The Inspired Room

Refining Your Home for Authentic Living™

My House February 26, 2008

When we first looked at our house our Realtor warned us. The 1935 house was being sold “As Is”. Which meant there were issues. Like rats in the basement. Mice in the kitchen. Raccoons on the roof. And other unpleasantness. But, he reassured, he liked to call this place “The Shock and Awe House.” For every shocking angle, there was something amazing about it. That was a bit of an exaggeration I think. 4300 square feet of mostly shock and only some awe. I’d show you the before pictures but they are almost too shocking for print. Maybe I’ll put one or two here, just so you know I’m not kidding. The quality of these photos is bad, but trust me, seeing things more clearly wouldn’t have made it look any prettier (the photo above and the photo below are from the same basic corner, before and after).

There are more photos, and trust me, they are every bit as bad. 4300 square feet of shocking moments on all three floors.

I visited the house three times before I could even stomach the idea of taking this place on. It was truly horrifying to me! Built in 1935, the current owners had lived in it for the past forty. And sadly, they had done some ridiculous things to it in about 1979. And many of the things were too expensive to undo–maybe ever. Like a crazy dormer addition right on the front of the house and the ugliest accordion garden window stretching across the back of the kitchen.

If those hideous changes were not enough, the owner had smoked in the house and everything reeked of cigarette smoke. A beautiful covered porch, the veranda, was falling down outside. Many rooms had dreadful wallpaper. The slate on the patio was coming undone. There were five bathrooms that needed attention. Oh, and there were wheelchair lifts in the stairways and hospital beds in the bedrooms, among other things.

But, on the brighter side, it had beautiful Mahogany walls in what the Realtor called “The Ballroom.” A living room with wide pegged wood flooring, stone fireplace, antique light fixtures, huge windows looking out over the forest outside and a beautiful antique square baby grand piano. That was the room that sold the house. You just can’t buy a house with a room like that anymore.

So, with offer in hand, we called the Realtor. Unfortunately, the owner had died that morning. The house now belonged to her son. And that was the beginning of a saga that was almost comical, except it wasn’t. I’ll spare you the details here, but it involved fleas on three inspection days, a painting from the 1800’s hidden in a safe room, and about a dozen raccoons.

Four years later we are still working on this house. If we had a large bank account maybe we’d be done by now. But, we have to go one step at a time. We’ve torn down “the veranda,” carted off the raccoons, shut out the rodents (well, most of them), ripped off wallpaper and remodeled a kitchen. We’ve used my famous “creative concealment” tricks on a few ugly features. We’ve ripped out 1970’s paneling and painted walls. Things are looking better, but we have a long way to go. Decorating for now is definitely taking a backseat to remodeling. I really haven’t decorated anything yet. I just use what I have for now. I’d say in about 20 years things ought to be looking pretty good around here. I’ll add new photos here as I take them.

To see our family beach house, click here.

To see a creative and inexpensive fix (a before & after!) from my house, click here.