Wednesday, August 15

Coinky-dink? I don't think so.

Since posting my beloved kitchen design, I've run across two very similar examples.

1) Ina Garten's Hamptons Kitchen

2) A kitchen from Real Simple's article "The Well-Organized Kitchen" (looked much better in the magazine)

I have this visceral reaction to them. First, I love the green - it's our favorite color. We have painted three rooms and counting different shades of green in our house. Second, the white cabinets look so clean and retro. Last, I am really fond of open/glass-faced shelving for its dramatic qualities.


here's the big but...

there are also parts of them I decidedly do NOT like. In general, I'm immune to the whole dark-as-possible, must look like stone counter craze. I think in 10 years black counters are going to scream dated, just like avocado appliances and shag carpets do now. I don't feel as strongly against stainless steel appliances, but I'm not drinking the kool-aid on them either. It just seems so disgustingly goosestepping-to-the-trends yuppie. We're cheap, we bought a white refrigerator, and as scary as it seems (since we're - you know - slobs), we'll probably be buying other white appliances too.

Soooooo...I don't know what to think. My guess is that the look is a whole, and taking out some elements would diminish it. But maybe not. Maybe I can pick and choose what I like.


Love This Quote

From Truman Capote, The Grass Harp (found via an old issue of Real Simple magazine that I picked up from a recycling area):

"If you sweep a house, and tend its fires and fill its stove, and there is love in you all the years you are doing this, then you and that house are married, that house is yours."

I love what it says about both housekeeping and marriage.


Tuesday, August 14


I found the link! Here's the source for my dream kitchen. While you're there, you could also find a lot of inspiration at the Smallest, Coolest Kitchen contest.

(Hint: Have you figured out what project we're contemplating?)


Kitchen P*rn

I stopped reading Brownstoner's blog when the original owners finished their renovation and announced they would be involving the general public in the interior design. Fine for them - but I like me the interior design! But I've just ventured back there today, and hoowee is it a lively community now? Lots of different bloggers are chronicling their brownstone renos, and best of all, there's lots of drool-worthy kitchens going on there:

Plenty of inspiration and discussion there. But let me show you the kitchen I am in love with:

It was submitted as a part of one of Apartment Therapy's contests. I just love it. Even though it's nothing like what I ever pictured wanting a kitchen of mine to be.


Thursday, August 9

Two Items

Today, I discovered Backpack, which looks like it could be very useful AND fun for house renovation projects.

Also, I was directed to Debi Warner's Renovation Psychology website by the New York Times.

Cool stuff!

Wednesday, August 8

Good Advice

From Not Martha about lessons learned in real esate. Go and add your own in the comments.

Friday, August 3

Long Time No Blog

While we may have been radio silent for most of the past year, some progress has been made around the house. Probably the biggest project was upstairs, where we took the extraordinarily dark hallway and made it much much brighter:

Its amazing how much nicer the place felt after a clean coat of paint, especially one that was took the room from "Plum Peacock" to "Vanilla Brandy".

While I was in the middle of painting, I spontaneously decided to also get rid of the neon lime green that was on the walls in the laundry room -- luckily there was not much fear that K. would object to that decision, as she in general seems to shy away from the neon wall colors. That room is also much nicer now -- at least on the walls. The floor and other aspects of it could still use quite a bit of work:

Why did we decide to do this project when we did? Well, we knew we wanted to paint the hallway, but it was never that huge a priority. But it was something that I knew I could tackle in a weekend and a couple of evenings. And, more importantly, it was the first domino to fall that enabled us to start a chain reaction of house projects...but those will have to wait until another post.

Thursday, August 2


I recently watched the movie, Bridge to Terabithia, and it has awakened memories of my favorite books as a child. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson was one of them, the others were:

When I started thinking about this last week, I realized that they all have something in common: elements of the supernatural or magical. Which makes sense. I still love the magical and supernatural. But I've also realized a second theme running through them: the love and care of old houses.

In Terabithia, Chapter Seven - The Golden Room includes a wonderful bit about house restoration:

First they ripped out the boards that covered the ancient fireplace, coming upon the rusty bricks like prospectors upon the mother lode. Next they got the old wallpaper off the living- room wall-all five garish layers of it. Sometimes as they lovingly patched and painted, they listened to Bill's records or sang, Leslie and less teaching Bill some of Miss Edmunds' songs and Bill teaching them some he knew. At other times they would talk. less listened wonderingly as Bill explained things that were going on in the world. If Momma could hear him, she'd swear he was another Walter Cronkite instead of some hippie." All the Burkes were smart. Not smart, maybe, about finding things or growing things, but smart in a way Jess had never known real live people to he. Like one day while they were working, Judy came down and read out loud to them, mostly poetry and some of it in Italian which, of course, less couldn't understand, but he buried his head in the rich sound of the words and let himself be wrapped warmly around in the feel of the Burkes' brilliance.

They painted the living room gold. Leslie and Jess had wanted blue, but Bill held out for gold, which turned out to be so beautiful that they were glad they had given in. The sun would slant in from the west in the late afternoon until the room was brimful of light.

