Getting to know you.

We’ve been living together for 10 months now, this mid-century house and me. And I think we’re really starting to get to know one another on an intimate level.  Of course, it’s not a perfect relationship, but we’ve done a lot of growing together, and I think we’re really getting to a point where we know how to live comfortably with one another.

You may wonder why I decided to enter into a relationship with an older gal. After all, she’s pushing 60, so allow me to provide a little background as to WHY Heath and I opted to move in with an old school casa versus something a little more modern and relate-able.

We always knew we wanted an older house. Maybe because we’re weird. Maybe because we like a challenge. Definitely because we value character–potentially to a fault. We gave up a lot when we decided to marry our current home: a dish washer, state-of-the-art energy efficiency, two bathrooms… But in the end, you’ve sometimes got to consider personality over perks, and we think we gained more than we lost. For one, the location (on our budget) is unrivaled. We also loved the idea of having a unique house that wasn’t one of four or five cookie cutter home plans repeated throughout a development. Sure, maybe our door dilemma is a head-scratcher, but it’s OUR head scratcher. We liked fantasizing about finding a house with good bones and then customizing it to make it fits our needs, something you can’t do with a ready-to-go home, equipped with counter tops, cabinets and floors pre-packaged by Joe Blow Developer for exclusive use by John Doe Homeowner. Sometimes you have to follow in the footsteps of Freddie Prinze Jr. and take a chance on the art student in overalls.

Hey girl, can I get your number?
Why the old house caught my eye in the first place.

  • The picture windows. I adore them. They are single-paned but totally amazing because they crank with this quirky little lever that makes a task as mundane as opening a window seem sort of exciting and retro. “She’s fun!”
  • The bathroom tile. It is original to the house and in amazing condition, but why blog worthy? Besides being pearly porcelain that feels clean and shiny and epitomizes a zen bathroom, it’s green—the best color of all the colors. It’s as if it was written in the stars! I’ve seen my fair share of pink and yellow tile bathrooms in houses from the same era, so I am ever grateful for finding a house with retro green tile in impeccable condition. “She’s pretty!”
  • The built-in planter in the front. It’s functional, encourages landscaping and was built well. I filled it with succulents and pea gravel and it looks amazing.  “She’s smart!”

Maybe we should go to couples counseling.
What I want to change.

  • Popcorn ceilings. Why do that to a perfectly lovely home? They make rooms look smaller, they collect dust, they are super difficult to paint. “She’s irrational.”
  • No backdoor. What genius thought skipping out on a back door was a good idea? We’ll put one in one day, but for now we let the dogs out through the window when they need to do their business. It’s one of the trashier truths about me. “She’s careless.”
  • No electrical outlet in the bathroom. This is another one I just don’t get. How hard would it have  been to put in one measly electrical outlet? I know they had electricity in the 1950s, so what gives?  We didn’t discover this little nugget until after we moved in. No one dried their hair in the 50s?  Come on architects, look alive. “She’s weird.”

You know me better than I know myself.
What I’ve learned to love.

  • Knotty Pine.  I’ve definitely come around on knotty pine, which I have been known to refer to as “naughty pine” on more than one occasion. When cleaned up and paired with appropriate fixtures, appliances and wall colors, knotty pine can be incredible and rich. I’m so glad we opted to refinish our cabinets in the same hue rather than go for a complete overhaul that would be out of style in another 10 years. “She’s classic.”
  • Detached laundry room. Basically, I like not hearing the washer and dryer running more than I dislike walking outside to the laundry room. “She gives me my space.”

It turns out, there’s a lot to appreciate about 1950s architecture–something I never expected to love. Growing up, I always envisioned myself settling in a 1920s craftsman bungalow. But instead of substantial window trimmings, and cozy niches, I got minimalist lines and and an open floor plan–definitely not the characteristics I would have checked off  on a list of qualities describing my dream girl. If she were a contestant on The Bachelor, the house would have made the initial cut only as a wild card.

When we moved in last October, I had a huge list of things I wanted to immediately add, remove, change or update. I was sure we would have wood floors and a revamped kitchen within the first month and a lusciously landscaped yard within the first year. Some of that happened, some of it didn’t, but in retrospect I’m happy with our pace. If I had changed the kitchen on my original timeline, I wouldn’t have realized that I wanted to keep the original cabinets, and instead I would have likely ripped out or at least repainted something that is now one of my favorite elements. And if I dropped a chunk of change putting in wood floors up front, we probably wouldn’t have installed the gutters that let us recapture rain water. It’s amazing to discover how priorities change the more you get to know a place.

