Dream House(s)

I’m what you might call a real estate enthusiast.

Even before we made the decision about a year ago to make a move and started the hunt for our next house, I’ve always enjoyed going online and just browsing around, looking at listings. Before the internet, I used to pore over the Open House ads in the back of the newspaper, squinting at the tiny photos, trying to see if I recognized any of my local favorites. Even now, every time I pass a house that has a big ol’ moving van sitting in front of it and burly men carrying furniture up the front steps, it never fails to put a smile on my face. I daydream about that house just wrapping its welcoming arms around the new family as they settle in to spend their first night there, all cozy amid the packing boxes… I have a tendency to anthropomorphize when it comes to homes.

When Russ and I first got married, we moved into a one bedroom apartment in Bellevue, a suburb of Nashville. I proudly referred to it as a ‘townhouse’ since it did indeed have two stories– as well as a cheap-looking stone fireplace that never did draw correctly, a postage stamp-sized patio and a tiny, rickety balcony that could just barely fit two plastic Walmart lawn chairs on if you sat really close together. It was the late 70’s, so my decorating aesthetic was all about earth tones, rattan furniture and macrame plant hangers– oh yeah, baby! I loved that little place, but I was already looking forward to the day sometime in the misty future when we could afford to buy a real house. I spent YEARS cruising the streets of Nashville, learning all of the neighborhoods, jotting down phone numbers from For Sale signs, calling to find out prices and then hanging up with a big sigh of disappointment. Too high.

Eventually we saved up enough money for a decent down payment, and the searching began in earnest. I always gravitated towards old houses, particularly Victorians, though I inevitably liked the gingerbread-trimmed exteriors better than the chopped-up, multi-parlored interiors.  I fell head over heels in love with a few wraparound-porched/ pocket-doored/more-than-slightly-shabby beauties in some frankly dicey areas of town, but we always ended up talking ourselves out of it. In our price range, the rambling old houses were usually not in the best of shape or in the best of neighborhoods. That gave us pause, since Russ spent over 200 days a year on the road with the Imperials, and when I wasn’t traveling with him, I was home alone. Also, it just wasn’t realistic to try to take on a fixer-upper– as a handyman, Russ is a REALLY GOOD SINGER.

Finally one day, we got a call from our dear friends Cynthia Clawson and Ragan Courtney. They said, “We have good news and bad news. The bad news is that we are moving to Louisville. The good news is that you’re going to buy our house!” I didn’t believe that could remotely be possible– we had spent many happy evenings in their gracious 1930’s home, and I was convinced that it was way too nice for us to be able to afford it. But Cynthia and Ragan, God bless ‘em, were determined to make this happen for us, so they dropped the price waaay down and put all of their eggs in our basket– they gambled on the chance that we would be able to qualify for a loan, and they never even put the house on the market. Thankfully, it all worked out and we moved into the home that we loved and lived in for the next 21 years.

About 6 years ago, we moved to another suburb, Brentwood. The girls were going to a private school here, and since their friends and activities were beginning to center around this area, it just seemed to make sense. Our sweet old house was getting to the point that it was going to need some major work before too long (rewiring, new plumbing, etc.), so we were thrilled when we sold it to a young couple with lots of big plans (and disposable income), and we found a lovely ‘younger’ (only 16 years old!) home in a great development. We’ve enjoyed this house and it has has served us well, but these days there’s just not anything holding us here– Madi is in college in another town, and Charlotte’s prep school tutorial only meets two full days a week. We are ready for the next phase of our life to begin!

After a ridiculous amount of looking and a couple of disappointing false starts, we have now found the perfect (for us) house: a 108 year old late Victorian/early Arts and Crafts gem that has been completely restored– the roof, HVAC, plumbing wiring, kitchen and bathrooms are all a couple of years old, but the floors, woodwork, fireplaces and ‘vibe’ are all 100% HISTORIC HOUSE GOODNESS! And it’s in one of my favorite little places in the world: Bell Buckle, TN, a funky, artistic, eclectic little village surrounded by rolling hills and horse farms, but only 20 minutes away from a good grocery store, great shopping and restaurants (HELLO, I have my priorities, people!)  I have been making at least twice yearly pilgrimages to Bell Buckle for over 30 years– in fact, I first started making day trips there way back when we were living in that little one bedroom apartment.

