Nothing Charming: Meg’s New Old House

I just moved. More precisely, I finally finished transporting my enormous mountain of largely superfluous personal possessions from a two-bedroom apartment to a tiny, three-bedroom house. I am exhausted and more than a little scattered.

When this little house became available, my dear friend, the property manager, told me about it with a hint of reluctance. “We have a house opening up that might work for you. But…you should see it before you get excited. It’s very old.” She must have seen my eyes sparkle (I love old houses) because she added, “No, there is nothing charming about this house. Believe me. It’s just old.”

It’s 87 years old, to be exact. It was built in 1925 and it’s just outside the historic district of Old Towne Orange. Peeling paint, abundant chain link fencing, a freestanding garage that doesn’t look as if it will be standing much longer—this is not Better Homes & Gardens material.

Some of the windows won’t open. Some won’t close. Many will open but will slam shut again unless you prop them open with the nearest object. Viewed from the outside at night, my new house looks like a strange, light-up showcase for bottled water and cleaning products.

There is no hallway; there is just one bathroom in the center of the house with doors leading to the kitchen, middle bedroom and back bedroom. The back bedroom (that’s mine) is only accessible via the bathroom. The bathroom is ginormous, relative to the house, and it is so oddly shaped that it has eight walls and no place to put anything.

Then there is the garage, which I am afraid to enter at night. A power cord dangles from the ceiling, and if you plug it in, a dim, flickering fluorescent bulb provides just enough light to dismember someone by.  If I have to go in there at night, I open the dilapidated garage door, back my car into the driveway, and make my daughter press on the brakes so my taillights shine into the garage*. (There is no way I’m feeling around for that dangling cord in the dark.) Then I sprint in, grab whatever I’m after and sprint back out before I feel the cold, clammy hands closing around my throat….

The garage is fondly referred to as the “Murder Shed,” thanks to my friend Lauren, who calls it like she sees it.

*I don’t know why I didn’t pull into the driveway and use my headlights. Why did I reverse? I just realized how dumb that is as I was typing the above paragraph. That’s how fried my brain is. Criminy.

Also, some classy individual wrote “FUCK” on one of the garage walls in marker. It’s sort of a decorative, bubbly lettering style. If it weren’t such a cute sort of lettering, I would have to believe it was someone’s last word before being dismembered. You can’t vandalize if you don’t have hands, punk!

In 1925, when the house was built, people didn’t amass boatloads of crap the way we do now, so closet space wasn’t a big deal. Consequently, I don’t have a lot of closet space. Other things not planned for in 1925: dishwashers, garbage disposals, or doorways big enough to slide a refrigerator through.

But it’s not all bad—obviously, I rented it for a reason. Most importantly, it’s cheap. I have my priorities, you know. Second, it’s not an apartment. Hooray! Also, it has a big back yard for my dogs.   It has washer/dryer hookups, so no more community laundry room. The scary garage is perfectly acceptable for storage (provided I access it during daylight) and the driveway has plenty of space for me and a guest to park.

You know what else it has? Charm. Sure, it’s hidden under the catastrophic paint—flaking off on the outside and layered thick on the inside—but there is plenty of charm to be found. There’s a huge front porch and tons of windows. We are already picturing our carved pumpkins out on our front porch, and our Christmas tree in the front room with all those windows.  Oh, and there’s moulding everywhere: big chunky baseboards, window moulding, door moulding— a girl like me gets pretty excited about moulding. And that chain link fence is perfect for sweet peas. Spring is going to be fun. The yard is really sunny, so I can plant herbs and tomatoes again…summer is looking good, too.

To be honest, I’m kind of excited about the whole mess.  I love fixing up old stuff. One of my favorite things is to find an old piece of furniture and paint it or repurpose it. Now I get to do that with a whole house.  I can’t spend money on it, because it’s a rental, and the whole reason I moved in was to save money (and escape the apartment).  So I will have to do it on a shoestring, which is another backwards pleasure of mine. I am the queen of frugality. Bring on the thrift stores, garage sales and Craigslist! Give me your oops paint, your castoffs, your unused plywood longing to breathe free!

I may be romanticizing a bit. Okay, I may be romanticizing a lot, but I find something loveable about this weird old house.  In a few months I may be cursing the wonky walls and pitching floors and longing for the relative modernity of my apartment.  But for now, while the house and I are getting to know each other, I will keep my rose-colored glasses firmly in place.

There it is, under the peeling paint and behind the chain link fence: something charming. See?

17 thoughts on “Nothing Charming: Meg’s New Old House

  1. It’s simply o o z i n g charm! Once you give it a good cleaning, the peeling paint and cracked linoleum won’t matter (I’m assuming there’s cracked linoleum). You won’t even care that the doors and cupboards won’t stay shut (I’m almost positive that the doors and cupboards won’t stay shut). The tilted floors will simply add to the charm (The floors do tilt, don’t they?)
    I live in a delightful little house too..

    • Nope, I have brand spanking new linoleum! And the cupboards are okay for staying shut, but the doors are stubborn. And the floors are super, extra tilty! Once the outside is painted (it will be in a few months) then it will be darling. It’s just a little shabby now. But it works fine for Halloween!

  2. I think it’s adorable, Meg 😀 If you want the name of someone who restores old windows, I have someone great I can refer you to. Love the front porch, and all those beautiful windows, and you of course ❤

  3. I actually DO think that house looks kind of charming! I like the front porch and the shape of the entrance. And wow, did you bring back a memory with the scary, buzzing fluorescent light — right down to the scary pull cord. We used to have one of those in our scary basement. Yikes!

    • Thanks; I think it’s charming. I do not think the creepy light in the garage is charming but it is kind of comic, since I am a grownup and everything. 🙂 Thanks for reading, Anne!

  4. Fantastic Meg! I used to live in a dilapidated old half of a house near old town Orange myself. 164 1/2 Pixley was the address. Something about those old houses just makes you love ’em despite all the things that need attending to. Besides, it’s all about location, location, location! Walking distance to the street fair baby!

  5. It IS charming! It reminds me of Anna Draper’s house in Mad Men (if you are familiar with it). But what kind of demented architect plans all the rooms wagon-wheel style off the bathroom?

    • I think no architect is responsible for that, just people adding to it willy-nilly over the decades. But “wagon-wheel” is exactly how to describe it. It is really goofy.

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