I have a new job!

Two months, no blogs– what gives?? Well, here’s the story…

We recently received an unexpected inheritance from Jon’s grandfather, George, who died about a decade ago. George had wisely invested in Denver real estate way back when, and fortuitously, by waiting this long to sell his property, his three kids made a bunch of money, which they generously decided to share with all the grandkids, too. We wanted to honor this gift by investing it wisely, and, convinced by a very business-minded friend who owns two condos in Keystone, we decided to invest in a ski condo which we could manage as a vacation rental and also use ourselves.

Why Keystone? It’s close to Denver, we’ve enjoyed visiting there, and it is a little less pricey than some other ski areas, real-estate wise. I will say it felt surreal to be looking at ski condos that cost more than our actual home in Denver, but we felt pretty confident, thanks to our friend’s experience, that were making a good choice.

This is where I’ve been lately: shopping for, buying, and planning a renovation of our new ski condo. Since I’m a stay-at-home parent, it makes sense for me to be the primary manager of our vacation rental, so I’ve been researching and reading and pinning and shopping and generally obsessing with this condo. Part of the big plan is we want our place to look FANTASTIC in online listing photos, so I have been channeling my inner Joanna Gaines, and reminding Jon that he’s my Chip. I HAVE A VISION, OK?

My goal is to make our condo a stylish, rustic/industrial (no cliche lodge furniture or generic decor for us!), family-friendly destination. Because I know what it’s like to travel with little kids, I especially want to make it the number one unit people want to rent when bringing kids to Keystone. We will have pack and plays, high chairs, night lights, baby monitors, bouncy seats, toys, books, and more to prevent families from having to schlep so much gear. Also, our condo has a private pool not shared with any other buildings, and our unit is on the quiet slope-side of the building with no neighbors above. We also chose a unit close to the playground and skating rink/putt putt course, with the Kidtopia headquarters in the same building. Kidtopia puts on cool kids events and activities– on a recent visit, our girls participated in a strider bike race, and Claire got second place! Our unit has slope views, and you can walk to the lifts.

I figured I would share our “before” photos this week, and next week will be the big reveal of our renovated unit. If you want to go ahead and make a reservation, you can check out our VRBO listing and sign on up!

I am not sure which is more baffling here, the permanent Christmas decor, or the chicken-themed art in a ski condo.

I would describe the “before” aesthetic as “aggressively brown.”

Having both a queen murphy bed and a queen sleeper sofa, plus a third bathroom, means this 2 bedroom condo can sleep a TON of people.

BEARS! DEER! CHEVRON?

Fun fact: tons of Keystone condos have this exact bedding. And wall art. I think it came with the place when it was built in the 90s. Which means tons of folks are happily paying the big bucks to sleep under 20 year old bear comforters. Ew.

Am I the only person who irrationally hates tchochkies on top of cabinets? They just get sad, dusty, and gross.

We are ditching the twin beds for a queen with a lofted twin above it. I’m also turning the skylight nook into a cute play space.

That balcony view, though.

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House Hunters: Bufflo Fam in Denver

As you know, my family is moving from Little Rock, Arkansas to Denver…next week. Initially, our plan was to stay with family there for a few months as we explored the city and figured out which neighborhood we wanted to live in before committing to buying a house. Then, a few weeks ago, we found out we had an opportunity to buy the house Jon’s grandparents built in the 1950s, which his aunt and uncle have been living in for the last several years. The only thing was, we needed to decide soon, because the Denver real estate market moves fast. Number one real estate market in the country fast. Cue a whirlwind trip to Denver.

As we ate breakfast on our first morning there, we realized that, like every house hunter on HGTV, we had three main choices before us: the grandparents’ house, a city house, or new construction in an area of Denver called Stapleton (a redevelopment of an area that used to be the airport into a “New Urban” community).

The Grandparents’ House

Jon’s grandparents’ house obviously held a lot of emotional pull. The idea of keeping the place in the family really appealed to us. Plus, it had a lot of great midcentury modern appeal, and great mountain views. The main drawbacks were that it was in Wheat Ridge, an area of town farther from the Children’s Hospital than we had initially been considering, and that it would need significant renovations to get it to where we wanted it to be.

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New Construction

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A lot of people who heard we were moving to Denver asked us if we were considering Stapleton, because it’s apparently one of THE places to be if you’re a family with young kids. We toured the community and several model homes. I can’t lie, the homes are large and gorgeous, and I could imagine that we would easily make friends with other families just hanging out in the community’s playgrounds. There is also lots of shopping, dining, and great schools nearby. However, the lot sizes are very small, with postage stamp yards, and the area had more of a cookie-cutter, suburban feel than we are really into. We currently live in an older neighborhood full of 20s Craftsman bungalows, and that’s the style we like.

