February 11, 2019

I've been looking at real estate... because we might move somewhere (where??)...

... but I'm dismayed by how bad the architecture is. Zillow and Trulia send me things from a particular city I've shown interest in, but every single thing is badly designed and much of it is atrocious. Even if I found one house that suited my taste — and all I want is something clean and simple — I'm afraid I'd have to look out on ugliness. It's really discouraging! Why haven't people figured out how to design a house? I know, what I'm seeing is what people have figured out. So then, my problem is with people?

Also, it's often hard to see what's really there, because the photograph is taken with an extremely wide angle lens (so widened and curved it nauseates me) or because there's some insane furniture that distracts me and scares me. Example:



ADDED: Reminds me of the Pope's fanciest stage:

261 comments:

1 – 200 of 261   Newer›   Newest»
Ralph L said...

What, scared by four phalli?

Ralph L said...

If the houses were pleasing, they wouldn't be for sale, or for sale long.

My four poster has a spiral section, but only 18", with diamond cross-hatching below it for her pleasure.

Fernandistein said...

It was a sad day when I discovered that my hero was afraid of old chairs:

I find it curious that a lot of your phobias are home-related, like your fears of antique furniture and silver.

Henry said...

House, then? Not apartment or condo?

My idea when I retire is to by a camp for cheap, gut it, and make an open floorplan modern out of it.

wild chicken said...

Everywhere. People can't decide how big to go, and the house develops dormers
and popouts like so many jejune carbuncles. And ridiculous grand entry ways. My home is my cathedral! Not.

I'd love a modest one story home but there's no money in that you know.

Mr Wibble said...

because there's some insane furniture that distracts me and scares me.

Sounds like someone saw the NJ BDSM house...

Merny11 said...

If we could move, which we won’t because all of our kids and grands are nearby, I’d go somewhere in the Carolinas like Allen says.
Instead, we have a simple cottage on a small lake in Northern WI that satisfies our need for view, woods and quiet while keeping our main home in the Fox Valley too. Summers are glorious there, winters not so much.
You might have to build instead of buy Ann - only wat to get exactly what you want.

Roy Jacobsen said...

My wife and I are appalled by the scale of furniture being offered of late. Ours is an old house (100+ years old) with small rooms, and something like that god-awful four poster in our bedroom conjures images of Andre the Giant in a MINI Cooper.

Bob Boyd said...

You must have considered designing and building your new home?

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

Sing it, Ann.

I find it incredible that so many ugly home exist. Colorado is filled with them. The tri-level - it eats whole neighborhoods.

Darrell said...

Watch something like My Lottery Dream Home. It's been running for six years and by now they've covered every part of the country. Each episode features three different homes and sometimes small winners don't have a very big budget. You may find a type of home you've never considered, in a part of the country you never thought about.

Ralph L said...

We're back to the era of Queen Anne's (not Ann's), when showing off was big busyness.

My house was added on to twice and then tweeked by me into a really nice floorplan with 11' ceilings. All the rooms surround and open into the wide hall I use as a den.

Eleanor said...

You should always choose a house by its location. You can make changes to a house so it's more pleasing to you, but you can't do much about where it is. We wanted a house on a lake with water views. We found a house on a lake with tiny little windows and a porch that was on the other side of the house. A visit from the windows guys and a new wraparound deck with stairs down to a waterfront patio, and we have the house we always wanted. You just need a little vision.

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

You know what drives me nuts - grand staircases in the entry. Curved and carpeted with hideous balusters. The faux elegance. ugh! that was 1990's.

and Marge Carson furniture (or knock-off Marge Carson). as shown.

Bob Boyd said...

"I'm afraid I'd have to look out on ugliness."

You probably should have waited to get your eyes fixed, just in case.

Bill, Republic of Texas said...

the photograph is taken with an extremely wide angle lens (so widened and curved it nauseates me)

What happened? You used to love your fisheye lens. Come to think of it, we haven't seen that for a few years.

tcrosse said...

Bob Boyd said...
You must have considered designing and building your new home?


Every time she starts drawing one it comes out as a rat.

Mad Boston Arab said...

Considered building your own ? Or getting a fixer upper and making it your own ?

Freeman Hunt said...

"every single thing is badly designed and much of it is atrocious"

No kidding. Until we found our house, I felt that way looking at houses for years!

Temujin said...

Yeah...this is a tough one. House shopping/buying is 80% emotion (rough estimate). There are certain hard facts that have to come into play, but they usually do after you've taken a strong liking, or disliking, to a place. What are the top 5 cities you and Meade are considering?

Architecture and design is so subjective. Finding just the right home, with the right look and features, in just the right neighborhood, with all the amenities you want, is very difficult. It becomes a series of compromises.

My wife and I went through our search for 5 years. We had a running list of top 5 places that we wanted to consider moving to. It was a rotating list, with some cities getting dropped off after visiting, and others dropping off one year, then reappearing the next. Some locations were wonderful, but had ridiculous cost of living and tax situations. Others looked so cool, so hip, and then we realized we were not that cool, nor hip. But a couple of communities stayed around near the top of the list. We ended up in one of them and LOVE it. I joke that we live in a great town, in a Stepford Community, but really we hit the lottery on neighbors and ended up loving the home- Stepford look and all.

Still...we tend to keep looking around the country for our next move...somewhere down the road. It never ends...

Freeman Hunt said...

I find most new construction particularly awful.

rehajm said...

If the houses were pleasing, they wouldn't be for sale, or for sale long.

True dat. I was frustrated for years at the crap out there. The new stuff is built to lowest common denominators and tries to appeal to the broadest audience while maximizing profit. Strip out all the interesting architectural details since they don't payback. Cover in two coats of dove white and move on to the next one.

The older stuff is a past look at the same phenomenon. If the really old stuff appeals to you most of the time the details have been stripped out.

We built to spec and had the designer sit with the architect to right size the rooms and the layout. Not one regret. If you can find a custom builder willing to copy a plan that's the cost runner up. A cool prefab and a good builder is the cost winner...

Remember those affordable Life magazine homes? I always wanted to work one of those..

Ann Althouse said...

"It was a sad day when I discovered that my hero was afraid of old chairs"

Ha.

Reminds me of the "Friends" episode, "The One With The Apothecary Table." Phoebe has a phobia about new furniture, and Rachel has to pretend that the "apothecary table" from Pottery Barn is an antique.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

I find this discouraging as well. It probably makes me an irredeemable snob but so much that is built in this country is completely hideous.

Henry said...

There's always the Hearst Castle approach. Modern engineering. Imported coffered ceilings.

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

A friend of mine just moved out to the newer built area in Stapleton. I was actually somewhat impressed with what builders are offering. Mid-century modern! It didn't make me want to vomit. but the urban density would drive me nuts.

Sasquatch said...

Heaven is living in Washington state's "rain shadow" in the Olympic Mountains of the Olympic Peninsula.
Check it out.

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

Marge Carson = :-(

Bernini = :-)

Ann Althouse said...

"You might have to build instead of buy Ann - only want to get exactly what you want."

Building your own doesn't guarantee that you'll like it in the end. You have to make so many decisions, and then you have only YOURSELF to blame. I've done remodeling, and I know the mistakes I made when I had a thousand decisions to make in a very short time.

Also, speaking of time... designing and building a house takes a lot of time. It could be worth it, if you like the activity, if you want that to be your avocation for the next 2 years. I could imagine becoming that person, but is that what I want to do with my time? Only if I'm assured of a great relationship with the architect and the builders and an excellent outcome. But it could be a lot of stress and hassles and then disappointment. We came a bit close to doing that a few years ago, but when we got to looking into the question of the well we'd need and the problem of KARST... I lost heart.

Michael K said...

Tucson has a lot of "territorial style" houses and we bought one in a nice neighborhood. It needed work but the style was what I was looking for . Tucson is insanely hot for one month which is the time to leave. It is also close enough to California to visit kids.

Probably too hot for you.

SDaly said...

What are your "must haves" location wise? Walkable neighborhood? Less brutal winters? Access to (electric) bike paths? Short drive to open space? If you aren't looking to be in a "hot" location, you can find a good inexpensive plot, build what you want, and blog the progress!

EDH said...

"I'm dismayed by how bad the architecture is... I'm afraid I'd have to look out on ugliness. It's really discouraging! ...or because there's some insane furniture that distracts me and scares me."

I always enjoyed the rhyming of "four poster" and "dull torpor... pulling downward"

Like the [Architecture]?

"What a cold and rainy day. Where on earth is the sun hid away?"