So here we are, poised on the brink of a new (old) home, a new town and a new adventure. Hopefully, I will have some good news to report on that score soon… ;) But in the meantime, I want to hear from you guys!

What is your dream home?

Do you long for a log cabin in the mountains?

A high rise pied-a’-terre in the big city?
A massive estate in the country?
A ultra modern house on the beach?
A vintage farmhouse with acreage?
If money were no object, and location was not an issue… what would your dream house look like?

25 Responses

  1. LindaB

    If you had asked me this about 30 or 40 years ago, I would have rattled off all the things I wanted in a home—–fireplace, deck, large lot with plenty of privacy and room for a garden, some architectural details, away from road noise, a walk out basement, and a hill. Yes, I wanted a hill—-must be my West Virginia roots. We’ve lived in five homes and this one is my dream house, I suppose. I found the plans in the newspaper and hubby found a builder who would build it—–they usually like to build “like” houses all in a row. Seems when you live anywhere, you find things you wish were different. Like, I wish we had more room for overnight guests now. And we could have skipped the fireplace in the master bathroom—–when you light a fire in there, it dries out the air and you get stuffy! That wasn’t as romantic as I thought it would be.

    But now, if you asked me this today, I’d just say anywhere is my dream home as long as my husband and kids are in it, friends and family feel welcome and can come and go, and there is peace. When you turn 65, you feel differently about a lot of things, and your house is one of them.

    (I hope you get that home in Bell Buckle soon and it makes you very happy!)

  2. fatherabraham

    That’s a no brainer for me. I’ve got to go with the Vintage Farm House with acreage. As soon as I find a job in Tennessee or Kentucky we are so there.

  3. VA-Cathy

    Kind of like Linda-B, my answer would have changed somewhat over the years. The farmhouse picture looks so homey and PEACEful. After ending a 29 year marriage, I moved into my brothers house on his property, where there are horses and cows. He and his wife live about an hour away and the house was sitting empty. After dealing with the animals about two years now, I know it’s not always the PEACEful place I was craving. It’s not always a problem, and I’m very appreciative and willing to work. I’ve learned many new things, but when the cows or horses get out, and you’re the only one there, you’re immediately outnumbered. They dented my daughters car, they were on the DECK outside my window several times during the night one time (what a way to wake up)! But the best was Easter Sunday night last year. My daughter had left to go back to college so I had to get used to being alone again. A noise woke me up. It sound like someone trying to get the window air conditioner out of the window in another bedroom. Like they would wiggle it, wait, try again – it’s 2:30 AM!! Then the thing falls out into the yard. I slam the window shut and run in another room to look out, Stupid bull was out. Guess it made a good scratching post until it fell out of the window. Let’s not mention snakes, which are my very worst enemies. Especially the one that was in my bathroom. Yep.

    Sorry, I’m rambling.

    I want a cabin in the mountains. Doesn’t have to be a cabin, a camper will suffice. I just want PEACE!! And lessons on how to shoot at snakes.

    I too hope you get settled in your home in Bell Buckle soon!

  4. Barbara M. Lloyd

    Linda, you about summed it up for me. After my husband had a stroke and all three children were married, we moved from our three-story home on two acres and with a horse barn…to a much smaller all-on-one-floor home. We had to get rid of so many things I thought at one time I couldn’t live without. I used to haunt antique shops and junk places because I enjoyed decorating.

    However, I’m not a collector anymore and I am very content in my smaller home all on one floor, where my little dog lets me live with her.

    But I can remember when my husband and I had dreams of living on a beach…nothing ultra modern; just a homey place up high and where we might see a ship going by fairly often.

    Va.Cathy, you could write a book about the trials and tribulations of living on a farm. Forgive me, but you cracked me up….until you got to the snake, sweetheart.

  5. Barbara M. Lloyd

    Oh my goodness, Tori, are you telling us that your present home is sold?!!! I sure hope so….for your sake and mine. You ought to see how red my knees are from praying for your house to sell, for goodness sake. Summer will soon be here and red knees do nothing for a bikini.

  6. LindaB

    ROFLMBO!!! Barb, you crack me up!

    And Cathy, I loved the animal stories!!!

