Monday, December 29, 2008

A two part post: Year in Recap/Mid Century Modern, Cliff May and Me

Whew...what a year! And what a day is today!
I hope to later insert links to some of the events that are mentioned in this recap...but as you will read in part II of this post...a LOT is going on around here!

Recapping 2008:

January: Laura moved in with us, Bernie was recovering from a knee injury, and lots of closet and other space reorganization and parring down was going on. I (we...) had felt God nudging us to reduce our belongings, and to be watchful for an opportunity to move closer to family, and specifically, to move to Salt Lake City.

February: Bernie and I have a quick romantic tryst to Natchitoches Louisiana. Bernie's work is having him fly somewhere every three days...he is exhausted. Laura and I enjoy visiting various places in Houston that only the most die hard tourists would normally seek out.

March: A lot of millinery going on...plus Saint Patrick Day celebrations, a hat contests (boo!) and a virtual Easter Parade!

April: Bernie, Jill, Laura and Jeff all fly to Hilton Head South Carolina, and visit Savannah Georgia. Bike rides on the beach, loafing by the pool, horse drawn carriage rides through Spanish moss spangled oaks, and golf, lots of golf for the men.

As soon as we got back, BGF Gail came to Houston for an amazing bluebonneting outing, and sight seeing in Galveston. Oh how little we knew how much that town would soon be changed.....

May: Laura leaves us to return to home town San Diego, finishing her years as a travel nurse. I get run out of a small southern town, and the next day get hospitalized for a week with Ischemic Colitis, and we decide on a name for an alligator.

June: The job that has nearly killed Bernie with constant stress ends. We are actually rather relieved, and immediately begin to look for work closer to our families. Our house gets prepped for selling; life as we knew it was about to change! (So glad I had heeded that God nudge to get ready...I should have worked a little harder on that though!)

July: We both find jobs in...Salt Lake City! PTL! We put the house on the market July 6th. I fly to San Diego to celebrate Laura's turning thirty-farewell to the 20's party, the craziest party EVER!

August: Bernie and I each pack two duffel bags, one back pack and a cat carrier and fly with our boy cats to our new life in Salt Lake City. We move in with Jeff for a bit until cross cultural cat wars break out.

Two weeks after we left Houston Hurricane Ike destroyed Galveston and devastates the Houston area. Our house thankfully was spared.

September: I have my first swim in the Great Salt Lake, my first hike to a glacier lake, and my first day at my new job. We move into an apartment downtown SLC, furnishing it with a few things from Jeff's place and a spending spree at Ikea. We plan to live in the apartment until our Houston house sells. The hurricane has slowed house sales in the Houston area. Suddenly the real estate market begins to tumble in the rest of the country, including Salt Lake City. We realize that God is blessing us, the Texas real estate market stays stable, while all around us "deals" are happening. Interest rates drop too, suddenly we can afford more house than we could have just two months before!

October: Everyone is telling us this is one of the most amazing autumns ever. The mountains are colored with glorious displays of autumnal foliage...the temperature stays warm, and life is good. I love going for hikes in the near by mountains! Then...our Houston house sells and my life becomes a seemingly endless tour of horrible houses! When oh when will I find the house that would be right for us? At the end of the month we have decided at last on a place. More about that later!

November: We fly to Houston to sign the papers on our house, and oversee packing. Tears...lots of tears....not so much because I regret moving as just being confronted by how transitory life is. A week there, then a long Thanksgiving weekend in San Diego. It is good to see our parents and our daughter, and Jeff is able to come out too. Our Thanksgiving table has but six people; we treasure that we all can be together.

December: Snowfall, and for no really good reason, a lot of sadness. I find myself deeply depressed after getting back to SLC.

Too much change, so many changes and travel finally caught up with me. Bernie and I walk and talk, and I try to take it easy. The holidays seem like just a number on the calendar...it has been four months here with just the basic items, and it is hard to get enthusiastic about anything.

