Bullock and I have lost our minds. We are buying a new house in the middle of the freaking semester. We didn’t really intend it to happen that way. We thought it would take us a long time to find the perfect house at the right price, because we are picky and have a long list of demands. But somehow we found the right house. It’s perhaps not the dream house to end all dream houses, but it satisfies our most important qualities, and once we’re finished renovating the parts we’re going to redo, it will be pretty damn awesome.
So here’s the picture of the outside, which I snipped from Google Street View:
(I thought about using the images from the real estate site, but then I realized that a person could use Google’s new image search and turn up the listings, complete with what will soon be our new home address. I decided I did not want all of the internets to know that! With this image, if you use it to do an image search, all you get are images of mountains and valleys, which is what the computer sees in our roof line, I guess)
As you can see, it’s a modern Tudor style house, a style we really like. It was built in 1988, but, I think, draws well on the proportions and materials of older Tudor homes. We currently live in a neighborhood full of 1920s and 1930s Tudors, which are really really beautiful and rich with details (woodwork, glass door knobs, and the like) that our new house doesn’t have, alas. It does have a few nice finish details — crown molding in the first floor rooms, for example — but what it lacks in the details it makes up in much more modern layout and space, and that’s a big part of what we were looking for in a new house. We figure we can add detail and richness in our furnishings (including what Bullock makes himself) and by doing thing like replacing the plain hollow-core doors with panel doors with interesting knobs. And we can take out the wall-to-wall carpeting and replace it with hardwood.
Anyway, what we were generally looking for was our current house on steroids. We now live in a 1930s two-story Federalist style brick house with four bedrooms (including a master suite, but the fourth bedroom is very small), two and half baths (but one is in the basement and none are on the first floor), living room, family room (with an area that’s potentially an informal eating area), formal dining room, square kitchen that’s big for a 1930s house but small for us, and detached garage, all on a 7500 sq foot lot and sitting atop a small unfinished basement and coal room (which we now use as storage). What we wanted was a a better distribution of bedroom space, so that the fourth bedroom wasn’t just a glorified closet; a kitchen worthy of Bullock’s foodiness and modernist cuisine gadgetry (some of which currently lives in the family room); a bigger basement for Bullock’s shop; an attached garage and an arrangement that didn’t always involve opening and closing a gate; and a bigger yard for Pippi. Oh, and curb appeal — the house had to have curb appeal.
There were two other contenders that we thought seriously about before seeing this house a second time and deciding on it. The other two were exactly the same style but in different scales — brick colonials with two-story pillars (think Virginia plantation — though one of my friends said the bigger one looked like the house on Dallas). The smaller one had a *fantastic* back yard with a mini forest in the middle of it. PIppi would have *loved* it. But its kitchen was tiny and at its price, we couldn’t have afforded to knock out a wall and expand it. The other house was *ginormous* — I swear to god its upstairs hallway reminded me of The Shining — and it had a basement bigger than our whole house, which had Bullock fantasizing about dream wood shops. It also backed up to a ravine on the edge of one of the city’s metroparks, which means that it had the world’s most private back yard, including a little clearing steps below the main level of the yard. Per square foot, it was as cheap as the others, but it was also about 1000-1500 square feet bigger than anything else we were looking at. Plus, it needed serious updating (it was a 1960s house with original owners) and we realized we wouldn’t have the money for updating after buying it. Besides, we kept thinking how ridiculous it would be for the two of us to rattle around that huge house.
I feel like this is the story of Goldilocks and the three bears, because while we looked at about 10-15 houses, there were only ever three in contention, and the one we bought turned out to be “just right.” We didn’t get a yard as fabulous as either of the above yards, but it’s more grass and room to run than Pippi has now. And we got serious square footage for a good price, meaning also that we can afford a 15-year mortgage (and insanely low interest rates right now), so maybe we’ll actually have it paid off by retirement! Bullock will get a basement that’s at least twice as big as the one he has now, plus he won’t have to share it with the laundry, since there’s a first floor laundry room off the garage. In addition to a formal living room of about the same size we have now, we’ll have a bigger formal dining room (to show off Bullock’s fabulous table all the better), a bigger family room that’s visible from and spatially continuous with the kitchen (all the better for entertaining), *and* — bonus! — a room the listing called a “den,” but which we call a “library.” (It’s so totally a library — it has built-in bookcases, and it’s the one room set off from the circular plan, making it a quiet place for study and contemplation. Meanwhile, upstairs, there are four bedrooms of really good size, so finally Bullock and I will have equal sized studies and we’ll have plenty of room for guests. And there’s a *ginormous* master bedroom suite with a walk-in closet and bathroom that are each bigger than Bullock’s current study! God bless ’80s excess. And did I mention the whirlpool bath? Such an ’80s thing, I know, but I am totally going to have many “Calgon, take me away!” moments in that thing, I swear! And finally, we’ll have a powder room on the first floor as well as the upstairs bathrooms. (The guest bath is nicely spacious, too.)
Oh, and finally, we’ll have an entry hall! Hooray! Right now our front door opens into our living room. Both the entry hall and the family room have cathedral ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows (or a transom above and sidelights around the front door, anyway) and I totally want to get some awesome chandelier for the entry way.
I can’t quite believe I accepted a house with a garage on the front (the other houses all had side-load garages), but this one is surprisingly low-key, despite being furthest forward on the front. The garage door is up in this picture, but when it’s down, it’s painted the same color as the timber trim, and with that, plus the brick surround which has more surface area, the garage door just disappears into the design. It’s a really well designed house.
Here’s a totally not-to-scale drawing I attempted using Paint. The back side of the house has been squished and should be deeper, and I made the library a little too big, but you get the idea:
Anyway, the one thing that’s not yet perfect about this house is the kitchen.
Everything in it is original to the house, meaning it’s made of cheap, 80s-style, melamine cabinetry and cheap, white appliances. But since we got this house at a reasonable price, we’ve got the money to build our (or rather, Bullock’s) dream kitchen. Once we do that, we’re looking forward to the entertaining in the kitchen and family room, or, more formally, in the dining room. Oh, and that area I marked between kitchen window and the family room windows is a sliding glass door that leads to a spacious deck above the yard, which will make for excellent summer entertaining and easy access for Pippi in and out of the house from the rooms we’ll be spending a lot of time in.
The house is in the suburbs, but I really like the development, since there are sidewalks and a neighborly feel to the place. There’s plenty of space for long walks with Pippi, and even a small wooded park in the middle. Plus, we’ll be just a mile away from a bike trail I’ve often used and which provides a protected, 6-mile bike to campus, if we feel ambitious. When we first visited, we saw multiple groups of runners, walkers, and dog walkers, and people seemed to be saying hello to one another. We know of a number of people from the university who live there, and because of who they are, we know the neighborhood is not monolithic in either politics or race and ethnicity. And though we’ll be in suburban-town school district, we’ll still be paying Rust Belt city taxes, which was important to us. Plus that school district is economically diverse, so our taxes won’t just be added to an already wealthy district. And though I find this hard to believe, an 80s neighborhood has mature trees and a mix of residents in different stages of their lives. (Weren’t the 80s just yesterday??)
So anyway, we now have to sell our house, but since we’re remodeling the kitchen in the new house (after we close on Nov. 30, that is) we’ll need to live in this one for a little while. Thank god for cheap Rust Belt real estate, so we can actually afford two mortgages at once. But we’ll be happy when we can sell the current home and settle into the new one some time after the new year.
Good god, what were we thinking doing this in the middle of the semester??????