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.