Before I could move to Minneapolis, we had to find a place to live that would hold two adults, two dogs, two cats, one kid and the accumulated clothing of two voracious clothes hounds. The house Joel lived in before was an adorable 1930s bungalow. I loved that house, but every time I tried to imagine the dogs in there, I realized the only space big enough for even one of their dog beds was in the middle of the kitchen floor.
We starting looking at new houses on a whim, and to our joy realized we were perfectly matched in terms of what we wanted – 1) old, but in good shape, 2) giant backyard for playing fetch, 3) 3+ bedrooms/2+ bathrooms, 4) hardwood floors, 5) high ceilings, 6) charming characteristics like built-ins or unique little alcoves. Joel was also open to 70s-style ramblers, but I wasn’t feeling those. As a teenager, I always wanted a staircase leading down to the front door, so I could walk down to greet my prom date like in the movies. For me, the next house needed to be two stories.
Our search was at first constricted to Joel’s favorite neighborhoods in S. Minneapolis. We quickly – and sadly – realized we wouldn’t find the right thing there. The yards and rooms were too small. Most of the properties on the market were craftsman style with the master bedroom occupying the entire attic, with hit-and-miss attempts to make livable space under the eaves. A lot of the properties were upgraded with the same crappy cabinets, were painted the same trendy colors (espresso, taupe, olive, rust), and had the same floorplan. We widened our search to the inner-ring suburbs.
Toward the middle of our search, the market really started heating up. Joel’s house, which he bought two years ago, went in three days with four offers above the asking price. We would get alerts for new properties, and before we could see them, they would already have too many offers. We had a handful of temporary heartbreaks this way. And then we found the one.
We had probably seen two dozen houses before we found ours. It is in an unfashionable suburb, in a slightly-less-fashionable neighborhood than the one just across the street. After the first viewing, we started referring to it as Grandma’s House, which confused the heck out of Claire. She was convinced her own grandma was coming back from Florida to live in it.
Our house was previously owned by a couple who had lived here since the 60s, and assumedly raised a family here. We once saw “grandma” sitting in her new VW Beetle in the street next to the house after a showing. Impossible to tell what kind of lady she is from that close encounter, but her house gives us hints. Most of the rooms are painted a color my mother would refer to as “titty pink.” It is exactly the color you think it is. When we bought the place, the first thing we did was rip out the white, short-weave wool carpet, which as it turns out was enormously helpful in getting rid of the old people smell that even Claire noticed and commented on. (Strangely, a handful of the rooms already had wood flooring, but the ones with carpet didn’t have wood underneath.)
Every room has a different wallpaper, except for the hallways and master bath and living room, which all share the same pale pink moray taffeta. (Photographic evidence of the wallpaper below.) As if the wallpaper wasn’t enough, “grandma” somehow managed to find not only paint to match every single pattern perfectly, but also found perfectly matching blinds. So in the room with the loud Laura Ashley-esque wallpaper, for instance, every inch of trim is painted to match the yellow flowers and both windows have perfectly matching yellow blinds. The trim/blinds in our room are blue. The trim in the living room was pale pink. The trim in the downstairs bathroom is dove gray. It goes without saying that the doors all match the trim colors. And of course all the windows have 12 panes, and “grandma” painted each and every little square in the trim color of her choice.
As I mentioned, we ripped out the terrible carpet and immediately put in hardwood floors. We also put in a wonderful slate tile in the entry. Before I moved here, Joel started painting the living room. I’ll dig up pictures and post some before/after shots, but let me just say that even the fireplace was painted pale pink, as well as the trim on 68 individual panes of glass. This room is now completely finished, and looks amazing. We decided that this would be the house where we wouldn’t buy furniture just to fill space. We got things we want to have forever, or a really long time, and we only got things that were exactly right. It’s very, very good.
Three days ago, we started ripping the pink moray taffeta wallpaper out of the upstairs bathroom. Two days ago, we went to Lowe’s and Menards and bought paint and new hardware and a new light fixture. Yesterday, an electrician came to install the new light. Today, we got 90% to completion, and tomorrow we’ll do the final touch-ups and get the last of the cabinet doors back on.
We still have four bedrooms to tackle (ours, Claire’s, the downstairs spare and the upstairs spare that is acting as a haphazard office), the downstairs bathroom, the family room in the basement, and the kitchen/dining room. The latter is a bit of a conundrum, because the kitchen basically needs to be ripped out and completely rebuilt. It’s got the worst layout, with shallow cabinets, and cannot get up to speed with the rest of the house without a major overhaul. We’re not sure when we’ll be able to afford what we want, so for now we’re remaking the house around it.
When it was clear our search for the new house was winding down, we kept coming back to Grandma’s House. Out of everything we saw, it was the one that was most immediately ours. Despite the fact that it didn’t feel at all like us, aesthetically, it was as if the house chose us. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, or how amazing it would be once we got our hands on it.
Slowly, it’s turning into the house I imagined. While my back is sore from painstakingly painting trim and my knees are creaking from so many trips to the basement, it’s entirely worth it and I can’t wait to see how it turns out.