Archive for the ‘homeownership’ Category

looking down

Things have been changing in the living room. I keep meaning to post a picture, but the reality of life with animals is that it never really looks that great in there. But, in the interest of disclosure and—as promised—of showing more complete images of the house, here’s how it looks right now.

The layout: behind the larger couch is a half wall; the chair-and-a-half is in front of the stairwell. The windows look out onto the backyard. The living room is sunken down a step from the level of the hall, kitchen, and dining area (on the other side of the stairwell). The kitchen sink is on the other side of the half wall, but, because of the elevation you can’t see it from the living room. I’m standing at the top of the stairs–outside our bedroom–looking down.

A few things of note:

Yes, the price tag is still hanging off of that red chest in the corner. It’s the perfect size, but the color kind of makes my head hurt. I’m thinking about repainting it (shh, don’t tell Ricky).

I hate those blinds. None of the electrical outlets have covers. The stuff on the mantle is still pretty much a random assortment of things that I took out of boxes.

Yes, those are scratching posts. Yes, Meowice is demonstrating the necessity of multiple scratching posts.

The little wooden chair by the fireplace has a family legacy: my great-grandmother, yearning for grandchildren, apparently used to bring it out and quietly set it in the room when my newly-married grandparents were visiting. My mother brought it out of the garage and put it there while she was visiting.

The couches are new.

In all the drama of moving out, moving in, painting, having popcorn ceilings scraped, and waiting for our carpet, we ordered some new furniture. In the last house, I had two couches: one, white slipcovered Pottery Barn sofa and two, nearly identical Ikea copy of that sofa. The Ikea sofa did not make the trek out west (wouldn’t fit in the covered wagon) and we have two living spaces here that needed couches: this main level room and the large rec room downstairs, where the tv lives.

For the first week or so after our carpet finally arrived, this space looked pretty much the same as the living room in the old house: same white chair, white sofa, and coffee table. The new furniture was supposed to go downstairs.

And, of course, it wouldn’t fit down the stairwell. With some shoving, the old white couch (somewhat complainingly) did fit. So, we had to switch the furniture plans.

I had been on board all along with the idea of having big comfy furniture downstairs with the tv, but at first, I wasn’t wild about having these monsters upstairs. I like my daintily scaled, white furniture. But it is ridiculously impractical sometimes. My favorite example: for two years I had to change my pants the minute I walked in the door because my favorite pair of jeans (RIP) always rubbed indigo dye all over the white couch. To say nothing of the pets. Oh, the pets.

These are much more practical. They are also a bit of a departure from my practiced aesthetic. I’m working on trying to make the room feel a little more like me. And the new furniture is so much better for lounging. I keep trying different combinations of throw pillows. You know, besides the cat-shaped one.

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upstairs downstairs

I keep meaning to take pictures of the house that more fully show what the whole rooms look like rather than, say, the lamb throw pillow on my reading chair.

I do love that pillow.

Although matters have improved somewhat, this picture gives you a pretty good idea of what’s happening in the second upstairs bedroom (we’re using one of them as the master bedroom, and the main level master bedroom is our office). It’s a bit of a no-man’s land; I’ve taken over the closet with my out of season clothes, but nothing much is happening in there right now. But I suppose that this picture does accomplish one goal: you can pretty much see the whole room—and its only piece of furniture (it’s under there somewhere).

But this could be a good time to talk about the basics. We have the same gray Martha Stewart carpeting (Winterthur in Anvil) in all three bedrooms and also in the main level family room and the basement rec room. The rest of the floors (kitchen and entry) are wood laminate that came with the house. We used the same color on the walls in all of the rooms—except for the basement, which was white when we moved in, and the two full baths, which are beige-y and green, pending further renovations.

The paint color “Wish” from the Benjamin Moore Affinity line. It’s really hard to pick a gray paint that doesn’t turn out purple, blue, or just plain ugly. I’m pretty happy with the result, though I’m already kind of missing the Tiffany-box hues of my last house (even though I was growing tired of them at the time). We experimented with picking some different colors for the separate spaces around the house (the kitchen, dining, and family room are all fairly open) but, after the weddinghoneymoonmovinggradschoolmadness, we got tired of making decisions and just went with the same color throughout.

Maybe someday soon we’ll get around to hanging some art on the walls. It might be good to start with picking some stuff up on the floors.

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From a set of images, it’s often very hard to get a grasp on the perspective of a house. This is a corner in what is now our office—though it had been a guest room for the first few weeks. Things are constantly shifting as we try to settle on a use for these new spaces.

When we made an offer on this house, things were moving too quickly in the area for us to arrange a sensible visit to view several properties. So instead, using images from online real estate listings and satellite images, we jumped on a property that seemed unusually nice. And we visited it for the first time during the home inspection, after we were under contract. Sounds crazy, yes, but there were several things working for us: this house was extremely close to Ricky’s new workplace. Rather than being locked between several houses, two sides of the lot bordered on a park. The location worked, so the finishes of the house didn’t seem to matter as much. I tend to change everything anyway.

