Monday, November 3, 2014

Love Letter to Our First House

I realized as I was thinking of a name for this post that this place isn't even our first house! Well, it is our first house, not our first home. When Jonas and I first got married, we lived in the apartment upstairs from this place, and then moved to a larger apartment downstairs right before we had Ishmael.

I forget that we ever lived upstairs - the downstairs apartment is where we brought both our sons home from the hospital, where we painted the walls, where we bought our first couch. This home had a lot of love poured in to it, and I will miss it very much.

My brothers came over for a visit recently and remarked that driving up the alley makes you feel suddenly like you're entering a third world country. The road is unpaved, there are dumpy wooden shacks full of trash, wild plants, stray cats, a cat's cradle of electrical wires...and our house. It was in a neighborhood that was thought of as sketchy, but we were set far off the street and though our [almost worthless] cars were broken into a few times, we never had any trouble with our home, even when we accidentally left the door open all day when we were gone at work once.

Here's a picture of the outside of the house. You can see all the windows upstairs in our first apartment, and then downstairs, our front door was up the steps on the far side of the bay window. The door in the foreground led to our laundry room, but we didn't use that door often. You can see the gate to the side yard and then one of the windows into our bedroom with the red curtain. The bay window looked into our living room, and the window to its left looked into our kitchen.

The house was a farm house, built in the 1920s I think. I so wish I could have seen it as one big home (it had long been divided into three apartments when we moved in), and I do hope that I can go to the library or public records office and find some old photos of it someday. The home is so old now that although it's address is Broadway, it's no longer on Broadway because buildings have been built between it and the street. This made it very difficult to find on GPS.

The shops right around our house were a smoke shop (with police constantly outside), a Spearmint Rhino club, and a tattoo parlor, though it was run by a very cool couple from our church. We were also right around the corner from a fire station, so there were constant sirens. Once, a car crashed in to the bank sign on the other side of the fence from our house in the middle of the night, which was terrifying. There was also a neighborhood taco truck (which I never saw) that had a very eerie song that it played. We were in a prime spot to hear midnight mariachi bands at the dance hall across the street (the police ended up showing up for that too), and mere steps from the curb for every manner of Santa Maria parade. A block north was the Santa Maria farmer's market, which I miss greatly.

I loved living in an old home, and I definitely want to own a home like it someday. Especially in the apartment upstairs, there were so many storage nooks and crannies of the weirdest shape built into all the tilted attic corners and backs of closets. Right before we moved in downstairs, our landlord refurbished the downstairs apartment and paid Jonas to help him. They replaced the original windows, which were beautiful, but not very efficient and took out this custom made fruit drying system from under the house. Apparently it was decrepit, but I wish I'd gotten to see it first, it sounds so cool!

In the kitchen downstairs, there was this skinny closet door that opened up to let down a wooden "breakfast nook" table. It was so very charming. Another of my favorite aspects of the house were the very tall ceilings. The few things I didn't like about the house were the teeny tiny Jack and Jill bathroom (with no storage and no ventilation) and that the kitchen was so separate from the living room.

It never looked as good as it does in these pictures while we lived there - I spruced it up for the camera and sent the children out of the house. The walls were plaster (hated that) which made hanging anything on them an ordeal beyond my DIY skills, so they are sadly lacking of picture frames.

For everyone who never got to visit while we lived there, here's a little tour.

When you walked in the front door, this was the view. To the left of the desk is the kitchen door, the door in the back led to our bedroom. I bought the antique white desk for $80 out of the money I made working as a graphic design intern at Hardy Diagnostics - my first real job. The shelf-lamp is shoddily covered in some Japanese-character printed paper from the San Francisco Japan Center that we got on our honeymoon. The cowhide rug is from Ikea, and the couch as pictured here is two end pieces of a vintage sectional that I bought off of Central Coast Exchange.

This is more or less the same section of living room, but viewed from the kitchen doorway. From here, you can see the doorway into Ishmael's room and part of our grey accent wall. The original doors had been taken out, but the door jams were still pretty solid.

Here's our study area behind the couch. The glass desk never looked that clean in real life - it was just a place for my "piles" as Jonas calls them (papers, projects in the works) and I did my actual studying in bed. I like that little laptop desk though, it's from Ikea. Jonas actually did use his drafting desk to draw. The neon chair was one of my half-finished projects. You can see that I colored coded our books, which was pretty, fun, and surprisingly easy to navigate. My "inspiration board" is made from string pulled across a large embroidery hoop.

From behind the couch, facing the front door, you can see the mid section of our couch, which fit nicely in the curved window bay. We rolled the blinds all the way up and I nailed those Ikea curtains to the window frame because I didn't want to hang curtain rods. I liked my little basket of "show quilts" (blankets too pretty to use) next to the couch, but it was generally used to hold the curtain back or Ishmael would sit in or and/or dump everything out of it. The antique desk was Jonas' gaming station. You can also see partway into the dining area in this picture.

The original fireplace in this house was taken out, but I wanted a mantel so bad, so my friend Jessa found this white "mantel" for me at a thrift store. I really liked fresh flowers and artwork up there. It was also a handy spot to store living room toys, and before Ishmael was mobile, I styled all those little shelves too. You can see in this picture how our front door didn't seal very well, which allowed a bunch of dust from our unpaved driveway to constantly drift in.

Below are a few of my favorite details from the living room and Ishmael's room - original hardware on Ishmael's closet door, the pulls from the antique desk, and the gold animals from our wedding parading across the doorway into Ishmael's room.

