Flashback 1976

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.

On the left is friend Sue, me in the middle, mom on the right.  We are standing next the wall that’s about to be ripped out, joining family room to dining room.


Sue and I sticking our heads through to the kitchen side.


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!

Yes, that is a yellow, green and orange plaid vinyl floor.  We unrolled it and installed it ourselves.  When Daddy noticed air bubbles trapped between vinyl and floor he simply stabbed them with an ice pick and tromped around until the air was expelled.  We had friends, Debbie and Chris, who loved this floor so much they put this yellow version in their kitchen, and a blue version of the same design in their laundry room.  Mother made the drapes and seat cushions.
When my parents got married in 1939 my father insisted furniture would just tie them down.  He wanted to rent fully furnished apartments forever.  Mother made a deal with him.  If she could find an unfurnished apartment and purchase furniture for less money per month than a furnished apartment would cost, could they then buy furniture?  He relented, never imagining she could do it.  She bought this table and four chairs. She set up credit and paid a small amount monthly for a couple of years. In 1974 that kitchen set became our first dining table.  Mother also got a sofa, chairs, a cobbler’s bench and two end tables.  Those end tables were in her family room until she died in 2000.
View into the jazzy family room.  The basket in the foreground came from Exit on Main Street where I worked.   I wrote about Exit on June 14th.


Here we have the elegant “Herculon” sofa purchased at Levitz, a low-end furniture store. Herculon was supposedly indestructible.  The Levitz sales man, dressed in a white polyester shirt and navy “Sans a Belt pants”, stabbed a ball point pen through the fabric to prove it couldn’t be harmed.  The artwork on the very left was done by Robbie the boyfriend I’d been mad about Freshman year.  I drew the critter on the right.  Marilyn and Rob gave us the Navajo sand painting.   We found the old trunk at a garage sale and refinished it. On it is Mother and Daddy’s used lamp.  We added wall to wall dark brown carpeting.  We thought this was beautiful.


Mother made the curtains.  The coffee table we found at a used furniture dive and hubby refinished it.  Originally dining height he sawed off the legs and turned it into our coffee table.  I painted the little canvas to the left of the window.  The lamp is wicker.


I purchased that Philodendron at Exit on Main and babied it with daily misting and weekly plant food.  Our television was brand  new. Those are my many photo albums parked under the TV.  Sadly they all got destroyed in the infamous Grove Avenue sump pump disaster of 2008.
We painted the fireplace brick white.  Marilyn and Rob gave us those three small sand paintings, as well as the basket from Africa.  All the metal hanging pots came from Exit.  The planter on the floor belonged to my great-grandmother.  Shells in the jar were gathered at my brother-in-laws mom’s beach house.  When we visited there one cold, windy April the water was teeming with horse-shoe crabs.


Just when you think it can’t get any worse, you stumble into the patriotic powder room.  Yes, I stenciled the toilet seat and stitched up the red and white rick rack trimmed sink skirt and window treatment.  Interesting how nicely the colors coordinate with the yellow, orange, green and brown theme we’ve got happening in kitchen and family room.  You can’t tell it here, but there is wall to wall red carpet.
Another room! Another opportunity to change color schemes!  Our upscale guest bedroom boasted my parents early 40’s cricket chairs, now painted pale green and draped in gingham.  Accent color is hot pink.  Mother did the oil painting at her Newark New Century Woman’s Club art class.  For several years in the 50’s mother had been President of that club. I decorated the lamp shade with more gingham and white ball fringe.
There’s the other cricket chair.  Mother made the drapes. I came up with the addition of fluffy white sheer pull backs.    The double bed had a dust ruffle to match the curtain.  An old dresser I found on the street got painted pale green graced the wall near the bed.  Wouldn’t you give your eye teeth to stay in such a chic boudoir?

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.

It doesn’t get much prettier than this, does it?  This is a small wall between two closets.  Hunter green and peach for our dazzling new color scheme.  Even the trim was dark green.  The ceiling above our heads was painted a pale apricot.  The basket and palm are from Exit.  No memory at all where the two Asian prints originated.  You’ll be surprised to learn this room soon becomes even fancier.  Just turn around and prepare to be dazzled.
Fantastic, isn’t it?  That is fabric on the walls.  Our well-healed friends gave us their very expensive drapes and comforter when they remodeled.  My sister suggested we glue the fabric to the walls using liquid starch.  It works great, but we didn’t realize the fabric would shrink as it dried.  Not a problem.  I purchased peach upholstery trim and put it along the top of the walls to hide the gap.  The lovely gold lamp? Spray paint!  It had a pleated plastic shade. The bird-cage was from Exit.  If I could have gotten a peach rotary phone I would have.  Sadly we had to settle for white.  The small black parsons table is from Levitz.
Mother sewed up the matching drapes. We got the lamp at Goodwill. We named it “The Gordonian Lamp” and I whipped out my handy can of spray paint again.

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.




Our Impulsive Move to Florida

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!)

Grove sink
I painted the sink in the powder room.  Loved those cool light fixtures.
Unable to find our photos, I lifted these photos from Zillow.  The woman who purchased our home moved on.  We left the Daniel Boone School sign with the house.  I just seemed to fit in on the corner of Russell and Grove.  Isn’t that twisty tree enchanting?  It dropped dreadful, purple, driveway-staining berries.  But I saved it from Jim’s threatened ax.

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.

  1. I always wanted my own crooked old house.  I got it in my Sears Bungalow.
  2. I’d  long dreamed of living in a porch swing house. 502 South Grove had a sweet front porch. We hung a swing.
  3. 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.
  4.  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.