Do I need someone here to scold me
or do I need someone who'll grab and pull me out of this four poster dull torpor pulling downward.

For it is such a long time since my better days.
I say my prayers nightly this will pass away.

The color of the sky is grey as I can see through the blinds.
Lift my head from the pillow and then fall again
with a shiver in my bones just thinking about the [architecture].
A quiver in my voice as I cry,

"What a cold and rainy day. Where on earth is the sun hid away?"
I shiver, quiver, and try to wake.

SDaly said...

I've been thinking about moving to the Flagstaff area. I was there recently and loved it.

Ann Althouse said...

"House, then? Not apartment or condo?"

I'm looking at condos too. I want a place that is — as I put it — walk-out interesting. I want to walk out the door (like I do here in Madison) and be able to start a walk in almost any direction and find it interesting from Block 1.

I don't want to just walk around on a sidewalk past this and that suburban house, no matter how nice they are. I grew up in places like that, and I found it stultifying. I don't want to live in a place that feels like — as I call it — the antechamber of death.

chuckR said...

There is nothing wrong with that bedroom that could not be fixed by burning all the furniture in it. What is that stuff, Cattle Baron Victorian?

Ann Althouse said...

"I find it incredible that so many ugly home exist. Colorado is filled with them. The tri-level - it eats whole neighborhoods."

Yes, we have considered Colorado, but whenever I look at the houses, it's depressing. We got married in Eagle, Colorado, and I guess we love that area, but I can't stand the way the buildings look.

It seems that the more scenic the landscape, the worse the houses there are.

Fritz said...

First world problem.

Ann Althouse said...

"You should always choose a house by its location. You can make changes to a house so it's more pleasing to you, but you can't do much about where it is. We wanted a house on a lake with water views. We found a house on a lake with tiny little windows and a porch that was on the other side of the house. A visit from the windows guys and a new wraparound deck with stairs down to a waterfront patio, and we have the house we always wanted. You just need a little vision."

I keep that in mind, but you still need something to work with, and you still have to look at other people's houses.

Remember we already have a house. It's the house to beat. I don't want to waste my time buying a house I don't like, selling the house I love, and working hard on changing the new house into something decent. The whole enterprise is demoralizing.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Eleanor said You should always choose a house by its location. You can make changes to a house so it's more pleasing to you, but you can't do much about where it is.

So true! Climate and location are really everything.

We have friends who are selling their house and moving to a location in Texas to be nearer their children who have moved there. As a result I started looking at the house they are wanting to buy and then other houses on Zillow in that area out of curiosity. (We can't move yet because we have a business, but eventually we might decide just to chuck it all and GTFO of California)

The photos of the homes are either horrific, badly taken, full of clutter, dirty houses or staged so that you can't really see the rooms. They don't show the outside of the house, landscaping or street view very well. The floor plans suck in the older homes.

In OUR budges we would be looking at an older home and probably one where the kitchen and bathrooms need to be remodeled. Do we, at our ages, have time or energy for this?

Plan B, when we sell the business, is to just buy a nice 5th wheel and tow vehicle, rent a storage locker and travel for several years. Actually, this is moving up to Plan A the more we think about it.

MadisonMan said...

Well, there's that Shades of Grey house in suburban Philly that's on the market, and it's making the social media rounds right now.

Decide where you want to live. Decide how much square footage you need. Multiply by .75, because you don't need as much as you think.

Eventually you have to take a leap of faith though. Change is a good thing.

Ann Althouse said...

When I bought this house in 1986, it has A LOT wrong with it, and I have put a lot of work and money into making it more nearly right. I know what's involved. It's expensive and it's time-consuming. I value my time above all.

Jim said...

Read the first post at 430am. Bonfire hijacking the thread was nice. Great idea to re read it after so many years. The next thread pops up, and its a photo of a late 70's early 80's sex dungeon bedroom. coincidence? For a second, not having had enough coffee, i thought I was reading Drudge.
But more on point- agreed that living in a neighborhood that is walk friendly is important. Here on Maui, gates, and lack of people on the street are the norm now. Nothing to see, and the housing being built goes property line to property line, and up. Lots of new age type houses. Very insular, very little connection to the neighborhood or to the rest of the island.

Karen of Texas said...

I would guess that what makes it even more difficult is that you currently have a very nice place. From bits and pieces of photos you've shared, your current home looks lovely. And Meade has done wonders with the landscape. You aren't moving away from a craptastic house, you're moving from a beautiful home. You want at least a lateral move. Your artist's eye would also make it difficult. You react to all the faults and flaws that most people simply don't see.

Ralph L said...

Althouse digs FLW, but she also needs a nice yard for the hubs to play in.

Henry said...

walk-out interesting is a great framing device.

For some people that means living in the city.

For me, it would mean living in a small town in a howling wilderness.

SDaly said...

I loved our current street when we moved in. The area was open for development in the 50's, but the original inhabitants had their own houses designed, there were a lot of different, modest but interesting styles. The houses were relatively big (3,500 - 4,000 sq. feet), but low profile.

Now, each time a house comes up for sale, a builder buys it, knocks down the original house, and replaces it with 3 story, mangled roof-line monstrosity (8,000 - 10,000 sq. ft). We used to look out of our bedroom window to trees and sky, now we see looming, hideous architecture.

Omaha1 said...

In order to buy a house that suited me in Kansas, where I now live, I had to find one way below my budget in order to have money left for repairs & renovations. I wanted two baths, at least two main floor bedrooms, and very few stairs to enter the home. I ended up buying one that needed extensive foundation repairs but the price was right. It is over 100 years old but then I love old houses (except for the maintenance and utility bills LOL).

The person who bought my house in Omaha basically gutted it. It kind of made me sad to see what she did, because I loved it the way it was, but she made the main floor into an open floor plan where it used to be living room, dining room, kitchen and entry. At least she didn't rip out all of the hundred year old cabinets and woodwork.

So...consider buying something cheap and doing a lot of expensive renovations. If the basic floor plan and the location are right for you that is a good option.

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

A small house on wheels starts to make sense.

Ann Althouse said...

"What happened? You used to love your fisheye lens. Come to think of it, we haven't seen that for a few years."

I love to use the fisheye lens to find new things, things that excite me and feel beautiful to me. But real estate photographers are not doing anything artistic. They are trying to make the room look large and exercising poor judgment about how much distortion works when you're showing a room that you want people to feel they can live in. For a while, I thought I was seeing houses modified for wheelchair use, given the strange new width of doors.

Bill, Republic of Texas said...

Why are you moving? If you're in a house you love and in a neighborhood you love why move?

If it's winter, (but then why Colorado) then look at a second home or condo and be snow birds.

The first question about moving is why. After that everything else follows.

DanDotDan said...

If you haven't been there and back, check out McMansion Hell:
Go to McMansion Hell

Ann Althouse said...

"There's always the Hearst Castle approach. Modern engineering. Imported coffered ceilings."

I want something more like the Design Within Reach catalogue.

I want a lot of big windows that look out on reasonably good views. I want rectangular rooms that don't do anything weird. I want a kitchen that's not garish and that has the refrigerator properly built in (that is, flush with the cabinetry and not sticking out — if I have one pet peeve, it's the refrigerator that sticks out!!!).

Ann Althouse said...

"Probably too hot for you."

You got that right.

Bill, Republic of Texas said...

Buying an older fixer upper is like dating a cocaine addicted stripper.

It will be a helluva ride and cost a lot of money but in the end the itch has been scratched and you arrive at a better place.

wildswan said...

There's site called McMansion Hell which pictures and analyzes the latest dread architectural fashion. http://mcmansionhell.com/ It won't help you find a place but it's amusing to read when you are looking for a place and your mind is on architecture. It explains a lot about the houses going up right now.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Althouse: Remodeling ""It's expensive and it's time-consuming. I value my time above all."

Yes. I am one year older than Althouse. My husband and I discuss the idea of tackling even a small remodel. The TIME and energy it takes. Is this how we want to spend some years of our remaining time on this earth? We only have so much sand left in our hourglass.

Likewise, we have built this home and have made it exactly (or almost exactly) what we like. Moving just to move seems to be less attractive.

The 5th Wheel traveling however. That is something we might try out before making an irreversible decision to sell.

tim in vermont said...

I like that about Boston. It’s “walk out interesting.” In the South End I can walk to Fenway Park, I can walk to Copley, I can walk down Washington Street, I can walk lots of places. If I get tired of walking, I jump on a train. When I am in Boston, I probably walk five miles a day, just because, not because I am forcing myself to do it. There are nice little bars to watch ball games or grab a snack. You should look in the North End of Boston, or go spend a couple of days there.

