It would be really cruel of us to get into the second week of July and withhold photos of the new home, and since I’ve finally had a moment to edit down my way, way too many photos into an amount that makes sense (we hope), let’s do this! It was really interesting to see our friends’ reactions on Christening Night – What’s that smell? Oh, my god. Wait, what? – but we loved their honesty as much as we loved their affirmation of our ability. Now, lets just hope they’re right. (Because honestly, we’re sweating. A little.)
The thing about the house is this: It’s a blank slate. Truly. It couldn’t be more of a blank slate. It’s a two-flat building over 120 years old (we know!), and unfortunately, it’s been chopped up and gutted so many times over the century, that little character remains. It was a gorgeous, bright day when I ran around the house with my camera, and while the amount of natural light in the home is one of its best features, it made the photos below appear a bit more, um, magical than they are. (Well, we think the home is magical, but certainly not yet.)
We will say this: photos can be deceiving.
The uneven floors, the sagging ceiling, too-low steps, the smells and cracked bathroom tiles – this is what greets you. Original window casings are almost non-existent, baseboards are covered in inches of thick paint and room partitions have been blasted open without proper support. The most recent renovation was done as inexpensively as possible, with many areas remaining untouched and others somewhat questionable. It’s sad, yes, but to us, we think that the house has been waiting (and patiently, at that!). Waiting for someone to come and put that character back in.
On the flip side (thankfully, there’s always a flip side!), the floors themselves are nice and updated, the wall colors aren’t terribly offensive and although the kitchen finishes aren’t our first choice, they’ll do the job until we can afford an upgrade. There’s a front porch, a yard for Jack – and a garage! In other words, it’s not all bad; no, we see a winner.
THE ENTRY. Because the home is currently set up with a main floor unit and a second floor unit, this is what you see when you walk in the front door. Enter to that door on the right, and you’ll walk into what will be our main living area. Ultimately, we’re working towards taking down that door frame and opening this whole area up – and of course, tearing up the maroon carpet is on the list, too.
THE LIVING ROOM. You might think your eyes are playing tricks on you. Is that ceiling really sagging? Yes, yes it is. We’re calling this: The First Thing To Fix. (You may have seen, we’ve already started!) When the partition (there, the khaki piece of wall in the middle) was opened up, the joists weren’t properly supported, causing the whole ceiling on this level to dip. On the left is a door that leads to a small under-the-stairs bedroom, but in order to open the entry (to keep things from feeling closed off), that whole wall may get a rearrangement.
THE UNDER-THE-STAIRS-NOOK. Above, you can see how small that room actually is (it’s shorter than the width of the orange wall!), and below, you can see it couldn’t fit more than a bed. There is, however that small closet that we’d like to close off and open from the back – providing us with coat storage to the entryway. Since this room will need to be reconfigured as part of the whole foyer-like project, we can see this becoming a sweet reading nook. (But the verdict is still out; thoughts?)
THE DINING ROOM. Further into the living room (beyond the sagging partition), is a dining room! Having a dining room has been on our wishlist for a while, and finally, well, ta-da! The only bizarre thing going on here (aside from that fracking dip in the ceiling) is rough drywall. There’s a scratchy, pocked texture on the walls that will – sigh – need to be sanded. (Easy enough, right?)
THE GUEST ROOM. You can see in the first dining room photo that there’s another room to the left; this will be our guest room. It’s still small, but it’s much longer.
THE FIRST BATHROOM. What you don’t see? A lot of grime. There’s a bizarre-o step up to get into the bathroom, mostly because the tile was installed 1/2″ higher than the floor. But! There’s a window to the right, giving it bright light. And it goes without saying that this entire room will need an overhaul – eventually.
THE KITCHEN. At the very end of this floor is the kitchen, which leads out to the back deck. (You can see the kitchen opening beyond the orange wall in the dining room photo.) We were left without a stove or a fridge, and while we’d love to purchase something nice for the long haul, we may need to settle for fine-for-now. The kitchen was updated decently enough, but man, you see the potential too, right? Since a renovation of this room may be a while from now, we don’t have any visions of grandeur – yet.
