Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Trimming the tree. Literally.

The neighbors probably never noticed the difference. It's one of those things that has more meaning for me than for anyone else. This particular problem has been nagging at me since the very first moment we saw our new house. It was not love at first sight.

I remember that particular house hunting trip last winter. We had carefully narrowed down houses online and mapped out the ones we wanted to drive past. We loaded the kids up and took the hour-plus drive up to the neighborhood to see some of the ones that made the cut. The daylight did not last long enough to get through the whole list, but we wanted to drive past the homes we had mapped out anyway. It was exciting to see the houses that had come down in price to be within our reach. These homes were so much more than we ever expected to be able to purchase as first-time home buyers!

All evening light had faded by the time we made it to the right street. I hunched toward the window and squinted in an attempt to make out the names on street signs that are always too small and always require a u-turn at some point. The house was situated at the end of a cul-de-sac and we drove straight at it. The car came to a stop in front, headlights washing out most of the color and flattening the image of the house. All the windows and porch lights were dark; I assumed no one lived there. It looked something like this:

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All I could see was this tree that was way too close to the house, casting sharp shadows on the wall it was smashed against. A visitor would have to walk between the tree and the house to get to the front door. The yard was shallow, and it looked like the house was squeezed in at an uncomfortably close angle between the neighboring houses.

"This is it?!?" I stated, comparing it to the inviting entries of some of the other homes we had seen. "Yeah — I don't think so. Talk about lack of curb appeal! And that tree is horrible!" I mentally checked the house off the list and we moved on. (Keep in mind that I was comparing it to the other houses we had seen. This was a beautiful house, just not in the same front-entrance-appeal category as its similarly priced equivalents.)

The house ended up staying on the list after all, simply because of a price drop and the square footage. That, and I think my husband didn't have the same hate at first sight reaction I did. We eventually got serious and found a realtor so we could check out the insides of the houses. However, we didn't make it to this one until after we had seen probably 15 to 20 other homes. That first impression was still tainting my opinion and I was in no hurry to see it.

When we finally did see the home again, in daylight, inside and out, my prejudice against the house vanished. So much so, that we made an offer before leaving that day — February 14th. What I had missed from my quick, poor lighting perusal of the house was that it was huge, way under priced, and well laid out. And sure, the front yard was nothing special, but the property was shaped like a slice of pie and it opened up to a great private back yard that backed directly to miles and miles of open space surrounding a large lake. I became grateful for the awkward tree and the lack of curb appeal that possibly contributed to the house being on the market for so long.

We've been here for about seven months now. I've resented those low branches crowding the narrow front walkway that squeezes under it for seven months. Finally, the tree made it to the top of the to-do list and my husband attacked it with a chain saw.

Here's some before and after's:

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(It's hard to tell how weighty and oppressive that tree was, without its leaves. It was growing right up against the house and along the roof. I worried about what it would do to the roof tiles.)

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So much better! I still don't love the tree being so close to the house, but at least it's not growing into it anymore. And most importantly, I smile when I walk under it instead of cringing. It's ridiculous how happy that trimmed tree makes me!

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The poor thing was strangled by Christmas lights that had never been removed. The wires have grown into the tree and we're going to have to climb up and meticulously clip them out soon.

Now, about the front door. Thank you for your input!! We've finally come up with a color (or a non-color, rather). The door will be black. Or dark gray. At least, as long as the house is yellowish.

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We'll paint a light color inside the alcove to cover up the brown. But one day, the whole exterior will be painted white to attempt a more Mediterranean feel rather than a Spanish feel. At that point, I'd love to do maybe a dark blue door with some large turquoise or citrus-toned planters out front. Something to make it a little lighter and brighter.
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