1/9/2017: Getting Over the Black Wall

Yesterday was not intended to be a sleep day, but that’s what it turned into.  Had a meeting-ful day at work – so boring to sit around all day, and I question what benefit any of the meetings had, but so be it – and took the pooch for a snowshoe adventure in the backyard once I got home.

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Snowshoe adventure!  One of these days that river won’t be frozen anymore…

I stripped out of my wet clothes after returning home in an attempt to warm up, and ended up snuggling with the canine on the bed and fell asleep.  Woke up, ate some dinner, sat on the couch…and fell asleep again. Woke up and did some work on a current crochet project until bedtime and then scooped up the pooch and went to bed.  Slept all night and woke up exhausted.  I don’t know if this is part of an ongoing medical issue I’m having or just general malaise.  Ugh.

So today I’ll write about a project accomplished in early August 2016.  It’s one of those to-do tasks that is not so important in the large scheme of things, but was a #1 priority to me.

I had a great deal of financial trouble once I decided to leave my teaching job in Massachusetts and move to my current job in New Hampshire.  I don’t regret for a second the decision to move and switch careers (though I do miss teaching occasionally), but it was a lateral move in salaries and caused a lot of expense.  I owned a house in Massachusetts at the time and it was too far to commute for very long, and I ended up having the house for sale and empty for 6 months and paying both the mortgage and rent for an apartment in NH during that time.  It very effectively drained my savings before I gave up on attempting to sell my house for what I owed on it – it was the bottom of the real estate market at the time, and nobody was interested in a small 60 year old house for sale for what very new houses were going for.  I ended up renting out my house to some tenants (to my eventual regret) and moving around NH for quite a bit.  Some day maybe I’ll write about some of my experiences in the various rentals I’ve had during my first 4+ years in NH…but today, since I’m tired and not feeling well, let’s celebrate the purchase of my first NH home.

I had been living in the in-law apartment/basement of a very nice house with some wonderful landlords for the past 1.5 years when they started talking about selling the place and downsizing to another house.  While the apartment was nice, close to work and quite affordable, it was dark and small for my tastes.  Not having a full sized refrigerator or freezer absolutely drove me crazy, the avid cook that I am.  Instead of ending up trying to find a decent and affordable apartment that also allowed a dog once the landlords decided to sell – and I had no doubt their house would sell quickly – I instead decided to look for a house of my own.  I would much rather have waited another year or two, paid off the credit cards and gotten a down payment together, but I didn’t want to run the risk of being homeless with a canine.  It’s taken me around 6 months every time I’ve needed to move to find an acceptable apartment that takes a dog.  So I started looking around, and began to do some home visits with a realtor friend of mine that I met through absolute coincidence several years before.

The reality is that I’ve been looking for a permanent home in NH since I moved up here.  While I fancy myself a traveler, and would like to travel more, I enjoy being able to come home and have roots somewhere.  I hated moving more than 8 times over 4 years.  I had particular requirements for the house I would purchase, however, that added to the price tag and narrowed the search considerably:

  • Garage
  • Cook’s kitchen (or at least cook-friendly)
  • Quiet, private, forested, able to let the dog out without worry
  • In-law apartment or ability to refurbish/add an in-law apartment
  • Within reasonable driving distance from work/no toll roads on commute

Having the in-law apartment requirement was by far the most isolating requirement, but I was insistent.  I have no intention of moving again anytime soon (though I had no intention of moving from MA only a few years after buying my home down there) and my parents at some point will need a place to live.  My brother currently rents a room and my sister has a condo in the suburbs of Boston, both of which are unsuitable locations for them to move once they need some assistance and can’t be home solo.  In-law apartments tremendously increase the value of a home and made many of them unreachable price-wise for me.  Plus, the home loan I was hoping to be approved of that allowed for no down payment also forbids buying any homes with in-law apartments.  That kind of put the kibosh on a bunch of possibilities!

