Houses have been on my mind a lot since I last posted here almost two months ago. Our relationships with our houses are incredibly complex (many books have been written on the subject) and what follows is just a brief glimpse at some of my thoughts about these wonderous things.
We had our house on the market this Spring, and almost sold it, but at the last minute decided we want to stay put for at least another year. Leaving our jobs and leaving our home proved to be a bit more stress than we wanted to take on all at once; and we were lucky enough to have a choice.
When you go through the process of selling your home you learn a lot about your house, or at least how your house is perceived by others. This can be an interesting experience but not necessarily a pleasant one. Our house was built in 1925 and in some ways shows it. We've put lots of money into the house over the years, and improved and updated many of the systems, but there are lots of systems in a house. The un-updated systems tend to be perceived as 'negatives' and are often the first things on which perspective buyers focus.
When we thought we were going to sell we spent some time looking at houses up in New Haven. What struck me most about that process was how clearly our country's neighborhoods are socio-economically stratified. We could tell -almost with just a quick look- whether a neighborhood was one in which we would feel 'at home'.
The house in the image at the top of the post was built by my maternal grandparents for their retirement in Duxbury, Massachusetts. It was designed by the architect Royal Barry Wills, and is a classic example of Wills' simple but elegant adaptations ot the traditional New England vernacular Cape Cod house style. My grandparents loved to garden and had a large vegetable garden at the back of their property. On summer visits I spent many happy hours helping out back there doing things like picking raspberries and beans. It was there that I first saw a compost heap and learned about composting.
This next image is of my parent's summer/retirement home on Cape Cod. This house grew over the years, as often happens with houses as needs and assets change. It started as a small summer cottage and had three significant additions tacked on over the years. The whole agglomeration was torn down a few years after my parents had to sell the house due to failing health. The addition on the right was designed to take maximum advantage of passive solar energy. Both my parents loved to garden. My father had a big vegetable garden out behind the house where he would spend lots of time puttering.
Finally, just for fun, is an image of the type of house I'd like to try building for our retirement home. If I do build a house like this it will definitely have a big garden. I'll be bouncing this idea off of folks up at Yestermorrow and it will be interesting to see what comes of that process. I'll be sharing the experience here.