I create plenty of fantasies in my head, and tend to shop for houses to accommodate them. I’ve pictured friends coming in the side door to the kitchen for coffee in the morning, and searched Open Houses for sunny nooks to curl up with a good book. I envision friends and their children splashing in the pool and imagine tranquil midnight swims by myself. I wonder if dining rooms are big enough for a spectacular Thanksgiving and I mentally fill the guest rooms with fresh-cut flowers for all my visitors. Except that I’ve never cooked a turkey, I don’t own a coffee maker, and the last time I had time to read a book was on a plane.
The big unknown is this: would my life transform to fit my house, if I had the right one? Would I volunteer to host Thanksgiving if I had that 6-burner stove and double oven? Would “pool party at Ophelia’s!” become the Saturday afternoon battle cry? The ideal balance is a house that fits my reality, but still indulges some fantasies.
Once upon a time, I considered building instead of buying and got fairly deep into the design process with a talented, but temperamental architect. I loved the sleek modern design he had created but I was dying for more storage. He looked with disdain around my tiny 1100 square foot cottage where I had skillfully stuffed about 4000 square feet worth of ‘stuff’ and said “you’re going to need to throw some things out.” No duh, but I’m not throwing out my vacuum or my suitcases. Where do those go? My reality is that I need Storage (with a capital S). The majority of my clutter is due to the fact that things don’t have a place to go, so they end up on my desk or the dining room table or the floor of my closet or… I can’t be alone in this. There are huge storage facilities every 6 blocks in Orange County and people pay for a place to keep their stuff! Most Americans “need to throw some things out.”
My reality house for the week is 17021 Westport in the Huntington Harbor area. A little dated, but mostly easy fixes, and So. Much. Storage! It’s a big house for the price and has plenty of architectural appeal. Clean lines, high ceilings, big windows, and room to stand and spin like Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music in the middle of every room. The beautiful saltwater pool & jacuzzi and hardscape in the back were huge selling points for me. I’ve never had a pool, but I imagine that I would love it. There was an outdoor fireplace next to the built-in barbecue and my fantasy-life began to kick into high gear. There were real hardwood floors inside and a floating staircase just begging to be updated, perhaps with walnut treads and glass railings. All three bedrooms were upstairs and HUGE! One was two bedrooms remodeled into one, another was the former master and they had turned the original bathroom into a never-ending closet. The “new” bathroom for that bedroom had a sauna! The new master bedroom is at the back of the house and has a balcony with a Catalina Island view. There are 3 mirrored closets in the bedroom (along with a fireplace, built-in cabinetry, and a view of the pool), and there is a huge wall of storage/closet in the master bath as well! The master bath had oceans of white marble, a separate tub and shower, more counterspace than most kitchens, a drop-down ironing board from one of the cabinets, and more of the Julie-Andrews-Spinning-Space. Everywhere you looked there was built-in storage. Cabinets the entire length of the upstairs hallway, built-in’s in the dining room and family room, and oodles of kitchen cabinets. I took some friends with me to see this one and they imparted two bits of wisdom/advice to me. 1. People who live in houses with stairs live 7 years longer than those who don’t. 2. That 14 -foot long, 4 foot deep upstairs hall closet could totally be a wine cellar! It would vent right to the outside! (Genius! This is why I take them places!)
This house would literally have a place for every single thing I own and could transform from “nice” to “wow” quite easily (especially once the wine cellar is installed!) Westport is around 7-1/2 hearts out of 10, but I’m bumping it up to 8 for that extra 7 years of life it’s giving me.
And now, to the fantasy. This house went on to become someone else’s reality after it was my fantasy, so there is no listing to share any more (single tear) but it’s still worth telling you about. Peach Tree Lane was one of my true loves. So much so that I completely overlooked all reality. I was trying to make bedrooms out of small glass offices, move a 10′ tall glass front door that had already been so carefully placed, add closets to bedrooms that apparently were too sophisticated to have them, and figure out a way to keep the cat in the yard so that I could keep the beautiful sliding glass doors open whenever I wanted. I was researching how to take care of Carrera marble while simultaneously wondering where I would possibly put the cat box in a house like this. I would have done anything for those floor-to-ceiling walls of glass, the sleek lap pool in the front courtyard, the master closet the size of a bowling alley, and the wall of water that graced an entire side of the living room. There were shades that appeared from nowhere at the touch of a button to provide privacy in the most elegant way possible, then disappear back into the ceiling upon command. There were heated floors in the master bath and an open, airy white kitchen with a front-row-view of the wall of water and light streaming down from above. I was so in love that I was willing to overlook the laundry in the garage (that’s a tough one for me to swallow) and I even pretended that I was going to learn to mow a lawn so that I could maintain the front yard myself (I wasn’t). But when push came to shove, I had to admit that it wasn’t the house for me. The floor plan just wasn’t right for my life and the house was SO sleek and open that I didn’t know where I would put any of my stuff! Even the office was made of glass and was the first thing you saw upon entering the courtyard. One out-of-place piece of mail would ruin the vibe. Try as I might, I’m just not a minimalist, and did not want to ruin this masterpiece. On one of the several visits to this heavenly abode, the agent commented on how “sexy” the house was. I looked at my mother, clomping across the polished Brazilian hardwood floors in her Kmart tennis shoes, and thought “uh oh. we have a mismatch here. some of us are not sexy.” I had to move on, but Peach Tree Lane still holds a piece of my soul, and in my fantasy world, is absolutely worth 10 hearts.
When you house-shop, do you look for a home to accommodate the life you wish you led? Or the one that you really do? Have you ever followed your heart just to find out that it actually knew what it was doing? What is it about your house that’s keeping you from living the life you dream about? Is it time to start looking for a house that gets your fantasies and realities into alignment? Let’s go shopping!