Christmas is spent with Jeff, and we have our very first truly White Christmas.

I hardly know what to say about 2008. It had such highs and such lows. Many of our friends facing extreme personal challenges in relationships and work as well. I pray that next year will bring healing to the situations that they find themselves in.

Mostly 2008 was all about change. I come away from it realizing that family, friends, creativity and the great outdoors are my deepest satisfiers in life and what steadies me through the changes life brings. And the knowledge that God is ultimately working all changes to bless us.

2009 will again present many significant changes for us. One is a new house for us! And peeking over the horizon is the strong possibility of at least two other excellent changes as well. Good things...oh I pray that God will continue to bring changes that are to bless us even while they challenge us!

I hope this New Years Eve closes another year with you at peace with whatever changes happened during the year, and ready to face a New Year with confidence that God cares about us, and already knows what each moment of upcoming year will bring.

And now....

Post Part 2: Mid Century Modern, Cliff May and Me.
I was working on this post a few days ago...planning on posting the day before we closed escrow on our new house. The closing date kept getting put back...and back...until at last we were finally informed that closing would happen on Dec 31, at 1 pm.

Hurray for closing in 2008 tax wise.

Double hurray and PTL for it being put back until today: the delay was due to the lending agency (Wells Fargo) not having filed the right paperwork for the kind of loan we were doing...in Utah.

This state specific element meant that at the last minute THEY had to re-do the loan...resulting in the loan being re-locked in at TODAYS interest rate, instead of the interest rate that was locked in way back in early November.

Net result? A sizable drop in the interest rate of the loan! We had inquired of re-writing the loan with the lower rates a few weeks ago, but we would have had to pay to have it changed.

It seems like every bit of this house hunting process has been subject to "wait...wait...." and while we waited, the circumstances around us changed...to our benefit! Amazing!

So here's the scoop and a background on how we came to be buying this particular house. It is a bit of a long story, but I think it will help you understand the house when I unveil it tomorrow!


A few months ago I bought an interior design magazine. I flipped through the pages, enjoying the pictures, and skimming the text. Last week I looked at it again...and discovered a phrase sprinkled though out the print: Mid Century Modern.

A few months ago I had never heard the phrase. Now it is on my mind constantly. Mid Century Modern. Remember that phrase!

If you have been reading my blog the past few months you know that the past few months I was out looking at houses in SLC every weekend. I had certain criteria for our house, besides the price of course:

That the house would be no more than about 20 minutes (or less) from work
Have NO stairs that were necessary to be climbed in order to reach the main part of the house (kitchen, bath, bedrooms, living room.)
Must have a view of the mountains, from the back
Must have a two car garage or space to build a two car garage.

With those four items in mind I started looking at houses.

I soon learned a bit about housing styles. I learned that house styles form around cities like growth rings on a tree. You can know something about the age of the buildings and style of houses by how close they are to downtown.

In SLC, downtown had Victorian houses.
Circling outside the Victorians were the Bungalow/Craftman and Tudor style homes of the 1910-1940's.
Next came Ramble or Ranch style of the 1950-1960.
Then there were the split entry style or two story houses of the 1970-1980
Lastly there were Neo-classical styles, and the McMansions; houses with high ceilings and a lot of variation in roof line, with a profile that rose high above the street and took up every inch of their property.

I initially had to make some mental adjustments to the older home styles. They are all so different than the Neo-classical houses that we've lived in last ten years.

But that was then, and this was now...so I took the time to consider all the house styles.

Built between 1890 and 1910, the Victorian houses visually appealed to me.
After visiting a few it became quite clear that they could never work for us; we are simply too tall to scurry up steep stairs, or to stand in shallow basements. We also are too large to squeeze comfortably into dollhouse size tiny rooms. Plus these older houses require a lot of upkeep!


So adorable though...I love how the Queen Anne style houses looked in the snow.
Sigh. Situated in an area called "The Avenues" the Victorian cuties were so near to work I could have walked to work every day. But Jeff had lived in that area and quickly filled us in on the downside: few garages, no on street parking in winter, higher crime due to closeness to downtown's homeless.

