I call her “she” because what else would you call a high-heeled thing, all that color, curves, and fancywork? She is a lovely eccentric. Her two columns guarding the front door are mismatched—one square, one round. And that is just the beginning.
Edith Wharton, in her treatise on design, The Decoration of Houses, declared, “Proportion is the good breeding of architecture.” I couldn’t argue. Proportion is what distinguishes our old Vic: She’s wider than a typical Queen Anne, with enough hip to balance the chest.
But what is it anyway about people and their houses? Why do I get so excited when one more shelter magazine arrives in the mailbox each month? Why does the inside of other people’s homes give such a voyeuristic thrill?
I come from nomads. My mother moves so often, it is a running joke with friends: “How many times has your mother moved since the last time I saw you?” Perhaps for that very reason I want to grow old in my old house, where my children first arrived wrapped in my arms like burritos.
But to stay in an old house, to renovate around you, is to endure a strong test of the nerves. It is also a kind of romance for sure. There’s the love affair, the breakups, the heartaches, the dastardly suitors (subcontractors) who woo but fail to deliver, the near misses, the money crises, the secrets, the nosy neighbors. There’s the person you were when you first moved in, and the person you become.
We fell in love from afar. Actually, from across the street. When I met the man I would eventually marry, I was living in an apartment directly opposite the house. My man and I shacked up in that small apartment for six months, tripping over each other. I spent long days at my desk, which was set in a bay window overlooking my future house. While writing my first novel, I stared at the place for hours. I decided she was a bit spooky. No one seemed to come or go. Her windows revealed nothing, not even light. Eventually we moved to a larger flat in another part of town, but five years later, when we started looking to buy, we discovered that the old lady was for sale.