Thursday, September 15, 2011

Love Shack

Yesterday I mentioned that the paint on our roof was peeling, a situation we have now rectified. This whole business of painting one's roof was foreign to me until we moved to the South, where people have tin roofs. (I always think of that line from “Love Shack” by the B-52s: TIN ROOF, rusted.) Hours, literally hours, after our painter finished and the roof was a nice shiny red, we had the most intense hail storm I have ever seen in Virginia, although the new paint job appears undamaged—at least the bits of it I can see from ground-level.

Why am I writing about this? My house has always been a topic of absorbing interest. It’s our first house, and for all its flaws, I am very attached to it. It has been the victim of some unfortunate “renovations” some of which are far too costly to fix right now but the basic character of the house is still there and I have become adept at ignoring the textured ceilings in the bedrooms. We did, at least, fix the worst of the atrocities, a 1950’s-era addition constructed by extending the back porch roof and building walls under it. The purpose was to create a first-floor master bedroom, but the result was a vinyl-floored horror with a ceiling that barely topped six feet, a dead-end hallway with no natural light, a hideous pink and green bathroom and a closet that contained more exposed wiring than was healthy for a family with four young children.

A few before and after pictures, culled from old blog posts:

These are technically "before" pictures, but we had already done extensive work, replacing the windows and installing hardwood floor over the green vinyl that was in the house when we bought it.

During.  We were fortunate to have a mild winter that year, because this work was done in February.

After (sort of). We have since painted the walls yellow and finished the woodwork around the French doors.
The mint green paint was a regrettable lapse of taste.


People tend to react strongly to our house. Some can barely conceal their loathing while others start shouting, “Oh my God! I LOVE this house!” the minute they walk in the door. The people who love it are usually quirky, think-outside-the-box types. It’s harder to classify the people who hate it.

Since we’re on the subject, I haven’t yet gotten around to properly inspecting our house for earthquake damage. I did walk around the outside and noticed that some stucco had fallen off the house, but this was in an area where the stucco is already crumbling. To really see the foundation, I need to go into the basement. A trip to the basement involves hours of psychological preparation, not to mention a hairnet and cricket-stomping boots. The foundation is brick, with mortaring that appears to have been done by an eight year old. The bricks themselves look like they were salvaged from some demolished, eighteenth-century building, which is not entirely outside the realm of possibility. I prefer to believe that what you don’t know about your foundation won’t hurt you.


  1. Our home, which we fell in love with when we first saw it, is old for our area (built in 1845, and we live in northern Illinois) and has a limestone basement/foundation. I'm not sure they even used mortar :-). Our house also suffered some terrible renovations before we bought it, including textured paint on ceilings that slant down to about 4 ft near the walls --I have ripped open my knuckles so many times when taking a shirt off carelessly.

    However, the worst renovation, which we removed when we put on our own addition, was a kitchen addition. This wasn't even on a slab --just some wooden framing on the ground. We had always wondered how the kitchen could be so very cold. When it came down we were awestruck at the mouse nests in the insulation in the ceiling. It looked like it was snowing. There are still parts that need work . . . when we have the money :-)

  2. Old houses have a lot of character. You know I love your house, but I'm still recovering from the mortification of my daughter (who was 3 or 4 at the time) saying it was "junky." I think she's come around since then.

  3. The quirkier, the better in my view. I wish we had an old house. And I envy those with tin roofs--they look so cool.

  4. I love old houses. They have so much personality. But I don't want the responsibility for taking care of an old house. That's why we bought a Brady Bunch house instead. But I can live vicariously through other people's delightful, quirky houses. I do a lot of vicarious living, if you haven't been able to tell.

  5. Earthquake?
    What earthquake? I haven't heard of any in the USA. Are you sure it wasn't just an over-indulgence in Mint Juleps?
    DOne here in NZ, most houses, like yours, have metal roofs, bit they don't normally get painted, coming from the factory with a baked-on powder paint job that is very robust.

    Your house looks chock full of character.

    Must be fun to live in it.