Sunday, March 13, 2011

Home Sweet Homewreck

In case you haven’t picked up on it by now – I’m addicted to home improvement television. Believe it or not, the mister and I purchased a home that needed fixing up on purpose. I blame this decision on spending too many hours glued to HGTV and other assorted DIY programming prior to our house hunt. We laughed at the completely clueless “House Hunters” who said things like “I like this house but the bedroom is yellow and I hate yellow” (ever hear of paint? They sell it in lots of easily attainable colors), mocked the overly dramatic disaster projects on “Renovation Realities” (still when we’re working on a project in the house we’ve been known to strike a frustrated pose for the invisible cameras and hum that catching, yet kind of menacing, music they play), and generally poo-pooed the design choices made on every single interior decorating program on the air. Clearly these hours of television programming made us experts on home renovating, and we obviously felt that we could do much, much better in our own home.

Confident in our newly obtained contracting knowledge (who needs practice when you have theory, right?) we set out to acquire a nice, inexpensive fixer-upper of a home. When it seemed that Sandra Rinomato was unable to assist us “Property Virgins” (okay, so this is my third house actually, but who’s counting?) we found some great local realtors and set out on our hunt. And we had some adventures while bargain shopping. There was the house that was listed with some insane number of bedrooms and, when we got there, we saw that they were actually all tiny little cell-type rooms … each fit for a very small child at the most … and each accessible only through one creepy circular room with endless doors all around. Was it some sort of horrible orphanage at one point? Not wanting to find out we moved on, where we then found a charming home tucked back in the corner of a neighborhood with black-out curtains covering every window in the house. Not fazed by this at all, we stepped inside this long “abandoned” home to find a stereo playing, Mardi Gras decorations hung and remnants of a recent party still looming. Rooms were locked, doorways were blocked by heavy, un-movable furniture, a duffle bag of someone’s clothing was found in one makeshift bedroom and I was pretty sure the secret room we discovered in the back of one of the closets was recently used to grow some illegal substances. As my realtor tried to pick the lock to what we thought was perhaps a bathroom I swear I saw someone moving on the other side of the door. I didn’t stick around the see what squatters were waiting to greet me behind there and I high-tailed it out of there.

And so we upped our price range. Just a little though – let’s not be careless.

And then we found it. I’ll never forget when our realtor sent us the listing for what is now our house with the message “I know it’s not pretty from the outside, but it’s in your top choice neighborhood so maybe we can just hope that the inside is better?” Jackpot! In fact, the inside was pretty sweet, and just needed a few “smaller” home renovations (like completely replacing everything in all 3 bathrooms, all new doors, trim, hardware, lighting, etc.) but the outside of it was, in fact, quite unattractive. Forget the dead grass, sandy lawn and weeds big enough to swallow our dogs, the outside of the house itself was decorated in blue and teal with fake columns on either side of the doorway. Nothing that a little paint and elbow grease couldn’t fix though, right? But, see, just a few things got in the way of taking care of that when, in those first few weeks of home ownership, our septic tank blew up, the air conditioning broke twice (in the middle of the hot Florida summer), the home got infested with fleas, wasps (or maybe they were hornets?) and I swear I discovered a tick or two as well, the garbage disposal caught fire and, of course, that resulted in pipe bursting and flooding the kitchen. And, well, I guess we never got around the fixing up the outside.

But that’s all about to change … I hope.

In the weeks ahead I’m devoted to painting the outside of the house, and I think we should do it ourselves. I mean (and this might just be too many hours of HGTV talking), isn't that part of the reason why we bought this place - for the adventure of fixing it up and making it ours? I really think that if it’s something we physically can accomplish on our own then we should tackle it by ourselves and save our money to pay people only for the things we aren’t capable of doing alone. Good enough theory, but we'll have to see how it plays out in practice. But first we need to agree on a color. And so far that just isn’t happening. Any suggestions?
Here’s a photo of the “before” for reference ... you can even see GAR's displeasure at the fact that it looks like someone from Miami Vice lives here.

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