I started this blog right before we had settlement on our new house, when I had a spare 10 minutes. We used to live in South Philadelphia in a house that we had spent 5 years fine-tuning and loving. Two years ago we put the cherry on top with an addition used for my office and a roof deck. We thought this was going to be our 20 year home. BUT… for many reasons too numerous and varying to get into on a design blog we decided it was time to pack up our bags and head for the idyllic life of the suburbs.
We looked at a lot of houses, over 40. Thankfully our real estate agent is a good friend and put up with my seemingly endless search; she even enjoyed looking at and then dissecting “the losers”. You’d be surprised how few houses meet the standards of a picky architect, wouldn’t you. I had to find the right balance of good bones but needs work. If the kitchen was recently redone, forget it. My extremely pragmatic hubby wasn’t going to let me rip out a new kitchen just so I could do a new one in my style. It even seemed wasteful to me. I also knew that we had to pick a house with enough immediate potential because our renovation budget would be limited. It had to be a house that got good sunlight and gave the kids plenty of room to run.
We finally found it. The bad news was that only a day before we saw it for the first time a tree had fallen on the roof. Seriously. And we still said that was the one we wanted. In hindsight perhaps we should have kept looking because if you haven’t been involved in an insurance construction claim trust me that you don’t want to. It took 3 – 3! – months for the construction to be done and we could settle. I honestly don’t think that’s the norm and there was more than met the eye in this situation, but don’t risk it anyway.
The house is a very typical late ’60s raised ranch. It has a lot of square footage, a really nice airy feeling with big windows, great room lay-out, and the opportunity for my office to be pretty removed from the main area of the house. It also has the perfect yard for a family with two kids and two dogs – well I’m sure it’s perfect in their eyes but I will live every day of the spring/summer/fall yelling at all 4 of them to stay out of the stream that runs in front. We are surrounded by woods (remember the fallen tree?) on a secluded road. The best part is that we are also only a 10 minute drive from the very cool and up-coming Borough of Media.
There’s the good. Here is the bad. I can paint every square inch of this place (and I’m almost done doing it), but there are some things paint can’t fix. The electrical is appalling and infuriates me. I wish I had better things to be mad about. There are switches that do nothing (admitted by the old owners) but we can’t just remove because we’re not sure if they’re hot. We need a whole day just to go around figuring that out; but I think I mentioned I have two little kids so a whole day doing anything rarely happens. There are no ceiling lights to speak of but luckily my electrician uncle helped us remedy that in the bedrooms right off the bat. One side of the driveway lights switch but we have no idea where the other half switch from. We knew the kitchen wasn’t great but it is more limited on storage than we remembered. There is a roof overhang making a covered porch off the living room but the overhang obliterates the view up the hill and significantly limits the line of vision. I am quite mad at this aspect of the house and am tempted to go out there and figure out how to cut the roof back myself. One last thing because I don’t want it to sound like I’m filled with loathing for the house (which I swear I’m not despite this list), the driveway is sooo long and steep and we’re getting a lot of snow this year. Fortunately it makes for great sledding.
All my posts won’t be this long, but I wanted to lay the ground work for the category called My Own Work in Progress. I’ll be sharing images of befores and afters of the things I do to the house. Most, OK all, of it will be done with a very small budget so I hope to provide inspiration to turn any “typical” house into one more personal and cool. I’ve discovered after looking for my own new house that there are a lot of typicals out there that don’t need to be. I’m not quite sure to share any after photos yet because I don’t feel like one room in our house has really reached that point. I’m hoping to do some art hanging and such this weekend and then will feel more settled. In the meantime I will post a few images of the house as we got it turned over to us. Please don’t hold it against me and remember that I have very big plans for this place! (Because I am so worried that no one will take me seriously as a good designer after seeing them, please visit my work website – www.inHabitarch.com – to see what I’m capable of.)
Those out-of-place trees in front will be going, though they do kind of hide the house. And I don’t know if you can tell but this is a shot of the living room and shows how the view up the trees (which is quite nice) gets cut off by the white vastness of the porch.