Ann Althouse said...

The main reason for moving out of this house is NOT that Madison gets cold in the winter. It's that the house is much larger than we need and the property taxes feel confiscatory (especially considering that we don't need to be here for work and we don't use all the space we have). Just so you know what I'm talking about, we pay over $18,000 a year just on property tax.

Ann Althouse said...

"What are your "must haves" location wise? Walkable neighborhood? Less brutal winters? Access to (electric) bike paths? Short drive to open space? If you aren't looking to be in a "hot" location, you can find a good inexpensive plot, build what you want, and blog the progress!"

Yeah, I thought about that back in the day when I got freaked out by KARST.

Meade said...

That second photo seems nice. Let's rent it for a year and see if we like the neighborhood.

Omaha1 said...

If you do buy something that needs a lot of renovations you should consider renting a place while all of that is going on. That makes it possible for you to supervise the work without having to live in the middle of it.

I should note it is challenging when you move to a new city to find honest and reliable contractors who do good work. Usually the good ones are very busy and not cheap.

When you look at a house consider the possibilities and not just what is already there. You can change it to fit your own preferences if the location and basic layout are OK for you.

Phidippus said...

DB@H is correct, that "stage" (actually, a baldachin) was designed by Bernini. Not so out of place, given its location.

Florence said...

Random useless info — that monstrosity of a bed is from Ashley Furniture’s North Shore collection. It’s been on the market for over 20 years (maybe more) and it’s still one of their most popular collections. They are likely to never stop making it....

Ann Althouse said...

"Heaven is living in Washington state's "rain shadow" in the Olympic Mountains of the Olympic Peninsula."

Yes, that is one of the things we're doing. Not impressed by the houses though.

tim in vermont said...

Cambridge is pretty good too, as Titus can attest. Then again, since you can’t smell, you could take advantages of some bargains in New Jersey! (I kid, I kid..)

Darrell said...

Here's a nice $2.2 million dollar house on Nantucket Island.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BnNfW5zdWck

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

We talk constantly of the next place we're going to live and it's a tough knot to untie. We're picky like Althouse and have a lot of requirements. After a great deal of travel and living in very different places, I have determined that the kind of city I prefer was built in the nineteenth century, in the North, and had a lot of industrial and financial wealth right out of the gate to support the arts and general genteel living. There are usually well-seasoned and well-loved prewar neighborhoods, libraries, arts institutions, parks, mature trees, and a general lived-in patina of good quality of life, and a steady rate of growth without boom and bust cycles that involve destruction of historical neighborhoods (looking at you, Seattle) followed by blight when fortunes shift. There is a good supply of both residential and commercial buildings which went up when skilled immigrant labor was cheap and craftsmanship for the sake of craftsmanship was a thing.

Cities that meet these general characteristics, however, have horrible winters which is a problem for Mr. Pants and high taxes which are annoying at best and infuriating at worst.

We are also very concerned about education and want to put our two youngest children (the older four are much older and I share them with my exhusband so can't make unilateral decisions about education) in private school, but I'm extremely picky about that. I have found, after looking for years, a school in the Twin Cities area that satisfies me and the TC meet all the above requirements, but then we have the winters problem.

If the school year were reversed and we could spend nine months of the year in St. Paul and the winters in a condo in Scottsdale (where husband wants to move) it would be perfect, but, here we are. We have talked about spending most of the year there and spending the summers in Minnesota instead, but I can't find a school in the entire Phoenix metro area that is what I want for the kiddos. I am too old and tired to homeschool.

Most of the country is not under consideration because we don't want to live on the coasts, we don't want to live in the mountain west, we definitely don't want to live in the south, and anyway most of the more prosperous areas in the south are brand new and they are ugly as sin. Strip malls, no trees and cookie cutter houses as far as the eye can see. Gross.

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

Building costs here have shot up thru the roof. $300.00+ per square foot and up up up.

Michael K said...


Blogger Ann Althouse said...
"Probably too hot for you."

You got that right.


33 this morning.

Robert Cook said...

"Most people have bad taste. Builders build fast and cheap to appeal to the taste of the market."

rehajm said...

I value my time above all.

Yah. Not recognizing TNSTAAFL leads to house paralysis.

Seeing Red said...

We have probably another 10 years to go before retirement and I’m already saying out loud “my next kitchen.”

I already have generalities for my retirement home. I hope I have the pocketbook.

mockturtle said...

I agree the furniture pictured is butt-ugly but surely it could be removed. I'll bet a sleek condo with a view would serve you better than a house.

tim in vermont said...

State College PA is also a nice place nobody thinks about.

Ann Althouse said...

"You aren't moving away from a craptastic house, you're moving from a beautiful home. You want at least a lateral move."

Yes. That sets a high standard.

One alternative we've thought of — and speaking of bloggable, this would be — is to sell this house and move to a rented apartment in a city we want to experience, live there for a year, then do the same thing somewhere else. It would require whittling our possessions down to something conveniently movable. Kind of like those people who move into an RV and make that their only home, but with reasonable room and running water. But my standard for the apartment would be high. And I would have to worry that it would freak me out.

John Borell said...

"I want a lot of big windows that look out on reasonably good views. I want rectangular rooms that don't do anything weird. I want a kitchen that's not garish and that has the refrigerator properly built in (that is, flush with the cabinetry and not sticking out — if I have one pet peeve, it's the refrigerator that sticks out!!!)."

We looked at 200+ houses (open houses and showings) before we found what we wanted.

We even owned a lot and had designed a house. That, actually, was most helpful; sketching out plans (I even downloaded an architect program and laid them out) so we knew what we were looking for when we found it.

We too found most people's furniture hideous (we're Room and Board kind of people, that style isn't too popular where we are) and most layouts unthoughtful.

And there is no way my wife would tolerate a fridge that jutted out from the counter. Built in, cabinet depth only.

Ralph L said...

I'm not sure you can get landscape and urbanish walkability in the same house outside of an English village. In books, they manage to have some intelligent or interesting people, too.

Snowbirding is expensive, and you'd need good housesitters because your houses will decay when unoccupied, plus worry.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

MadisonMan said...

Well, there's that Shades of Grey house in suburban Philly that's on the market, and it's making the social media rounds right now.

I had to look up the address on that one. Turns out, I grew up less than a half mile from it.

Meade said...

Maybe we can move in with the John Borells.

tcrosse said...

After my Mom died my Dad moved from the Jersey Shore to the Seattle area to be near my sister. After a while, he said, "There's no Jews or Italians here. What the hell am I supposed to eat?"

Meade said...

Seriously, let's just offer ourselves as houseguests to all your fine wonderful readers. Just think how bloggable THAT would be.

bagoh20 said...

That stage for the Pope just screams out "Jesus". It's all spirituality, humility and love for the downtrodden and rejection of the materiel world.

chuckR said...

Antechamber of death? We here in Florida refer to it as God's waiting room. My wife and sister look after my MIL - it is our turn because we don't have winter at all, unlike western NYS, where she summers.
The house we moved to last year is absolutely undistinguished, but highly functional. Single story, it features one step each at three entries, a minimum of space wasted in hallways and a hip roof because, hurricanes. OTOH, it also features, like so many houses here, a ridiculous stucco'ed porte cochere front entry. Its a lot different than the previous 3 story timber framed house we had, but much more practical and welcoming to MIL.

Omaha1 said...

Dust Bunny Queen said, "Plan B, when we sell the business, is to just buy a nice 5th wheel and tow vehicle, rent a storage locker and travel for several years. Actually, this is moving up to Plan A the more we think about it."

I am kind of in agreement with DBQ on this. A high end RV with a tow along vehicle sounds pretty good to me. All the comforts of home without having to commit to a certain location. You can follow the good weather and if you really like a certain location there are places you can stay long term if you want to.

If that lifestyle ends up not being enjoyable for you it is always possible to sell the RV and buy a home somewhere you like. Maybe similar to renting apartments in locations that appeal to you, but with a bit more flexibility.

bagoh20 said...

Better than nothing is a high standard.

rehajm said...

I love that Vatican comparison!

I just finished up our place and there were 3-4 email episodes to the designer on ‘How My House Is Game of Thrones’. It was well received...

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Althouse: One alternative we've thought of — and speaking of bloggable, this would be — is to sell this house and move to a rented apartment in a city we want to experience, live there for a year, then do the same thing somewhere else.

This is a good idea. Living for a while in the potential area to get the feel of it.

This is also one of the points we (husband and I) have discussed about moving around in a 5th wheel. Try out a location. "Park" for a few months and explore the area in some depth. The people, the geographic area, the climate.

