Hells Bells

Hells Bells
Heart of the Heart of the Country
February 01
Book editor, parent, MFA in poetry from a land far, far, away--and a long, long time ago . . . I'm not a psychologist, but I play one on TV.


FEBRUARY 12, 2010 12:24PM

Why I Want to Buy This Piece of Crap House

Rate: 25 Flag


In my last post, No Direction Home , I toured the places I've lived in my life and ended up asking why  I want to buy the piece of crap house pictured above. The house actually looks pretty good at 50 yards, but it's been empty for two years and just plain let go for too long.  Major organs need to be replaced: roof, HVAC, and electrical for sure. The plumbing may or may not be okay. 

The main part of the house is about 1200 square feet. The kitchen is actually pretty big--big enough to put in a table or an island. Note the original equipment Tappan wall oven (held shut with duck tape). The roof is on a slight pitch from the center of the house, not absolutely flat, so the ceiling over the sink is just crying out for skylights. 


Here's the living room, with fireplace. I don't know whether the piano and cow skull stay or go, but the flooring is . . . uh, dark brown asbestos tile. They put that in a lot of houses in the 50s. Asbestos can't hurt you if it doesn't get released into the air, and nowadays they make very nice laminate flooring that could go right over the top. Wood would be lovely, but cork would be truer to the period, and linoleum in the kitchen.


These are the living room windows overlooking the back yard. The house doesn't have an official courtyard, but because the house is an "L" shape, it does have an enclosed, courtyard feeling. I can see a Japanese garden, with a rather formal fishpond, maybe rectangular. A lot of the wood siding would need to be replaced--dry rot. 

A screened in breezeway connects the main part of the house to a studio. That's the door, above. Wouldn't be too hard to frame in the breezeway and put a wall of closets on the next-door neighbor's side for privacy and to house all the new mechanicals and the washer-dryer.

You can start holding your breath at this point. After the screened-in breezeway, it starts to get really scary. The realtor calls what's next the "studio." Here's the studio ceiling . . .


And the floor. Yes, that's a surfboard.


But what I see in this extra 500 square feet is a terrific master-bedroom suite! It would have a great bathroom with a sunken tub and a lot of glass block. A platform bed and some french doors opening out onto the Japanese garden. A little bistro table, some decent croissant and coffee . . . 


I never appreciated mid-century modern before, but there's something magical about it to me now. I crave all clean lines and uncluttered space, what the piece of crap house could be.


photo: homeworkremodels.com

That even looks like my Honda Civic in the carport!


 photo: homeworkremodels.com

Before, I would have found this kitchen sterile, but now it's the embodiment of calm. I just love the little mosaic tiles--mine would be white with little blips of random color.

photo: homeworksremodel.com
The black leather couch doesn't wow me, but I adore how the glass in the living space blurs the line between outside and in. Who wouldn't want that . . . to be both out and in at the same time?
photo: stoneyard.com
And finally, the courtyard, with its comfortable sense of enclosure . . .  the Japanese garden and pond, of course.  I would have goldfish and not koi, since I'm not a snob. And in the upper-right, there's the bistro table. That's where we'll be having our coffee.

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Have I answered the question why I want to buy this piece of crap house or just proved that I need to have my head examined?
I love love love houses of every style. Mid-century modern wouldn't have appealed to me in my younger years, but as I age, I find myself far more drawn to that style, and I see potential there! Just be sure you get a home inspection and have reliable estimates for repairs and immediate projects so that you can adequately negotiate the price. In other words, your heart is in it...and your head should be too! Good luck!!
When you fall in love with a house, it is as dangerous as falling in love with a person! But houses can be changed and people can't. Just be sure you have the stamina and the bank account for all the repairs and remodeling!!
I need to be warned off this house, I know that. But it NEEDS me!
HB, it may be time for an intervention. I got the outside tour of this place. It just screams "mold remediation."

That said, I do like your vision of and for the house, and with enough money and skilled labor, it could come true. But right now it reminds me of those S. California houses that fell victim to mudslides.

Call me and we'll go tour some nice vinyl-sided three bedroom, two bath ranch houses.
How much is the seller paying you to take it off their hands?
Are you prepared for the hard work, frustrations of dealing with contractors and subs, time and....the expenses? I answered yes once...and moved less than two years after I had done it...and that was when times were good. UGH, wouldn't do it again.

I can understand the "dream appeal" though.
I've always loved older houses. We bought a very small old farm house more than 20 years ago. We pretty much gutted it and rebuilt the same style house - only larger - to accommodate my mother and my husband's two sons, who came to live with us full-time. He did most of the work himself (we lived in a crappy apartment in town while he worked), so it wasn't as expensive as it might have been.

Now, I can't imagine ever leaving here, much less selling it to a stranger; there's too much of "him" here, and I love this house he built for us with all my heart.

If you know of a "Russell" to manage the project, I'd say go for it. Your plans for it sound divine. A space for you.
"I need to be warned off this house, I know that. But it NEEDS me!"