I saw a few houses that were nos from the moment I drove by them.  Small yards with the neighbors right on top of you.  Not very pleasant neighborhoods.  Though my realtor did a great job of keeping within my budget and trying her best to find what I wanted, I was not interested!  We expanded the search past the immediate area beyond the suburbian utopia where my work is located, and I went to see two houses for sale on the same road in a town I’d never heard of or been in, about 25 minutes from work.

The first house I saw was definitely in the upper echelon of what I considered my price range, possibly a bit beyond it.  However it was only 5 years old, one owner, big open rooms, two acres of land, only one neighbor, and had a great partially finished basement that could be fully finished into a small apartment.  The other house on the road, a 150 year old fixer-upper that was much more within my price range, didn’t even stand a chance.

I won’t go through the typical agony that involves negotiating and purchasing a home.  Despite my previous experience and relative familiarity with the process, the only thing that seems consistent about home purchasing is that it’s a massive pain in the ass unless you have lots and lots of money to spend (and I don’t).  A friend said it best to me during the purchase of my first home: the definition of compromise is that in the end, nobody is happy, and you always compromise on something when buying a home.  At the end of everything and 6 months after purchase, however, I will say that I remain extremely pleased with the house and how it all worked out (lets just hope I don’t arrive home this afternoon to any burst pipes or broken furnaces!  Quick, where’s some wood to knock on?).

The conclusion of this long story leads me to the DIY project of the day.  When I went to look at my current home for the first time, I came in the front door and saw this ghastly attempt at what I think home improvement channels call an “accent piece”.

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Who puts up a massive slab of black 2x4s as a “decorative touch”?

I instantly hated the black wall.  The photo is from shortly after I moved in, so admittedly it did look much better with the former owner’s dark furniture and enormous wide screen TV.  However the entire living room, despite being very large and open, was so darkly colored already and the black only added to the murky look and feel of the place.  It’s amazing how color can make you feel so closed in despite how open the room is.  Coming from a basement apartment with two windows and rare direct sunlight, I considered the black wall a tragic consequence of overambitious DIY-ing.  It was the very first thing I did to the place.

Because it was such a dark color, it took multiple coats of primer to even dull the color a bit. Like…5 coats of primer.  It took most of an afternoon and evening.  And unfortunately I couldn’t get the TV hanger off the wall, so it got some doses of white as well.

I do have to say, it was a vast improvement once the black wall was turned into the white wall.  It’s such a relief to walk into the living room and not be dragged down by a black monolith.  Though I don’t like how the TV now becomes a kind of centerpiece for that wall.  However that’s a small tradeoff.

I’m sure that someday I’m going to want the wall of 2x4s to come down so that I can do something different.  I’m looking forward to the day when TVs that can double as mirrors or picture frames become more affordable, because I’ll probably go that way at some point.  TVs that look like TVs all the time are so ugly!  I have to wait on taking down the white monolith, however, as each 2×4 that makes up the wall is kept in place by no less than 8 drywall screws that have now been painted by approximately 7-10 coats of black and white paint and are immovable.  I have no idea what’s behind the monolith and no doubt that I will utterly destroy the drywall behind it in an attempt to take the wall down.

As you can see from this random-yet-adorable canine photo, priority #2 was to paint over the dark green walls of the living room as well.

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Canine at rest against a light, soothing background paint.

I’m currently painting another room in the house and looking forward to discussing that particular improvement once it’s done as well.  It’s another dark wall color that I’m painting lighter, to it’s vast improvement.  I’m all about allowing different people to have different tastes, but the dark and sometimes wacky colors the former owner painted this house makes me mental every time I see it.  My one abiding regret during the home purchase was that I didn’t have the money up front to pay a painting company to come through and give the entire house a coat of white.  Doing it in small pieces is questionably more economical – I’ve spent quite a bit on paint + primer – and I’m terribly messy when it comes to painting and will probably have to have the ceilings and trim redone by experts anyway.  I freely admit that I don’t have the patience to tape and drape and move everything the way that it should be done, and inevitably end up making a hash of the whole job.

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