When I first moved in, I was warned against making any drastic changes too soon. My mother cautioned me against renovations the way friends might warn against getting that girl’s name tattooed  on your back after the third date. I’m glad I’ve taken the time to get truly acquainted with the old girl, to know her quality quirks and her catastrophic catches. We’ve got many more months and years to take our relationship further, but as of now, I’m glad we’ve taken things slow. I think she’s into me, and I know, despite her weird habits, I’m into her. In our 10 month courtship, I’m grateful for learning to appreciate the house for what she is. She’s not a glamorous Hollywood type and she’s not a fashionable and modern mistress. She is what she is—a small, 1950s Delwood dynamo—and I’m loving her for it.

11 Comments on “Getting to know you.”

  1. Cat says:

    Hey I am right there with you. I love my little older house that isn’t a dime a dozen. Even though we only have ONE outlet in our bathroom as well and a shoebox laundry room. I love our “old” bay windows and not having a garage on the front of my house!

  2. kmom says:

    You have come a long way together already with more to come. It will be an interesting evolution full of learning and accomplishments.

  3. curt says:

    You go girl! My lady is 82 and she’s getting a facelift too. Sure, these old bats can be a little cranky at times, but you would be too if someone was scampering around on your floor joists that long… Stay strong.

  4. lexy3587 says:

    Your house sounds like a pretty cool lady – I’m glad you’re appreciating her quirks as well as planning to smooth out some of the kinks, long-term. One of the strangest old-house quirks I found when looking for a rental was a house with a main floor… toilet room. No sink, just… open the door to a small closet, and there’s a fully functional toilet. You’d have to open the door, go through the living room and into the kitchen to wash your hands. But I wouldn’t be surprised if it had still had an outlet in there, just not something I was focused on at the time 😛

  5. mylifeisthebestlife says:

    Our house is from the 50’s, too, and I can totally relate to a lot of this. Our girls are full of character!!!

  6. wonkydonkey says:

    I have a little 1941 “bungalow” that just oozes with character. We’ve gotten rid of the popcorn ceilings and fake wood paneling (naughty pine would have been OK), and we pulled out the 1960s shag carpeting to reveal the original wood flooring, but have left much of the original parts in place – like the cracked plaster-over-sheetrock walls that are impossible to patch/repair and that resist picture hangers with a vengeance.
    We have embraced the eclectic nature of the house by not trying to be all matchy-matchy with our lights and fixtures; instead opting for replacements as needed and in the spirit of the house rather than in an attempt to force the house to fit a particular style we found in a magazine. We have made some concessions towards modern living: more electrical outlets and a tankless water heater (mostly to free up precious floor space in a house devoid of storage space).
    I managed to raise three children in our little house with just one bathroom, and the boys survived bunk beds and shared dressers without too much emotional damage. Now that the kids are moving out, we find the house to fit the two of us just right. Like an old, comfy bunny slipper.
    Glad to hear someone else appreciate the character of small, old houses!

  7. aymartos says:

    I love reading about your dream. Enjoy!!!

  8. Elouise says:

    You know they used the popcorn ceiling to hide cracks, I am glad you have a tile that is not pink as that is what is in gramps and I mine. Wish it was a different color. Glad to have someone enjoy an older home because they all need love too.

  9. Old houses are the best — we’ve managed to raise a family in a house with small spaces, no “great” room or “rec” room, and our teens’ friends have no problem squeezing into a smaller space to play the XBox :-)! Wouldn’t trade the charm and character for anything — when our boys were young, they watched their toys roll to the center of the house, since over the past century the old girl has sagged a bit in the middle, just like we all do, ha! And you are so right to sit back and have your old girl tell you about her personality — the first couple years in our house we rushed into a couple minor decorating/remodeling projects and ended up undoing them several years later, because they were not who our house was — but over the course of 20+ years, she has revealed her charm and personality, and it just feels “right” even though perhaps what me might not have envisioned ourselves in when we started out our lives together or sharing our lives with “her”! Enjoy the old house journey! Look forward to following your blog. ~ Kat B.

  10. […] You know that children’s book If You Give a Moose a Muffin? The one where the little boy gives a muffin to a moose  and then the next thing you know one thing has led to another and he, the moose, is performing a puppet show in your mom’s living room?  Well that’s basically the same storyline of If You Let Kelsey Make a Mood Board, which I did for the first time recently on the DH bathroom. […]

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