Saturday, February 21, 2009

We're ch-ained...

It's official: I took my first few steps inside unit 403 as a homeowner on Friday.

Hands down, my favorite thing about this condo is the view. I looked directly past the popcorn ceiling and the bizarre wagon wheel stain on the carpet, and saw the twinkling lights of the Tribune building.

Flash back to to an evening when I was seven years old, begging my aunt and uncle to take me home with them to SF so that I could see all of the city lights on the trip across the Bay Bridge. Amazingly, my mom caved and let me climb into the car with them (wearing my nightgown,) and nose to the window, I drank in all of the glitter. I always loved stories about people's lives, and to me those lights were a visual representation of stories unfolding.

Breathtaking, electric life.

Then I looked up.

The preponderance of hideous overhead light fixtures in apartment buildings must have something to do with the popularity of Home Depot. About 5 years ago, Home Depot's administration had a summit and decided that the only overhead lights fixtures worth carrying resembled a woman's breasts.

Boob lamps, I call them. And like their namesakes, they come in an endless variety of styles. Some are small and pert, some have clearly gone bra-less, and others are downright ornate. For example, mine looks like it was lopped off the chest of an extra from the set of Pirates of the Carribean. After giving it a few friendly titty twisters, I decided that it was going to have to be the first thing to go.

Not that I have anything against anatomically-inspired decorating elements. I am a devoted fan of pillar candles and pinwheel cushions. Maybe it's me---I just can't handle the competition of an FF cup dangling over my head at breakfast.

So, off it goes, and along with it...the popcorn ceiling.

Who was the creative genius that dreamed up popcorn ceilings? I would really like to thank him/her for blowing my world-weary mind. I thought I had caught the major highlights, but popcorn ceiling inventor, you have humbled me. I don't think that my feeble imagination could have generated a stranger ceiling texture is almost ugly enough to warrant praise.

Without dangerous eyesores like PC, the booming asbestos removal industry would have meager opportunity to put on their sexy NASA gear and rescue damsels from the dark fate of bad design and respiratory failure. But I digress.

Lumpy, boob-like or stained, I absolutely love my new home. I love it and I told it so many, many times today.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

My immune system seems to be calibrated to go kaput whenever:

A. I am getting ready to move.
B. I am starting a new job.
C. I arrive somewhere abroad for vacation.

Otherwise, I never really get sick. I can be steeped in toddler birthday party germs, shaking hands with a student who showed up for their appointment with the flu, drinking from the wrong plastic cup at a party...doesn't matter. My clever little immune system knows the difference between Typhoid Mary's cocktail glass and the sound of my signature on a change of address form.

What's interesting is how robust these new viruses seem to be. This plucky strain has been beating up my sinuses for a week, forcing me to miss work, miss classes, and watch crappy movies.

Fine, I would have been watching the crappy movies sans cold.

Germs aside, I am getting the keys to my new home on the 19th! Surreal...and... unbelievably, indisputably amazing.

Saturday, February 14, 2009 where I want to be

Home has been a swiftly moving target for the past decade. I have lived in eight different apartments and one house in five cities and four states. I've usually avoided the added cost of movers, and spent days, or (let's face it) weeks packing and unpacking towers of boxes, often with assistance, though occasionally without. I have assembled and disassembled. I have classified the destination of each item with Sharpies and labels; bubble-wrapped, towel-wrapped, paper-towel-wrapped and t-shirt-wrapped my fragile items. I have repeatedly inhaled the revolting industrial fragrance of the new bathroom caddy, window treatment, or PVC-coated carpets of which landlords are so fond. Dammit, I have toiled, people!

All the more reason to revel in this fact: I am a homeowner.

Yes, it's true.

This is my second home ownership experience. The distinguishing factor is that I bought this place solo--an experience that is equal parts liberating and terrifying. There is something comforting about buying a place WITH somebody. As you sit in your broker's office gingerly signing away all of your worldly assets and arguably the bulk of your youthful freedom, there is somebody sitting right alongside you, doing the same.

The home we bought was an actual HOUSE, complete with plentiful square footage and a large, albeit uninspiring, backyard. There were neighbors who invited us to barbecues and house parties; the neighbors from whom I could borrow sugar, light bulbs, and potting soil. Sometimes neighbors *borrowed* items without permission, permanently. I like to consider said items a minor sacrificial offering to the City of Oakland, which has earned my dogged loyalty for so many reasons.

My new home is a condo, which comes with built-in neighbors. Seven hundred square feet of quality 70's style apartment-conversion living. I have spent the past six months touring Downtown/Jack London/Lake Merritt high rises with lavish David Baker lobbies. Unfortunately, I came to understand that these condos also come with frightening five-hundred-plus HOA dues. Oh, and I realized that I did not want to live smack in the middle of Downtown Oakland or Jack London.

And so I stumbled upon a top-floor Lake Merritt unit with cheerful south/west light, and a lovely open floor plan with room to stretch my legs. Seven hundred square feet may seem dinky to most, but to me it's damn near palatial. Try living in a 450 square foot apartment with a single closet the size of a thimble! I once rose to that challenge, but humbly admit that I am ready to surrender.

I am literally frothing at the mouth over this abundant space. I can barely remember what it was like to have storage. This place has three closets. Three!

On the downside, this condo is bland. In the fashion of the 70's era it is one giant box, and a beige-carpeted box at that. It has my least favorite kind of bathroom tile: Enormous, white, sterile squares. The galley kitchen, complete with original cabinets of decomposing wood is begging to be ripped apart.

But patience is a virtue, and after all, my tagline is about resolving these nest-building dilemmas "twig by twig." I appreciate the challenge of transforming a vanilla space into something energetically and visually interesting, within tight budget constraints. I am also committed to minding the environment as I make design and renovation decisions.

My first project? Getting the popcorn ceiling scraped by a couple of guys in moon suits. I have two words for you: Asbestos abatement.