Monday, April 28, 2014

House Huntin': First Cut is the Deepest Edition (1960's Time Capsule Split Level)

Good morning! 

How's tricks, kids? It's raining like crazy here in downtown Nashville, but I've braved the storm and made it to the library to kick off yet another week of clacketa-clacketa reportage for you from the vintage-loving mines. Today, I share with you a story of heartache if not heartbreak... the first house we looked at in person as possible home-buyers! Did you even know we're in the market? We weren't, but while daydreaming through MLS listings, I came across something that seemed like it might be a dream come true. 

Take a look at this hunk of burning love:

Seriously, when they talk about curb appeal on those trashy HGTV shows I compulsively watch in the waiting rooms of doctor's offices, this is what they're talking about. I actually can't stand how much I love the outside of this house, and when my dad and I rolled up on it Saturday morning a few weekends ago, it was just as knock-your-eye-out in person. We were on the way to estate sales and diverted our course to include me driving by "this house I saw last night on Zillow". One day on the market, and there was a couple with a toddler in the driveway trying to peer in the front window, and several other cars driving by as we sat in mine and eyeballed the place over. This is apparently what happens when houses under $200,000 and in the Nashville area pop up nowadays-- feeding frenzy!

"What about the inside, Lisa?" WHAT ABOUT THE INSIDE. IT WAS JUST AS PERFECT. I expected the Dick Van Dyke-ish ness of the outside to clash horrifically with misguided "updates" and ripped out appliances, but I was wrong, bub! So delightfully wrong. Here are photos from the listing:

Did you just die a little? After our initial father-daughter reconnaissance, I called Matthew and asked him to call the realtor, who showed us the house bright and early Sunday morning. Once again, the photos were spot on. The house smelled a little damp/moldy, which set my outsized olfactory organs into high dudgeon, but as you may recall from my years of estate sale training, mild weird smells have never kept me from the-things-I-want-in-life (which are usually old and musty smelling by definition). The open-ish living room floor plan led into the formal dining room which led into the kitchen, and oh, this? Just a fireplace begging to be hung with one of those starbust electric clocks from the time period. How badly did I want to oblige it!!

Can you just see the visions of all my kooky mid century stuff in this room dancing through my head? If I were a paper doll, this would be the setting on the back of the envelope where you could picture me in all my sixties' splendor. It was seriously wonderful. Remember how the split level was the worst card to get in the game of Life? THIS kind of a split level is beyond desirable to me. How chic would you look descending the stairs into your gracious living room to greet your dinner guests in a hostess gown and your best welcoming smile? I get butterflies like a teenager thinking about that scenario, bless my poor vain, superficial, vintage little heart. It can't be helped!

Up these three stairs was a skinny hallway with three bedrooms and a blue-tiled bathroom. One bedroom was good sized, another was medium, and a third would really have to be an office or a den, it was surprisingly small. The bathroom had a door that led into the bedroom, but as it was also the only bathroom for the first floor, it also had a door that led into the hallway. Strange? I would have rather had just a long wall there and the single entrance for a bathroom. But wait 'til you see the bathroom:

Amirite? Serving Donna Reed realness here, hunties. And the commode, which has been decorously left out of this photo, was also periwinkle blue. I would paint the taupe above the tile white and let this room shine, shine, shine, let it shine. Grab some matching towels with our monograms on them, to wipe away the tears of joy from my eyes, and this room is done!

Ready for the kicker? How much do we hate unfinished basements? THIS MUCH. Happily, this is the least unfinished basement of all:

Seriously, the linoleum makes it look like a king's own palace. And the support beams don't even bother me. AND ANOTHER BEAUTIFUL FIREPLACE. Heartwrenching. There's a laundry room and another bathroom off to the right of the photo there, the first of which looks like this:

Kind of strange, huh? I guess you could put a chest of drawers or some other storage over to the right there, but I'm puzzled at the half-bath being in an enormous, whole-bath sized room. That said, the more beautiful vintage tile, the better.

