home improvement

We Didn't Buy a House, But We Found Our Home.

Not the house, but man would I love to live there.

I fell in love with a house. 

A cottage really.  Nestled in an adorable neighborhood.  Perfect yard.  A five minute walk to library, groceries, restaurants, bars with live music.  Funky town.  Great public schools (we don't have kids yet, but houses come with a million year mortgage, guys).

It all felt so easy at first.  First house we ever looked at.  Offer accepted (after a mini bid-off).  Inspections are good for the most part.  A few problems, but manageable.  Then there is a lot-line issue.  Then there is an appraisal issue.  Which triggers a bank issue.  And then another.  

It stopped feeling good.  At all.

Over two weeks I was consistently the most stressed out I’ve ever been.  I recognize what a total and complete privilege home ownership is, so it's not that I’m looking for pity but I acknowledge that the most stressful event in my life is one that I had control over, that I chose for myself.

And then there was a fear of having gone too far and having dragged others along with me.  But it couldn't touch the fear of knowing that my gut had started shouting “no” and if I didn't listen I would have to live with that regret.

The American dream is still alive and well.  Just this past week we worked with a crazy talented, smart woman who just paid off her mortgage.  And on the Peninsula nonetheless!  For some people, it's perfect, the undeniably best route.  

But we're all different, and I spend my days preaching from my little soapbox about how we ought to embrace our differences and preferences and make our own version of our perfect life.

In my perfect life, home ownership is about lazy Saturday mornings in bed.  About memorizing the trees on your property, the names of your neighbors pets, about having an open door policy where you just might arrive home to see a gaggle of friends already inside waiting for you.

This home was going to mean a double commute living 35 minutes from our closest friends.  It meant him leaving for work and hour earlier each weekday and me leaving at the crack of dawn on the weekends for clients in Palo Alto.  It meant no lazy mornings or friends.  It also felt really tight, a little lonely, pretty scary.  

Then to top it all off, Kyle and I had a photo shoot of my apartment.  The weather was perfect.  The 75 degree air made the linen sheers dance as the soft breeze came in the window.  The apartment was freshly cleaned, we picked a bowl of lemons of the meyer tree in our yard. 

I looked around our apartment and thought “Shit, I already am home.”

At home in our lovely apartment.  Photo by Ryan.

It was deep and profound and true.  And therefore, just a few hours before removing contingencies, we decided to keep our rental and our life as is.  

I feel: liberated, light, abundant.  I feel like Cam and I received an incredible education in our finances, our shared values, our long term dreams, and how we each handle hard situations...  It brought us together and it rocked us to the core with gratitude for this life that we currently are living.  It just so happens that for Cam and me, that perfect life doesn't include owning a home.  At least not yet.

So we're staying in our apartment. 

Maybe for a just a little, maybe for a long while.  And even though it is “just a rental,” I know now for sure that it is also home, and I'm doubling down on creating my perfect life within these walls.

So I've ordered some fabric to make the shower curtain of my dreams.  I bought a wall mount for my ukulele so I can put it next to my bed.  I found the sweetest print in the world from my favorite Hawaiian artist to close it all out.  I’m in the market for the credenza of my dreams.  I’m going to tend to this space and specify it love it the way I like. 

And then I'll call the landlord when the sink clogs or the disposal breaks, and I'll be eternally thankful for our five years and counting in our current home.


PS- If you're in the Bay Area and looking for a realtor, I could not possibly recommend Matt Hughes more highly.  He went above and beyond for us every step of the way, was always looking out for us, always available to us, an amazing communicator, and, more than anything, he was totally supportive when we decided not to buy (even after he'd put hours upon hours of work into our deal).  Seriously, he's one of the good ones:)

340-Squared: 5 ways to personalize a rental (and still get your deposit back)

Many of us understand that while renting does have its benefits, one of the “cons” is that any demolition or major changes to the space are usually out of the question.  With this post I hope to embrace the rental and detail ways to add personality to your space without having to pay out of your deposit.

1. White walls are the perfect backdrop for colorful art.  Don’t be afraid to put some (small) holes in the wall to hang your art or shelving.  Fork up $3 for some spackle at your local hardware store.  This handy little white paste easily hides nail holes when it’s time to move out.

2. Make unexpected art from paper items.  Paper is inexpensive and easy to hang.  Check out the stores in areas like Chinatown or Latin American districts – stores in these areas usually sell an abundance of paper goods that can double as décor.   You could even check out your local party store for unexpected inspiration.  Because everyday is a party, right?  Suspend a flock of lanterns, or in the case of my home, paper puffs.  Monochromatic is extra powerful.  I also use postcards as a rotating mini gallery on my refrigerator. The nice thing about paper is that it is not so precious.  It opens up a lot of possibility and can even be recycled when you’re ready for the next thing.  

3. Select a few small walls to use for an accent color.  Be strategic here so that the wall has visual impact, but is small enough so that it is easy to paint white again at the time of move out.  The wall I chose to paint pink has a white piece of furniture in front of it.  This contrast helps the furniture pop against the background.  I also did the opposite to my kitchen island and painted the base a dark brown, so that it would recede from the eye.  I used the same pink to paint a third accent wall as you enter the bathroom.  Here, the small touch of the string of black (paper!) flags makes the act of entering the stark white bathroom almost ceremonious.

4. Do not underestimate the power of task lighting.  Task lighting is basically a fancy way of saying lamps.  I think it might be impossible to have too many lamps.  They add instant mood and ambiance in what might otherwise be a fluorescent-lit, crumbling apartment (I’ve lived in my fair share).  In my current, thankfully non-crumbling space, I use inexpensive rope lighting to create a backlit effect behind my console.  Since this sits against the pink wall, it has the unexpected benefit of creating dimension, fading from orange to pink when illuminated.  It’s like a sunset every night in here!

5. Plants make a big difference with air quality and all around hominess.  If you have the sunlight, by golly use it!  If you are afraid of your black thumb, start with just one easy-to-care for plant and slowly build your mini indoor jungle from there.

So while renting may have its woes, there are lots of ways you can get creative.  I hope that you can use these simple tips to have a big impact!   And please, don’t be afraid to send your decorating questions my way: kyle@newminimalism.com