Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Can you see Christmas in that dining room?!

Recently, we had the opportunity to view an historic home in an adjoining neighbourhood. We weren’t expecting much from the place (it was, after all, covered in pink stucco) but we went anyway, disappointed that we’d wasted our Saturday having booked this viewing.

Off we went and the realtor met us and subsequently warned us “there are renters and they aren’t the best of housekeepers”. Well. That was the understatement of the year – the renters didn’t ‘housekeep’ at all but even the piles of junk, dirty laundry and resulting damage of having four university students living within its walls could not hide the absolute beauty and splendor of this magnificent 1920’s built home.

It was amazing, from the grand staircase to the 10’ coved ceilings – the period ‘register’ covers and the original wood floors made me sway. The fat, plump wood around the once majestic dining room just needed some serious love (and gallon or seven of paint stripper). The house was amazing but it was seriously suffering from many (too many) years of abuse and neglect. We wandered around often amazed and then dismayed at the state of disrepair this majestic home had been allowed to deteriorate too.

It would be a total gut and it would require some serious consultation with an architect (good thing we know one of those, thank you very much Best Man at our wedding) to get the 70’s craptastic addition up to something that deserved to be attached to this home. We asked questions like “how new are ‘newer furnaces’ and “how much of the plumbing was upgraded?” and “was it just the panel upgraded or was new wiring pulled?” all questions the inept and incompetent realtor was unable to answer.

We left and took our son for ice cream. We dreamed and talked and dreamed some more. This would be our only chance to get into a true ‘character’ home – the ones that had been renovated and restored in the neighbourhood had been out of our price range for many years already but the work, money and time commitment could be so worth it in the end. I’d be able to design and implement a complete restoration of an historic mansion – the kind of things most interior designers only dream of. We dreamed more and found sources for (modernized) period fixtures for the bathrooms and kitchen. We postulated what we could do and how we’d do it – slowly, room by room gaining skill as we went. What things we’d keep (there was a weird pedestal sink complete with tile backsplash in an upstairs bedroom) and what we’d change (the basement was SCARY).

We dreamed up an offer - a low ball knowing that the house would likely fail a home inspection. I considered calling in industry friends to help us get a handle on what the restoration would cost. We thought about booking a second viewing to better document the space with pictures.

But the reality became all too clear. The home was already at the very top of our ‘comfort zone’ and no lowball offer could likely finance the $250 000.00 renovation and restoration we were likely going to have to undertake. Certainly, we could move into the home and ‘keep it up’ but we realized we were just unable to be the family to take this once magnificent and majestic gem of a home back to her original splendor. I think both our hearts broke a little when we realized that – I don’t think I’ve ever been broken hearted over a house before, but what a house she could be.

And for what it’s worth, both of us could picture Christmastime wrapped in her beautiful arms but as our toddler son locked his arms with ours, we knew that he needs the loving Christmas with food in his belly and a toy under the tree more that we need her beautiful embrace.

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