Next is the dining room/kitchen. I'm so bummed I didn't get better pictures of it because it was one of my favorite spaces in the house. It was also the hardest to pack though, so by the time I got to packing it, I was out of time to get it looking perfect and take pictures. I didn't take pictures of the laundry room (which never really looked great) either. Here's the view from above our kitchen table, pulled from a blog post about painting that table. The lower left hand corner of the photo points toward where the doorway into the living room is. Then there's a window in the upper left corner, the grey door to the laundry room, and the rest of the kitchen is to the right of this photo. Our dining room chairs were a wedding gift from my in laws from World Market.

I spent so much time in this kitchen. I actually wasn't a big fan of the remodel or layout, but there are still a lot of great memories here. I bought that Dio De Los Muertos paper garland to make that huge space above the stove - which used to be more cabinets - look less bare. From there, the whole kitchen took on a bit of a Mexican flare, which I loved. People were always asking me about all the bunches of chilies and other stuff hanging up and drying, and I loved that little burro pinata, too. Those alcoves built into the walls were amazing - the one shown here had lotus pods from my wedding bouquet in it, as well as a Turkish tile trivet. The China cabinet was something I had before I got married and one of the few pieces of furniture I cart with me everywhere I go. It was so nice to have a dishwasher in this apartment, even though it didn't work all that well.

This picture was taken right before Ishmael fell off the counter and hit his head - one of the scariest parenting trials so far. The boys were dancing up there after seeing me hop up to take a picture. Oops. :( The left window and doorway were shared with the laundry room (which was mostly windows and a door leading out the side of the house) and the right window looked into the side yard.

Now for our bedroom. I loved having those moody curtains up, but they did throw off the light, so these photos are on the red side. If you were to walk through the door in the living room that was to the left of our desks, this is where you'd be standing. Jonas bought me the Indian wall hangings as a gift when I had Ishmael. Our bed and bedspread, rug, and bookshelf are all from Ikea. The dresser is probably vintage, another thing that I lug around with me when I move, but it needs to be refinished. The mirror leaning against the window at my "vanity table" takes the cake for moving around with me, though. It's this beautiful speckled glass mirror that I found in a junk yard in China when I was probably 12, and I've been packing it around ever since. I also end up painting at least one wall blue in almost every place I live.

Again, this is pretty much the same part of the room, but you can see the door to the bathroom and the other bookcase (the bottom part became Ishmael's fort on most days). You can see our collection of Chinese love knots (the red tassels) hanging up too. To the right of the bookcase was our closet door. The window pictured here looked out on to a fence that we shared with a bank parking lot, and the window to the left (in the photo above) looked into the side yard.

Finally for the bedroom, here's the view from the foot of our bed. I think this wall was sorely lacking in decor, but I wasn't facing it all that often. I build a bed canopy out of PVC pipes which was totally what the room needed, but the dimensions weren't quite right, and I never got around to fixing it and putting it back up. The ceilings were too high for me to hang stuff from by myself, and I inevitably got around to decorating when I was home alone. My bedside table NEVER looked that good in every day life. The door pictured led into the living room.

Some extra details from our bedroom: The second shelf on the bookcase was our "love shrine", which was memorabilia from our relationship. I try and make something like it wherever we go. On top of the dresser was our framed wedding vows, which worked well to hold necklaces, too. And you can see this in the other photos, but I kept my fancier shoes under the dresser, an open invitation for Ishmael to kick them over or play dress up.

Standing in our bedroom, this was the view of the bathroom. More blue walls, and toilet to the left of the window (which looked out on the bank fence). The door you can see leads to Ishmael's room.

Pretty much the only other thing in the bathroom was the bath tub - I took my time in finding a shower curtain I really liked, but finally hit upon this one from Urban Outfitters. Why are shower curtains so expensive?!

Last but not least, is Ishmael's room. This is what you would see if you came in the door attached to the living room. The door at the back of the room led to the bathroom. I loved the green ceiling in here (the color was called "chopped chives", though I was going for a jungle theme) and the sun lamp from Ikea was cool, except that it made everything in the room look yellower, which I was not a fan of. The larger rice hat on the wall was one I picked up on a missions trip in southern China.

Ishmael slept in the vintage blue crib before he moved into the toddler bed, and Ira wasn't old enough to be in the crib before we moved away. We kept most of our jackets in this closet since Ishmael's hung clothes didn't take up much room, and it was one of the only storage spaces in the house (compared to upstairs, which was nothing but storage space!). The "trust" banner was another souvenir from southern China, and finally, the angled door led back into the living room. 

Pretty sweet digs, right? When we left, I felt so sad and worried that I'd never find another place as charming as this one, but I started noticing how many old homes still exist in different pockets of cities I visit, and that made me feel a little bit better. God knows how we'll ever afford to live in an old home in a decent neighborhood, but I'm just not going to worry about it for now. Some of my favorite things or memories about our home was cooking with Jonas and having friends over (eating with my gold-tone flatware from ebay, of course! ;)), my collection of indoor tropical pants, the difference hanging curtains made, the community grapefruit tree, buying a vintage couch I loved (even if I paid more than I should have, gulp!), our love shrine, the palm trees in the bank parking lot that brushed up against our windows and made it look a little bit like we lived in paradise, the vine-engulfed wall in front of our house that made that view less ghetto, fresh cut flowers from the wild plants in our "cul de sac" or from farmer's market runs, having "big girl soap" (foaming, nice smelling) at the sinks, and planting a thriving garden in the side yard next to the mini koi pond that Jonas built. And of course, I can't forget Ishmael learning to walk up and down the front porch steps and all of the other milestones in this house.

We will miss you, 415 S. Broadway, Apt. C!
Thanks for taking the tour. :)

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