Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Labour of Love

Sixteen years ago we decided to look for a different house, begin the search to find just what we wanted, and today we still chuckle at how it was then and where we are now. Had someone shown me this photo and said this will be your home, along with several acres of beautiful landscaping. . .

well, frankly I would have laughed, may have said that's a crazy idea... for I did not have that vision nor think that far ahead. (forgive the photo quality: taken with film, then pieced together)

We first built a matrix of those things we deemed priorities: 3 bedrooms, 2-3 baths (not yet empty nesters), large eat-in kitchen (great room style), 2 car garage. . . a light and airy home and one with some privacy and a view. Should the house have the majority of qualities, but require adjustments, we would assess all those costs and factors. Price, plus the estimate for improvements, had to fall within our budget, and all the properties selected would be equalized or weighted within the matrix criteria. Admittedly, some of it was subjective, but we did attempt to be rational and unemotional in the process. Our decision would be based upon our requirements and a sound financial business decision that said yes, if we do these things and it is good value we will be pleased with the selection.

We looked for weeks and found several houses to put on our list. The last house we viewed met all our criteria, a view, privacy, but was outside our dollar range and more house than we needed, but we would take a look. The rooms were all very large, many with vaulted ceilings and the openness and modern design was very appealing. It was a quality custom-built house! Some may have liked it as it was, but we immediately saw why it had been on the market for over a year: dated and in need of a face lift, it would require lots of time, money and energy. The nearly 6-acre parcel was more land than we wanted and it was in the rough so to speak, but it did offer privacy. Considering both the house and the land, all I could see was the work involved, and that was not how I wanted to spend my time.

Both the interior and exterior of the house were very dark; chocolate carpeting, heavy draperies, brown tiled kitchen, dark stained exterior... simply more darkness than we could tolerate. As well, the Douglas fir trees towered and surrounded the structure and blocked much of the light from entering the house; the land was unattended and thick with growth of blackberries, poison oak, scrub trees and brush and piles of old logs. No, not for me.

As we drove away with the realtor, my thoughts were of a house with little to do so that I might set up my art studio and begin to paint again... when I heard him ask, "What do you think?" My husband quickly replied, "Let's make them an offer".

"What? When did we discuss this?" And to this day we laugh, for the realtor immediately suggested that we go home and talk about it. It remains amusing, for I sensed that was his choice. I saw it in his eyes, his stance, his silent enthusiasm... he was absolutely enamored as it was all about the privacy and the view and somehow I knew that is where he wanted to be.

So after weeks we had our final list reduced to five, and now would rate them on a scale of 1 to 5, one being the highest. We analyzed each house, it's location, and what it would require to make it as we wanted in terms of effort and dollars, those costs of improvements.

Number one on my list was a relatively smaller house of newer construction with a beautifully landscaped small yard, and the only thing to do was to finish the room above the detached garages, a perfect office for my husband and a studio for me. Questionable was the surrounding vacant land. What was the zoning and planned use? The net of that discovery was that less expensive homes and apartments could be built on the adjacent vacant land, thus this house might lose its value.

No need for further details, but somehow the house requiring the most amount of work found its way to the top of the list. We would make an offer, and if it were rejected, we would go to number 2 on the list and so forth. It would be a rather low ball offer, but we felt it to be a fair one considering that much had to be done. If accepted then we could afford to redo the inside: paint, new carpeting, some updated lighting, and the exterior had to be painted. Plus, we had to do some landscaping, at least the perimeter of the house, as my idea of our home did not include blackberries and poison oak in the back yard and railroad ties at the front door. And my husband said this time there would be no pool, no animals, and no lawn. The acres of mowing, feeding of horses and cattle, and the daily maintenance of things would be behind us.

I am laughing as I review some of the old photos taken those many years ago, and this is just one of how it was then and where we are now. On the far left are three potted trees on the concrete, those first to be planted at our new home and the beginning of our landscaping.

We removed the railroad ties, expanded the planting area, and when we had the front area paved, a curb was added to define the space. Is it not amazing what a little dirt and a bit of paint can do?

What brought us to where we are today was a process that had a beginning, it unfolded and was developed over a period of years and that included hard manual labor on our part, but we loved doing it. We took great pride in our strides, and with time, patience and simply a one step at a time approach, made wonderful progress.

It may take a number of writings to show you the transformation we have made over the years, but I think it is an interesting one to tell and show.

We love our home and what we have been able to accomplish. I cannot say I would do it again, but what I can say is there is no place we would rather be.