Finally Bill rented a sander from Millsburg Plaza, and they took off the black floor paint down to the wide oak boards and refinished them.

"No rugs," Bill said.

"No," agreed Judy. "It would be like putting a veil on the Mona Lisa."

When Bill and the children had finished razor-blading the last bits of paint off the windows and washed the panes, they called Judy down from her upstairs study to come and see. The four of them sat down on the floor and gazed around. It was gorgeous.

Leslie gave a deep satisfied sigh. "I love this room," she said. "Don't you feel the golden enchantment of it? It is worthy to be" - Jess looked up in sudden alarm - "in a palace."

The Old Westerley Place is a main character in Headless Cupid:

Right out in front of the landing and at almost the same level was the hall chandelier, and beyond that the fan-shaped colored glass window above the front door. When the sun was low, it shone through the glass and was spattered by crystals of the chandelier into hundreds of shivering spots of red and green and gold. The front door was wide and thick and set in a carved frame of shiny dark wood. To the right and left, doors led into the living room and parlor and dining room, and if you leaned against the bannisters, you could also see th ekitchen door, farther down the hall.

The staircase itself was one of the best parts of the house. It was not very wide, but it was made of the same dark shiny wood, and the bannisters were elaborately carved. The fanciest posts were at both eends of each flight. They were carved to resemble a thick vine, twirling up to a huge wooden ball, and on each side fat wooden cupids reached up to touch the ball with chubby fingers. David's father said the bannister was very unusual and in good condidtion considering its age. There were only a few places where the wood was chipped or cracking, and there was one cupid, there on the landing, who had a missing head.

The Westing Game is All About Real Estate. The characters all live in Sunset Towers:

Sunset Towers faced east and had no towers. This glittery, glassy apartment house stood alone on the Lake Michigan shore five stories high. Five empty stories high.

It is the apartment you've always dreamed of, at a rent you can afford, in the newest, most luxurious building on Lake Michigan:

# Picture windows in every room
# Uniformed doorman, maid service
# Central air conditioning, hi-speed elevator
# Exclusive neighborhood, near excellent schools
# Etc., etc.

You have to see it to believe it. But these unbelievably elegant apartments will be shown by appointment only.

The building is built next to Old Westing House, an empty mansion once occupied by the famous founder of Westing Paper Products and subject of the mysterious game.

Growing up in San Francisco with a mother who was a sucker for an old decrepit house, it's not a surprise that this was an interest to me. But it's always so fascinating (to someone who changes as much as I do) to find these roots of my current day interests back in the little girl I once was.

Musings on House Value

Today's New York Times article, What’s My House Worth? And Now? by Michelle Slatalla, reminded me of how strange it is to not know what our house is worth. I generally stick with the selling price in my mind, because that feels safest. The Professor thinks that the work we did increased the value, but the market is stalling where we are. We have a quite a few friends who are wanting to buy, but not willing to pay the prices that sellers are asking for. So properties are staying on the market for a while. It must be outsiders (like we were) buying them.

When we got here from the Big City, prices looked low to us. I mean, we winced at paying hundreds of thousands of dollars, justifying it to ourselves that it would seem like nothing when we are 60, but in return we got a huge house with wood trim and pocket doors and high ceilings. And we're happy. Our mortgage payments are high but doable on two professional salaries, though paying extra each month feels like pouring drops in a black hole for all the effect it has.

The house feels more and more like it's ours. At first, it seemed so foreign and filled with Grandpa's stuff. But painting helped. And filling it with our furniture. Putting art on the walls was a HUGE help (thanks, D., you rule!). And just living there for a while, having it become a part of our daily life.

It is like a marriage. Where once I had an yearning emptiness, now I feel fulfilled. Like the house has satisfied a deep need of mine. I grew up moving every few years and never felt settled. My parents don't live in any of those houses/apartments any more. There's something so profound about the sense of belonging someWHERE, in the same way that belonging to someONE is. It's been two years now (I know! Incredible, isn't it?), and I've accepted the house, imperfections and all, as a part of my life and a part of me.

It must be that feeling about the house that makes it so hard to evaluate worth. Just like when you're happy in a job, you're not thinking about salary, but as soon as you start feeling dissatisfied, you focus all of your unhappiness on how little you are being paid. I hope Casa Revivalized has retained its value, I hope that nothing we did has lowered the value, I hope that the market doesn't crash. But I really have no idea.

And it doesn't actually matter.

Because we're not selling. I see lots of lovely homes, especially along my 30-mile drive to work every day. And a little of that lust comes back, but it passes too. I'm so happy with our house, our life, our friends who are just a few blocks away that it's just not that tempting.

By the way, I did check, and none of those sites could estimate our current house value. I think it's because the technology is younger than two years. And some didn't even cover our rural area. But I did see what some friends of ours paid, which made me feel a bit better.

Wednesday, August 1

Reading Houses

I've also checked out this book from our local library: House Thinking: A Room-by-Room Look at How We Live by Winifred Gallagher. So I'll give you a run-down of that, after I finish it.

