Thursday, April 26, 2012

Our House - An Overview

We moved into our current house at the end of July 2002.  Prior to this we lived in Philadelphia in a beautiful 100 year old Victorian twin house.  It was our first.  The neighborhood when we moved in was questionable but it was on it's way to gentrification.  Still, we had to sweep the crack vials off of the sidewalk for a few years and if you planted nice flowers in your front yard before Mother's Day, they would be stolen.  One time my neighbor told me there was a guy dressed like a ninja in my backyard and did I know him.  Um, no.  No ninja friends at the time.  Anyway, I got the house for pretty cheap.  My mortgage was $700 a month.  The house was three stories and had 6 bedrooms and super high ceilings.  Beautiful hardwood floors with mahogany inlays around the edges, pocket doors, built in cabinets in the dining room, stained and leaded glass and beautiful mantels.  The day we found out that we qualified for the mortgage, we got a call from the realtor saying the house had been broken into and the mantels, windows and doors had been stolen.  We made a deal with the seller and I set out to find period pieces at salvage yards to replace what was stolen.  I also had the stained and leaded glass replaced by a lovely woman who made them match what was taken.  Overall, it was really nice.  Of course, the house in general had been neglected for years.  The previous owner rented it out to students and it was in need of a great deal of tlc.  We had to clean out the kitchen and we took out about 10 bags of trash.  The refrigerator had shelves being held up with tupperware containers and was just vile.  I don't think those kids cleaned anything, ever.  The linoleum floor was filthy and when I tried to clean it, it just got sticky so it was like walking on fly paper.  I finally got it in decent enough shape.  Luckily we were young and my very handy soon to be brother in law lived with us for a few years.  We painted everything, had the floors refinished, wallpapered the dining room, put carpet in the bedrooms on the third floor, replaced the heating system, redid the porch, the roof, you name it.  Oh and the kitchen too.  New tile and counter tops.  Nothing too crazy.  This was over the course of 10 years.  During this time we also had several dogs and several kids.  The house was lovely and huge.  My oldest used to ride his tricycle on the first floor because there was so much room he didn't even run into anything.  We really loved the house and the neighborhood but weren't really happy with the schools.  Both boys went to a really nice preschool in center city that I was really pleased with.  By the time Dylan was getting ready to go to kindergarten, I realized I'd had enough.  Some of the other moms at preschool were having their kids tested to go to some of the private schools down town and I heard so many stories about who didn't get in because they held their pencil wrong (the kid was 4!!) and other horror stories that I decided I couldn't put my kid through the stress of it all.  Plus, having the privilege to pay over $12,000 for kindergarten just didn't work for us.

Anyway, we (really me...Frank didn't really want to be a suburbanite) started looking around at houses for sale.  We (meaning me) narrowed down how far from the city we were willing to be (we both worked downtown at the time) and started working with a realtor.  I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted.  I even made a list.  Of course this didn't stop the realtor from showing me things that had deal breakers.  I am kind of picky and I wanted something somewhat close to what we had.  This was not easy when they keep showing you brick box houses from the 60's.  Or new ones with garages in the front.  I found my house online and made her take me to look at it.  I really liked it.  It had the space we wanted and a really lovely wrap around front porch.  Lots of old details that you don't find in newer houses.  I brought Frank and my parents to see it and we decided to make a bid.  Obviously it all worked out.  This one has 6 bedrooms too although it's really 5 because the one we use is two rooms connected with french doors.  All we had to do was sell our house first.  We actually did that in 10 days and got our asking price.  We tripled our initial investment.  Pretty great.  We were really happy everything worked out.

When we bought the house it was full of wallpaper and carpet.  I'm sure it was lovely in the '80's if you like that sort of thing.  The living room had an oddly shaped tile floor that was like a 1/2 octagon of beige tile right at the entry and the rest was dark green carpet.  We also had drop ceilings in the living room and dining room.  When we peeked up there we found that there was crown molding being hidden.  We had someone come in and take down all the wallpaper in the living room, dining room, up the stairs and the 4 bedrooms on the 2nd floor.  It was this old man and he only charged us maybe $600 and we were afraid he wasn't going to make it but he did and it was great.  We took down the ceiling tiles and all of that rigging and found a bunch of paneling nailed to the ceiling in the dining room as well as quite a sizable hole in the plaster over the front door.  After removing an entire bucket full of nails, the paneling came down and guess what?  There was nothing under it.  No holes (besides nail holes), nothing!  I have no idea why they would do that unless they thought it was insulated it for noise?  Anyway, I spent a lot of time spackling but finally we got a plasterer to come repair all of it.  It was too much for us to fix and it's held up for 10 years so I think it was money well spent.

We've painted everything except one bedroom on the third floor.  Also, the bathroom on the third floor is beyond hideous but it's going to have to wait.  Just to get a visual, it has self stick floor tiles in green and gold and white.  I actually saw the same ones in the dollar store one day.  Nice.  Anyway, all the trim is painted dark green and the walls are actually covered in sheets of white plastic fake tile.
Ugly walls and floor.  And green trim.
The bulging tub surround
Pretty dollar store floor tiles
What a nice light fixture!!
Ugly but worse in person than in photos
The ceiling is textured.  It's lovely.  Now, the actual tub surround is beige and the previous homeowner did it himself.  He told me.  He also didn't remove loose tile from the wall before he installed it so now it bows out at the bottom where the tile has landed.  The toilet has a cushiony toilet seat and it doesn't flush right and it always smells funny AND it is the most stain prone toilet I've ever seen.  And the sink leaks underneath.  All in all, it's really in need of an update but I think we're going to have to take it one project at a time.

We (actually I) would like to move our bedroom to the third floor so the boys would have their own bathroom and we would too.  The rooms up there are oddly shaped because of the roof line and there are closets built into both sides of both rooms.
See how the roof slopes?  That white door is the closet.

We also have a tiny kitchenette which I was told was made in the 1940's so that soldiers coming home from the war had places to stay.  I guess somebody lived up there.  It's got tiny counter tops, a shelf, some cabinets and a sink.  It also has a spot where there used to be a tiny gas range.  The best thing is a Frigidaire (made by General Motors) curved front refrigerator.  It's awesome and it still works.  We use it for beverages and overflow from the basement refrigerator which isn't big enough for us during this kitchen debacle.

That's the story so far.

Sid still doesn't like the camera...

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