This week's Fun Monday is hosted by Kitten, who wants to hear the story of your house. I'm going to cheat a little and write about a former house, because the story of my current residence is a little boring. It's a new house, built explicitly to produce rental income. It's huge, clean, and boxy.
I want to write about the first house we ever bought, a 3-bedroom Colonial in Wheaton, Illinois. In 2001, after five years of renting in Chicago, we decided to make the move into home ownership. We didn't want to move out of the city (if you know Chicago at all, we were around 4400 N & 2000 W) but we knew we couldn't afford to live in our neighbhourhood.
We started by looking at condos in Evanston, a town we both liked. But the more condos we looked at, the less impressed we were with the idea of buying one. It seemed like all the hassle of home ownership coupled with all the hassle of apartment life. We could hear the neighbour's TVs, smell their dinners, feel their footsteps on the ceiling. We decided what we really wanted was a house, with four outside walls and a roof, a yard, a driveway and a garage. We wanted to own more than the air inside of an old apartment.
Again, geographical desirability met pricing considerations head-on. Even though more than one smarmy mortgage broker assured us we could qualify for a jumbo home loan, we knew that would be a mistake. So we had to look at other cities. I don't know how exactly we ended up with Wheaton. We wanted something on the Metra line and we didn't want to live in a cookie-cutter development.
Six weeks after we started looking at for a place, our real estate agent lined up 5 showings for us. It was a Sunday, around St. Patrick's Day, and I think the Oscars were on that night.
When we got to the third house, the woman who owned it was in the house. She hadn't gotten the message about the scheduled showing, but she allowed us to come in and look around anyway. A large pool table dominated the living room - it was, in fact, the only piece of furniture in the living room. A note explained its origin - single mother, three teenage kids, the pool table was a place that they could all gather and enjoy themselves.
When I walked through the dining room and saw the kitchen, I shut my notebook. The kitchen was absolutely tiny. I had my heart set on a big open kitchen with an island. This kitchen was had about 4 square feet of floor space. I wandered politely through the rest of the house, and when we got outside, Peter said "That's the one." I laughe because there was no way I was going to live in a house with that kind of kitchen.
After seeing the rest of our choices (number 5 did make the decision tough), we decided to make an offer on the house in Wheaton. I have a vivid memory of sitting in the realtor's office, feeling like I was going to vomit because the whole thing was moving so quickly and becoming so real and I had never before promised to buy anything that cost so much.
The negotiations were concluded over the phone that night and we had a contract in a few days. We closed on a day that helped out the seller, and then gave ourself a few weeks to paint, get furniture, and prepare to move. We were glad we did that because it took the seller a few days to get everything out of our house. (Just for future reference, in case you ever need to know, it takes a special sort of drill to take apart a pool table.)
Over the course of the next three years, I fell in love with that house. It was the perfect place for Peter and me at that time. It wasn't so huge that we rattled around in it but it was big enough that we each had our own space. Our bedroom was big and airy, an addition to the original house. Through some quirk of architecture, the entrance into our bedroom was through the smallest bedroom. We turned it into a library but everyone who ever came to visit us remarked on what a good nursery it would make.
I even learned to work with the kitchen. My brother took out a section of cabinet and I replaced it with a butcher block table, which had a pull-out leaf. That gave me an extra 6 or 8" of workspace when I needed it, folded out of the way when I didn't need it, and still provided some amount of storage. The thing about a little kitchen is that it keeps you disciplined about keeping it clean because there's just no space for extra junk on the counters.
As happy as I am in my new life in the Middle of Nowhere, I still miss the little house in Wheaton. Some day, we will be able to build our own house. While I don't think we'll end up with a Colonial, I imagine we will work hard to incorporate the spirit and the ambiance of our first house.