Buying an Old House is a lot like having a new baby. There’s the anticipation leading up to the due (closing) date, the last-minute, dark fantasies about everything that could go wrong during delivery (closing). As you prepare for delivery (closing), your water (hose) breaks, soaking your lucky outfit.*
After a few hours of panting, sweating and paper-signing in a drab, windowless room, you own a 120-Year-Old House! Euphoria fades as panic sets in — “But I don’t know anything about taking care of an Old House. Why would anyone trust me with this thing?” And the stark realization that you are now fully responsible for this Old House, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for the next 20 years, or more. “I don’t even know how furnaces work!” You cry. But it’s too late.
Friends and family arrive to meet the Old House, bring tools or flower bulbs; the experienced Old House owners bubble over with advice, sharing horror stories of when they got their first Old House: the tears, sleepless nights, the asbestos and mildew. And suddenly, you’re all alone with your Old House; it’s floorboards creaking under your feet, ceilings sagging under the weight of musty, water-damaged joists.
Dear God (or Bob Vila), what have we gotten ourselves into?
This is by far the biggest project that we’ve undertaken here at Projectophile. And unlike all those old alley chairs, we actually have to live inside this one. It’s not a DIY blog without “before” pictures, so let’s start the tour:
BABUSHKA HOUSE BEFORE TOUR:
Inside front entryway. Not bad. But come on, only 3 locks on the door? What if, someday, we have something worth stealing?
The family bladders are relieved to know that the bathroom is no more than two steps from any bedroom! But beware – sickly pinkish beige lurks on every surface. The color scheme inspired by expired salmon, or Pepto Bismol mixed with chocolate milk.
Pretty cute, huh? And almost big enough to turn around in! And what’s this down here? Oh, nothing to worry about. Just the toilet falling through the floor. Hold on to the towel racks and you should be fine.
Babushka even left us the original user’s manual! Mothers with youngsters? Women with Regular Daily Jobs? Active in Club or Church? Ladies, who’s got time to stir a pot when you’ve got naked babies to smear with lipstick?
PRO-TIP! When taking “before” pictures, always use the flash on your camera, preferably with no other light source available. The pictures always look more scary, shocking and in need of dramatic makeovers.
Don’t be sad, there’s more pale pink to be had in the dining room and front (living) room. Plus, dirty carpet the shade (but definitely not the smell) of Orange Cream Soda:
Happily, the wall paper fell off in even, satisfying strips. Like pulling off a giant dried band-aid. I compulsively tore it all down, and then realized I had no idea what to do with the plaster beneath, yellowed from old glue and spiderwebbed with small cracks. Scott said it looked like a cheesy Italian restaurant, imitating an ancient Roman villa. We called it “Olive Garden Chic.”
Just then my phone rang, and local hero Kevin asked if I needed any advice on patching plaster. Yes, please.
Come on, let Lester get back to work. Step out to the front yard for some fresh air. Oh, don’t mind her. That’s just local hero Gin planting some flower bulbs, so we’ll have something pretty to look at in the Spring.
Let’s hope the furnace is still alive to see it.
* True story: On the final walk-through, I noticed that the toilet in the powder room was dry. So I twisted the valve on as far as it could go, the hose cracked and drenched me in cold water. So much for my lucky sweater vest.