  7. VA-Cathy

    My family has known most of my life how I feel about snakes. I can’t stand to see them, pictures of them, fake ones, on tv ones, etc. I had a friend calmly telling me “the black snakes won’t hurt you, just stay calm”, etc. I had seen 4 or 5 out in the yard or field, and made myself look at them, tried to stay calm, had my nephew shoot one of them with a 12g shotgun :) The one in the bathroom was also on a Sunday night, after church. I heard things on the sink turning over and thought one hefty breeze had come thru. When I walked in the bathroom and saw it, well, as you know, at this age, (and 20 & 25 years ago, each of my babies weighed over 9 lbs), the ole’ bladder just, well, ………..yet again,,,,,,,,, yep

  8. tori

    LindaB: Isn’t it weird how our taste/needs/desires/priorities change as the years go by? When I think back to those early days of looking for that first house, and compare that with the search for this one– it’s very different! These days Russ and I are thinking about a place that someday Madi and Charlotte will be bringing little ones to visit…

  9. tori

    fatherabraham: You KNOW I’ve got a soft spot for that kind of place, too!

  10. tori

    VA-Cathy: OK, that made me LAUGH! How the hang did those horses and cows manage to dent your daughter’s car, anyway?! You just took all of the romance out of farm life for me! (Not really– I figured out years ago I didn’t want to work a farm, it was more like I wanted to LOOK at a farm…)

  11. tori

    Momma Lloyd: Honestly, I think one of the things I am looking forward to most with this life change is shedding some of the STUFF we have accumulated over the years. The new house is laid out very differently than this one, and there is furniture in our house now that we simply are not going to need there– my new mantra is “Nothing goes to the new house unless we have a specific place to put it!” I want to de-clutter!

  12. tori

    VA-Cathy: Girl, I think I just had the same reaction just READING about the snake in your bathroom!

  13. karenelizabeth

    cabin in the mountains….love the quiet, the solitude. Must come with person/equipment to clear driveway.

  14. tori

    karenelizabeth: I do have a soft spot for mountain cabins. I’ve seen some beauties, especially up in New Hampshire, in the White Mountains. And then there’s Montana… And the Smokies…

  15. Cynthia

    I think we’ve all prayed that you guys could find the place the Lord had set aside just for the Taff family; you’ll continue to be in our prayers.

    We think alike, if only money were no object. At one point I wanted one of the old Victorians which sat on the shores of Prince Edward Island. Then it was a thatched cottage with the quintessential garden in the Cotswolds of southern England, or a house/cabin at Starwood in Aspen.

    While my husband Steve was alive we lived in Ohio, in the small town where we both grew up in a turn of the last century house, it had character to spare, and then some and I still have the antique Hoosier.

    After his “Homecoming” I thought of a house in India; something that the last Viceroy would have found extremely comfortable. I love the styles, colors and foods of the Sub-Continent.

    And lastly I always thought I’d love to go back home to Cincinnati if given the chance; and as you said, if money were no object, and purchase one of the older stately homes on Observatory Ave. On your trip did you get to the Hyde Park or Mariemont area; simply gorgeous homes. But I feel a tug in my spirit to now go west; far west as in Hawaii, something simple, where I can let the ocean wash all the cares away. Ah daydreaming is so much fun.

  16. auburn60

    Ooooh! I like the cottage in the Cotswolds idea!

    I currently live on a couple of acres–NOT farmland–but out in the sticks, with wild turkeys roaming (and clogging up traffic), deer in the yard and snakes. Several snake -sightings every summer. I always loved the idea of the farmhouse with the wrap-around porch waaaay out in the country,complete with graveyard (I think we talked about this before?) and maybe a resident ghost. You know, something with a little history.

    My kids and I are convinced that SOMETHING lives here with us in this house. Weird happenings all up in here. But that’s a story for another time.

    We actually had money in a century home when we made the move from Florida to Ohio. It had a lot of unique touches, like half-doors (the top half could swing out separate from the bottom–what are those called?) and a perennial garden that was to die for. BUT, a big old 30 ft. crack in the basement pretty much scared us off from that location.

    I constantly check real-estate listings; both local, national and abroad. Just recently looked up properties in Montana–thinking I might want to retire there. And I check out all the photos because I need inspiration to re-do my kitchen. And I’m curious as to why some properties move so quickly and others just sit there. AND I need to know that the other properties around me are not losing value. Or I’m just really nosey.

    So, to answer the question: I have become the “cabin in the mountains” girl. I like the idea of solitude and quiet. And very little heat. If we’re really dreaming, a lovely castle in Scotland, maybe complete with moat and dungeon would do nicely.

