You never know when the game is going to change completely. After my husband Chris and I married, he rented out his bachelor pad and moved into my cute but tiny mid-century rambler, which I lovingly called “The Brick Box.” It came as no surprise when The Brick Box turned out to be too small for the both of us, and we knew the time had come to start planning an addition. We were going to bump out the back of the house!
After weeks of measuring, brainstorming, drawing, crumpling up the drawings and starting over, we finally had a rough sketch we could show to an expert to see if our idea would even work.
Chris got in touch with an architect friend and arranged to meet with him one day, while I was at work, to show him our drawing. That day at work, I had trouble concentrating. The hours dragged on and I couldn’t wait to get home and find out if our remodel idea was feasible.
As soon as I walked through door, I could tell Chris was on fire about something. The talk with the architect must have gone well.
“So? How did it go today?” I asked.
“Great,” he said. “You’ll never guess which house just came on the market.”
“The House Down The Street.”
I knew exactly which house he meant. The house we purposely passed on walks and bike rides. The sweet, strong-boned 1920s English cottage standing proud in a neighborhood of mid-century ramblers, like a father protecting his children. The house with the big, dreamy weeping cherry tree in the front yard.
I braced myself for disappointment. After all, this was a crazy hot Puget Sound real estate market where house prices never failed to shock me. He handed me the flyer. My eyes went directly to the asking price.
“Oh,” I said, “well that’s less than I . . .”
“Yeah, but it’s smaller than it looks from the outside,” he said. “I can show it to you tonight. If we’re interested, we have to move fast.”
What came next can only be described as “crazy love.” My dream house would have had a formal entryway. The House Down The Street did not, but as I walked in I was hit with the faint “old house smell” that comes from 80-year-old wood. It reminded me of my old elementary school—a place where the grownups had protected me and I felt safe and secure.
My dream house would have had an open staircase, and the staircase at The House Down The Street was hidden behind a door. But it creaked just like the staircase in my childhood home. And I loved the idea of sleeping in a second-floor bedroom again. The dining room was way too small and the kitchen had suffered an unfortunate low-budget remodel in the 1950s. But the huge south-facing windows let in so much cheerful light and looked out onto a garden that was a little slice of Heaven.
Well-meaning family members tried to intervene. My brother suggested I look at other houses, but this sound advice was quickly discarded. Because now another interested party was making an offer on The House Down The Street.
“We’re going in strong,” Chris said of the offer he had carefully crafted on our behalf. Chris was and still is a real estate agent—and a damn good one—so I knew we had a pretty good shot at getting this place. I was also vaguely aware that the both of us—usually sensible, seasoned home buyers—were under some kind of spell or in a state of temporary insanity. And deep down I worried that this would lead to buyer’s remorse.
Fast forward to present day. We have been in the house well over 10 years. Did we ever feel the dreaded buyer’s remorse? All the time. But this house has taught me that crazy love is still love. And with a little work, it can endure.
We both consider ourselves more the stewards of this house and garden than the owners. Every project we have undertaken has been with careful consideration of the house’s character.
My name is Heidi and I’ve been obsessed with home and garden projects my whole adult life—interests that I inherited from my parents. But our projects at this house have been the most rewarding. Let me take you through our projects, past, present, and future, and share what we have learned—most of it the hard way.
I will also be interviewing people I admire about their own projects and their expertise. So stay tuned and check back often.