Home & DIY Projects

Home, Sweet Home

Love Grows pillow by ParrisChicBoutique on Etsy

The thing about this little activity we’ve been embarking upon, called “When Madeleine Goes House Hunting” is that I am the exact opposite of these people. My standards, I think, are too low.

I don’t balk at a tiny floor plan, or the lack of an en suite bathroom. I don’t need a walk-in closet, or granite counter tops, or stainless-steel appliances.

No, instead it’s tiny, old, borderline-decrepit houses that are my kryptonite.

Arched doorways, old fireplaces, peaked roofs and gabled windows – drool. Throw in something like an old-lady pink bathtub and I’m basically purring. So when we look at houses I see one and I immediately fall in love. Hard. I can instantly see us puttering around the overgrown garden and hear Olive running up and down the worn hardwood stairs. I am completely capable of ignoring the sagging roof and old wiring, the original plumbing and large neon sign outside flashing “MONEY PIT!” over and over again.

I love houses with a story, one where I can imagine who lived there, who left there, how many years were spent shuffling around in the same routines, performing the same rituals. There’s something really comforting to me about that. It feels right somehow, that we would move into a place like that, it’s like skipping the record back to the beginning and playing it all over again – with a few new notes.

I don’t know, these houses just FIT me. I could paint the cupboards mint or install a clawfoot tub and it wouldn’t look one iota out of place. There is doing to be done, and I am just itching to get started. But the hard part is choosing. Choosing the right house in the right location and the right price and, of course, it goes without saying that none of those “rights” is finite, or measurable, or objective. They all vary depending on who is on the other end of the search. So it is sort of overwhelming sitting here clicking through dozens upon dozens of listings and the issue isn’t slim pickin’s, the issue is my ability to talk myself into any one of them because I am just so excited by the prospect of ordering a little address stamp and painting our front door.

 A thirty minute commute wouldn’t be that bad!

That cemetery down the block might actually help with my tarot readings – and just imagine Halloween!

Yes the kitchen is small- okay tiny- alright practically non-existent, but now I have a great excuse not to cook!

It’s terrible. The most indecisive person in the world, tasked with making one of the biggest financial decisions she’ll ever make.

Initially I thought that the difficulty in this endeavor would be finding something that Adam and I both agreed upon. It goes without saying that we never agree on anything ever, so I had the feeling that this would end up being a real estate hunt of attrition, with the final decision made out of sheer exhaustion on the one property we could both tolerate. But, in a surprising turn of events, Adam has essentially given me carte blanche in this matter.

I know.


It’s what I’ve always wanted! How many times have I thought to myself (and said. Out loud. To him.) If you would just do what I say all the time, everything would be perfect!  And now  with him working so much I go to see most of the showings by myself, and if there’s anything promising he will accompany me for round two. But so far, that hasn’t happened. Because now I have to be the voice of reason in addition to the lovestruck house sentimentalist.

So while touring the house and pretending to listen to information about zoning and hot water tanks and shingles, I am having this weird internal debate where I try and present both points of view to approximate having Adam there to temper my enthusiasm with a much-needed dose of reality.

This is SO CUTE.

It’s alright, I guess. The neighbourhood’s a little rough

But look at those old wood kitchen cabinets! They don’t make ’em like that anymore!

Yeah, there’s a reason. And they’re avocado green.

Phht! Paint!

The ceiling looks a little-


And the electrical is all-


It’s also only 700 sq ft.

So cozy! Do I need to read the pillow to you again?!


I don’t know. This is one of those decisions I find myself wishing that someone else could just make for me. I’ll write out all of my criteria, and you just DO it, OK? Do the scouting and the showings, the deciding and the bidding and the negotiating. Deal with the realtor and the lawyers, the bank people and the movers.  Sign all of the paperwork and, while you’re at it, do the worrying for me too?

Worry about whether it’s the right decision, whether we’ll regret it. Worry about the money and the market, the schools and the neighbours. Worry about whether something better, more perfect will come up the day after we’ve signed on the dotted line.

As for me, I’ll show up at the end, when it’s time to unpack my books and hang mug hooks; daydream about where Olive’s big girl bed will go. I’ll (finally) order the Kilim rug and (finally) plant our vegetable garden. I will get to work making this house a home.