Hahahahahaha. I think this qualifies as a bad romance. I'm currently living in a dysfunctional house relationship myself. Oh so much needs to be done, and it's not even that bad, but so overwhelming. Nothing is a simple fix. All I want is a dishwasher- but I will have to completely re-wire and plumb the house first it seems. Feh.
Home is where the heart is may be trite but you seem to have found your heart in this house! Coffee in this garden would bring peace to anyone.
Wow, I understand the why and the crazy . . . love your vision for the place, though!
Well, the knotty pine kitchen is to die for.
Of course you must get it. You've visualized it into existence. Now go do it!
Wow hon, you have vision! But, like you, I get it! I wish you the best with your decision! And, I hope you photograph the remodel, I'm glad I did with mine.
Okay, that does it. It's a competition. I simply will have to bring out my piece of crappier house! It has to be done.
I can just see what you can do with this one. Buy it!
It will ber a ton of work. But when you're done, you will be serene and calm in your little garden. Or in a coma.

You have vision!
every home just needs a little imagination... ok and some money... but imagination is usually what is lacking, go for it creative one!
Most people in my RL tell me if I have such an urge to be creative, I should just write a book already.
It is a unique eye that can walk into a house with "deferred maintenance" and see something beautiful. I have renovated five homes in my day down to the studs, wiring, the whole bit. Last one damn near killed me.

I have one more in me, I think. A small home. But one I can take from top to bottom again.

Patience. One room at a time. Don't start gutting another until you finish the current one, or you get left with little things in each room that drive you crazy.

Have fun with it!
I love your vision here. Is that an actual Icler? (I think I spelled that right.) I guess it depends on how low the price is and whether you have to live there during the renovation. I can't deal with renovation in my own home--too much chaos--but I understand the fantasy, and I like those remodel pix. I wouldn't go with orange in the kitchen, though, but that's just me... Rated.
I think you already have the house. The real question...Is the house ready for you?
As long as it has a good foundation.
Naw, it's not an Eichler. It's probably not even architect built--just a knock-off in that style with lesser materials.
Still laughing at Con's comment...
I love the modern style!! I would adore a house in that style myself. It's a dream.
Buy it. And then invite me for coffee and a look see at your goldfish._r
How much cash do you have?
You're going to need at least twice that much.
You'll never go on vacation again.
You won't even be able to afford to eat out, so you damn sure better like that kitchen.

You're still buying that house, aren't you?
I think it's a grand house. It just needs love. Your ideas are wonderful. Sorry - I guess I wasn't helpful in warning you away from it, was I?
I do love your vision. I have also grown fond of more streamlined areas, much to the dismay of my bohemian daughter. But I see exactly what you are seeing, and I might go for it--but only if I were sure of my ability to tolerate it getting transformed.
I love your vision, it is spot on!
Wow. First of all, send me that surfboard - or sell it on Ebay for a pretty penny. Looks like a classic single-finned longboard - and in good condition.

I say keep cow skull - but turn it upside down for good luck.

Boy, hellsbells, if you're up for the challenge, do it. from that point on, you will be called "hellsballs."

I love the after photos, wherever you got them. you're right - there's something that so clean yet airy about the space.

for the random record, i can't stand leather couches. don't know why they're supposed to be so cool - they have to be the world's most uncomfortable couch.

keep us posted. man - those are some serious before shots. shew. bringing back bad memories.
So LOVE the water garden. Beautiful. Such a transformation.
This is the juvenile delinquent with all that potential. The one that just needs a little love to turn it all around.

The kind that breaks your heart and will crush you.

If you absolutely must have a deal, then search far and wide for someone that got 3/4 through a renovation and then ran out of money, luck, and/or time. Or got divorced because of it. In this kind of market, there are places that aren't so fundamentally beat.

Let someone else buy this money pit.

Just say no.
Ah, Nick . . . the voice of reason.
My vote is yes, yes, yes. It will be fabulous!!!
This post makes me tired.

I love the style shown in the photos from houseworksremodel.com. Fits my taste exactly also. Good Luck!
My sister and I have had a similar conversation several times. When we were young we thought danish design and mid-century modern were sterile, angular, ugly. Now we look and think - how simple, light, clean lines, restful, and so much easier to keep clean and looking nice. It has come to shape my philosophy on clothes, hair, cars, about everything:-)

My house is a mid 1950's ranch, open floor plan if not quite mid-century modern, with the original smooth front beech cabinets in the kitchen. As a result I never ever want any other sort of cabinet with carving, ornaments, and crevices for dust, dirt and grease to glom on. I went from wanting an old Victorian or Edwardian house to wanting something even more streamlined than I have now -

My fantasy - forget tile in the showers - I want swanstone, corian, cultured marble surround so there are literally only corner seams to maintain. A skirted toilet (no bolts to clean around), wall-mounted toilet if I could make it work. Frosted glass for the shower wall (won't show spots - easy to clean). Pricey Robern medicine with the electric outlet inside to get all the stuff up off the counter (less goop, easier to clean). Drawers in the very bottom of kitchen cabinets (now empty space behind the kickboard), that go all the way to the ceiling, with pull out drawers and efficient storage. I could ramble forever!!!

My mantra for remodeling - ideally what ever is done reduces the amount of maintenance and cleaning required. At a minimum it cannot increase it. When helping a friend remodel after a fire her designer was at first irritated with me because I kept repeating this and pointing out any issues (ornamentation, light fixtures point down not up, travertine has to be resealed often etc.) with items under consideration. By the end of the project months later - the designer was saying the same thing - and conceded that it never occurred to her to think about the amount of cleaning and maintenance required for things.

I like to look at the other styles. I just don't want to live with them on a daily basis....
Forgot the link - a remodel of my floor plan that would dearly like to copy the way they vaulted the ceiling and took out the kitchen and basement stairwell walls.