So we crossed off Stapleton, which left us considering the grandparents’ house and a house on the east side of the city where we had been thinking we would buy before the grandparents’ house came into consideration. We knew we’d need to see some houses in the city in order to really decide if the grandparents’ house was a real contender, so we connected with a Realtor through a friend, and planned a very ambitious day of house hunting. We saw 12 properties in one day!

City House

Since the Children’s Hospital is on the east side of Denver, we were considering areas like Park Hill, Five Points, Cole, Whittier, and Congress Park. One way in which Jon and I differ from most couples on HGTV shows is, we’re in almost complete agreement about the kind of homes we like. I really think either of us could pick out a house for the other one without them there, and they’d be totally pleased. In fact, I once did that when we first moved back to Little Rock– I chose our rental house on my own, but Jon loved it! Our Realtor said we set a speed record for seeing houses for him. We could walk right into a place and know if it was a contender or not, and if not, there’s no sense wasting time there.

Of the 12 places we saw, we ended up with 5 strong contenders:

  1. The Garden Bed House: had an amazing front yard with a ton of raised beds for Jon’s “victory garden,” and a large back yard with a covered patio too. However, the interior living space was smaller than we’d like, and the ceiling in the basement was a little low for my 6’3″ husband.FullSizeRender 5
  2. The Funky Victorian: was on an AMAZING triple lot with a pond and gazebo. Had been nicely renovated with an amazing kitchen and dining space. The main drawbacks were there was no bedroom on the main floor, which we prefer for Claire, and the ceilings in the upper floor were slanted in strange ways because of the roof– Jon might not have been able to shower in the master shower because it was so low!FullSizeRender 3
  3. Race St: I walked into this little Victorian bungalow and loved it. It had been nicely renovated into a big open kitchen/dining/living room, had two bedrooms on the main floor, had a second floor master suite, and a great basement with playroom, guest room, and full bath. However, the yard was the size of a postage stamp, mostly eaten up by the large garage. Also, we weren’t entirely sure about the schools it was zoned for.FullSizeRender 4
  4. The Congress Park House: This house and street reminded me a lot of our current neighborhood. It had a great Craftsman feel, and the tiny closets to go along with it. The main drawbacks were that it was near a noisy street, the back yard was looked down on by a large apartment building behind it, and the basement had a real hobbit feel with curvy floors that hand’t been fully dug out to level it. Also, because of its location, it was at the very top of our budget. FullSizeRender
  5. The Hip Bungalow: This house was very similar to the Race St. house, but had cool exposed-brick walls in the main living space, and a slightly larger yard. However, it had no finished basement, and all the bedrooms were upstairs. We were the very first people to see this house, and it was already under contract the next day. Not kidding about how fast the Denver market moves. FullSizeRender 2

Decision Time

Ultimately, we were left considering the Grandparents’ House and the Race St. House. The day after all our showings, we had to catch a morning flight back home. When we went to bed that night, I felt like my heart was leaning toward Race St., and I felt like Jon was leaning toward the Grandparents’ House. We slept on it and didn’t talk about the decision until we were on the way to the airport the next morning. “So, which house are you thinking about this morning?” I asked. “Oh. I decided which one I wanted at 3 am when I couldn’t sleep,” Jon said. I shouldn’t have been surprised, I’ve been with this internal processor for 13 years now, and he always needs some time to work out things in his head. What surprised me was when he said “Race St.”

He realized that what appealed to him about the Grandparents’ House was mostly emotional, but that Race St. seemed like the place we would be the happiest, in the area we had been considering all along, before the Grandparents’ House came into play. At the airport, we called our Realtor and told him to start writing up an offer. Given the seller’s market, we had to offer full price, and all closing costs, and I even wrote them a letter about why we loved their house so much. We anxiously waited to hear if we got the house, and the next morning, the call came.

WE GOT THE HOUSE! Looks like our 10 year wedding anniversary gift to each other will be a house in Denver.

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*Image of Stapleton via Flickr user BeyondDC under a Creative Commons license.

i ain’t afraid of no ghost

This weekend, our television and Xbox both went on the fritz at the same time. I complained to my sister, and after inquiring whether they were on a surge protector (they were), she said, “Then the only explanation is ghosts.”

