The truth about living in an old house built in 1891:
1. Nothing is truly straight. Floors slant a little or a lot. The wood on the edge of the porch roof is slightly bowed after many years, therefore we can’t get the gutters to align with the roof. Ditto for the gutters at the back of the house. You can also stand on the hill behind the house and see how the roofline slants to the left.
2. Foundations can be troublesome. The foundation under the kitchen is settling a bit too much. See note about roofline above.
3. Not nearly enough closet space. in 1891, they just didn’t need the closet space that we seem to need. They used wardrobes back then. Consequently, my husband and I share a closet that is unbelievably tiny. You don’t want to see it. And our one closet downstairs – also very tiny – is the only space we have for coats. We cram our heavy winter coats in there. When summer comes, we pack them all up and put them in a bin that is stored in the shed. Because we don’t have any spare room for coats, scarves, gloves and hats.
4. Basements can be dark and scary. Our basement is very small and must be entered from the outside. It has one of those doors like the one Dorothy tries to open when the tornado hits in The Wizard of Oz. The walls are made of the same big stones that were used for the foundation of the house. We have to go down there to check the boiler and the oil tank and most recently, the hot water heater. The basement runs under the living room. The floor under the kitchen and den is dirt. That can make for a musty smell at certain times of the year.
5. Room shape and placement can be quirky. Our den is sunken. Even though it’s right off the living room, you have to go down two steps to enter it. It’s Riley’s favorite room so that means a lot of time is spent helping him up and down the stairs. The room directly above the den, which is the guest room/studio/office is also sunken. The kitchen was added on at some later date. It looks completely different from the other rooms in the house.
6. Stone foundations have holes: The stone foundation under the main part of the house is lovely to look at. Charming, even. But little critters find their way into little cracks in the mortar. I’m talking mice. As much as I hate having to do so, we have to employ a Pest Service every winter because these guys multiply fast.
7. Something always goes wrong. It just makes sense. The older the house, the more opportunity for things to go wrong. But I suspect those of you who live in new houses might also be dealing with “things going wrong.”
8. The very same things that can be irritating (see above) are part of it’s charm. Glass half empty/glass half full. I’ve never been interested in living in a new house. It’s just not my thing. Oh, every once in a while, I think it would be nice to not have to worry about shifting, sinking, not enough room, etc.
But, my house dwelling dreams (either rental or owned) have always involved an older home, full of character. Every home that Don and I have lived in has been old. This cottage? The funky room shapes, the sunken rooms, the stone foundation, the slanted floors….all of these contribute to it’s high level of Charming. The porch floor is slanted, but it’s made of bluestone. The floors are not level, but they’re made of wide-plank pine. The dogs’ nails scratch the floors, but they’re made of wide-plank pine. The kitchen doesn’t have enough cupboard space, but it has huge windows. Our bedroom is too small, but it has cozy, slanted, attic-haven walls. You have to walk down two steps to the den, but it seems tucked away and cozier because of it.
It’s all a matter of balance. Some days you’ll find me cursing the very things that drew me to this cottage. But most days, I love every inch of it.
Now if it was only worth what we paid for it in 2005.