370 beech street

370 Beech Street in Highland Park, Illinois has several monikers; however, arguably the most famous is the home of Cameron Frye in the 1986 classic flick Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Although it appears somewhat lackluster set in the context of sullen Cameron Frye's adolescence--minus the scene when his father's Ferrari plummets through a giant pane of glass--the house is actually a mid-century gem and one of my favorite houses from a film.

Designed by architects A. James Speyer and David Haid and built in 1953, the steel-frame and glass house is also known as the Ben Rose Home (photographer Ben Rose once owned the property). In real life, I prefer the city over the country and would much rather dodge criminals on the subway than predators crawling out of the woods, but there's something about the 5300 square-foot home situated in the woods over a ravine that makes even the city girl inside of me long for a little nature. Perhaps it's because the glass walls that encompass the space are inherently modern and allow you to "view" nature without "roughing it."

When it was last sold, the house went for $2.3 million. Maybe my dreams of living in the country will have to wait.

Photos from Sotheby's Realty


dust gets in the way

One of the best decisions my husband and I made when we purchased our first home was to have the original hardwood floors (circa 1945) refinished. Immediately following this decision, however, was one of  our worst: to sand and paint the interior walls after the floors were done. Although it makes for a good story now, in the moment I couldn't find humor in our naivety as we painstakingly scrubbed the newly refinished floors with old toothbrushes to remove the thick dust that had settled among the cracks. It's as if neither one of us had ever heard of a drop cloth, let alone understood the concept of using one to protect our new investment.  With dust (tinted a pinkish-red from the awful wine-colored walls that were in place when we moved in) in my nose, covering my eyebrows and sticking to the perspiration on my face, I scrubbed and hummed "It's a Hard Knock Life" to get myself through the ridiculous task. At least now we can look back at it as a lesson learned, but there are still times--five years later--while cleaning a spill or sweeping crumbs off the floor that I come across a crack where dust has happily settled in for eternity. I'll happily sign that dust over to the next homeowner.

Up-close picture of our hardwood floors following a "goldfish incident" wherein my son decided his goldfish were better suited for the floor than the Pepperidge Farm bag. While sweeping up the mess on my hands and knees, I came across several dust-filled cracks, and I couldn't help but smile at the absurdity of it.


a world of color

The commercials don't lie: in a world of iPhone apps, if you can imagine it, there's an app for that. When thinking of color schemes for my decorating projects, I often look to sources outside of the paint swatches lining the walls of home improvement stores. Everything from a fallen leaf to a peacock feather to the fabric of a favorite dress has inspired my color choices. Now, thanks to Benjamin Moore, I can save myself the embarrassment of dragging random tchotchkes into the paint store to find the correct match among thousands of color choices. The company known for its premium paints that has a cult following among designers and architects is now at my finger tips with the introduction of ben Color Capture. An ingenious app that allows you to snap a picture of any color inspiration, anywhere in the world, and instantly matches it to one of the company's 3,300 color choices is sure to be a hit with home decorators everywhere. Thanks for reading my mind, Ben.


analyze this

Remember the analogies portion of the SAT? You'd spend hours studying problems like the following,

glass : translucence

A. cup : portability
B. mammal : perfection
C. light : opacity
D. metal : luster
E. cotton : weight

only to leave your head spinning and your eyes bulging (the answer is D, by the way). While pondering the current state of the housing market, I recently came up with an analogy of my own.  Think granite : sold sign / massage : tranquility. Perhaps my analogy isn't standardized test approved, but I am hoping that following the advice of our realtor (after several months of urging) our decision to install granite countertops in the kitchen will be the magic MLS catch phrase that sells our house. While the granite isn't in line with my personal aesthetic, I have to concede that it is an improvement over the Formica preceding it.

I've watched so many home improvement and "sell this house" shows over the past year that I'm expecting the house to sell itself once word gets out about the granite. The glass tile backsplash, incidentally, was a surprisingly easy DIY project that my husband and I undertook one night to complete the look. It's been about a month since the granite was installed and we just finished the kitchen project last week with the addition of a new stove, so here I sit waiting for the offers to roll in...


dream home #1

One crowded Sunday morning last year as my family and I were waiting for a table during brunch at our favorite local haunt, my eyes landed upon a copy of Uptown Magazine ("uptown" in Charlotte is what the rest of civilization refers to as "downtown"). Never having read the magazine, I began paging through it as a source of distraction for my nine-month-old son who was growing increasingly impatient with the lagging crowd. I turned the pages without actually taking in any substance until I came across a feature on eco-friendly, modern homes that I knew couldn't have anything to do with Charlotte. Yet here, in Charlotte, they existed.

