Monday, April 19, 2010

Sunday Small-Scale House-Hunting

This post was rewritten after it vanished mysteriously overnight from Blogger. The original post was better than this one. Too bad it's gone forever. 

Despite the crowds of marathon runners and their fan clubs clogging Back Bay's streets, we set out on Sunday afternoon to visit a couple of open houses.

Along Newbury Street, we observed a taxi cab parked by Louis, with smoke and flames pouring from under the hood. We kept our distance in case the gas tank blew, but I managed to get this photo just as the fire truck arrived to extinguish it. In the meantime, a duck tour had driven right past it. The driver continued his regular spiel, oblivious to the fact that his passengers were getting seriously smoked. At least it didn't blow up then.

We had just two open houses on our list. The first one was a one-bedroom floor-through in Back Bay with a deck. I knew it would be too small for us, but it's a a place I'd loved and lost when it was on the market about 25 years ago, when I was shopping for my first condo. It was just out of my price range back then, but I never forgot it. I was delighted to find that it still has all its lovely 19th-century details: original wood floors, soaring ceilings with heavy moldings, and ornate window frames in every room. There's a window cleverly placed over the fireplace in the bedroom: you could warm your feet as you watch snow fall on a winter afternoon. The kitchen and bathroom had been redone, in excellent taste. The deck would have been large enough to easily become our "summer home." If only the place could sprout an extra room for a library-office.

The broker was also the owner so I hope she was doubly pleased by all the compliments we heaped upon the architecture and her decorating.

The second property was a triplex on Appleton Street with a private entrance so it seemed like a single-family house. As we walked up the stairs, a cheerful broker greeted us, telling us it had gone under agreement on the day it was listed, "But you never know...."

The parlor level looked promising. It consisted of a large dining room in the front, with a fireplace and enough room for a baby grand piano as well as a long table. There was also a very practical, white kitchen on that level, with many pantry-esque closets and cabinets. A deck led to a small deck for al fresco meals.

The next floor was even more interesting: a double living room, with plenty of built-in bookshelves along one wall and a marble fireplace. This is just what we need: space for me to relax and read nap on the sofa while my husband surfs works at his massive computer nearby. It was puzzling that there were only about 10 books on all those shelves, though. The readers of Boston really do all seem to live exclusively on Beacon Hill.

The third floor had a large sunny bedroom and a smaller room that we'd use for the TV and our guitars. The bathroom had a deep soaking tub and a big pile of kids' bath toys (so we knew that the family's lack of books wasn't due to property "staging"). An old wooden spiral staircase led to a large roof deck with lots of built-in seating, running water, and even an exposed shower head. Why would someone want to take a shower on the roof, in plain sight of many neighbors?  Were the owners doing heavy calisthenics or gardening up there? Exhibitionists with a tendency to apply too much sun-block? We couldn't figure it out. But it would be a nice touch if there were a hot tub up there, too.

This place seemed awfully suitable for us; we could imagine our furniture and cats fitting nicely into those spacious rooms. We consoled ourselves for its unavailability with the fact that it's far away from the supermarket and Trader Joe's. Carrying heavy bags would be a real drag, and getting to my gym would be a hike, too. It's also very far from the free shuttle my husband is hoping to use for his commute to Cambridge.

At least that's what we told ourselves as we walked home, crossing the marathon finish line in the pouring rain.

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