Everyone has different likes and dislikes. What is touted as being a great place to live in many magazines or websites would be Hell on earth for us.

We would never ever ever ever want to live in an apartment or condo. Urban living is completely off the table. However, for us, we do need to downsize our acreage which is getting to be a bit much for us to manage without hiring helpers. A small town within a reasonable driving distance of a larger town (not city) would be a good solution.

We also realize what we WANT may not exactly going to be what we NEED or get.

tim in vermont said...

There is always a premium to live in a walkable neighborhood and a double premium to live in a nice place. Worth paying though. What’s money for?

Meade said...

"Snowbirding is expensive, and you'd need good housesitters because your houses will decay when unoccupied, plus worry."

I'll say. Neighbors of ours are gone half the year. 2 years ago they came home to find an entire community of raccoons living in their house. And I'm not talking small cute Disney-like raccoons. Some of these suckers weighed in more than a well-fed Labrador Retriever. And by well-fed, I mean well-fed but under-exercised.

Jeff Gee said...

Several decades ago, my uncle stopped smoking and had cataract surgery during the same summer. "It turns out every looks shitty and smells bad," he said.

I also look forward to the Return of the Fisheye Lens.

Anthony said...

We just went through the house-buying process in the Phoenix area. Lawdy, there are some. . . . . interesting houses. Lots of McMansions here, which is what we ended up with (1999). I like it though. Needs some work. We need to retile most of it, as it's got a LOT of carpeting. The thing that's bugging me is, our realtor (now friend) and the tiler says we should put the same tile everywhere. Which sounds utterly boring to me, so I'm trying to reconcile what it should look like to eventually sell with my desires for something I don't find booooooring. I don't have weird tastes, like the copper and mosaic tile bathroom sinks we saw in one place. 8-0

Hey, keep a condo in Madison for thee summers and move down here!

Unknown said...

My adjacent neighbor is doing a complete remodel. I watched a crew of 4 skilled carpenters spend two weeks on the roof alone. Then one day I came home and noticed everything had been torn down, all the material used was piled up as trash. Must have failed inspection? What a disaster!

My neighborhood is not an interesting walk, but with a 5 minute bike ride it is interesting. I walk the dog and while the hood is not so interesting, the neighbors are, and I know them all from the dog walks. My friend lives in one of the country's best walkable 'hoods, in Menlo Park bordering Palo Alto. There is a problem, though. Enough bad people are walking by to make property crime a real problem. He cannot reliably have stuff shipped to him without getting it stolen. And cars are always getting broken into. Vibrancy has a downside.

JimT Utah said...

I worked in an office with both engineers and architects in the 1970's. I was not impressed by the stuff the architect side of the place was turning out. Most interestingly, I found out over time that architects didn't live in the kind of houses they were designing. Almost all of them lived in big, old houses with large rooms, high ceilings, and no closets.

Phidippus said...

I am a recent condo owner who moved back to a single family home six years ago. My advice is, don't spend another minute thinking about that alternative.

We grew to hate the condo. Have you ever lived in a row house? I did early in life, so it didn't seem so abnormal to me at first, but my wife grew up in a house with an acre of trees and grass around it. She could never get used to the sea of asphalt visible from the front windows and the continuous stream of bizarre, predatory, or threatening neighbors next door. They'd be ready to pounce as soon as she got home from work.

Consider: If you sit on your back deck or patio (if you have one) your next-door neighbors, who are always very interested for some reason, will hear and listen to every word you say. If they smoke, you will smell it. If they fight, you will wonder whether this is the day you should call the cops. If they want to drink and party all night and you want to sleep, tough. And remember, Meade will not be allowed to plant so much as a petunia in the "common area" around your house. Want to paint the place a different color, or change what kind of curtains you have? Forget it.

Condo associations generally don't build a reserve capital fund for those high-ticket items like roofs and windows a decade or two down the road. So when they need replacement, you get hit with a special assessment or see suddenly increased fees. The financial pressures tempt them to employ semi-skilled knuckleheads to do one-off repairs, rather than planning ahead and hiring a real contractor to do all the units in a block at once. You have your own favorite stonemason or carpenter? Not your decision to make, sorry.

We paid $3000 a year in condo fees on a 1600 sq. foot townhouse (two stories), neither new nor luxurious, that had real estate taxes that were already north of $6000 (this is NJ, after all). And they can and will put a lien on your property if you don't pay them.

In addition, given the above, they are often hard to sell once they get some years on them. We were grateful--bordering on ecstatic--to break even (considering the cost of money) to sell ours after 17 years in the place.

Stay away from condos. Stay far away.

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MadisonMan said...

the property taxes feel confiscatory

They feel that way because they are.

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

Spacing!
Most builders don't give any thoughts to the refrigerator.
Most refrigerators are deep, even the so-called "cabinet depth" refrigerators. Cabinet depth is 24" standard. There is no such thing as a 24" deep refrigerator. Also, a refrigerator needs a few inches in back to "breathe" & to house connections to water and electricity. (you never push a refrigerator all the way flush to a wall - just like you never do with a washer and a dryer)
So there's that.
A kitchen designer (a good one) will generally ask for a list of appliances ahead of time, to consider the specifications and fit before cabinets and layout begin. It puts the burden on the client/home owner to make those selections up front.
For built-in, Sub-zero makes the best, but Sub-Zero comes with a hefty price tag. They can be paneled to look like kitchen cabinetry and almost vanish. Lower price point refrigerators often do the job, (like LG or Samsung or whatever) but you really need to consider the over-all depth! and if there is an opportunity to move walls or re-configure cabinet placement to give the refrigerator at least a "flush with the counter" appearance, do it up front. Don't rely on the builder to think about it. They never do.
I agree that it's an issue of importance. I also like a cook-top/oven against a wall with a good ventilation system, against a wall. I, generally, do not like it when cook-tops are located on islands with a giant ugly hood hanging down in the middle of the kitchen. But that's one of my many peeves.

Ralph L said...

Built in, cabinet depth only.
My house had a small fridge niche from the 20's. I took the whole wall out for a breakfast/entry area and had a cabinet made to surround the fridge and raise it 4 inches (which I heartily recommend for tall people). The color matches the walls so it doesn't dominate the room.

Anthony said...

Actually, you can quite effectively snowbird just within Arizona. Spend the summers up in the high country (Flagstaff, Payson, etc.) where it's much cooler, and winter down in the valley where it's not all cold and snowy.

Ann Althouse said...

"I loved our current street when we moved in. The area was open for development in the 50's, but the original inhabitants had their own houses designed, there were a lot of different, modest but interesting styles. The houses were relatively big (3,500 - 4,000 sq. feet), but low profile. Now, each time a house comes up for sale, a builder buys it, knocks down the original house, and replaces it with 3 story, mangled roof-line monstrosity (8,000 - 10,000 sq. ft). We used to look out of our bedroom window to trees and sky, now we see looming, hideous architecture."

That's terrible. I loathe the houses with all those roof peaks that don't mean anything. I want as close to a glass box as I can get.

"Why are you moving? If you're in a house you love and in a neighborhood you love why move?"

That's the position I keep coming back to. Main reasons to think about it: 1. Getting older (might need something more manageable in the future though we're fine now), 2. Property taxes are terrible, 3. For fun and variety, and new starting point to explore from, 4. Strategy about cashing in on the big investment.

"The first question about moving is why. After that everything else follows."

But the answer to "why" is conditional. It must beat the house we already have.

"... McMansion Hell..."

Yes, I know it well. It's not that relevant to our enterprise, because we don't even want a large house. I'd like something under 2,000 square feet that is very high quality. Often smaller places are built to be inexpensive — like they're a "starter house" and you're only there because you don't have more money. I want a place that's designed and finished to the highest standard, but small. And I don't mean a "tiny house." I'd like a house that's built more like a luxury condo (in the modern style, not a condo with a lot of bullshit trimmings).

Ann Althouse said...


"I like that about Boston. It’s “walk out interesting.” In the South End I can walk to Fenway Park, I can walk to Copley, I can walk down Washington Street, I can walk lots of places. If I get tired of walking, I jump on a train. When I am in Boston, I probably walk five miles a day, just because, not because I am forcing myself to do it. There are nice little bars to watch ball games or grab a snack. You should look in the North End of Boston, or go spend a couple of days there."

Yeah, I lived in Boston for a semester (in the Back Bay area). I loved its walk-out interestingness. I walked to work (at BU) and could take different routes and find restaurants on my way home. I was on Hereford Street, just around the corner from Newbury Street. Walking down Newbury Street — that was great!

