Move to New York
Move back to St. Louis Get engaged
Get a dog
Get married Buy a house
Spend the rest of your life working on said house
Over the past 5 years I’ve done plenty of relatively risky, stressful, and financially irresponsible things. I quit my job in St. Louis and moved to NY in the spring of 2012 and luckily managed to get a job that I hated. What’s more New York than that? I’ll tell you what: spending roughly $400 a month (thanks Metro North Rail!) to get to that awful job every day. I’d drive to the station, take the train to Grand Central, get on the 4/5, get off at Fulton Street then walk to the office. And repeat: walk to Fulton Street station, take the 4/5, get off at Grand Central, take the train and drive home. Soul crushing.
On New York: Everything everyone says about NYC, both good and terrible, is true.
I’ll spare you the boring “life’s so crazy and you never know the path you’re going to go down” details and consolidate. I met a dude. I got a job that was more rewarding. A nephew happened. My dude and I moved to St. Louis (my hometown). We got engaged. We got a dog. We got married. We bought a house. And now we’re (I’m) here blogging about this house and my life. I guess I’m digging for that cathartic writing experience I used to get when I was 15, crying at the computer in my bedroom.
These days the computer I cry at is in my home office, in my cute little house that is both my pride and the bane of my existence. It seems like most of my life is spent in my home office, it’s quickly becoming the non-kitchen heart of the house. It’s where my husband decompresses from his day. It’s my dog’s 1st floor safe-haven (she’s kind of needy so she has 3 safe-havens in the house). But most importantly and worst of all, it’s where I spend 8 hours of my day. Working from home has never been easy but it has taken on a new level of burden now that we own the home I’m working from. I know that sounds ridiculous considering I CHOSE this house. I badgered a real estate agent around for 2ish months only to finally land on THIS house. I picked the room. I picked the paint color. I picked the furniture. But alas, all of that personal connection is what makes it so difficult. I’m invested (on so many levels) in this stupid house and sitting around in it for 8 hours a day is driving me insane. I’m finding every little nook and cranny that needs to be cleaned or fixed or changed.
You’ll hear a lot of people say that people (read: family) make a house a home but as with most things in life, I’m going to have to disagree. At the risk of sounding incredibly materialistic, I’m going to say that making a house YOURS is the first step in making a home (this is probably more of an identity crisis on my part than a bit of advice so I guess just take it with a grain of salt). It’s not just YOUR stuff that does it either. I wasn’t in St. Louis when all of our furniture got moved into the house and coming home to a house full of our shit didn’t really feel special or homey. Whatever the feeling was, it was obvious that it required a fight with my husband about where he put everything and then I got to begin the laborious process of obsessing about colors and arrangement and projects and updates. We did not buy a turnkey house and I honestly, despite the stress it would relieve, probably never will. For some reason, I love the character of old houses but will do just about everything to modernize them without tearing down every wall or squaring off every arched doorway.
South City St. Louis is littered with these little 1930s gingerbread craftsman houses. They all share some of the most gorgeous and interesting features I seek out in a house “with character”. First of all, they’re made of firebrick, something common yet sacred in St. Louis. I recently found out that most yellow firebrick in the area was actually mined from the ground beneath these neighborhoods, same with the limestone around our doorways and chimney bases. Secondly, the houses all have hardwood floors, sealed coal shoots, wood burning fireplaces, and, for better or worse, plaster walls.
The popular “knock-down” texture of these plaster walls was my biggest qualm with the house upon closing (it was a close call but a lot of the other things were tied for second). The texture is extremely polarizing, people either love it or they hate it and I LOATHE it. We walked through a few houses that decided to try bold, non-flesh tone colors on these textured walls and it was… ugly? Cheap looking? I can’t even pin down the description they elicit. I knew I couldn’t live with that color-limiting texture so I began pouring over the internet for solutions. I finally decided (with the green light from my husband who later regrets giving me the green light on this) that we would hire a plaster worker to come re-plaster the walls into a smooth texture. After receiving our quote, we decided we’d re-plaster ONE room in the house. It took about 5 guys and one full day to do it, but a couple weeks after we moved in, I finally had gorgeously flat walls in one room.
As lame and vain as it may sound, spending money to change something to my preference began growing my sense of “home”. We painted the room a bold navy and white washed the fireplace and trim… and suddenly it was my living room.
I’m not discouraging or endorsing big expensive vanity jobs. I’m not even saying smooth walls are better than knock-down texture (that’s a lie, they are). I am saying that one of the joys of owning a home has to be the fact that it’s YOURS and you can make it yours.
I’m not going to try to pretend I know what this blog is going to be about or why I’m writing it or if there’s any longevity to it. I’ve learned very little from my 28 years on earth but I have found that my most rewarding life experiences come from short-sighted actions. So here we go…