I married in 1974. For the first two years of marriage we lived in Newark, Delaware at English Village apartments. Our apartment was a dark garden level unit with two bedrooms, two baths, a tiny galley kitchen, and a small room that was both living and dining room.
Each day on his way to work in Wilmington my husband passed a certain little ranch house. It was brick with a small front porch and a one car garage. We were thrilled when it came on the market. We toured the house, and loved it, but it was $48,000 big ones, way more that we could afford.
However he kept stalking our tiny dream house. Christmas Eve of 1975, on our way home from my parents, he suggested we once again drive past the Fawkes Drive house. Lo and behold, tacked to a huge tree in the yard was a sign advertising the house was to be sold at Sheriff’s sale.
He ripped the notice off the tree, made a few calls and we decided to attempt a purchase. But in order to bid we needed $10,000 cash on the day of the sale. We didn’t have $10,000. What we did have was credit card debt. We approached our parents about loans. All four were eager to help us get into our first house. His parents and mine each ponied up $5000, along with a carefully worded payback agreement.
The sale took place on the Wilmington, Delaware Court-House steps. Daddy left work to meet hubby and witness the possible purchase. The early bids were made by investors hoping to flip the place. My young husband was the last bidder standing. We got that three bedroom, one and a half bath home for $34,200!
I was standing in the teacher’s lounge when the loudspeaker summoned me to the office to take a phone call. We were thrilled to be home-owners.
But the place was a filthy disaster. The former owners had a miserable marriage. The husband had punched holes in doors and walls. His angry, round wife met us when we did our walk through. She called us “the co-conspirators.” She was gathering her things and moving back to Albany, New York.
My parents and our many friends came to help scrub walls, knock out a wall between kitchen and family room, and lay new vinyl flooring in the kitchen.
Mother and I wallpapered the laundry room with a bright yellow and white trellis design. The full bath we papered in a dark brown and pink floral.
Back then it was trendy to buy full size bathroom rugs and cut them with scissors to custom fit. Ours was chocolate-brown.
When we got done with that little house we thought it was exquisite. Today I stumbled across old photos. Sitting here in my Floridian kitchen I time traveled back to 1976. Our “exquisite” home seems hilarious from this vantage point.
Get ready to be wowed!
Now, this is where the fun truly begins.
Drum Roll, please.
Let’s allow the suspense to build just a few more moments.
And here at long last! Tah Dah!
I present for your viewing pleasure the beautifully appointed master bedroom.
What I don’t have photos of are the living room, dining room and hallways. We had visited Williamsburg and loved the look of white washed walls and the chalky blue that covers many buildings throughout Colonial Williamsburg, most notably the Blue Bell Tavern. We chose to paint living room, and halls Williamburg Blue. We added chair rail in the dining room and used blue below and whitewash above it.
In 1980 we sold that little house for a tidy profit and moved up the road to Hockessin, Delaware. That home’s decor was equally fascinating. We lived there when Matthew and Maureen came along.
Long after we had moved to Chicago I returned to Delaware for a high school class reunion. I decided to take a ride down memory lane. On a whim I pulled into our old driveway, walked up the front porch and rang the door bell.
When the homeowners answered, I told them it had once been my home and tentatively asked if they would mind showing it to me. He and his wife were happy to share. As we toured the house they regaled me with stories of how horrible it had been when they purchased it. “You wouldn’t have believed the ugly kitchen floor, the wild bedroom walls, and dreary blue walls.” The wife mimed shoving hers finger down her throat and made gagging noises.
I shook my head, suitably aghast and feigned no knowledge of those hideous decorating issues. They never learned all that bad decor had happened on my watch.
In the summer of 2013, Jim and I moved from the Chicago suburb of Barrington, Illinois to Florida. We left my dream house….but that was good because other dreams came true.
Prior to marrying in 2005, we decided neither of us wanted to live in the houses we’d occupied previously. I hated his townhouse. Sure, it had a great view overlooking a lake. But every house in the neighborhood looked the same– tan. If you were daydreaming while driving you could easily end up half a mile past his place before realizing your mistake. I called his neighborhood “Brown Town”.
Moreover, it was in a gated community. I’d had enough gated community living to last a lifetime. I wanted a home where friends could come knock on my door anytime they chose to. Furthermore, nothing was within walking distance.
The home I lived in was south of his, in the darling village of Barrington. Locals simply call it “The Village.” Restaurants, boutiques, grocery stores, churches, the train to Chicago were all within blocks.
My house was a 1920s Sears Bungalow. It had a big front porch. Somewhere along the way, someone had enclosed it with cantilever windows. No, they weren’t pretty, but I could lock the porch door and spend hot summer nights sleeping on the daybed I created. It was camping without the icky parts.
The kitchen needed updating, as did a bunch of other stuff. Yet it was mine! For the first time in my life I’d been able to make each and every decision regarding my home.
Jim and I compromised, agreeing to sell our houses and buy one we both loved.
Shortly thereafter, while headed back to Brown Town, Jim passed an 1880’s farmhouse two blocks from mine. It had come on the market, “For Sale by Owner,” that morning. We made an offer the same afternoon. A month or so later, before closing, we took our “walk-through”. The house was nothing like we remembered. We grimaced, looked at each other and asked, “What were we smoking?”
Charmed by location we overlooked the many dreadful design flaws. It took us nearly a year to remodel. I hand-painted and fired ceramic sinks for two bathrooms and painted a tile mural for a back-splash. Everything but one exterior door was scrapped and replaced, including the landscaping. Our Village home became a little jewel box. I swore the only way Jim would EVER get me to leave 502 South Grove Avenue was in a pine box. (Believe me, as I was making never-ending remodeling suggestions, that pine box may have entered his mind!)
Prior to our move, we’d been spending a large part of frigid Chicago winters on Floridian Anna Maria Island. We drove back and forth. Driving home in early spring of 2013, I turned to Jim and nearly shocked him into swerving off the road when I declared, “You know what? It’s time move to Florida!”
He gave me twenty-four hours to change my mind, then he called a realtor. We got home on Tuesday, listed on Friday and sold that darling little old lady for cash, a bit over full price, the next day!
Now here we are—Floridians!
There is a positive thinking/manifestation story in all of this.
I always wanted my own crooked old house. I got it in my Sears Bungalow.
I’d long dreamed of living in a porch swing house. 502 South Grove had a sweet front porch. We hung a swing.
For years I fantasized about someday having a big screened in patio. Yup, we’ve got that here! The natives call their pool screens “cages.” We have a cage. It’s a dandy, mosquito free space with a large overhang providing much-needed shade in the heat and cover from the summer downpours.
I’m working on manifesting our next dwelling. Someday, when we no further want to take care of yard and pool, and no longer have Bronson, our wonder dog, we might just relocate to St. Petersburg. Perhaps a condo within walking distance of the many activities St. Pete has to offer. For now, though, we love it right here. Life is very good! Very good indeed.