So my friend M lives in this gorgeous old yellow row house in Columbia Heights. If she is cool with it, one of my future posts may be a love letter to her house. Visiting her has gotten me thinking about how much I miss having a house with a soul.
My old condo had a soul. It was a shag-carpet, mood-ring, disco-ball soul, but it was a soul. It had a weird, mod fireplace suspended two feet off the floor, and all the cabinetry and wood had been painted incredibly dark brown, and the exterior was a brick-red-and-brown wooden California-style shingle that was super-hot in 1981. I loved it for a lot of reasons, not least because it looked for all the world like it was born the same year I was.
I sold it, of course, in order to move in with my now-ex. While I love the suburb I live in now, and it’s great to be closer to some of my best friends, I still rather regret letting go of the old place. The neighbors were rowdy and I had to fix anything that broke myself, or pay for someone to. The neighborhood was kind of shitty; it’s rarely a good sign when the best landmark to describe where you live is “near the sketchy Walmart, not the new Walmart.” The plumbing had issues; the A/C and heater were always threatening to crap out. But it was mine.
When I bought the place it was gross: the carpet had gone through several dog owners and didn’t show any signs of having ever been replaced, there was an endemic roach problem, the bathtub was badly rusted and surrounded by ancient yellow tiles, the washer/dryer were both dead, and the electrical was a little iffy.
I did a full face-lift on the place. My parents and I tore up the downstairs carpets and replaced them with walnut laminate. I had guys come in and put down new silver carpet on the stairs and in the upstairs bedrooms. We painted top-to-bottom: the bedrooms were white, the bathroom was pale green, the living and dining space was butter yellow, and the kitchen was harvest orange. We put down new vinyl floors in the kitchen and powder room. We replaced the washer/dryer, and I got a friend to do some light demolition and construction in the laundry room. I hired some guys to put a new cover on the bathtub, white with a subway-tile pattern.
It took the better part of four years to get it all done — I really only called it 90% finished even when I sold it. But right up until I had to start repainting to sell, that place was mine: I’d put my hands on every piece of it and chose everything to fit my weird vision for the home I wanted.
And yeah, it was weird. I chose the color for the kitchen based on a chip that was matte — when the high-gloss kitchen-specific paint went up, it turned out safety-cone orange. There was a wall of parquet-look wood paneling in the dining room. (When the realtor showed me the place, she said I could rip it out, and I was horrified. Why would you destroy such a bizarre little time capsule?) That fireplace was totally silly, even after I painted the slate surround slate-color (when I moved in, it was magenta). I had a cardboard deer head over the fireplace, and one of those black-vinyl sticker things over the TV: it was a small horde of zombies five feet across. All of the art involved either woodland creatures or horror-movie monsters. No living quarters could have more perfectly expressed the person I was at the time.
That said, while I miss my condo, it would also be fair to say that my style has evolved well past it. That’s one reason why an upcoming announcement about my new digs is making me so very excited right now. Yes, I’m moving! To a place with a soul! Thank god.