THE BLUE KITCHEN NOOK. Off the kitchen is a mini bonus room, and the reality of working on the sagging ceiling means that it may end up as storage as we sift and sort through moving boxes. Eventually, though? We could open that wall and really create a dream kitchen – or have a mega pantry. (We’re going with dream kitchen.)
THE LANDING. If you walk up the steps in the entry, you’ll come into the second unit – the studio! But before I get ahead of myself (my stomach does flips just thinking about a new studio!), we’ll likely open up the doorway that you walk through (which would be behind me in this photo) to create a larger second floor landing.
THE STUDIO STORAGE. Above, that door on the right opens to an itty bitty, teeny tiny bedroom. Almost all the windows on the second floor were sealed with plastic (still from the winter, we suppose?), but this little room will be perfect for all of my studio stuff. You know, shipping boxes, blank canvases, painting supplies – all of those things that have been spilling into the hallway of our small home for the last several months. We see rows of beautiful shelving and organization. Oh, the organization this room will see!
THE STUDIO. When you really get into the second floor (through the arched doorway that will most definitely stay), you’ll come into the studio! My head is spinning with ideas (Scott’s head, too, believe it or not), and the light on this floor is just out-of-this-world ridiculous.
And just so we’re clear, yes, that doorway looks as though it’s melting towards the center; yes, the walls go up at the baseboards as they reach the outer edges of the room. Yes, the entire floor dips straight down the middle. This all ties in with The First Thing To Fix.
THE BONUS ROOM. Above, that entire partition wall will likely need to be removed – which, again, ties in with The First Thing To Fix. But we’ll still look at this half of the second floor as a bonus room; maybe we’ll have a little seating area here? We’ll need a larger couch for the first floor, so we’re thinking our current sofa could sit up here. I see a few more cozy chairs and a large coffee table (or ottoman) – and plants. This floor screams for plants!
The second floor doesn’t currently have central heat, but instead, we have space heaters. They’ll need to be disconnected at some point (maybe during the whole sagging floor/ceiling bonanza), and before the next Chicago winter, we’ll need to install a furnace.
THE (OTHER) GUEST ROOM. Just like the first floor, there’s a bedroom off to the left of the bonus room (downstairs, it was off of the dining room), but this room might be in the worst shape of all. The old carpet is holding in an odor that’ll knock your socks off, the wall under the window is crumbling (water damage, most likely), and every door and window casing needs to be replaced. We think there’s sub floor under the carpet (boo), but we’ll still pull it up right away to help, uh, clear the air.
THE SECOND BATHROOM. The second floor bathroom has a tub, but just like the one on the first floor, this will also need to be completely renovated, top to bottom. Cracked tile is being held together by duct tape and although the whole room needs the cleaning of a lifetime, there’s another bathroom window! And just like the kitchen and other bathroom, it may be a while before we can afford to touch this – but we do have the romantic idea to outfit this room with a claw foot tub.
THE MASTER BEDROOM. So, if there’s a kitchen on the first floor, and the second floor looks a lot like the first, what do you think is on the second floor? Our master bedroom, of course! (What, you can’t see it?) There’s another nook off this room, too, and we’re hoping to make it into a laundry room. (If there’s one dream list item I’ve been craving, it’s a laundry room. A whole, glorious room!)
If you’ve been keeping track, you’ll know that in the end (a long, long time from now) there will be 3 total bedrooms (with a teeny, tiny 4th bedroom acting as studio storage), 1 kitchen, 1 living room, 1 dining room, 1 large studio (be still my heart), 2 bathrooms, and 5 very excited family members. There’s also a two-car garage (Scott is still reeling from the excitement!) and a small back yard with an old back deck that – way, way down the road – we’d like to tear down and build new. In addition, a finished basement unit hides below, but we’re working towards proper zoning as we restructure the house from a two-flat-plus-garden into a single-family-plus-garden. But, baby steps, people.
We’ve been hard at work these last several days, and we just know this house is a diamond in the rough. For those things the home lacks, it more than makes up for with space! And light! And room to grow. It won’t be a fast transition, but we plan on moving forward with intentional, thoughtful decisions. What the home lacks in original character will be nursed back in; we can’t wait to play and experiment, and we love that you’re here, alongside us.
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