S*x and Real Estate

So you have to understand - back when I was an itty-bitty college gal, I lived and died by Marjorie Garber's brilliant analysis of gender. So to find that she's written a scholarly book about real estate is very exciting! I couldn't find it in the library today, but I did find this summary:

Sex and real estate: why we love houses

Garber, Marjorie B.

Summary: Sex and Real Estate is a witty, informative, and thought-provoking study of our complex relation to the ideas and actualities of house and home. With vast erudition lightly carried, Marjorie Garber - professor of English and director of the Humanities Center at Harvard University - ranges through literature, art, film, journalism, criticism, and the hard evidence of everyday experience, and gives us an acute analysis of the ways in which we think about the places we hang our hats. She discusses the House as Beloved ("Your house is the other person in your life," declares an architectural designer.), as Mother ("The house, we would like to think, loves us."), as Body ("both an ancient figure and a persistent desire"). She writes about the Dream House, the Trophy House ("We could call the purchasers of celebrity homes 'house-groupies.'"), the House as History, and the Summer House ("When you're seventeen, you dream of a summer romance. When you're forty-seven, you dream of a summer home."). Each chapter is a superb, individually constructed essay. Taken together, they add up to an enlightening and challenging exploration of one of the most familiar - but also most emotionally charged - elements of our lives.

Reviews: Anyone who has looked, even casually, at what are called "shelter" magazines, or who has engaged in the exhausting process of buying or selling property, will have been struck by the peculiarly erotic quality of the language used to describe the houses we live in or seek to own. Perhaps prompted by her own foray into real estate, Garber, author of Symptoms of Culture and Dog Love, among many other books, applies her richly stocked scholarly imagination to a consideration of the cultural role of the house. In a series of witty essays on the "House as Mother," as "Beloved," as "Body," as "Trophy" and the like, Garber segues smoothly in the course of a page or two from Freud and Jung to Chaucer, Shakespeare and popular film, effectively elaborating her contention that the house is not just something on which we lavish our erotic or emotional attention in lieu of a more appropriate object, but is also "a primary object of affection and desire." As a professor of English at Harvard and director of its Humanity Center, Garber is an established academic. While dazzling, her erudition is not intimidating; this book is bound to prompt lively after dinner discussion and perhaps a little abashed self-recognition in the nation's suburban great rooms and downtown lofts. (Credit: Cahners Business Information, Inc. Appeared in: Reed Elsevier Inc.)

Despite the title, this book is much more entertaining and witty than frivolous. Garber (English, Harvard Univ.) has published books on the psychological aspects of cross dressing, "symptoms" of culture, and dog love. Her new book has an easy writing style, appealing to the academic researcher, the student, and the browser. She advises in the introduction that her "chapters explore the cultural role of the house as mother, lover, body or self, fantasy, trophy, history and escape." Whether the book is cataloged as a study of architecture, house and home, sexual fantasy, or the home in popular culture, there is something of interest to a wide audience. (Credit: Mary Hamel-Schwulst, Towson Univ., MD Appeared in: Reed Elsevier Inc.)

Harvard University professor Garber has placed her latest book precisely on the desirable property line between academic and popular literature. Her theme draws parallels between romance and real estate. After all, Garber writes, we dream of certain houses. We "cruise" a house before making a proposal. We may yearn to possess a house anxiously, for weeks, before acquiring it and living with it; eventually, we leave it, hoping for something better. Garber's chapters meditate on different aspects of the home: the home as beloved, as a status symbol, as a reflection of our relationship to our history (what's that butter churn doing in your living room, anyway?). Drawing on diverse cultural references, Garber reviews the history of houses in society, their architectural styles, the various uses of rooms and furnishings, and the always-booming "nest" magazine industry (today's "yuppie pornography"). For professional realtors hoping to glimpse into the windows of their clients' psyches and for any reader who shares Garber's romantic attachment to houses, this book is sure to be a very hot property, indeed. (Credit: James Klise Appeared in: Syndetics Solutions, Inc.)

Despite its title, this is a serious and literate book in which the author addresses why and how we love houses. The romance of real estate and architectural seduction impinge in wondrous ways on our lives. Even a reader who has lived all of her or his life in the same house will find emotional reference and behavioral relevance, if not opportunity for domestic self-reflection, in this cultural study. Indeed, the author asserts that our relationships with our houses and their spaces are as fulfilling, and perhaps more self-conscious, than are our relationships with lovers. Full of literary references as well as factual anecdotes, the book covers cabins to castles; dream houses, trophy houses, and summer houses; and topics ranging from the house as body, as beloved, and as mother, to the house as history. The book is enjoyable and accessible to all educated readers and should provoke interesting academic discussion. Credit: Syndetics Solutions, Inc.)

Table of Contents
Introduction: Sex and Real Estate 3
1 The House as Beloved 25
2 The House as Mother 48
3 The House as Body 71
4 The Dream House 100
5 The Trophy House 120
6 The House as History 150
7 The Summer House 181
Epilogue: Why We Love Houses 205
Notes 209
Index 231

How cool does that look? Now I just have to find it!