"If you do buy something that needs a lot of renovations you should consider renting a place while all of that is going on. That makes it possible for you to supervise the work without having to live in the middle of it."

Yes, and we could also have 2 houses for a while. It's not like it will be instantaneous to sell this house, and we can live here while we work on the other place. We might even want to have 2 houses for a while.

"I should note it is challenging when you move to a new city to find honest and reliable contractors who do good work. Usually the good ones are very busy and not cheap."

Which is a reason to buy something that's already done. I really don't want the stress. And I'm used to Madison, where competence is very high.

"Random useless info — that monstrosity of a bed is from Ashley Furniture’s North Shore collection. It’s been on the market for over 20 years (maybe more) and it’s still one of their most popular collections. They are likely to never stop making it...."

Oh, my. You see, that shows what I was afraid of. American just has horrible taste.

"I have determined that the kind of city I prefer was built in the nineteenth century, in the North, and had a lot of industrial and financial wealth right out of the gate to support the arts and general genteel living. There are usually well-seasoned and well-loved prewar neighborhoods, libraries, arts institutions, parks, mature trees, and a general lived-in patina of good quality of life, and a steady rate of growth without boom and bust cycles that involve destruction of historical neighborhoods (looking at you, Seattle) followed by blight when fortunes shift. There is a good supply of both residential and commercial buildings which went up when skilled immigrant labor was cheap and craftsmanship for the sake of craftsmanship was a thing."

Can you share your list of cities you've found that meet that standard?

Meade said...

Of the homes I've lived in, so far, my favorites have been a tent in Colorado, a log cabin in North Carolina, and a horse barn in Ohio. In that order.

Meade said...

The tent I lived in was under 2,000 square feet that is very high quality/

mockturtle said...

If you don't like looking at other houses--and I don't--do what we did after leaving Seattle: Move to the rural mountains. If you don't need the city, this is the life. Yes, it was 38 miles one way to get groceries but well worth it for us.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

Snowbirding is expensive, and you'd need good housesitters because your houses will decay when unoccupied, plus worry.

If you have a house that's empty part of the year, and you've cleansed it of excess personal belongings, and you have a trustworthy local person who can act as your agent and problem-solver, you can offset the cost of the second home by making it an Air BnB. If it's allowed where you live, of course.

We are going to San Diego for spring break and given that we have a large family and hotels are impractical when we all travel together we decided on an Air BnB. The owner inherited the house and prefers his condo in the city, so by opening up his unused property he's getting almost $4k before expenses for our week's stay. Not bad.

stevew said...

There is a lot of bad and ugly real estate in the US. The woman that runs this site, http://mcmansionhell.com/, keeps herself quite busy exploring the ugliest.

My wife and I are casually looking for a place in which to downsize and so are on mailing lists from several realtors in the area. We get a few every other day or so (emails are light Monday through Wednesday, volume increases after that through the weekend). I am often amazed at the amount of what I consider to be crap that is offered in these emails. And don't get me started on the prices people are asking for said crap!

The likelihood that we will move any time soon is quite low, and sinking. Current thinking is that we'll wait until I retire, which is 3-5 years from now.

Gabriel said...

@Sasquatch:Heaven is living in Washington state's "rain shadow" in the Olympic Mountains of the Olympic Peninsula.
Check it out.


Good thing you specified the rain shadow you meant. The Cascade rain shadow is desert. It has its charms but it's not for everyone, and they get winter there. Not winter like Wisconsin but still.

@Ann: Not impressed by the houses though.

If you're looking for a walkable town experience with lovely houses, that's probably not easy to find on the Olympic Peninsula. The economy there for a hundred years was based on hard work: agriculture, logging, fishing.

rehajm said...

I want a place that's designed and finished to the highest standard, but small.

That's either a pre-fab, a bungalow neighborhood in an established community or a new community re-creating those neighborhoods from scratch. There aren't many...

buwaya said...

I wouldn’t mind having something like St. Peter’s as my living room. That is, along with the income to afford the upkeep.
I would keep open house every day, and talk to everyone.
What’s wrong with grandeur, and a court? It would be fun.

Matt said...

They say Western North Carolina is lovely.

Freeman Hunt said...

"The older stuff is a past look at the same phenomenon. If the really old stuff appeals to you most of the time the details have been stripped out."

We needed a landscape architect to design a new drainage system when we bought our house. We had a few out. One, whose quote was absurd anyway, came inside and talked about how, if it were him, he'd strip out all the architectural details inside. Those were the things that made us want to buy the house! Next!

narayanan said...

Where is Howard Roark when you need him.

http://review.monadnock.net/whatis/rand.html

Look up Monadnock Valley episode in The Fountainhead

Freeman Hunt said...

For great details, you find a neighborhood that was, long ago, for millionaires but isn't anymore.

Bad Lieutenant said...

the photograph is taken with an extremely wide angle lens (so widened and curved it nauseates me)



One wonders what you would do if your life were, or had ever been, hard.

tim in vermont said...

Can you share your list of cities you've found that meet that standard?

Cleveland
Pittsburgh
Rochester, NY maybe. (Kodak)

Achilles said...

You all need to look at Bellingham and anacortes.

Ralph L said...

$3000 a year in condo fees
My dad was paying $900 a month for a 70's 2 bed high rise in NoVa, and it didn't include TV/phone/internet. The step-monster wanted it because security and size made it a hassle to visit compared to the 5 bedroom house my dad loved. The dog spent several years with me.

buwaya said...

There is a great deal of “walk out interesting” in San Francisco, but the vast bulk of it often seems like it’s been attacked by the body-snatchers. Nice houses, no people. You have to take the streetcar or BART to somewhere.

Paul Zrimsek said...

I used to follow McMansion Hell, but as time went on it got to be less and less about critiquing the work of paid architects, and more and more about snarking at ordinary people about their decor choices.

What does KARST stand for? If it weren't for the all-caps, I'd have thought you were worried about your house disappearing into a sinkhole.

jaydub said...

You need to think outside the box. Why is buying a house in another location a priority? Why not sell the house and move to someplace that has the quality of life you're looking for and rent a place for a while. If you're interested in being able to walk to interesting places in any direction no place beats Europe in that regard. Small town Spain, Portugal, Southern France, the Bavarian/Austrian/Italian/Slovenian alps and even Germany are reasonably priced and worth looking at. You're in good health, you have no grandchildren to make you feel guilty, and you have the income to live an adventurous life in retirement. My wife and I have done exactly that for the last five years, and it's been the best time of our life. We're moving back to the US in the spring, but we'll certainly come back for a few months at a time until we're too old to do so, or until AOC grounds all the planes, whichever comes first. We're going to sell our principal house in NC and move into our beach condo on the Gulf Coast. We don't plan on buying anything else in the US unless it fits into our near term travel/adventure plans. When we're too old to do that, then we'll find a retirement community that works for us and is not too far from the grandkids.

±Ᵽ™ said...

It's frustration from urban sprawl, that creates bedroom communities. We were unofficially promised flying cars. But now it looks like the government will require a license for a travoy to drag groceries home from the mega store 6 miles away.

It seems living in a skyscraper is perfect. The tv news never shows anything bad happening there. sarcasm

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

This house has been on the market for a while. It's lovely, if you like traditional styling.
Great walk-ability and only 3.6 million.

Ann Althouse said...

"Seriously, let's just offer ourselves as houseguests to all your fine wonderful readers. Just think how bloggable THAT would be."

If we lived to blog the tale.

"... moving around in a 5th wheel...."

I won't live in a camper. I don't care how nice or how big it is. Do not want.

I don't see why it is ever needed. You can rent an AirBnB for a month or more if you don't want to rent an apartment or buy something.

I don't need a lot, but I want a real kitchen, a king size bed, an extra bedroom, at least 2 bathrooms (with running water), and a good place for my motorized sit/stand desk and desktop computer.

"I am a recent condo owner who moved back to a single family home six years ago. My advice is, don't spend another minute thinking about that alternative...."

Thanks for the stern warning!

"For built-in, Sub-zero makes the best, but Sub-Zero comes with a hefty price tag. They can be paneled to look like kitchen cabinetry and almost vanish. Lower price point refrigerators often do the job, (like LG or Samsung or whatever) but you really need to consider the over-all depth! and if there is an opportunity to move walls or re-configure cabinet placement to give the refrigerator at least a "flush with the counter" appearance, do it up front. Don't rely on the builder to think about it. They never do."