The back of the house had a full deck, and even ran on into a patio type thing over the concrete garage that was also accessible by a door in the master suite:

This doesn't look like much in the photo, but it was really neat, and as spring had just sprung in the first week of April, there were buzzing bumble bees and the fragrance of the hyacinth wafting towards us. Matthew was not into the bees, but I was so enchanted by the foliage I couldn't really mind them.

So! Why are you not talking to the proud new owner of an honest-to-goodness gem of a vintage house? Let's look at the facts:


  • In our price range, but right at the tippy-top of it.
  • Has been maintained in a way that keeps the 1960-details I like but also isn't in a falling-down state of disrepair (as you see in a lot of houses that "must have been something back in the day" but are so neglected you'd have to take everything out just to make it livable).
  • I am too tall for the basement.
  • Right at the top of our price range.
  • What is with the bathrooms (dual entrance on the first floor, Volkswagen's-worth of empty space in the basement)?
  • Location is not good. Weird, transient area in between airport and downtown.
  • Due to shark-like intensity of other buyers, would have to put in an offer the same day at full asking price to be in the running for the house.

Let's address the con's, as the pro's are blatantly obvious here:


This is me in the basement:

And this is Bub in the basement. Matthew is around 5'6'' 5'7'' and three-eighths and an inveterate sloucher. Notice how he has plenty of head clearance between ceiling/ceiling fan, and the top of his dear head, even with his out of control hair. I, on the other hand, at five foot eleven and three quarter inches... I felt like I was a little leery of the space when I was in the house, but looking at the photos afterwards, it is painfully obvious that I would probably feel like I was "ducking" the entire time in over half the house. Boo. And if I was in heels? Or a beehive? And if I have kids that are taller than me? Forget it. As lovely as this room is, it ain't made for us amazons, and a house should be a home for even the taller members of the family!


When I look at a map of Nashville and go "Where is that at, exactly?", you know it's in a weird part of town. Between my dad and I, we have a combined fifty years worth of driving experience in the Metro Nashville area, and we've spent the last 10 going to estate sales every. single. weekend. Do you have any idea how many neighborhoods we've been in? Off hand, I would say all of them. So when this location popped up off of Murfreesboro Pike, I had to do some head scratching. It's almost to the part of that long, long stretch of street where it goes residential, but in a strange pocket behind a vacant Church of Christ and a Pizza Hut. Nearest grocery? There was a Kroger's within walking distance, but it was downgraded a few years ago to a Dollar General Market. I hate to be a grocery snob-- obviously, I'm not, as the grocery store I'm pining for  is like the rock bottom of regular grocery stores, but I don't trust sub-Krogers standard grocers, and that's that. Seriously, if I can't get US Weekly and my low carb tortillas without driving all the way into town and over to the Berry Hill Kroger's, that's a problem. Also, the only thing on this part of Murfreesboro Pike are transient hotels (Rodeway Inn, et al), night clubs (this one appears to be in a former Captain D's...what?), and fast food joints...I'm not asking for this to be the Champs-Élysées, but worse than my beloved Gallatin Road and a little better than Dickerson Road is not gonna work for me. The place I am now, in between the two aforementioned streets, I feel comfortable even if it isn't my dream house. It didn't make good sense to move somewhere I would know nothing about and feel less comfortable in. Location was really the biggest thing. If this house was in a similar suburb in Madison, Donelson, Hermitage, Old Hickory, I would have pulled whatever strings I needed to get in the ring on this one, but it wasn't, and that was a hard pill to swallow.