Now, I’m pretty sure I don’t believe in ghosts, but I have to admit that with our house’s history, ghosts are a possibility. This is our house:

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As you can see, it’s a classic 60s ranch. The thing is, we live on a street and in a neighborhood in which all the other houses were built in the 1920s. It’s one reason I love our neighborhood and one reason I initially resisted buying this house– I love 1920s charm. Give me a Craftsman or Spanish Revival or Tudor any day. And yet, smack in the middle of all of these charming old homes is our midcentury modern house. It works out great for living with a child with a disability, because our home is open and all on one level, and so we bought it and have come to love it. Shortly after we moved in, a beloved college professor of ours told me that the reason our house was built in the 60s must be the plane explosion, which he remembered from his time growing up here.

Cue record scratch. Plane explosion?

A little Googling turned up the truth: in 1960, a plane from the nearby Air Force base exploded over the city. A large chunk of the plane landed on the house at our address, starting a fire and destroying the home, killing the woman inside in her bed. The bodies of two of the crewmen were also found on the property.

I guess after that, a new house was built in the architectural style that was popular at the time.

Given this crazy history, I guess it’s possible that the ghosts of that 62 year old woman and the two crewmen are hanging out and sending electronics on the fritz. But I hope not. I hope they’re at peace, wherever they are.

we’re moving!

Our new house! Plans to change the exterior colors are already in the works.

Big news, gentle readers: we’re moving.

Only this time, for a change, it’s not a huge affair across state lines, as has been twice in the last 6 years, but just a couple miles from where I now sit. Of course, this time the move involves both two small humans and a cat who will surely hate us for a while, if that time he got suicidal when we took him on a weekend trip is any indication, so it’s still a pretty big deal.

The reason for this move is, after 3 years of renting and 3 years of further medical training for my husband, he has accepted an attending position in the hospital where he’s trained for the last 3 years. In other words, we’ve decided that Little Rock, AR is the place for us for the foreseeable future.

The house search has been long and arduous. There were difficulties in securing a loan thanks to screwups on the part of the bank who last gave us a loan for our house in Charleston. We got outbid/rejected on 3 houses we really really loved. I started feeling like my dreams of a perfect 1920s charmer within biking distance of my husband’s work with no carpet, a good-sized yard for the dogs, a nice kitchen, and a bedroom/bath on the ground floor for Claire were an impossibility. Actually, it turned out that they were: our new home is not the character-filled old home that Jon and I both usually prefer, but a 1960s ranch, smack in the middle of a street full of beautiful 1920s homes. So yeah, we are kinda getting the ugly house on the block. Except that it’s been fully renovated, has gorgeous dark hardwoods, and a really beautiful kitchen, even if it’s darker and more masculine than I would have chosen were I designing my dream kitchen from scratch (think lots of white and subway tiles and LIGHT). And we’re going from a 1200 sq ft 2 bed/2 bath to 4 beds/3 baths, with a huge carpeted den that I foresee will become our main hangout with the girlies the majority of the time. We’re not going to know what to do with ourselves with all that space! And if I ever get sad about the lack of crystal doorknobs or quirky built-ins, I will console myself by stepping into my WALK IN CLOSET, which is a real treat after 6 years in very old houses with very tiny closets.

Oh hey there, pretty kitchen. Busy backsplash aside, you’re pretty good lookin’!

We close on Monday, but won’t move in for a week or so while we have the house painted. Currently EVERY SINGLE WALL is a weird mustard-y beige, and that just can’t stand. This gives me time to oh…start packing?

I look forward to setting up our nest in our new home, and fully expect to be doing a lot more DIY/decor/home type blogging along the way. I’ve got all kinds of plans.

buy our house!

Just putting this out there on the interwebs in case anyone knows anyone looking for an adorable house in Charleston, SC. Our 1948 2 bed/1 bath bungalow is just around the corner from one of the best restaurants in Charleston (the Glass Onion), is very close to a brand new Harris Teeter grocery store, is 4 miles from MUSC (where my husband bikes to work each day) and down town (where I work, a quick CARTA bus trip away), and is 15 minutes from Folly Beach.  We have loved this house and put a lot of work into it, and hope the next owners love it as much as we have.

exterior

living room

fireplace in living room

front window in living room.

"Formal" dining room. (Yes, we have a foosball table instead of a dining room table)

Eat-in kitchen with tons of storage.

New stainless ceramic-top stove, new pressed-tin backsplash.

New stainless fridge.

New stainless dishwasher.

Eating area in kitchen.

Bedroom #1.

Bedroom #1.

Bedroom #2.

Laundry/mud room.

Laundry/mud room.

Laundry/mud room.

Bathroom.

Bathroom.

Bathroom.

Back of house.