Tuesday, November 30, 2010


The Classic White House that started my obsession-"Father of the Bride"

The Classic White House that solidified my obsession--"Mr. and Mrs. Smith"
Hello, my name is Natalie. I'm addicted to new shoes with red bottoms and old houses with white siding.

For as long as I can remember, I've loved the Classic White House (the "CWH"). You know the one. It's a symmetrical, white clapboard colonial with shutters on the windows and brick steps up to a center front door flanked by columns. For me, the CWH is the house of happy families who sit down to dinner together, prune their prize-winning roses and grow heirloom tomatoes in their backyard gardens during the summer, decorate to the nines for the Holidays, and host fabulous weddings at home, coordinated by even more fabulous Europeans with names like Franck. While there may be occasional trials and strife--say, when one CWH resident discovers that another is a paid assassin--these differences are always worked out in the end, the music always swells, and all is well again within the four walls of the Classic White House.

As the Christian Louboutin Simple 100 Pump (preferably in black or camel) is to a complete wardrobe, the CWH is to a happy home. What can I say? These are simple truths cultivated by Hollywood in movie after movie, so I refuse to accept all of the blame for my wholly unrealistic approach to shoes and real estate.

So...after years of renting an apartment and investing in cultivating a mighty fine collection of the aforementioned red soled shoes, my husband (and I, albeit reluctantly) decided it was time to invest in something that would potentially generate, how shall I say, "better returns": Real estate. On this point, I would argue that "better returns" is a relative term, especially given the volatile housing market. If and when we ever sell the CWH, we shall see whether the real estate market actually outperforms what can only be described as a "bull market" for sold-out, and discounted gently worn Louboutins on eBay.

Still, when an old CWH "fixer upper" was the featured Home of the Week in a Boston newspaper whose real estate writer very generously noted that the home would "delight the buyer who loves vintage details," I was interested. I am the buyer who loves vintage details. I am the buyer that especially loves vintage details in a reasonably priced CWH, in a neighborhood with good schools and great Italian food. I promptly scheduled an appointment.

When reviewing the photos above, one might not immediately (for that matter, ever) make the connection between the first two beauties and this house, sans landscaping, curb appeal, or a sound roof. I realize this. And the inside is much, much worse.

The Classic White House that is now mine--a/k/a the "Money Pit"
1902 Colonial Revival on the outside, but it's all 1968 inside. The entire house is wallpapered in variations on a handkerchief pattern theme--who knew that endless handkerchief wallpaper options were readily available to the 1960's decorator?!? Walls needing a little something extra (i.e., where the handkerchief wallpaper somehow just isn't busy enough) are paneled in marbled mirror squares. Ceilings throughout the house sport glittery popcorn finishes. The kitchen has red handkerchief wallpaper, banana yellow Formica counters (also with glitter, presumably to complement the glittery popcorn ceiling), fake orange brick linoleum floors, dark stained pine cabinets, and the world's largest shiny brass and white ceiling fan with lights. Oye. Upstairs, a "Bahamas Blue" bathroom--wall to wall turquoise. A finished wood paneled "sauna" room in the attic.

Still, with some updating, I thought the place could be charming. I told my husband that we could move in, host some "Mad Men" parties with spot-on period decor, and update over time. He told me, "Betty Draper would never host a party here." He had a point. We bought it anyway.

And so the tale of two not-at-all-handy, gradually-home-improving, Boston lawyers who have no business renovating a hundred year old house begins...

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