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Our House, is a Very, Very, Very Fine House

How is it Monday already?

We had a near identical weekend as the previous one: game night on Friday, friends/dinner and more games on Saturday, the house hunting and the gym on Sunday.

This time around we intended to scope out 4 or 5 open houses I found online. But this being the first official weekend in spring, we stumbled upon two additional open houses that we checked out just for the hell of it. One was a decently priced unit in a crappy location with small rooms, the other was an oversized mess of a place with 1970’s blue bathroom tiles and an all-white kitchen (appliances, walls, cabinets, counter tops). The broker kept saying that it was a “cool, European minimalist” look. What it really was was a century old house with an ill-concieved cheap-ass remodel.

However, then we found “the” place. I use “the” in parenthesis because this property made Randy and me realize that the ideal home may not exist for us. We both knew that we’d have different tastes in things, and that we’d have different priorities in what we need in a place. But I was surprised at Randy’s lack of love for the place we saw on Sunday (considering how fond I was of it).

It was about a half mile from Porter Square, about an 8 minute walk (I could even walk to work, too). It was newer constrution (1989) and was one unit in a cute 3-townhouse complex. It was larger than we’d need, with a foyer, living room, kitchen, dining room, and laundry closet on the first floor, two bedrooms and a bathroom on the second floor, and a master bedroom suite on the top floor with 3 walk-in closets, a bathroom with skylights, and a private deck with views of the entire Boston skyline (literally, from the waterfront all the way past the Back Bay).

There was also a full basement (dry…and easily adaptable to becoming another room since it had windows). There were two reserved parking spots plus two guest spots. In total, it was 2,000 square feet of living space (3,000 if you include the basement).

What I loved about it was that all of the rooms were large and “normal” shaped. Unlike our current place where the bedrooms are cramped and difficult to maneuvre in, or our living room where you have to rearraange all the furniture just to play Wii, this place had decent sized rooms. Come to think of it, this place really only had 1 more room than what we have now (excluding the 2 extra bathrooms). It’s just that the rooms were more functional.

It also met another of Randy’s pre-requisites…outdoor grill space. So as we walked all around the property inspecting the bathrooms and closets and views, all I could think was “I love it, I love it, I love it”! All it needed was a coat of paint to make the rooms jump out at you a bit more and perhaps a little kitchen cabinet work. Still, even before doing those things, the place was in move-in condition as long as you didn’t mind a few dated light fixtures.

And then Randy and I are started discussing it and he saw the property in a completely different light: Although there was a small grassy piece of land in front of the townhouse (probably 16 ft. x 10 ft.), Randy didn’t like that it didn’t have a yard. He also didn’t like that the rooms were square or rectangle (prefering bays and such instead). Finally, he didn’t like that it lacked “charm” (which he defined as details and ornamentation).

It’s funny, in my mind (perhaps as a result of my architecture/design background) I was seeing it as a blank slate which is even better than a place alerady with charm. Having no ornamentation would allow us to personalize it and do with it what we want. It wouldn’t limit us (by having pre-existing obstacles, like the decorative columns on some walls in our current place). Plus, we would always add trim and such and provide detail of our choosing…or, as Paula Abdul would say, we’d make it our own!

Anyway, the whole process frustrated both of us (possibly me more than him). I mean, I like charm. I’ve lived in New England all of my life and for most of those years I’ve lived in older homes with charm. And what I associate with charm are thin walls, poor insulation, squeaky floors, small rooms, narrow doorways, sloped floors, and an inconvenient layout of the rooms (not coincidentally, all issuse we have in our current place…minus the sloped floors). Yeah, the moulding looked nice, but it usually had already been painted over so many times that the detail had been blurred anyway.

Meanwhile, Randy came from a part of the country where the housing stock was all created around the same time (mid 20th century) so it’s all boxy and unornamented.

I know there’s a compromise out there somewhere. Perhaps a newer building with spacious rooms and old-school detail. Apparently with a usable yard, a back deck for grilling, walking distance to the subway, city views, helipad on the roof, underground cave network, and bowling alley.


  1. Comment by Melody on March 23, 2009 10:25 am

    I have to agree with both of you. I like charm and understand why Randy is looking for it. Though I understand what you are saying Karl about adding your own uniqueness to a place. I’m sure there is a place out there that both of you will fall in love with, it’s just going to take a bit of time to find it. Karl, just try to remember that charm doesn’t have to mean all that you wrote, it can actually be a good thing once in a while. 🙂

  2. Comment by randy on March 23, 2009 11:14 am

    OH just to confirm I would deal with boxy… Hell the world of automobiles had the whole Volvo line for years “They are Boxy but their good” idea. But Boxy can be butt ugly too.

    Anyway, I think the biggest issue is no sitting area outside. It has the tiniest porch on the 3rd floor that no more than 2 people could sit on. I love to sit outside in the summer, grill and enjoy the evening. Whats so wrong with that.
    Oh yes, Karl did leave out that the place was just behind a somerville fire deparment on Somerville Ave. Not exactly great for sound I am guessing.

  3. Comment by snarl on March 23, 2009 11:21 am

    For the record, It wasn’t “behind” a fire station. The fire station was down the hill and on another street. however, because of the steepness of the hill, there were no buildings between it and the condo. But there was at least the equivalent of 3 or 4 plots of land separating them.

    As for sitting outside…who says we couldn’t go all ghetto and bring a table out onto the front lawn when we want to entertain? Though, you make it sound like we hang out in the yard a lot more than we do. I’d guess we do that 4 or 5 times in any given summer.

  4. Comment by Melody on March 23, 2009 1:44 pm

    Okay children, no fighting. 🙂

  5. Comment by jeff on March 23, 2009 7:06 pm

    I’d end this house hunt now, before you have to spend every night outside this summer!!

  6. Comment by JC on March 25, 2009 11:02 pm

    I thought Randy came from a place where the houses could be attached to the back of the truck.

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