Thursday, October 13, 2011

The talent for being happy is appreciating and liking what you have, instead of what you don’t have. Woody Allen

Today's blog is in celebration of the little farm that I love so much.  This is because for over a year now, my family and I have considered trading it in.  We have very good reasons for this of which I won't mention, but suffice it to say that I've put far too much energy into looking elsewhere rather than focusing on what I have right in front of me.  This doesn't mean we won't end up leaving some day, but after a summer of problems with this particular piece of property and ongoing problems with the street on which we live, I've sort of had a love/hate relationship with the place, but continue to trust that the major problems will become minor and tolerable and I can grow old in my little cottage on this mini farm as I've always imagined myself doing.

It all started with a frantic search for a new rental, with a possible option to buy.  After years of living in rentals and military housing, my husband and I were desperate to own our first home.  We were confident at the time that the town in which we lived was where we were willing to settle, that it was a wonderful place for our children to grow up.  A teenaged, drunk, bipolar neighbor who was off of his medication is what finally led us to accelerate our search for a place of our own.

I had torn a notice for a house for sale out of the newspaper a few months before and had saved the little slip of paper.  On impulse, I showed it to my husband and he called the number that was provided.  The owner, a carpenter, said he had purchased the house, a dilapidated mess, and the surrounding property with the intention of renovating and reselling it for a profit.  His business had escalated so that he and his crew rarely had the time to drive the 10 or so miles out of town to make much progress on the house.  He had rented it to several people but after problems with renters had decided to leave it empty during renovation until it could be sold.  My husband asked if he was willing to do a lease/purchase.  He said he wanted to sell it outright, but after speaking to his wife for a few minutes, they decided that this was the only way they would be able to sell the home.  They'd had problems with buyers in the past being unable to get a valuable enough appraisal on the house as it was in the midst of renovation.  Lenders would not give any of them a mortgage with it in such an unfinished state.

He gave us the address so that we could see the house and property.  The drywaller was in the middle of plastering the seams in one room, the master bathroom was without a sink, bare drywall covered the shower walls, and the room only had a patched plywood floor.  Doors and a refrigerator were missing, but everything else was functional.  My husband and I were certain that these were the types of renovations we could finish ourselves and the prospect of owning an old farmhouse with land, basically our dream house, was too great an opportunity to turn our backs on. We agreed to rent the house for a year, renovating it at the same time.  At the end of the year we could either buy it or the owner would reimburse us for the materials that we put into finishing it.  Great deal!

A year later, we signed the papers and the house was ours.  We still have a lot of work to do, but we were able to finish it well enough to get an appraisal.  The appraisal was enormously larger than the owner's asking price and the asking price was about half of what we would have paid for a smaller home in town with no property.  We even asked the owners if they were sure they were satisfied with the selling price well before closing day.  They said they were happy to help a couple starting out and would love to just be free of the headache of trying to get the house finished and sold.  Basically, it was a steal!  We have been very grateful for that.

Right away I was disappointed with what had become of the kitchen.  I had always wanted a farmhouse kitchen with old metal cabinets and a black and white checkered floor.  I wondered when I saw the 1950s style of cabinetry and shelving in the butler's pantry if there had once been my coveted metal cabinets with chrome handles in the rest of the kitchen.

Bubble gum pink paint in the pantry and in a utility closet were a sure sign that there probably had been.  It was apparent that the sink, appliances, and cabinetry had been ripped out of the old kitchen.  The owner told us that he had put in counters and cabinets that he had torn from another house he had been working on.  There they were, the same old oak apartment cabinets we had been living with in all of our rentals, completely out of place in a farmhouse kitchen that still had the original plank walls exposed.  The first thing I did was to paint them white and put on new reproduction cabinet knobs and several sets of antique 1940s pulls that I had been saving for my dream kitchen which were waiting in their original brown paper packages for someone to use.  Our red, chrome legged 1950s table was perfect in the new space.

