Monday, October 03, 2005

Our Old House

In October of 2000, we sold our old house. It was a light gray Cape Cod, built in 1941 on a nice lot on a street that was not a through street. It was very charming, and had lots of its original character.

The previous owners had popped the attic with a shed dormer on the back, which really expanded the upstairs space. It already had two regular dormers on the front. They’d also enclosed the back porch, creating a sunroom, and had built an enormous multi-level deck in the back yard. It was our first house, and we loved it.

But despite all the painting and decorating we did to make it even more charming and inviting, it was just too small. Realtors like to use the word “cozy”. It was just too small. We used to entertain small groups of church friends for dinner, but could barely fit 6 people in our dining room. We could sit 6 in the living room if we pulled one of the dining room chairs in. And when Joe’s family came over for Thanksgiving – forget about it! We had people eating in 3 different rooms, and there just wasn’t enough space when the kids started getting bigger.

At first we thought about adding on. An architect came for a look, and told us that adding on a family room would cost at least $100,000 (back in the late 90s), and even then we would be left with one decent-sized room stuck onto the rest of our cramped rooms. Plus, there were many other things that needed to be done, like replacing the original 60-year old windows and kitchen) in addition to the addition. All we could see were dollar bills floating out of our wallets in a constant stream. So we decided to move up.

We found a wonderful brick Cape Cod with generous rooms and simply fell in love. That’s where we live now. A young couple bought our first house, and seemed excited about the prospects of first-time home ownership and putting their own touches on the place. We were sure that in time they would do the things we’d not done, like replace those old windows and kitchen.

Fast-forward 4 ½ years and it’s the spring of 2005. We saw a real estate ad in the local paper that looked an awful lot like our old house, so we drove by to check it out. Indeed, it was our old house in that ad, and the sign indicated they’d be having an open house the next day. We knew we’d be there!

We tried to imagine what they would have done. We could see they had not replaced the windows, so we guessed they’d redone the kitchen and possibly one or both of the bathrooms.

We couldn’t have been more shocked and disappointed. Our charming little house looked terrible. First off, it was dirty. Second, they had not redone the kitchen, except for the flooring and countertops, both of which were so ugly it’s amazing anyone would have selected them. Having been built in 1941, the house had real plaster walls. The owners after us had painted the dining room a deep wine color, and used semi-gloss paint. It showed every flaw and imperfection in the plaster. In one of the 3 bedrooms they’d tried a faux paint treatment on the walls that resembled a quick clean up at a bloody crime scene. Red smears all over the cream colored walls. It was horrific. In another bedroom they’d apparently kept a dog or two, because there were gouges and scratches from the dogs nails in the wood door. Upstairs in the master suite they’d painted over the ‘Candlelight’ walls with stark white and navy blue. We both felt like we’d been run over by a bus when we left the house. It was so disappointing.

Later in the summer, we swung by the old house and were encouraged to see the ‘For Sale’ sign was gone, and the exterior of the house had been painted a quaint pale lilac, and the windows had been replaced. We saw our old next-door neighbor, Terri, working in her yard so we parked and got out to talk to her. She told us that a very nice man named Evan had bought the house and was remodeling the entire thing. We commented on the new windows and paint. She told us we should see the new kitchen and bathrooms. Our hearts leapt for joy!! Finally, someone was taking care of this lovely, charming house.
When Evan came outside Terri introduced us and asked if we could come inside and look around. He agreed, so we got to see the completely new kitchen, bathrooms, refinished hardwood floors, beautiful faux treatment on the brick fireplace, and all the new lighting and fixtures. He apparently had enough money to not only undo all the ugly the previous owners had done, but also to redo all the things we never had the cash to improve. Although not yet completed, the house looked gorgeous. We were so happy! And the old house seemed happy, too.

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