So on we pressed to the next era of houses.

Built between 1910-1930, the Craftman/Bungalow/Tudors were the next ring of houses circling down town.

The deep porches of the brick bungalows, with their built in book cases and arched openings were so appealing. The one car garage and narrow lots were not quite so charming.

Shallow basements again, tiny rooms and small back yards bound on three sides with other houses. No mountain views were possible from inside these homes!

I must say I think Tudor style bungalows are also adorable:


Situated mostly in an area called Sugar House, I later learned that those neighborhoods were originally built for easy access to the trolley/cable lines, with the houses lined up cheek to cheek to make foot travel to the trolley station quick and easy.

Lots of young married couples and young families love the Sugar House area; but the house style just didn't work for us.

So onward I pressed, to the next era of housing, built post WWII, and featuring a newly designed house style which came to be know as Ranch or Rambler.

The automobile made travel by trolley unnecessary. Instead of building houses packed tightly together to accommodate walks to the trolley station, the ranch or rambler houses stretched wide on their lots, and a drive in the car through the neighborhood was something to be savored.
Here's an interesting fact: Did you know there is only one house style that is uniquely American in design?
It is true; it is the ranch style house!

Below is an example of a typical ranch style or "rambler" house:


Chances are if you were born sometime in the middle of the last century, you grew up in that style house. Known as the ranch or ramble style house, it was originally designed by a native son of my own home town, San Diego resident Cliff May.

Cliff May (1909-1989) was a California architect credited with creating the California ranch-style home in 1931. May grew up in San Diego, built Monterey-style furniture as a young man and eventually designed over a thousand custom homes in San Diego and Los Angeles, although he never formally registered as an architect. When he died in 1989 at the age of eighty-one, he had designed numerous commercial buildings, over one thousand custom homes, and several tract house plans resulting in more than eighteen thousand tract houses. But out of all of his work, this southern California native is best known and remembered for developing the suburban dream home of the 1940s and 1950s—the California ranch house.

The ranch style house was designed for the modern family. Modern as in "get on with life and have fun!", designed without much formality at all. The front door opened into the living room, which had a huge picture window where the family's "prides" (the Christmas tree for one thing...) so they could be viewed by those driving by.

The living room melded into the dining area which was right off the kitchen. The garage was attached to the house, as the car was such an important part of the household!

The dining area usually had a sliding glass door that would take you visually out to the back yard. In fact the whole back of the house was designed to draw the family outside.

All the living area was clustered together; the sleep areas were in a different part of the house.

Down a hall were the bedrooms, usually two on one side of the hall, another at the end of the hall with a bathroom which was shared by all. Mom and Dad's room were right next to the children's room. These children were both seen AND heard, and needed to be kept close by, and as advised by Dr. Benjamin Spock, to be ENJOYED as well.

Some of the "starter" ranches just had a carport and two bedrooms; they were designed to be affordable for all, and with a basic rectangular shape, also designed to easily be added on to. A wing or two could be added later as the family grew: a master suite for the parents, a study or a family room as needed.

Families didn't need to move to get a bigger house to house their growing household; no need to leave friends and neighbors behind. Just go ahead and expand the house!

The ranch house had another interesting element: with the GI bill to help the returning warriors purchase a house, and the event of a twenty or thirty year mortgage, for the first time a house could be bought over time instead of needing to have almost all of the money up front.

Yes, the 1950's were a good time to be a family when it came to buying a home.

Now for most of us Baby Boomers, a ranch or a ramble house is something that we may have turned up our noses at later on. Synonymous with "track housing", the conformity of the low slung wide eaves house lacked detail, and charm. The basic rectangle and low roof line lacked a certain romantic appeal. The foundation plantings seemed uptight, and the bedroom windows too small.