What we have now is in fact a Subzero that's paneled the same as the cabinets. I think it was about $10,000 when I remodeled the kitchen in 1991. It still works (and looks) like new. To buy it now would be more than $20,000 or whatever crazy price. The #1 thing that made me choose it is that it's super-quiet. It's awful the noise refrigerators add to a home. I'd also pay a lot to have heating and air conditioning that were as quiet as possible. (Something else I paid a lot for and would miss if I didn't have it in a new home is a hot water system that never runs out of hot water... and a big deep bathtub.)

roesch/voltaire said...

Several of my friends who have retired are looking to move only to discover how nice it is to live in the bubble especially during spring,summer and fall. Different solutions include: One couple bought a condo In Atlanta and moved into smaller house here to make ends meet, another now spends at least a month in San Diego while keeping home here, and another moved to Tucson where she found living more reasonable and warmer then here. I like Boston but the price of condos on Beacon Hill are outrageous and new faculty we know can not afford to live near the universities. My friends who live in NYC can only afford condos in Queens unless they had the luck to inherit a rent controlled unit. You will need at least a million to get a toe hold there, My thought, and one we entertain is Asheville, a funky city , nice to walk in and full of interesting homes. But always we would want to keep a condo here for summer and fall,

selfanalyst said...

Hyde Park OHIO
https://www.sibcycline.com/Listing/CIN/1607377/3422-Pape-Ave-Hyde-Park-OH-45208
https://www.sibcycline.com/Listing/CIN/1603161/2136-Madison-Rd-B-Hyde-Park-OH-45208
https://www.sibcycline.com/Listing/CIN/1602551/2378-Madison-Rd-C-D-Hyde-Park-OH-45208
https://www.sibcycline.com/Listing/CIN/1602313/3832-Broadview-Dr-Hyde-Park-OH-45208

bleh said...

Why Asheville, NC?

Henry said...

Can you share your list of cities you've found that meet that standard?

Sounds like Syracuse, New York.

* * *

One of the most fun walk-out interesting cities I've lived in was Newport RI. You have to manage the tourist season, but the combination of events, people watching, history, and instant ocean are pretty cool.

No real-estate agent will give you the time of day, though, unless you have a million dollars to spend minimum.

Ann Althouse said...

"What does KARST stand for? If it weren't for the all-caps, I'd have thought you were worried about your house disappearing into a sinkhole."

It's just in caps because I scream when I say it. I am talking about the geology in Blue Mounds, Wisconsin and what it means for well water or whatever horrors I've buried my memory of.

"Small town Spain, Portugal, Southern France, the Bavarian/Austrian/Italian/Slovenian alps and even Germany are reasonably priced and worth looking at."

Nice idea, but Meade won't leave the country. Whether I would is irrelevant, so I don't have to think realistically about it.

Caligula said...

When last shopping for houses, we got really cynical after seeing so many basement walls covered with fresh paint to hide the high-water marks. But we mostly looked at older houses which, although they may not be any higher quality than newer ones, at least tend to be less pretentious, without all those fake luxury-signifiers that seem to be present in newer construction.

Of course, older houses have their own drawbacks. But, many of these can (with some money and effort) be fixed. And so, the distinction between "defects that can never be fixed" vs. "defects that could be, and perhaps will be, fixed" became the essential divider between "worth another look" and quick dismissal.

Trumpit said...

Global Warming will eventually turn Madison into another Sedona, but why wait. Git along little dogies.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HrludWIux8M

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Git_Along,_Little_Dogies

tcrosse said...

Old real-estate gag:
Syphilis, Gonorrhea, Condominium. Which one is not like the others?
Answer: you can eventually get rid of Syphilis and Gonorrhea.

Ann Althouse said...

"My thought, and one we entertain is Asheville, a funky city , nice to walk in and full of interesting homes."

That is, in fact, the main place I've been looking at for months and that I've become very discouraged about. The houses are terrible. I've looked at a hundred sets of photographs, only clicking through where I thought there was potential, looking at a wide range of prices, and the design is so bad. It is Asheville that I'm mainly talking about in the post.

stevew said...

Your list of desired attributes and features is short, simple, and, seemingly, achievable, yet your experience of looking is more similar to the proverbial searching for a needle in a haystack. Compromise may be the only choice. Or staying put.

Not easy finding what we want, that's for sure.

tcrosse said...

We really liked Santa Fe, NM. But there's no middle class there.

Ralph L said...

Meade won't leave the country

Lara: He will never leave Russia!

tim in vermont said...

If you are looking at Asheville, you should think about Charlotte or Savannah. Those are some walkable cities with some architecture.

Michael said...

Tim in Vermont is right that some of the best, and least expensive, housing stock is in those old industrial cities. The problem is that they cost a fortune to heat! Many are large enough to have ballrooms. He left off Buffalo and St. Louis.

Jack Wayne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
tim in vermont said...

Not Charlotte! Charleston.

Jack Wayne said...

I have no empathy this “problem”. I have moved a lot in my life and a house is a place where I live. I eat and sleep. As long as I have room for my stuff, a decent kitchen and bathrooms I don’t care what it looks like. As long as I can sell it when I need to, I’m good. Wanting a house to suit some esthetic is foreign to me.

Ralph L said...

The mountainy area south of Asheville into SC has been big for retirement, golf, and summer house developments for decades, and now older small towns are getting into the act piecemeal.

Ralph L said...

Tim, she said humidity was Right Out a while ago.

rehajm said...

Yah- Savannah, Beaufort, Bluffton, Charleston. Cool and walkable but hurricane insurance.

Asheville is Madison politics, but at a slower pace, y'all...

Camden, Portland, Bristol, Providence. Williamstown? I expect the property tax is bad. Same for Stockbridge, Gt. Barrington...

Missoula, Big Sky. Bozeman has cool smaller house neighborhoods. Anaconda. Coeur D'Alene. Sandpoint.

D. Gorton said...

You are an intellectual who prizes ideas and experiences - not to mention one of the most acute parsers of rhetoric I have ever read. Your interests cannot simply be in a house. You must want an environment.

I suspect that you are no longer interested in the world that Madison represents, and have a fraying relationship with friends and neighbors. You are becoming adrift.

That's great. Find a region that has challenging and interesting people. That doesn't have a great deal to do with petite bourgeois housing. A residence is secondary to the life you live.

bagoh20 said...

Detroit has some excellent bargains on large classical mid-century homes. You could get a mansion for what you probably spend on coffee in a year.

What? What's wrong with Detroit?

Ignorance is Bliss said...

I would second Pittsburgh as a nice city. Stuff going on all the time. Lots of different, interesting neighborhoods. I was there in college, so didn't really look at it from a home-buying perspective.

ALP said...

I know what you mean. We have been 'looking' (Redfin surfing) for some time while I went through the process of selling my condo. Very little pleases us - our thing is kitchens. You have to spend so much fucking money for a mini-mansion to get a decent sized kitchen. Too many narrow, dinky kitchens.

66 said...

Why the gratuitous (and ignorant) shot at the pope? That canopy marks the spot of St. Peter’s tomb. The canopy also covers the high altar of St. Peter’s Basilica. To refer to it as a stage displays a fundamental misunderstanding of its use.

Meade said...

What's wrong with the word "stage?"

Ann Althouse said...

"Why the gratuitous (and ignorant) shot at the pope? That canopy marks the spot of St. Peter’s tomb. The canopy also covers the high altar of St. Peter’s Basilica. To refer to it as a stage displays a fundamental misunderstanding of its use."

The literal meaning of "stage" is a place to stand. The misunderstanding is yours!

The Cracker Emcee Refulgent said...

Did you check out Pt. Townshend, WA, Althouse?

Bob Boyd said...

"Seriously, let's just offer ourselves as houseguests to all your fine wonderful readers. "

Just drive around the country and when the sun starts to go down, look for a rat sticker in the window.

Ralph L said...

The Baldichino was made from bronze ripped off the Pantheon's roof and ceiling.

The canopy also covers the high altar of St. Peter’s Basilica.

No, that's behind it, here Also by Bernini.

Meade said...

"Just drive around the country and when the sun starts to go down, look for a rat sticker in the window."

THAT'S what I'm talking about.

tcrosse said...

i grew up in a post-war center-entry colonial in a nice town in northern New Jersey. Recently the place came up for sale, so there was a big spread on Zillow. In the fifty years since I last saw it, somebody had done the full HGTV on it and staged the hell out of it. Although it appeared to be the same size on the outside, somehow the rooms seemed much bigger than I remember, although the measurements are the same. The Ask was quite a bit more than Dad paid for it in 1948.

SDaly said...

I've been to Portland, Maine a few times recently, and have found it to be a really great little city.

