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August 2016
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House update – April 2007

Iris flowersI was looking over the archives of this blog, and found a house update from April 2006. It occured to me that I haven’t written a house update in a long time, and that people might want to know what happened.

To recap, Matt and I moved to Virginia in the fall of 2005. We rented a house that we liked, in a neighborhood we loved, and we planned to rent for awhile, but in December 2005 we were told that the house we were renting was being sold and we would have to move when our lease was up. Knowing that we ultimately wanted to buy a house in Charlottesville, and not wanting to move AGAIN after another year of renting (especially since both of us had been moving at least every other year since 1997 or so, and we both accumulate books at an astonishing rate… moving is pretty traumatic) we decided to try to buy a house in Charlottesville. If you live in Charlottesville, this is your cue to start laughing, or crying, depending on your current living arrangements. We quickly found that there were no houses in Charlottesville in our price range. We briefly considered moving to one of the surrounding towns, as so many of our friends have been forced to do, but we both really really really hate driving. One of the main reasons we enjoyed our current neighborhood so much was that it is a short walk to Matt’s office, the farmers’ market, cafes, restaurants, and a couple of grocery stores, and close enough that I could ride my bike to work.

Then we had a crazy thought… what about that scary looking abandoned house in our neighborhood? It was a perfect location, on a beautiful piece of land. The neighbors told us that there had been a fire there years before, and it had sat empty ever since. There had been a “for sale by owner” sign in the yard for a long time. We decided to take a look.

We immediately fell in love with the house. The layout was fantastic, an open floorplan but still with an antique feel. The fire damage didn’t seem significant. The piece of land was huge, with enough room for an orchard and a full-sun garden, and there were woods in the backyard. The price seemed very cheap considering the other houses we had been looking at, and we could stay in the neighborhood we loved so much. We bought it! After all, all it needed was new plumbing. And new electrical. And kitchen cabinets. And a bathroom. And a new water main. And all the plaster removed and replaced with drywall. And a new roof. And heating and air-conditioning. You can see where I’m going with this.

Over a year later, we are actually living here comfortably. The house is not what I would call “finished.” Those with bourgeois notions of interior doors, matching windows, and heat in both the upstairs and downstairs of a house will find no great beauty here. But I love it. I don’t mind having a shower curtain for a bathroom door, honest. I got to design the kitchen myself, and it has two sinks, a pantry, a vaulted ceiling and a skylight. Our bedroom has a vaulted ceiling, too, and a walk-in closet, and a rounded window placed high enough on the wall that our bed can fit underneath it. Soon we’ll have a library with wall-to-wall built-in bookcases and a fireplace. There is a stained glass window above our front door, something I have daydreamed about since I was a child. I love this house.

The past year was horrible. Many times I thought we had made a terrible mistake. I cried a lot. We both worried a lot, as did our families. I have been more exhausted this past year than at any other time in my life. But I also made wonderful friends and learned to do things I never imagined myself doing, like working as a construction supervisor, wielding a nail gun, climbing scaffolding to help install a roof, and living in a house with no running water, heat, or electricity, but still managing to make it to work on time and presentable.

I’ll post some current photos soon, but for the moment the update is that we’re here, we’re happy, and we’re taking a break from construction for awhile. All the cosmetic stuff (like a bathroom door) can wait.


Comment from Steve Lawson
Time: April 28, 2007, 3:16 pm

I admire you for sticking with it! This kind of thing always sounds great to me, but when push comes to shove, I’m far too bourgeois. Plus I think the kids would last about 5 minutes in such an environment.

Hope to see the place someday.

Comment from bess
Time: April 29, 2007, 5:47 pm

Hi, Steve! I hope you and the family can come visit the house one day, too. You’re right, one would not want to undertake a project like this with children around. Too much potential for injury, and when one is so absorbed in a project like this I don’t think one would be able to give children adequate attention. We ended up feeling guilty for neglecting our pets, even.

Comment from Chris McTavish
Time: June 2, 2007, 12:48 pm

Hey Bess, how’s it going?

I just stumbled upon your blog here. How cool! Congratulations on the house project! That looks intense, but in the end it will truly be your home. That must be an incredible feeling.

I stumbled upon your blog because I am trying to figure out your home address. Pam and I are trying to finish up our wedding invitations but I cannot seem to get a response from your hubby as to where to send them. I thought I’d give this a shot.

Even if you two cannot make it to our wedding, we would still like to send you an invite. When you get a chance, could you please send me an e-mail with your home address? I’d really appreciate it. So far I’ve managed to decipher 881 Ridge, VA but I do not yet have the town or zip code.

Thanks Bess. All the best,

Comment from Janice
Time: August 9, 2007, 1:06 pm

Hey Bess,

Wow, your place sounds lovely (now). I think there is great satisfaction to be gained by investing so much of yourself in your home. And just think of all the skills you have acquired in the process. I was reading your previous post about the construction crew, what happened with David and family, did they move in with you, did they manage to get on their feet?
Looking forward to pictures! Are you going the Internet Librarian conference in Monterey? Would be great to see you there!

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