What we Boomer girls wanted was something with a specific style...a look of another era, but more comfortable. And definitely bigger....much bigger. Soon the McMansion was in vogue. The tidy 1,200 sq foot houses of our childhood wouldn't do; the builders were happy to present the ever shrinking family with ever growing footage; a family of four soon could hardly bear to squeeze into 3,000 sq feet!

But those big houses came with a double price tag: they were costly in both money AND time. Situated at the farthest ring out from the city center, the McMansions frequently required over an hour commute each way for the home owner (or more likely, home owners, a dual income was needed to keep up with the payments.)

So why am I telling you all this?

Well, as I have said before, I looked at over 75 properties. Once you rule out the 1970-1980's split level houses (too many stairs between the garage and the kitchen!), Victorians and Bungalows, add in a view, and a short commute, there just wasn't not a lot of choices that appealed to me.

Early on I was show the wacky house with the multiple door knobs and a view only from the end of the driveway (which is still for sale by the way....)

On the way to see it, we drove past another house on the same street, a ranch style house that was $100,000 over what we could afford.

Later that ranch house down the street house dropped in price. I took a look. It was kooky. Bright colored walls were EVERYWHERE. And a fabulous mountain view from the back deck.

I took a second look at the property with Bernie, just to make him laugh.

He didn't laugh. He liked it.

I didn't.

The low slung ranch style with sandstone facade, and deep red bricks with PINK mortar...ewww. Blue collar tract house. Yuck!

He liked it.

I started reading about ranch style houses, trying to figure out why I didn't like them. I was right, they were tract, they were houses for blue collar families. (Bernie was an electrician for many years, we were a blue collar family, and I am proud of that fact.) I just couldn't see myself living in THAT style of house!

I kept looking.

And the price of the ranch house fell another $20,000 two days after we first saw it.

I looked and looked at houses, but just kept thinking of the view. We looked at other houses with views, west facing views across the valley. And I realized I really wanted a view of the mountains up close.

I decided I wanted the ranch house after all. Just for the view. Bernie was thrilled.

Then I decided the house was too noisy. Too near the freeway; the mountainside made the noise even louder. I decided that it wasn't the house for us after all.

Then....I saw the house with the river in the back yard. That was when I knew.

I knew I could have a river put into the back yard and it would drown out the freeway noise. (Bernie and Jeff both didn't think the noise was that objectionable. And you couldn't hear it from inside the house at all.)

I wanted that house.

Then...B. decided the house had too small of a garage...and needed too much mechanical work....

We took another look. Talked to the loan officers. The garage was fine...and we could roll the remodeling costs into the loan. (This had been a concern of ours as we had been told that that was not possible by another loan officer AND our first "Barbie Doll" real estate agent.

Oh brother....I could have saved myself so much ugly house looking if only we had not been so sadly mis-informed!

Now this particular house went on the market last March. We put in an offer in late October...by then the cost had dropped $130,000, and the interest rates had dropped as well.

Unbelievably...24 hours before we put in our offer, someone else put in an offer. Hours before we put in an offer, another person put in an offer, and then another one came along too.

FOUR offers in less than 48 hours, after seven months without a nibble.

In a time when all around us houses were going into foreclosure, this house was going into a bidding war.

This was most unnerving. We had felt such peace about the first house we contracted for, and were astonished to have sold from under us hours before it was to be inspected, even while we had a signed contract!

We had prayed that time...and look what happened.

We had prayed this time too...and felt decidedly nervous.

We got the house.

We were still nervous. We still had to find contractors to give us bids on the necessary mechanical updating, and remodeling. It wasn't the desire to upgrade that drove us, but rather knowing that this was a 54 year old house! A MID CENTURY MODERN ranch style house!

Yup, that's right. It was built in 1954...the same year I was born.
And it was all original. Just like me!

The contractor's bids had to accomplish what we wanted, yet not cause the house to cost more than it would be worth on the current market. With real estate prices tumbling, who knew if a simple new bath and kitchen, wiring and plumbing would make it "under water" price wise.