  17. bettyrwoodward

    Just to have a house of our own would be great. To be able to do what we like with it. I’m not complaining about the house we have now as it is the best we have ever had but it belongs to the church not us.
    Dream house? Well I guess as long as we have room for family and friends to come and stay I’d be satisfied but I do like peace and quiet at night and not to be too far away from general amenities.

  18. tori

    Cynthia: We DO think alike– a Victorian on Prince Edward Island sounds like heaven (as long as I could get to a good grocery store fairly easily!) And those Cotswold cottages make me drool… We actually went to a lovely dinner party in Hyde Park when I was in Cincy, but it was at an unbelievable ultra-modern house by a well-known architect– GORGEOUS, but not one of those old stately ones. Here’s my current obsession– http://www.oldhousedreams.com/ I have lost many hours wandering around here!

  19. tori

    OK, I’m all about the cottage idea, too! And yeah, the only thing our house is Bell Buckle is missing is a little old family graveyard– but there is a house a few blocks away that has one. I also think a 30 foot foundation crack would scare me off for sure, but those turn of the century houses are my very favorite…

  20. tori

    I completely understand– even when we were renting, I still wanted to put up wallpaper and paint rooms! And yes, having room for everyone to come visit is definitely a priority for me, too.

  21. Barbara M. Lloyd

    Linda, there’s nothing funny about trying to find a bikini that blends well with red knees. And I’m all about color coordination.

    Va.-Cathy, we have to be soul mates when it comes to snakes: not even fake ones, pictures in a magazine, or a segment in a movie. The back lawn of a home where my parents used to live had a dirt pier shaped like a broad finger. We used to go out and feed the mother and swan and her signets. I looked down and saw this small snake and jumped right into the lake withmy new nylon crocheted heels. Afterwards, my dad suggested it had not been a very smart idea because much larger snakes were in the lake…and my shoes were ruined. I could write a book about my desperate actions from time to tme when it comes to snakes except that it would be dangerous at my age to think on the subject too long. My mother said my grandmother did this to me. I don’t know who did it, but they sure did a good dang job. I do remember myone morning at the crack of dawn when my grandmother screamed “snake” and my grandfather came running with his shotgun…only to discover it was a broom handle out there on the ground.

    Did y’all hear about the 25 foot allegator swimming along with a grown deer in its mouth? Happened in Florida and they had to destroy him because of his size and the fact that his den was in a small body of water close to the backyards of several home’s lawns bordering the water. And Va.-Cathy, how about those monster snakes that are thriving in Florida.

    Yuk…let’s go back to houses. Bring us up to date on Bell Buckle, sweet Tori.

  22. jonny

    Used to have snakes as pets = /

    “It was the late 70?s, so my decorating aesthetic was all about earth tones, rattan furniture and macrame plant hangers– oh yeah, baby!”

    Coolness !!

    After touring the Yukon Territory of Canada and Alaska for four months –end of Winter and Spring in 1987 I believe it was– I wanted nothing but a log house in that area. Now, with coming to terms with some constantly challenging heath issues and its various treatments, and some other issues that make being domestic massively challenging for me, I’m grateful for the two room apartment I have in the center of where I live; which is more than a handful for me at this point.

    SERIOUSLY hope everything works out with the new place too, Tori = )

    Oh, and Barbara, photos please when you find that matching bikini !!! = )

  23. Barbara M. Lloyd

    jonny, I would send you a print of that picture but I’ve promised the secret service not to let it be seen because they are saving it as their secret weapon, dear one.

  24. Barbara M. Lloyd

    “I completely understand– even when we were renting, I still wanted to put up wallpaper and paint rooms! And yes, having room for everyone to come visit is definitely a priority for me, too.”

    Tori, I believe that is called “nesting.”

  25. GracieD

    Tori, I know exactly what my dream house would be if money were no object. It is a 350 acre place in St. Francisville…Plantation Country in Louisiana. It has streams, wildlife, 2 indoor shooting ranges (1 subterranean), a saltwater pool, an Acadian style house, a guest house, and, best of all…a barn! I ha o rehome my Paso Fino gelding when the farm where I boarded him was sold, and have wanted another Paso ever since. It is one of the most breathtakingly beautiful places that I have ever seen. Yup, I’m a Real Estate enthusiast as well! :D

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