The agent called the agent selling the house, and even though the house had been on the market TWO DAYS, he'd already received a couple offers and showed the house fourteen times, not counting us. Talk about blood in the water, people. The agent showing us the house said to have a strong offer, we would have to put one in THAT AFTERNOON and right at asking price. What! If you all know me at all, you should be aware of the fact that I don't do practically anything "on the spot" little Depression-era brain needs time to formulate a convincing, unshakable argument that we're not getting "rooked" or in for something more than we bargained, and an hour was not enough time for me to make up my mind on something as big as a house payment that would stretch on into the next 15 years of my life. Now, if it had been in a better neighborhood or at least one I knew, that would have been different-- but the fear of the unknown was too much for me. Plus, we're gonna have grandbabies in the next year or two that need dropping off and visiting at their respective grandparents' houses in Madison, Hendersonville, and, ain't driving halfway across the county to make that happen, and that's important to us. Mark this down as TIMES I HATE BEING A GROWN UP. Ugh, why couldn't I just throw caution to the wind! I am going to my miss my house.

After several Bay-of-Pigs like intensity level conversations with my mom, my dad, and Matthew, we decided to pass. Even though I did listing-stalk this house for the rest of the month, it looks to have gone off the market this last weekend, and I hope whoever ended up being the buyer makes a wonderful life for themselves in this's so gosh darn gorgeous! I wish it could have been the right one for me, but I do hope something like this, except even better or even more convenient to what we need in a house, pops up again some day soon! Keep your fingers crossed for me; I'm gonna keep looking! :)


How about you? How did you find your first house? Or are you looking? What were some deal breakers or makers in your house hunt? What's the latest and greatest time-capsule like place you've seen? Advice for getting over house-heartbreak? Let's talk!

That's all for today...try not to get blown away in the storms, fellow Nashvillians, and I'll see you tomorrow with some of the goods I scored at the flea market! Have a great Monday, and we'll talk then. Take care!


  1. Good luck with your house hunting! I know it can be really scary trying to decide whether or not to make an offer. I actually bought our house when Paul was in England on a business trip. Thankfully (?), Wichita isn't nearly as desirable a location as Nashville, so we came in well under budget but our neighborhood can be a bit iffy. We think it's trying to gentrify since all our neighbors are hipsters, but sometimes the ghetto creeps south of the golf course. Ah, well...

    P.S. The 15-year mortgage is definitely the way to go.

  2. I love the thoroughness of this post! I was on the edge of my seat! Oh my god....that house. That periwinkle bathroom! There are going to be so many houses that you wish that you could just pick up and move to another area. And it SUCKS.

  3. That's my neighborhood! They moved the Kroger. It's just up at the other end of Thompson Lane. :-)

  4. Ugh, the heartbreak of house hunting!! It is AWFUL! And this market is crazypants. I wish you lots and lots of luck...keep hunting and you will find it! :)

  5. oh my gosh i didn't want to get to the end to find out what was wrong with it. i wish i could move in myself! and i love the weird little blue tile square around the sink in the basement. good luck with the hunt!
    we found our house the day after finding out an offer we put in on another house was denied because another party was paying cash! that is what sucks about this market, anything in my price range is ripe for flippers! i'm convinced we got this house only because my mom drove by and talked to the owners after we put in an offer. she told them we loved old houses and wouldn't tear everything out and the family had live here since the 40's! I love my little house. it isn't in the best location (right on a four lane street in glencliff) but i love it!

  6. dangggg girl! what a find! shame about the location and the lack of basement height though. good luck on the hunt-- i'm routing for ya :)

  7. I'm in LOVE! What a great house!

  8. I love how your prospect house looks! I think it has a great interior and a lovely façade. It looks like it came straight out of a realty magazine! Haha. I do agree with what you mean by real properties being such a frenzy in Nashville these days. I do hope you are able to make a decision soon, despite all the pros and cons that you are weighing at the moment. :)
    Scott Sauer

  9. This house may seem like your dream house, but if it doesn’t fit your needs, it’s really better to make a pass than to regret it later on. Anyhow, this must’ve been a heartbreaking decision for you to make. But don’t worry, there are still a lot of properties available on the market. And one of it may just be the one you’re looking for. Good luck!

    Sean McCrory @ Graham Commercial Real Estate



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