June 9, 2015

Jumping In


When I was eleven years old, my mom bought our first house, still her home today. We had been renting a charming little cottage from my best friend's family for a decade, and while she had taken pride and invested in that space, I was ecstatic at the thought of a place of our very own, with two floors and a giant porch. The night she first came home with the keys, we got Chinese take out and ate on the rainbow colored carpet of her future bedroom. I ran through the front door and up the stairs, play acting at my new after school routine. I have such clear memories of my fantasies in those early days of home ownership, and in part they are lasting because they're so different from how we came to occupy that space. The view of the river seated cross legged in the middle of my mom's floor, only possible without furniture, the route through the front door that I would rarely repeat as we park in the back, the darkness in the hallway and kitchen, both of which we would open up, wallpaper and carpet and light and sounds that would all be altered in a matter of months. 

That farm house was a true fixer-upper, and for a child enthusiast of This Old House, it was heaven. I took satisfaction in steaming off wallpaper and attempting to sand floors, I loved having the buzz of workmen and watching my surroundings change everyday, these childhood  memories are some of my fondest.

When James and I set out to buy our own house, initially I was envisioning a total fixer-upper so that my own kids could get an early introduction to all the fun of transforming a home. I had no idea that the market would be so insane that contractors were waiting on curbs with cash deals for every 'diamond in the rough'. And so we settled on spending more than we wanted for an old house in pretty good shape with plenty of room for cosmetic improvements. Eventually we have plans to gut the kitchen, reconfigure the dining room, and add a deck, but for now the work will be basic, and largely DIY.


We have a list of small projects that we want to complete before moving in (in two weeks!); wallpaper that is literally in every single room has to go, walls need to be patched and skimmed and painted, light fixtures and hardware swapped, a few closets reworked... and of course we wasted no time getting cracking. Little Smith could not have been more excited to rip, peel, and scrape wallpaper. I only wish he was old enough to help with the steamer, he would have loved it! Roo has mastered going up and down the stairs and attacking floors and walls with any sharp object available, and James and I are seriously very very tired.


A few days ago, a friend noticed my car parked in the driveway and popped in to say hello and take a look. She quietly walked from room to room and then paused at the front door before leaving to add, 'Wow, it's a lot of work though'. The comment was somewhat deflating, we only have a couple weeks before we move in, we have a little travel mixed in the schedule as well, and this was supposed to be a house that did NOT require much work after all (which is why we chose to spend alll our money on it!)... But it also filled me with an (albeit nervous) excitement. We are already changing this home, a home built in 1930 and only owned by two families before us. With every sheet of wallpaper we pull off, we discover careful notations from the last owner, who was a cabinet maker and raised three children here. I have scrubbed and chipped away at every wall, and I can see all the different types of plaster used, water damage from old plumbing, and where walls were added and changed. We have only owned our house for two weeks, and already I feel a part of its story and know that the Little Smith will remember these days for the rest of his. It's the kind of relationship that you just can't build with a 'move in ready' house. I'm exhausted and worried about getting everything patched and painted before we move in, but I'm also totally head over heels in love with our new place, and all the changes yet to be imagined.

Now if anyone wants to come over and pack our old place, we haven't packed a single box... living on the edge!

10 comments:

  1. How exciting!! I hate moving, but I do love the challenges of a new house. Soooo looking forward to seeing how it turns out. Good luck with the move!!

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    1. Thanks so much! I think I will feel better once we are in, it's very chaotic at the moment ;)

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  2. Wonderful! The house looks like a beauty and I know it will be even more so once you make it yours. Do what you can before you move in, but also be realistic -- if you can't do the work in all of the rooms, do it in the ones that will be hardest to tackle once you are moved in. I am sure you have thought of this . . . just don't stress yourselves out!

    I, too, am a childhood 'This Old House' enthusiast . . . always imagined myself living in an old house, I love my 1926 colonial, and wouldn't have it any other way.

    Best, Tisha

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    1. Realistic? Have you been talking to James?! ;) Kidding, but realism is definitely not one of my strengths. We'll see how close we get to my unrealistic expectations :)

      Thanks so much for your kind words Tisha!

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  3. I love how the kiddos are helping! I've never been able to get wallpaper off that easily... or does it just look easy? Ours were in the bathrooms and we thought maybe the steam worked to keep that glue intact (we were hoping it was the other way around!) That stuff was on there with all its might. More power to you!

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    1. Oh it was far from easy! But the stuff that peels right off was a vinyl that only left behind lots of glue, and that was messy to wash off but by far the easiest. We used everything from hot water and vinegar in spray bottles to renting a steamer, and every room was an exciting new challenge. I will never put up wallpaper again! Glad you guys got rid of your's too... effort and all :)

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  4. I am a fan of spending more than you intended on a house. Sounds like a dumb financial plan, I know, but a bit more on the mortgage doesn't make a huge difference and you want a house you can stay in for as long as possible. (Moving sucks!) I am too lazy to have a fixer-upper, although I always wanted a Victorian home. Instead I have a suburban home with few special features. I know your house is going to be incredible!!

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  5. L, I was wondering if I could possibly repost this on The Ma Books? I love it so much I feel like others who aren't maybe aware yet of your lovely space here, might like to follow along on this journey :)

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    1. Sorry I missed your comment Jessica, my blogging has been so sporadic! Of course, I would be honored.

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  6. Oh wow, I think you're the first person I've ever heard of who intentionally set out to find a fixer-upper so you could experience the renovation. LOL. Everyone I know buys them to save money! Hahaha! We have a fixer-upper that needs more work than we initially thought and are experiencing extreme buyers' remorse. There's just so much to do and we have no clue where to start!

    Anthony @ Steemer Houston

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