The bids came in, the work was submitted to the lending agency. Last week we got the good news: the property would value at a price that would enfold the cost of the remodel. Whew. We could go ahead with the deal.

Today we will be signing the papers to take ownership of the Mid Century Modern Ranch style house.

Tomorrow I will be posting the pictures of our new abode. We won't be moving into it until after the work is done; we had to sign a lease on the apartment anyway, so we might as well stay while the work is being done on the place. But you will be able to see pictures of the place as it is in it's current splendor.

And perhaps enjoy watching it get turned back into a place where a child of the 50's will once again find a home.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

My goodness, what a year you have had!!! I hope all will go well from now on. Looking forward to seeing pictures of the house, and hope there are no more delays on closing escrow. Happy New Year to you both. Love, mom S.

Dawn said...

What an interesting post!
The gray bungalow looks very similar to the house my grandfather built back in the day....the house where I have so many memories.
*sigh*
Glad you have a home and plans to make it yours.
Looking forward to seeing the photos of the process.

Julie said...

Ohh.. I've just spent some enjoyable time enthralled by your conversation over the 'fence'.

I'm soo excited to come back tomorrow to take another look through your 'new' home. And I do LOVE progress pictures.

Congratulations on your purchase of a Mid Century Modern house -- hmm..even though the 'modern' part is yet to come! smile....

Sara said...

You certainly have had an eventful year....with a happy ending, and evidently promises of further excellent changes on the horizon.

And I found your history of the housing styles fascinating and very informative.

I'll be back tomorrow for the sequel, with photos!

La Tea Dah said...

Happy, happy New Year! God's blessings on you in 2009. I hope you enjoy SLC.

Love
LaTeaDah

Lovella said...

You have an incredible year. . so many ups and downs and places of waiting.
I am so thrilled that you and Bernie are the proud owners of a rancher. . .(I was slightly deflated to learn that our bungalow as I affectionately call our box is not a bungalow at all .. do you suppose I might still be able to call it that for sake of love of the name?). .enough about me. .

I can't wait to see the pictures you take of the house during the reno stages .. .it will be such a great blogging unit. .

Happy New Year JIll.. . and Mr B and Tiggie and Hart too.

Anonymous said...

My what an interesting post! I enjoyed the recap of your year and the history lesson on housing architecture.

I am so glad that all things worked together for your good and you finally have a house you can turn into a home now. God is so good! I look forward to seeing the before and after pictures.

I hope and pray you and Bernie have a wondeful year filled with God's blessings and peace.

Lori T

Vicki said...

I'm finally home (we stayed an extra day on our trip!), so I'm diligently reading everyone's blogs in date order!

I love the way you reviewed the past year (a very librarian-like synopsis). Like everyone else, I'll be interested in the upcoming photo documentary of the house renovation as things go along.

I love it when there is proof that good things do happen in God's perfect timing. (Dear Lord, I'm still waiting patiently...)

Becky said...

Oh, that was a full post(s)! I wanted to comment on part 1 but after reading part 2, I forgot what it was I wanted to say!
Sorry to hear about your tears in December. I was wondering how you were managing all the changes in life during what it known as the "change of life" time. Yikes, you held together well for so long! You deserve a few good crying sessions with good friends!

As you can see, I am trying to catch up on my reading in the chronological order you wrote them, so I haven't peeked at the house yet. But I am so glad for you to find a home to call your own. I haven't done renovations, but I hear its gruelling! You may need to escape some time - head north!

The lesson on the history of the American house was fascinating! I hadn't really considered distance from the city centre to correlate with housing designs. Very astute of you! I can easily see that I won't be living in the city centre anytime soon, as I couldn't imagine the constant reno needed on one of those beautiful Victorian homes. I would be tempted to buldoze it down and build a look-a-like copy of one, with all things new.
From rests to adventures, I wish you the ultimate best that God has for you this new year!