RigelDog said...

I know exactly what you mean about being disappointed and discouraged by the prevailing style of houses in a given region. I love farmhouse/cottage style, a lot of Southern styles, bungalows, and some Craftsman. Pretty much every house constructed after 1970 that I see in the West and Southwest is just heinous---and I've seen plenty because I have watched a lot of the House Hunter/home remodeling types of shows and I also like to browse Zillow to look at homes in areas of the country that I am kinda interested in moving to. Lots of super-blah housing where I live now, in the Philadelphia area.

tcrosse said...

To refer to it as a stage displays a fundamental misunderstanding of its use.

Nonsense. It's theater on the grandest scale. The whole basilica is a giant stage set.
That's what the counter-reformation was all about.

Ann Althouse said...

By the way, I've been to St. Peter's. I know what it is. It's extremely grand, the most impressive building I've every been in. It's very fancy. That's undeniable. Whether that's right for a place of worship, we can debate. I prefer the Shaker aesthetic, theologically. But I can appreciate opulence, gigantism, and high art. But for a bedroom, it's so awful.

Anyway, about churches... I've been watching the Great Courses "World's Greatest Churches."

I'm not up to St. Peter's yet, but I was almost ready to book a tour of Norway to see the old stave churches.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

To refer to it as a stage displays a fundamental misunderstanding of its use."

I think of "staging a room" or a house as being similar to stage decoration which is truly an art. You take a blank space and create an environment that people can envision as being a real space that they can live or be in.

Good staging or bad staging can make or break a house sale.

Staging is done because most people have no ability envision or see the potential in a room. Many people are unable to see beyond the staging either.

Those remodeling shows where the customers bitch about surface details like paint or wallpaper. YOU CAN CHANGE IT STUPID. Or the old appliances, dated flooring etc. If you are remodeling at least have some ability to see beyond the surface.

Molly said...

(eaglebeak)

One way to fend off the demolition of old, normal-size houses and the construction of giant new horrors is to look for something in an historic district. They can't do much "updating" there.

Northern Virginia is crawling with those huge houses with grand stairways and palatial whatsits (but no furniture--no one who buys these places can afford furniture)--but in the historic districts of the towns, everything is more normal. Old-fashioned houses with regular furniture, no huge four-poster beds, no three-floor atria (or atriums, if you prefer).

Henry said...

Agree with SDaly about Portland Maine. After retirement, my parents lived on an Island in the bay there which was one of my favorite places in the world.

lb said...

Didn't read all the responses so maybe this has already been said, but maybe consider renting your existing house out for 6 months, then go airbnb your possible locations for a week at a time until you find the city you want to live in. If you don't find something, you've had a great 6 months of traveling. Also in my opinion look for a house from the 40's - they seem to have the best construction and architecture. And follow badrealestatepics on Instagram if you want a good laugh.

Unknown said...

Every January I get caught up looking at houses for sale in Las Cruces and El Paso and St. George, UT. Hey, it's 18° dammit! I'm moving somewhere warmer. And just look at how cheap those houses are down there!

Then the next day it's 66° and sunny and I'm out riding my bicycle wearing just a t-shirt. It's like that living in in Denver. My neighborhood is made up of mostly 100-y-o houses and the local Sprouts store (Fresh Thyme to Midwesterners) is two blocks away. Nary a tri-level in sight.

But I like living in the city. I grew up in the suburbs and can't imagine moving back.

wwww said...

It's too bad Victoria, BC is off the table. Port Townsend, WA but go there in the summer to see if you can handle the hordes of tourists on the streets. Made me claustrophobic.

Cary, North Carolina? Research Triangle? I'd think Asheville would be a good place to build. relatively cheap.

Almaron Dickinson said...

Who wouldn't want to take a nap under the baldacchino? A modest little four-poster indeed.

Achilles said...

You should look Specifically at Fairhaven in Bellingham.

There are a lot of high character houses. It is a college town. Really good walking parks.

The weather is not as severe in the winter and it never gets terribly hot.

Temujin said...

I guess Asheville has been beat to death here already, but that was my thinking. Someone who is used to the Madison vibe, but wants some warmer (mostly) weather, with beautiful mountains surrounding it might enjoy that area. It is still in the process of becoming whatever it's going to be. It's quite a mix of street folk and retirees right now- liberal and conservative. A huge and very cool art community (with an entire district of old warehouses converted into studios of just about every form of art you can think of). A ton of live music venues. Restaurants range from very good to horrible. But I guess that's subjective. It's not strictly a university town, but there are colleges there. Farmers markets. There are some great old neighborhoods with interesting architecture, and homes that you'd love to look at but in reality would have to overpay for them and then start remodeling. So you'd end up looking outside of Asheville to one of the other smaller growing towns in that area. It IS a touristy town and in the summer and fall the city can get overfilled with gawkers.

Plus- one of the best chocolatiers (in my humble opinion) in the nation is there: French Broad Chocolates. We looked at all of that and ended up somewhere else. Still...it's worth looking at.

And so is Nashville, which is a booming city, but still retains some of its smaller town feel. Nashville is a gas. Great town. Music City + a University town. Great neighborhoods are out there, but you'd have to drive there. It's not a walk-out-the-door- into- the-city type place. The tax situation in Tennessee is great. It'll last until too many liberals move in and change it out completely.

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

Sub-Zero that still humming - right on.
I've seen some really old ones still humming along nice and quiet. They are great. I think base level Sub-Zeros are still 10,000.00

Henry said...

"Just drive around the country and when the sun starts to go down, look for a rat sticker in the window."

HAHA. Like Hobo Signs.

Kind woman, tell pitiful story

bagoh20 said...

I sold my home in L.A. a few months ago. I paid the standard $5K for staging it. I did not recognize the place in the resulting photos. The angles and wide focus made the 2200 sq ft look huge, and the photoshopping made it look brand new throughout. You cannot trust such photos, but it served the purpose of getting people there and making offers. I took the first offer with no counter at $1 million more than I bought it for in 1995 (500% gain). Woohoo! It's a good time to sell, but buying? I don't know. If the Dems get any more power we're screwed until we wise up again.

Mike Williams said...

Just a couple of thoughts. As you get older, keeping up with housework, lawns, and gardens can become more physically challenging and less spiritually uplifting.

Case in point. My in-laws retired to a gated community near Brevard, NC. They had Blue Ridge mountain views, gardens chock full of laurel and azaleas, and great walks down to lakes for fishing and rowing. And beaches like Pawley’s Island, SC were five hours away.

But as they got older, the drive to town (especially at night and in winter) became an issue. Also,for healthcare they needed to get to Brevard or Hendersonville.

After my father-in-law died unexpectedly, my mother-in-law was forced to sell. She bought a lovely new home in Brevard and engaged lawn and cleaning services. All worked well until old-age asserted its prerogatives, and she’s now in an assisted living facility in Greensboro.

My in-laws migrated to NC from Westchester County, NY in their retirement. Taxes were a consideration.

Bob Boyd said...

"To refer to it as a stage displays a fundamental misunderstanding of its use."

I've never been there, but it looks like the acoustics for the tap dancing would be incredible.

Ralph L said...

Cary, North Carolina? Research Triangle?
Traffic and miserable summers. Much better to the west out of the Piedmont. Boone has Appalachian State U and winter sports.

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

I don't have cable. (she said boringly for the millionth time) So I binge watch HGTV at the gym while I ride the recumbent bike.

Property brothers seems to be the show I end up watching the most due to timing. I like the show, but they keep using the same template over and over and over. Oh look - white cabinets, black or gray island cabinets, carrara marble, or it's likeness in manufactured stone, on the counters, and some herringbone in gray on the backsplash. Basically Gray, white and shades of blue over and over.
Kinda tired at this point and I wonder when that is going to crash and burn because it's been done to death.

Staging correctly does help sell a home. 100%

ALP said...

Ann: have you considered Eugene, Oregon? Pretty bikable/walkable city. I love the neighborhood my parents live in, near the university. Some really nice 1-story ranch houses - one of the least cookie cutter developments I've ever seen. Mild winters.

If you can't find a 'nice' house, how about a bland, boring one that you apply your artistic talents to? I am imagining a plain house that you cover with "sketches"! The flat surfaces of a plain house could be a huge canvas.

My partner used to build houses, has an engineering degree, and can't be distracted by any cheap cosmetic 'design' features. Quite the perfectionist he is. If you think just looking at the aesthetics is bad, try house hunting with someone with enough knowledge to do inspections!

Bob Boyd said...

There are some really nice places to live and some of them have great houses for sale if you can find them before somebody else snaps them up.
Hope this helps.

