replant! More ice plant ground cover? Just break some off and stick it in the dirt. Cutting down on the trips to the nursery is awfully nice. The cost of plants can add up quickly and a critical mass of healthy plants takes some time to achieve.


Now that I've finished this list (it took me about three weeks, and then I got lazy: I didn't add some things I've already blogged about, although others I clearly repeated here...), I'm feeling better about staying in this house. Silly me, I love my house! Not only is moving a lot of work, but it simply takes TIME to really settle in to a new place and to begin to layer it with sentimentality and, thus, character. We've barely begun! I'm not ready to start all over again.

But I am done rehashing it all as blog-therapy!


Pregnantly Plump said...

It sounds like the perfect house for your family. I completely understand about someone painting over wood. I spent one summer refinishing a pretty wooden coffee table. We had to sell it when we moved, and the person who bought it told me she planned to paint it. It broke my heart.

Ann Wyse said...

Thanks, PP. Yup, totally feeling your pain on the coffee table. I suppose when I'm ready to let go, the thought of the wood being painted won't feel so painful. At least in theory ;).

twisterfish said...

Oh there's so much about your house that I LOVE. The island is dreamy. The stairs and their landings and the windows divine. And wood floors are a must for me. So when you're ready to sell (though I hope you don't) let me know and I'll see if that's where I need to move to. :)