When we walked through for the first time, there were a few surprises in putting together the layout of the house, but not too many. It’s a common design in this neighborhood, and we were able to determine most everything from similar listings of variations on exactly the same house. Ah, suburbia. The only real surprise was a huge finished room in the basement—the listing didn’t include any pictures of the room, and none of the similar houses had the same feature.

When we moved in, the cosmetic changes began: scraping popcorn ceilings, repainting every single room, and replacing the disgusting carpeting.

Here’s how things look today from another angle—same room (the office), but looking out into the living space, underneath the large central staircase. I love the staircase. It looks—and functions—a bit like a cat condo, but the airiness and brightness of the space make it a great place to perch.

It takes a while—and we’re not there yet—but it seems to me that you can make most any house into a space that feels like you. To begin with, you can always just add cats.

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If you know me, you know this about me: I am an organizer by nature. Well, I’ve spent the last two weeks trying to organize paragraphs; while that’s a bit more in order now, the rest of this is driving me crazy.

The walls are painted, the ceilings have been de-popcorned, the carpet is in, the essentials have been unpacked… and now I’ve just sort of given up on the random piles that are occupying every corner.

The Billy bookshelves are the same ones I had in the basement of my previous house—oddly, despite all the warnings I’ve heard about the downfalls of trying to move particle-board furniture, these came out of the truck in better shape than just about anything else. Ugh.

Anyway, we now live 1.5 hours from an Ikea, which, compared to the hideousness of driving to Schaumburg, seems like nothing. We’ve been down there way too many times in the last six weeks. I wanted to add the glass doors and height extensions to my existing shelves; of course, Ikea was out of at least one of the parts on each of several trips. On the most recent one, we got another, narrower shelf to put on the far left; they were out of the height extension, but we got the door and the case. The door, it turns out, is the wrong one, so back we go. Assembling the hinges and adding these doors is AWFUL. We’ve been taking turns, but the thought of putting the last one on makes me want to weep. Many of our recent furniture purchasing decisions have been based solely on the virtues of things that do not come with allen wrenches.

So, the bookcases are mostly in order now; I won’t go into the full sob story surrounding the individual shelves. The Romantics are in the wrong place now, though, and nothing is alphabetized yet. WHAT A MESS.

I’m starting to think, though, that maybe it was for the best that I never really had room for a dining table in the last house. All I do with this one is pile it with junk. It seems that no matter what I do, the table must be covered in at least this much stuff. From day to day, it’s usually different stuff, but in roughly the same quantity.

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I’m sitting on the floor at the top of the stairs. Here’s the view.

After six years in a (very small) one story home, the second floor here feels quite luxurious. I like sitting on the stairs. Maybe it’s the novelty of the new carpet—which, thanks be, arrived two weeks ahead of schedule, allowing us to get on with the seemingly endless stages of assembly and unpacking.

I never thought I’d want to live in a house younger than I am. I never thought I’d be so excited about the unrolling of so many yards of carpet. Newer homes and carpeted floors seem like a challenge to the aesthetic that I’ve developed—of vintage ceramic deer and miscellaneous estate sale furniture.

If you look closely in the picture above, you can see one of the deer. An old mirror that I painted pink has been rehomed from my entryway in Madison. Other things are starting to fall into place.

There are still a lot of boxes and I’ve been getting dressed out of a pile of clothing on the floor. At least the floor is clean, and the carpeting is new.

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(unboxing and randomly throwing all the breakable things up on the mantle, hoping, implausibly, that this height will protect them from the cats)

When I need to sign in to WordPress again—after a prolonged hiatus—it feels much the same as when my Word documents become locked after similar periods of inactivity.

To call this a period of inactivity would be a bit misleading. The end of the semester, our wedding, buying a house, selling another house, honeymooning in Canada for two weeks, moving out and moving in—it’s been quite a stretch.

The garage is still filled with boxes and I’m about to head out to Home Depot (again, again) to buy some parts for a bathtub faucet, but we’re here. And maybe now I’ll be here—in virtual space— a little more.

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This cat makes me laugh. She runs around the house, trilling to no one in particular. She chats so much that I have taken to calling her Meowice rather than Alice. While her sister stays slender and retains a slightly shy, wild look, Meowice grows plumper and stretches herself across doorways and stairs like a fat, furry threshold.

All of a sudden, it seems to be spring here. All the snow is gone; it’s raining. Who knows how long this will last—my trees, thick with glossy white buds, seem to think it’s here to stay. I opened the windows yesterday and vaccummed up two full canisters of fluff, crumbled up popcorn (the dog likes to chew it but not eat it), and the green fuzz that my basement carpeting has never ceased to shed.

Meowice popped out from under the bed to make sure that it was safe to resume her legs-in-the-air, dead cockroach pose in the middle of the hallway.

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