Ahh, Sunday afternoons. Is there anything quite like the blend of relaxation and melancholy as another weekend comes to a close and we prepare to thrust ourselves through the week all over again? Well, my “Sunday blues” is a bit of “same game, new ballpark” this weekend as I am writing this blog post from the front porch of our new house – we officially moved in this weekend and spent our first night here! We still have a little work to do on the apartment but we are finally home in our home!
Now that this marathon of a month is entering the home stretch, so to speak, I thought I’d take a moment to write about our house; specifically, what we were looking for in a house and the big things we have been keeping busy doing to our house to start making it into a home.
What we looked for
There were no House Hunters-esque demands going on here – we were pretty low-maintenance and not very picky, but there were a few things we felt we needed.
- Small size
Big houses are a big no-no for both of us. As a two-person household, we don’t need a ton of space nor do we even want it. Growing up I always thought I wanted a huge house but now I hate the thought of it. I much prefer the efficiency and practicality of smaller homes. Having a bunch of space I don’t need or use just makes me anxious, not to mention how wasteful it is. We wanted something modest, which works out perfectly since that’s all our budget would allow for. And we got it: our little charmer is 750 square feet (not including a partially-finished basement). That said…
- A second story or basement
Despite our preference for a smaller space, living on only one floor is challenging for us. It’s nice to have another floor option, via a 2nd floor or an habitable basement area, so that Kevin can go somewhere else if he wants to stay up and watch TV while I go to bed or read/write quietly. It’s also nice for when we have guests so that we’re not all on top of each other and we can all have a little privacy. Our house has a partially-finished basement to satisfy this requirement, which was a dealbreaker for us. As much as I love our house, I don’t think we would have been able to buy it without the basement available.
- Staying in the city of Milwaukee – and, if possible, our current neighborhood
We love the Milwaukee neighborhood we’ve lived in the past 4 years. It’s an up-and-coming area that boasts both culture and charm and is, in general, just a nice area. We really wanted to stay here because we love it, but we also know that this neighborhood is incredibly in-demand right now and real estate is at a huge premium. Areas all over the country are experiencing an unprecedented seller’s market right now, and our neighborhood is one of two in Milwaukee where this is exceptionally prevalent. So, while we wanted to stay here, we also kept an open mind about other nearby areas. One requirement, however, is that we wanted to remain in the city of Milwaukee. Again, we got lucky. While our new address is a little farther away from the neighborhood hot spots and isn’t walkable to as many places, we’re still in a great location. I actually like our new street better – while not as centrally located, it’s a little nicer and quieter than our old street. Plus, the running routes are better here :-).
- A modest yard
Again, we didn’t want anything huge because we don’t need it or want to maintain it. But we did want some green space so that I could have a garden and we could entertain friends and family in the summer time. Once again we hit the jackpot: both our front and back yards are very modest, but the back yard has two perfectly-sized garden beds and a rather large deck and will be great for having friends over for grill-outs in the summer. And I am in love with our front porch!
- Age and character
This was much more of a wish than a need, but it was certainly on our minds. Milwaukee has so much history and there are so many older homes with great bones and character. If not now, then one day we really wanted to be owners of an older home with more historic charm from a time when people really took pride in the things they built. Well, our house was built in 1923 and has quite a bit of character and some lovely historic features. It’s not without flaws, but it’s a treasure.
We definitely did not expect to find a “turn-key” house, and while we don’t have the capacity for the extensive renovations required of a fixer-upper, we were willing and able to do some bit of work on whatever home we purchased. As any homeowner knows, the work and projects will still continue for quite a while, but these are the major things we set out to do after we closed on our house to make it ours.
What We’re Doing
After we first looked at this house, one of my biggest complaints, if you could call it that, was the lack of natural light, particularly in the living room. The front windows open onto a shaded porch, which blocks a lot of sunlight from coming in, and the side windows are small stained glass. So I started to research how to use paint colors to add or capture more light in rooms. I was expecting everyone to recommend light pastel hues, but I was surprised to find the opposite: this article from Apartment Therapy recommends using rich saturated color that will shine in the light and retain its warmth and radiance in shadow. I decided to change the living room from the khaki-ish hue we inherited to a rich, coppery burnt orange (Sherwin Williams “Copper Mountain”). The new color is much more radiant while also giving the room a warm, cozy feel.
I also chose to paint the dining room a light, rich brown (Sherwin Williams’ “Cocoa” – it’s literally the color of a cup of hot chocolate). I wanted something a little more neutral for our middle room, but also richer and cozier than the bland cream-colored walls we inherited. We are also painting the kitchen, but I’m leaving that color a surprise until I can show off the finished product – we allowed ourselves a splurge for new counter tops, which are not only desperately needed but will really complete the room.
- Tearing out the carpets
All of the rooms in our house are carpeted and for so many reasons, we wanted it out ASAP. It was old and old carpet is gross, plus the previous owners had cats and dogs and we didn’t want their smell lingering in the apartment for our cats. We also knew there were maple hardwood floors underneath, which we would much prefer over carpet anyway. It was definitely a gamble that we wouldn’t pull up all the carpet to find the wood floors in horrible condition underneath, but we couldn’t keep that carpet anyway.
These two things – painting and carpet removal – had to be done before we could move in. We did the painting first so that we didn’t have to worry about the floor and then tore out the carpet. Luckily, crossing our fingers worked, and the wood floors in the living and dining rooms were in great condition. The wood floors also make the newly-painted walls look even better!
Our only other big projects for the time being are to get our counter tops in to finish the kitchen (they are ordered but won’t be ready until early June, so we’re making do with our ugly ones until then), and to complete our basement. It is mostly finished down there, but the floors are just concrete so we want to add some carpet to make it a little warmer and cozier, and build a bathroom down there, to make it into a den and a guest suite. This is a longer-term project that we hope to have done by late fall when we want to host family for the holidays. I’m anxious for this because one thing I really want is to move the TV down there and not have one in our living room. My dream is to have a house that is not TV-centric; perhaps it would force us out of the habit of plopping down to watch it just because it’s there, and we could fill that space with better habits and more productivity.
So, other than the inevitable odds and ends small things to fix/touch up/re-do, etc, that’s about it. That’s what we’ve been busy doing for three weeks and now we are finally done – it’s time to start LIVING here!
Once the rooms are furnished – or at least mostly furnished – I’d love to share some pictures as well as my thoughts and vision for the aesthetic and set-up of our home. But for now I should probably just focus on unpacking 😉