The lessons I’ve learned: Home Ownership is a Masters in Life

The phone was pressed to my ear, its battery life letting itself be known in the hot thudding pulse that radiated through the cartilage and the soft tissue cage designed to capture sound, but today most notably was holding my fear and shame.  How could I have embarked on such a big journey, such an adult undertaking, advanced in my years and yet still entirely unprepared. How had I had not known this thing.  My face started to burn, waves of frustration rippling through my chest, tears pricking the fleshy corners of my eyes.  I pinched my nose hard. 

“Are you listening to me Sarah, asked?”  “This kind of thing happens all the time.” 

“Was I supposed to know that?”  I asked angrily, though the anger was at myself, not this smart, efficient no-nonsense woman.  My attorney. 

“Of course not”, she replied.  “You don’t know until you know.”  “You might have gone two or three transactions before stumbling across a Certificate D, as you bought and sold, and searched and renovated.”  “I didn’t even start to see this until as recently as last year and I do dozens of transactions every month.”

“ohhhh” I replied feeling just a little bit better than I had when the conversation started. 

I didn’t know when I was confronted with the uncomfortable reality that my fire escapes had not passed inspection and would require an expensive overhaul.  I was aware that condominiums were all about communal living.  That we owned the air inside our space, but not much more, and that decisions regarding repairs required the collective approval of the other owners within the building.  Laws are laws.  I understood that, but over the years I would be confronted again and again with some sort of a nuance, a new regulation, a new certificate, a difficult party that held a disproportionately large percentage of the building’s ownership and thus could swing a vote in one direction or another.

These blind spots exist everywhere, but then I turn a corner, have something explained to me by one of my team of experts, or a friend that wants to help, and it becomes crystal clear.  I’ll never round that corner again and be surprised by what awaits.  There will be other corners of course, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get in your car and start driving.  The lessons that we learn in real time are the stickiest. 

In this weekend of Thanksgiving I am so grateful to all the brokers, builders, designers, vendors, agents and lawyers that have taught me some aspect of homeownership.  Schoolhouse Rock used to espouse the belief that “knowledge is power”, and while I don’t disagree with that, I think knowledge is freedom.  Every bit of wisdom I am able to tuck away gives me a little more agency in this world.  My map becomes full of stop signs, and routes, crossroads and bridges to new worlds.  Don’t let a little thing like not knowing something stand it the way of your path forward.  One step at a time.  I am happy to help and so are countless others.  I am grateful for that.

Step Back

I’m not looking for a formula. I’m searching for fantastical. I want magic, I want to surprise myself when all is said and done, but these days I am doing a lot more saying than doing. Sometimes you just have to start. I thought the purchase of the table was a good start, and I suppose it was, but since it hasn’t arrived yet, to bath me in the historical glow of ballroom dances and prearranged romances, country homes and noble tombs, it isn’t inspiring me. I may only be able to capture the smallest of snapshots from the fantasy. My table being of modest size it would have become friendly with, dare I say, hundreds of other fabulous furnishings in a single castle’s room. Still it would have been admired by the curious discerning sort that would certainly have been invited to dinner. In its absence I am forced to focus my attention on that blessed fireplace.

Blyth Collins Interiors

I have decided to keep it. Even if it costs me precious square feet, and it does, and it’ll cost me even more when I am forced to build out on either side of her expanse to make her not appear as expansive as she is. It sounds contradictory, but I can assure you, once I’ve added to the girth by building that cabinetry – say a foot back from the mantle (aka – the entire encased gas box) it will feel a little bit more like it belongs. Perhaps I do it a second time too, another foot – I have it don’t you worry, gradually blending it into the wall, maybe even running shallow storage along its expanse. It’ll cost me, but I consulted the powers that be and they were addiment. “Do not remove that fire place” they said. One even screamed “NO”. People love fire, and they were fired up over the thought of it’s removal, so I stepped back from it. The subject was too heated if you get my drift.

I did receive a single affirmation regarding my decision to lob off the kitchen island’s overhang. When I say lob, I really mean surgically remove it, with the help of a professional stone cutter so that it is a normal sized top. This will help some, providing a three foot runway behind any furnishings designated for the living room area. I’ve spent a good deal of my life shimming by one piece of furniture or another and because I don’t move slowly unless I’ve been recently hospitalized, I bump into things. I bruise terribly, though the furniture seems fine, it would be nice to have some clearance, while still having a place to sit.

I’m going to paint the kitchen cabinets green. I can’t believe I am writing it for the entire world to see. I’ve never painted anything green – never. I feel strangely compelled to do it and so I am, and it will be moody because I plan to paint them in Farrow and Ball. The walls will be in the same color. I might keep the base white, but I might not. Progress. If we aren’t moving forward we’re falling behind, and I hate it when I can’t see the future, don’t you?