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  • Reply Jennifer Somerville April 26, 2014 at 10:15 PM

    Oh, for the ability to twitch my nose, like Samantha, and produce the perfect nest for you. I can see you massaging your ideal home into every flaw – making it fit – making it right – but patience is a virtue, Maddie – and the right house will have more pros than cons, tick most of your boxes and shout your name. I promise.

    • Reply Sam Pereira April 27, 2014 at 4:24 AM

      I love that, “Shout your name”. So beautiful, and so true. x

  • Reply jamieramirez April 27, 2014 at 12:12 AM

    we are making it work in an 850-sq-ft house, and loving the crap out of it. the best thing about a small house: less to clean, less to repair, less energy usage. it’s hard to fit all our books, woodworking tools, gardening stuff, art supplies, crafting doodads, sewing equipment, knitting stuff, etc., etc., in this tiny space, but we manage. i love watching other people rise to the challenge of small living, too. the clever storage solutions and unconventional uses of space… and it’s fun to be part of this small footprint movement!

    • Reply sweetmadeleine April 28, 2014 at 11:12 PM

      I don’t think I ever replied to your hilarious story of showering in the backyard – you are a superwoman! I am totally on board with the small space movement. I hope to find our little cottage soon!

  • Reply Sam Pereira April 27, 2014 at 4:26 AM

    God, I hear you. An old place with a story you can add to. I’m raising a glass to you and toasting your search. May you find the “perfect” imperfect place x

  • Reply Emily Silberstein April 27, 2014 at 4:39 AM

    Ah! This really speaks to me. I bought a little house last summer: 788 sq feet, with great potential for expanding the attic to make it a comfortable 1100 sq ft. It’s over 70 years old, and I bought it from the estate of the original owner, Mahala. She died here at age 98. She spent 70 years cultivating the garden in the back yard, and it feels like my own secret garden. My advice? Look for that special house, but give yourself permission to enjoy a few upgrades (particularly electrical). Some older features are charming, and others are simply financially draining.

    I’m off to paint my front door (original to the house!) a bright and happy shade of blue. Best of luck in the search.

    • Reply sweetmadeleine April 28, 2014 at 11:14 PM

      Ohhh it sounds absolutely amazing. Mahala’s secret garden! I hope your door painting went well – I think it’s the first thing I’ll do when we finally own something!

  • Reply Debbie McLauchlan April 27, 2014 at 6:02 AM

    Your Mom is so right Maddie – you will just know when it is the right house for you – it will speak to you, and fill you head and your heart with warm thoughts of the wonderful times to be spent there with those who warm your soul. After having spent many hours traipsing through other houses, you will appreciate it so much more. As is the case with so many important things in our lives – “You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince”. Pucker up buttercup! and keep those dreams intact. Your house is waiting for you to find it and fill it with love.

  • Reply katezharvey April 27, 2014 at 10:36 AM

    I LOVE this post!! We were recently house-hunting (but ended up deciding to rent an adorable 1946 cape cod) and I’m exactly the same as you. I don’t want granite countertops and an open floor plan! I want cute little rooms to move between and old floors and unexpected little nooks. Old houses with character have so much charm and so many stories hidden in the walls. Like you, I can totally ignore the old plumbing, old electrical, old everything because all I see is beauty.

    • Reply sweetmadeleine April 28, 2014 at 11:15 PM

      Totally – one I looked at today had that little cupboard in the kitchen that the ironing board folds out of…I mean REALLY.
      Sigh. It’s a sickness.

  • Reply Cynthia April 28, 2014 at 4:31 PM

    hi Madelaine you brought us good luck on our house even though it did take almost a year to find it. I cannot believe how perfect it is going to be and tons of garden and yard work to boot. Our house was a fixer up and the electrical did cost us a ton as did our rotten basement floor so do leave room for the unexpected. have a cold so feeling sorry for myself. Miss you

    • Reply sweetmadeleine April 28, 2014 at 11:16 PM

      Make some magic tea! And just veg – do all of those things unlike you…stay on the couch, watch trashy TV. Wallow, a little pity party feels good sometimes 😉

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