Howard said...

Sounds like you are looking for a mid-century modern Eichler type which is a suburban knockoff of Frank Lloyd Wright, but the roofs don't leak. Your best bet is going west

dustbunny said...

Asheville is filled with old and young hippies and the houses are funky. We moved to the Blue ridge but it took a long while to find the right place. Lots of mountain decor and bad lighting, small windows. We needed to get a few miles from town to not look at other houses.

Karen of Texas said...

My daughter did a stop over in Norway on her state-side home visit when she flew in from England circa 2013 I think. She absolutely fell in love with what she termed a "Norway vibe". She managed a tour of a church. Took some wonderful photos.

She loved Iceland, too. Gorgeous scenery there.

ALP said...

Can ANYONE go back to apartment/condo living after having a house and a yard? I certainly can't. I have been woken up at 2 am by the sound of my neighbor's piss stream quite ENOUGH times, thank you very much. Had my fill of listening to domestic squabbles. Sick of trying to keep tobacco smoke out of my place wafted up from the neighbors. And you can't use a BBQ on your balcaony either!

I am so glad I sold my condo when the HOA fees became **half** of my mortgage payment. HALF.

roesch/voltaire said...

Ann I see what you mean, but I guess I like the style of for example of --56 Pearson Dr. a Queen Anne designed home not bad for the price, although kitchen leaves something to be desired... still that is what I had in mind when I mentioned Asheville. You know we live in 2,220 sq. ft house with 10.000 feet of yard space and pay only $7,000 in taxes for home on other side of belt-line that offers walks through the conservancy or Arboretum in the morning. You could scale down in Madison and use the money saved to travel, something new for you and Mead? Costa Brava in Spain is a great place to visit in winter or early fall for that matter and. you can find many places for long term rentals.

chuckR said...

I've seen recommendations for 3 places I've lived. My take:

Rochester NY - Grew up nearby. February you may see exactly no sun at all. Not exaggerating. Used to be prosperous but main employers are not a force there anymore. Xerox thought they were in the copy paper business. Kodak thought they were in the chemical business.
Providence RI - loved our home, loved the neighborhood, couldn't hang on long enough for it to fully gentrify (only students were pushed out, buh bye). The Athenaeum Library is a treasure and was in walking distance. Taxes are high but not Jersey high. State and local government have been run by a confederacy of dunces for so long voters think its normal.
Jamestown RI - I truly miss this place. I loved my neighbors, I loved the neighborhood. Ten minutes from Newport but far fewer tourist crowds. If you like sailing, Narragansett Bay is one of country's great sailing locations. If you want to see McMansions done right there is always Newport's Bellevue Avenue. My mother commented that the Marble House was better furnished than Versailles, possibly because The 400 had more money than King Louis.

Henry said...

San Antonio

ALP said...

Ann: if you use Redfin, you'll have the power of Google Maps. You can immediately see through the veneer of the staging/photography by going to the "walk the neighborhood" function of Google Maps, which shows what the neighborhood/house ***really*** looks like as captured by the Google Map camera. It is quite the contrast. A fraction of the homes I have looked at had several cars in the front yard during "normal" times.

ALP said...

chuckR: I lived in Rochester, Brighton, and in the rural town of Bloomfield in NY until I was 27! I do miss those older buildings.

Henry said...

@chuckR -- Agree about Providence. Fantastic food and art scene. Some okay theater and live music options. A lot of beautiful neighborhoods, interesting neighborhoods, and history. I lived in Pawtucket on the Pawtucket-Providence border for 12 years and miss it. Had to move because Rhode Island public schools are almost comically awful.

Big Mike said...

Some suggestions from a person who retired and moved to a lower tax area and downsized.

Start by going through your belongings and deciding what you will keep and what you will giveaway/throwaway. If you’re like us your basement and unused bedrooms store things belonging to your children. Do not assume that you will be able to get rid of it all. If I had it to do over I would have “downsized” in my existing house. It worked out, barely, but parts of my basement look like an episode from “Hoarders.”

Apply your artistic imagination. The rooms may be painted in hideous colors but paint is cheap. Wallpaper may or may not be strippable, and wallpaper painted over is a bear to get rid of. Dirt can be washed. Ignore their furniture; imagine yours.

In our experience poorly maintained window treatments are a seriously bad sign. Blinds that need repair and ratty curtains are a sign of maintenance elsewhere in the house that has been indefinitely deferred.

Differentiate between views that can be compromised and views that can’t. When we moved in we had a lovely view of mountains from our breakfast nook, but a development is going in and already new homes block the view. OTOH, the view from the back of our house is woods, and because they are part of a regional preserve that will not change.

Consider using Realtor.com instead of Zillow. Our agent included our floor plan in the listing of our old house, as well as pictures. IMO that helped bring in potential buyers.

And my question is why you and Meade and MadMan and your neighbors do not storm the next City Council meeting with ropes and pitchforks and nooses? What “services” do you get that justifies $18,000 in property taxes?

66 said...

“The literal meaning of "stage" is a place to stand. The misunderstanding is yours!”

I suppose you are right in the sense that “all the world’s a stage,” but it did not seem like that’s what you meant. I’m sorry if I misunderstood.

PJ57 said...

Hi Ann, Here is a different kind of suggestion that I am considering myself once I retire in a year or two -- I have no financial interest in offering this for your consideration. You, like me, live in the Midwest but are from the New York area and have a child there. I assume you enjoy New York but would not want to live there -- a little distance makes the heart grow fonder with the busyness of New York City. I don't know how you feel about the ocean and beaches -- I know you like the lakes -- but I grew up going to the Jersey shore. There are a bunch of old towns at the North Jersey Shore that have struggled economically for years but are recovering and are a mere high-speed ferry ride from Manhattan -- and a beautiful ride it is on a sunny day -- think Carly Simon singing "Let the River Run. " I also like large windows, clean spaces and a view. Check out Pier Village Lofts in Long Branch, New Jersey. Pricey but I could see myself living in a place like that -- all glass and clean lines.

Lori said...

We are closing on a house on Friday after DH retired and a 2-year search. We've been renting for the last nine months after selling our home last June.

To encourage, and also caution, you: we were constantly stunned at how bad the pictures were and often not at all representative of the house or property. Picture angles and furniture/art are distracting. Sometimes the houses/properties were much worse in real life. On the other hand, we LOVED several houses that we almost didn't even visit with our realtor because the pictures were so uninspiring.

You really have to go see.

anti-de Sitter space said...

"Port Townsend, WA"

I have a place there.

But, full time would be hard. It's way too small for the stuff ya want when ya want stuff. And, it's too much for when ya want real country livin'.

IMHO.

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

I like the Air B&B idea. Try out neighborhoods all over and zero in on the area you like first. Then zero in on the home, knowing your choices will probably suck and you'll need to do at least some remodeling.

anti-de Sitter space said...

The NYT every so many years does a piece on PT (that's what locals call it).

Here's an old one I randomly picked from the many that come up via google.

https://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/11/greathomesanddestinations/11havens.html

Recently NYT had their travel writers pick ten favorite stops (PT was one of the only two in the States (technically 1/3, if you include Puerto Rico)).

Anywho, nice place to go to every now and then. IMHO.

George said...

None of that rubbishy crap in Sydney. No snow either.

You would love it and it would love you.

https://youtu.be/aPaB_vbvz3E

anti-de Sitter space said...

If I could only live in one place, I'd choose Santa Fe.

jimbino said...

There are loads of fine and historic homes in Milwaukee. A new rule there is that you cannot demolish a home built before 1930--you need to "deconstruct" it. Logic says that there have to be a lot of Victorian homes there that you could buy for free and then move to a better place like Kenosha or Waukegan. There are even barges that can move your home from Michigan, Chicago, or anywhere else along the Great Lakes.

Bill Peschel said...

chuckR mentioned Providence, adding: "State and local government have been run by a confederacy of dunces for so long voters think its normal."

I understand a few years ago Rhode Islanders were asked for a state motto, and the winner was "mobsters and lobsters."

That's said, John Michael Greer (a.k.a. the Archdruid), moved to Providence. He lives in a neighborhood that's very walkable and inhabited by three groups: the natives, Portugeuese, and Koreans. Makes for very interesting food mixes.

Jessica said...

Join the mass migration from the upper midwest to the South! You'll love it.

anti-de Sitter space said...

https://www.zillow.com/homes/for_sale/pmf,pf_pt/2104215673_zpid/globalrelevanceex_sort/35.694929,-105.897754,35.670876,-105.928653_rect/14_zm/

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