A Home to Love
When we first started looking for a home, we had no idea what we wanted, other than a low price and the right neighborhood. It turned out that our favorite neighborhood was not so great, and the low price led us to some less than ideal homes (one time the homeowner answered the door in a towel, and we could see the shower water still running from the front door. Because we had an appointment, the Realtor said we had to go in anyway, so the woman just excused herself, and went back into her shower while we pretended to walk around and look interested).
I still live in my first home, and while I didn’t know what I wanted, I knew the moment we drove up that this was the one. It was obviously love, because when we went inside I wasn’t dissuaded at all by the bright blue Formica, the faux paneled walls, and the fact that no-one had changed the cat litter in a very long time.
When we closed on the house, we were happy just to have a larger home; moving from a one bedroom apartment, made a 1500 foot square home feel like a mansion, and we happily lived with the quirky interior for a few months as we settled in. After a while, the quirks outgrew their charm, but I didn’t know anything about renovations, so I decided to start by putting up some wallpaper.
Armed with my new flowery wallpaper, I wanted to cover the old flowery wallpaper in the kitchen. Obviously mine was better, but unfortunately, the previous owners (too many to count) had done the same thing, and after I peeked through the seventh layer or wallpaper, I found that I could see right through to the bathroom next door.
So, I patched it back up, added my flowers to the pile, and now the kitchen has eight layers of wallpaper. A few weeks later I found a linoleum that perfectly matched the wallpaper (blue and pink flowers everywhere!) which was not the smartest move I’ve ever made.
As soon as it was installed, it looked awful, and the following week I bought stick on tiles and covered the offensive linoleum with faux slate squares. It honestly did seem like an improvement at the time, and while sticking down the tiles was ridiculously easy, it made me feel invincible in the DIY department; for the next twenty years I was determined to fix, decorate and repair everything that stood in my way.
I could tell you all of the wonderful things I have done in my home, but it is always more fun to share what went wrong. So, here are some of my favorite mistakes….
Applying textured paint to the bedroom. Apparently, years ago, texture meant sharp little pieces of grit were added to the paint can. (Even now, despite sanding and more paint, if you brush against it, it will scratch you).
Painting my sofa with cold coffee to age it. (Not only did it look weird, but it took days to dry and smelled for months).
Buying a sofa without measuring first. (It wouldn’t fit through the front door, so we had to lift it through the sunroom window. It then couldn’t turn the corner, so it is still in the sunroom).
Finding an old dress mannequin on the side of the road, but when I brought it home a nest of baby mice fell out onto the living room floor. (It pays to check inside anything before you pick it up off the side of the road).
Thinking I could remove all of the living room carpet myself in a day (while I had my one year old daughter toddling and crawling around).
Drawing pictures and words on the walls with a sharpie for my daughter when she was learning to read (I can still see the outline of a chair, and the word “chair” in the living room).
Painting a really gross brown color on the bathroom wall (I couldn’t get back to the hardware store quick enough).
Putting my wool rug outside onto the patio seemed like a good idea, until it rained. (It took three people to lift it up and many weeks to dry).
Painting the side of the garage dark green, and drawing silhouettes of trees on it.
For me, I never thought of this as my starter home; I thought of it as being my permanent home, which I think is a better way to approach buying a home. You never know what will happen, and I think if you go into a home dissatisfied from the beginning, or seeing it as a temporary solution, then you are not even giving it a chance, and you might grow to regret it.
I went with my gut when we bought this house, and while some things weren’t exactly what I wanted, it had a good feeling about it. When we bought, there were very few homes online, so we relied on appointments, sheets of facts on paper, and a map. But things are different now, and I love that we can do more research before we buy, and see what neighborhood’s are like, and whether or not a certain style of home would really suit us.
Some companies have taken it to an entirely different level, and they want to give potential homeowners as much information as possible before they even step out the door. Such a smart idea; many people are short on time, and it is so easy to be blinded by a pretty home when you really should be checking out the nearest train station, and how far it is to walk to school. I like it when an industry adapts to the needs of its client, and one of my favorite websites to visit (even if you aren’t looking for a home) is Compass; they really want to share information, and help people to find homes that they love. Plus, they give you a snapshot of what you should know about each neighborhood (including pros, cons, maps and photographs). They also try to match the client with the agent who best suits their profile (which is a great idea when you think about it).
So whether you are driving around with a crumpled sheet of paper in your hand, or scrolling through pictures of houses on a screen, think about what a home really means to you, and start from there.
p.s. Photograph above is my own.
For more by Wendy and the Blue Giraffe, go to: http://www.thebluegiraffe.com/