One day my husband came home from to work to find that I had torn up the peninsula which had cut the room in half and turned it against the wall to make one long counter.  It only took my minimal tiling skills to patch the raw edge that had been against the wall that now butted up to the stove and add a tile back splash to the wall behind.  He helped me hold up the upper cabinets while I screwed them into their new positions one Saturday morning, and we worked together to turn an old desk hutch into a plate rack to put over the new counter.

When President Bush handed out money to stimulate the economy with strict instructions that we spend it not bury it in the backyard, we bought the French door refrigerator we had been mooning over at our local home improvement center.

The butter yellow walls I had dreamed of painting my "some day kitchen" became a reality, but changed to deep red, which I loved, until Coke bottle green, an idea I had always toyed with, was added to some to lighten up the space and take it back to a mid-20th century American farmhouse look.  I love it, but am certain that eventually I will again be bitten by the painting bug and will change the color.  I have moved things around a  bit since these photos were taken.

Lighting has changed and a missing cabinet door replaced.  A new, deep, double white sink replaced the old stainless steel one when my husband attempted to change out a drippy faucet and found that the old plumbing had been hopelessly bound in some way to the sink itself.  I love it!  It's acrylic and I can beat it up all day long without leaving a scratch.

The master bedroom walls are a result of watching the movie Under the Tuscan Sun one too many times while I was renovating during the days, hurrying to finish before I headed to work in the evenings.

The doors on the master bathroom were taken from a closet.  They were those sliding track doors.  You know, the ones that come out of the track every other time you open them.  I took them apart and hinged them to door frame so they open in the middle.  They offer enough privacy for the master bath which got an overhaul as well.

The shower I tiled with a fleur de lis mosaic.  I painted the walls with vanilla and chocolate colored stripes.  The floors are covered with those cheap, junky peel and stick tiles that I put down in all the rooms but the ones with the original hardwood floors just in time for the appraisers to get here when we were getting close to closing on the house.  I still need to replace them all with permanent flooring.  In time I will get to them.

White cabinetry was repainted this summer to a glossy black, which we are loving, and an old dresser was converted into a vanity.

We took a stoneware bowl I had purchased from an antique store and used a Dremel to cut a hole for the drain to make our own vessel sink.  I was so nervous that we would shatter the bowl, and it was the first time I'd ever used a Dremel, but we did it!!  A thrift store trip led us to find the brass faucet.

The living room makes me sad.  The window area used to be the entrance to the home.  In the near future, I hope to replace the picture window with a bay window and make a side window the entrance again.  Right now the front door is located in the sun room that is a 1960s addition. 

The actual locking front door is inside that room and people never know if they should come into the sun room or not.  We can't hear anyone knocking on the front door so they invariably come in and there I am standing in my p.j.s.  Another reason it makes me sad is because the owners we bought the home from ripped out the fireplace and covered the wall and opening with tongue and groove molding.  It's beautiful, but I wish we could have had the opportunity to decide whether or not the fireplace should have been torn out or not.  We were a little late for that when we found the house.  I saved an old mantle, fireplace front, and mirror from my days of selling antiques and they are now permanently established in the corner of the room where the old fireplace stood.

The mirror covers a shelf that holds our television and entertainment equipment and a gas insert will be installed into the lower opening at the same time that I finally get the permit and have the kitchen converted to gas.  We still need to add a little door over the mirror to cover the shelf that holds our DVD player so the faux fireplace effect is complete.  It's on the Honey Do List, but Honey's got bigger fish to fry at the moment.

So here is the majority of our little place.  The house was originally a square little farmhouse with only a tiny kitchen, living room, and two small bedrooms.  Over the years, three of the sides that form the square that the original house was have been added on to.  It's interesting.  It's very small, but I got lost the first few days we had moved in.  It's always funny when a worker comes to make a repair and I have to show them again and again how to get around.  I love it.  Not love/hate.  LOVE!


  1. I love your home! It's quirky and interesting - kind of like you! ;)

  2. Thanks! I love "quirky" and "interesting". I'll happily take "weird" as well, though there was a time... ;)