At a time when I was over my current house and neighborhood--and even Charlotte in general--I realized there may be more to this town than manicured lawns, southern charms and country clubs. To me these modern homes were the antithesis of everything I'd grown to dislike about Charlotte, and I had to see them as soon as possible. With full tummies (and me a slight buzz from two bloddy marys), we went for a drive following brunch to see this sustainable development in person. The next week my husband and I returned to tour one of the houses, and I immediately pictured my son riding a big wheel down the hall with the stained concrete floors.

At the time, the "box house" (as I affectionately refer to it) was simply a dream: our house wasn't for sale, and I didn't know the housing market would continue to spiral downward and my fledgling dream of moving back to New York would slowly fade; thus, the actuality of owning one of these homes never seemed a possibility--until now. The prices have dropped and three of the original six houses are currently sitting empty on their lots. Naturally, my obsession has grown. I've already started decorating my box house and thinking of colors to paint the 19-foot walls. The first order of business, however, is to sell our current home. So I'm left to wonder: will my patience hold out? Can we even afford the box house? How long will the dream last?

Element Homes on Craig Avenue
Photos courtesy of Cobalt DBS


the starter home

One year ago today my husband and I opened a bottle of savignon blanc and sat at our dining room table with our realtor as we put our first home on the market. I still remember the giddy feeling I had while signing the papers, which was oddly reminiscent of the way I felt when we sat in the lawyer's office four years previous to claim the house as our own. Although we understood the state of the market as we listed our house, I never imagined that a year--and only a handful of showings--later we'd find ourselves in relatively the same position as we were in that moment.

The comments from those who've looked at our house include "cute little house," "shows nicely but is a little small," "great location but wish it had a third bedroom."  All in all, the consensus seems to be that our 900 square-foot house is simply too small for today's home buyers.  So I ask myself: whatever happened to the starter home? Relocating from New York City, our single-family home was palatial compared to the 350 square-foot, one-bedroom apartment we left behind. The house even had two closets--a luxury to those accustomed to city living. With one bedroom to spare, we eventually had a baby and managed to fit him comfortably into the space as well.

I've spent my five years as a homeowner eschewing the McMansions and cookie-cutter homes that clutter the suburbs, but there comes a time when you realize that two bedrooms and one bath for four individuals may end up a bit too cozy for your liking (especially when the in-laws are in town). As we begin the search for our next house, I am determined to stay true to my minimalistic approach to living. I don't need a sunroom and a breakfast room and a sitting room and a library and "bonus" room (but it would be nice to indulge in a master bathroom). In the meantime, I hope someone else finds our house to be his or her perfect starter home.


a perfect life

For the first eight years of my life I lived in the same house; in the ensuing eight, my family moved four times. Although I managed to finish my high school years without packing another box, I picked up the habit once again when I started college and moved every year--including a semester living in Valencia, Spain. Upon graduation I took off to Europe for six months and then returned to the states to my high school abode under the supervision of my parents as I "saved" money for my grand move to New York City. A month shy of the anniversary of my college graduation I finally landed in Manhattan, where I slept on a friend's sofa on the Upper East Side until I found a place of my own.

The story continues over the next six years as I moved from the East Village to NoLita to SoHo to the West Village to Hell's Kitchen to Hell's Kitchen (#2). Needless to say, the moving bug is in me and a part of me, and I recently found a kindred spirit in Meghan Daum's Life Would be Perfect if I Lived in that House. Certain thoughts and emotions she writes throughout the book feel as if they could have been lifted from my own life, and I find it no coincidence that I stumbled upon this book as I am at a crossroads (i.e.: moving point) once again.

My husband and I have lived in our home (the first house either one of us ever owned) in Charlotte, North Carolina for five years. How we ended up in Charlotte from New York is further testament to my innate desire to move, and for the past two years I've actually toyed with the idea of moving back to the city. However, a recent visit to New York convinced me that now--with one child and another arriving in July--is the time to stay put. Yet we've outgrown our 900 square-foot, two-bedroom home and are ready to (yes!) move.

I'm dedicating this blog to our move: the ins and outs and ups and downs of selling your first home and (eventually) purchasing another. I don't know where we'll end up:  in my "dream" of a modern box; in a mid-century marvel; in a cookie-cutter cottage on a cul-de-sac (never!)? Wherever and whatever it is, I plan to decorate with verve and hope to inspire like-minded individuals who want to make their house their own. At the end of the day it isn't about money or what your friends or neighbors have--any shack can be a dream home, and a true dream home should showcase some sass.

If there's one thing I've learned from Daum's book, it's that happiness doesn't come from a zip code or a number on a mailbox or even the walls and floorboards that hold the structure together. I understand now that you never stop learning, especially about yourself, and I can't wait to see where this journey takes me.