But I saw a perfect place for us on Beacon Street on Thursday. The owners have carefully preserved as much of the 19th-century detail as possible and decorated it accordingly, with wonderful William Morris wallpapers and period lighting. I loved just about everything about it: beautiful old floors, three fireplaces, deep moldings, and walnut woodwork. Rooms with high ceilings and elegant proportions. The kitchen is exactly what I dream of: handsome cabinetry (probably reclaimed from a butler's pantry) right up to the ceiling, period hardware, soapstone counters, and an encaustic tile floor — 19th-century elements that harmonize beautifully with the rest of the apartment. While it doesn't have the deck or garden I've wanted for the past 30 years, it is very close to the Charles River, the Public Garden, and everything else we love in Back Bay. There are long, high walls for bookcases, and it is in our price range, too.
Take a look. For us, this is a dream come true:
All photos: Gibson Sotheby's International Realty, via Redfin.com
No, it was not the standard situation. My agent and I were wandering around at the broker open house, grinning at each other... and then we both smelled cigarette smoke. It was coming up through the original heating vents in the room that would be my husband's office. And, indeed, there is a heavy smoker living below the unit. And I have asthma, and neither my husband nor I can live comfortably around secondhand smoke.
We have been working with our agent for five years, setting a record. She's more than determined to get us a new place soon. She's tried to talk us into many places she felt would great for us, but that we couldn't stand — usually because they are recent renovations, loaded with all the standard features that everyone else wants and I hate, from recessed lighting to granite breakfast bars. But, this time, even she knew that secondhand smoke is a deal-breaker. We left.
I learned more from one of the owners after getting in touch through a mutual friend — I realized that I'd heard glowing descriptions of this apartment a couple of years ago, including the huge stuffed peacock on the mantel. We learned that the smoker has lived there for about 30 years with no plans to leave, and that another unit owner building supports her right to smoke, so there's no hope of adding a no-smoking amendment to the condo documents. The common hallway is usually full of smoke.
I managed not to break down as I made these discoveries; I just cried a little. We can't win. At least I have stopped wondering if we are under some real-estate curse — now I am certain of it.
Back to Square 1.