Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Annals of Real Estate: The Chicken House

Even if we hadn't admired this house on our way to an open house up the street, I would have perked up and paid attention when I spotted it as a new listing more than a week later. Such a gracious old house, surrounded by old trees. With two porches. It's much too big for us, but sometimes these houses have top floors that can be closed off and treated as attics... to store someone's insanely large scholarly library, for example. And it's in Jamaica Plain, not one of our favorite areas, but they have pancakes there.

All photos: James Brasco, Century 21 Shawmut Properties

 I recognized it right away as the house we'd stopped and studied, not only because it is also on Robinwood Avenue but because I remembered squinting at those little white objects in the third-floor windows. They are chicken knickknacks. Can you see them?

Apologies if this post takes ages to load, but I had to make the photos large because I think you will want to see All The Details.

There is another chicken by the front door. Is it a charming random accent or An Omen?

The answer is clear when you look inside. Note both mantel shelves and the hearth.

I love the archway separating these gracious rooms. I've come to love creamy white walls.
White walls would suit us since we have such colorful furniture, rugs, and art.
But I always like color on ceilings: pale, ethereal greenish-blue for these rooms, maybe.
And some thin, defining molding is needed up there, too... but I digress. 
You won't see an inordinate amount of chickens here.
 Unless you study the prints and look by the windows.

No chickens here. Just a lovely staircase and a leaded-glass window. 
And a cat toy at far right? And do you see some long white socks?

Oh, look! How adorable! Now I want this house. Despite that chicken.
(I like the green paint, too.)

Here in the kitchen, the stenciled walls and marbled doors feel strangely familiar. 
I bet the owner has a copy of Paint Magic by Jocasta Innes (mine is from 1981 but there are later editions). I consulted it to create sponged, dragged, and wood-grained effects for decades.
Blame Jocasta for our living room walls and other colorful craziness in our condo.

Look closely at the stencils. The ceiling fan has lost its blades.
I wish they hadn't painted the woodwork green but maybe it was painted previously.
They painted the enamel sink cabinet but left the stove alone, mercifully.
I still prefer this to countless boring modern kitchen with stupid islands, too many cabinets,
ugly granite, cheap stainless appliances, and... don't get me started.

The dining room: an appropriate place to display to an inappropriate quantity of poultry.
I think that is cat-grass growing on the table. I think I'd like these people.

I like this wall color. But the woodwork is painted. We Jocasta Inness people know tricks.

Ah, an old-fashioned bathroom with the plaster equivalent of cake frosting everywhere.
 I would choose this over a tiled, "updated" bathroom any time.
That is a remnant of the hall carpet next to the tub, I think. Two chickens?

One of these doors leads to the second-floor porch. 
But first you have to get past the trophy chicken.

I'd enjoy reading your comments. Are we crazy to even be thinking about looking at a place like this?

But look at how content that cat on the stairs seems to be. (And our vet is in JP.)


  1. Stunning! To see architectural details like this (the windows, millwork, fireplaces, archway) preserved is wonderful. If it's comfortably within your price range and meets all your specific needs (enough wall space for XXXX linear feet of book shelving, etc.)…then why not? One thing I notice in the photos is that there appears to be water damage on the ceiling above the stove and also above the windows in the orange-walled dining room. It may be that water damage (or something similar) motivated the choice of some of the dark paints they used, and perhaps why at some point someone took down kitchen cabinets/ shelving (which would have been common when the house was built)--I'd look carefully. And nothing will change the location of the house, so try to hang out in JP a bit more and see how it feels. But the house itself is gorgeous and would make a fine home for two scholars and their five cats. Heck, with that much space you might acquire even more cats...

    1. Oh, heavens, you're giving me dangerous ideas!

  2. Yes. Crazy. But you'll look at it anyways!

    1. See, someone one told me, emphatically, that we ought to look in JP. If only I could remember who that was.

    2. Oh, snap! As I recall--I referred you to a lovely condo--which you emphatically refused, b/c of neighborhood, 39 bus, etc., etc. So--neighborhood/public transportation or lack thereof: strike one. Unless you've changed your mind--always possible. Maintenance issues, either present or future, with these lovely older homes, where you are not 25%, but 100%, responsible. Strike two. How much are you prepared to learn to do yourself--or how good will you feel about finding and paying people to deal with this as these issues inevitably arise--but maybe you've changed your mind about this too. Only you know the answer to this. Remember Newton? Done with the tough love . . . but you did ask.

    3. Ah, Maycee's Mom, was it a condo? If we're going to buy into another condo/neighbors situation, it probably won't be in an area where we can afford our own house. This one is much less expensive and closer to the city than Newton, less isolated, with a smaller yard. All that said, we haven't been to see it yet. We'd love to find a small house but they hardly exist. The 39 bus can be a total pain but at least it goes past the MFA, Trader Joe's, and the library.... but 17 years of riding it to work may have been enough.

    4. We both know there's zero proof of THAT so far...

  3. That is a stunning number of chickens. Do you think it started with one or two and then all her friends and family thought of her every time they saw a chicken object and said "oh, she loves chickens, this would be perfect for her!" And now they have to move to escape the flock.

    We loved living in JP and only moved when we wanted to buy a house. We were priced out and moved to the next neighborhood over (Roslindale). As I recall, Robinwood is full of interesting houses.

    When we lived in that neighborhood we didn't even have a car for the first few years. You could easily walk to everything you needed. Quite close to the Orange Line and the 39 bus (both of which can take you right back to Back Bay).

    1. Move to escape the flock - that is going to have me giggling all day

    2. You two would like each other: a pair of wise, smart, pretty redheads with cat stories.

  4. love the look of the house.....the chickens are a little much (but at least would go with the seller)

  5. Goodness.. just THINK of the library! and you could end up getting more cats.. ;) Win win!

  6. How can you NOT go look at it?

    It's gorgeous! I am continually amazed at how much more you get for your money in
    a private home vs. a condo.

    Regarding repairs and renovations -- wouldn't they just be a necessary step on the road
    to fulfilling your dream of owning a beautiful old Victorian?



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