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Zillowing Out

A $2.5 Million Coastal Retreat That I Would Gladly Receive From The Devil Himself

Illustration: Chris Thompson/Photo: Zillow

This is the continuation of an ongoing series about my obsession with terrible Zillow houses.

Now that I leave my 700-square-foot apartment with three doors only to go to the grocery store and outside, I have become obsessed with light. Like a zealot, I follow the sun’s path across the apartment. In the morning, there is a little light in the bedroom. In the late morning and early afternoon, some indirect light in the office. For only two blessed, golden hours (3:00-5:00 p.m.) for four too-short months of the year (July-October) my apartment gets direct light. All of my plants are in one window. The natural light situation is not great, which is bad for me because I am so adamantly and vocally opposed to unnatural lights that the TikTok algorithm has begun serving me anti-overhead light propaganda. 

As winter approaches and the sun sets earlier, I’ve been dreaming about giant windows. In my dreams, which have always been boring and realistic, I sit by a window and look out of it. It is nice. I wish it were my real life. There are lots of reasons to wish you were richer than you are, but for me it is always the light. You rarely see a million-dollar listing with gray light. Never, though, have I been as ready to sell my soul to whatever devil would make me evil and rich as when I saw the windows in this week’s house. Beautiful, huge windows. Curved windows. Windows with wooden trim that look out at some water. Three (3!) windows in the kitchen above the sink. Small square windows near the living room. Huge vertical window on the staircase. Windows in the laundry room!!

a wall of windows looks out at a blue bay and sky.

This week’s house is situated on Moore Point, which is a cute little peninsula surrounded by fancy sailing boats as you can see in the photos. It is on an acre, which is pretty good. It is 25 minutes outside of Portland, Maine, which I have never visited but assume is very cute and has many lobster rolls.

I found this huge light filled house because I have a Zillow alert titled “Martha’s Vineyard.”

“But Kelsey,” you might be saying, “I clicked on that link and this is a house in Maine. Martha’s Vineyard is not in Maine it is… somewhere else.” And you would be correct. I think. But you see, this is one of my oldest Zillow alerts. It goes to an email account I do not have access to anymore and only get because I auto-forwarded the account before I forgot the password. And you see, when you grow up a young girl in Texas who has enough money to shop at Kohls with the Kohls Cash, but not enough to have a pool, you hear a lot about fancy things you have no access to. 

Fancy-people culture trickles down to the rest of us, unlike fancy-people money. Their references to places like Martha’s Vineyard pop up in TV shows and movies with some regularity. So as a child I did not know that Martha’s Vineyard is an island (It’s an island, right?) where some very rich people have summer homes. (I still don’t know if this is correct to be completely honest.) What I thought is that Martha’s Vineyard was a vineyard owned by Martha Stewart, and that Martha Stewart was very, very popular. I thought that all the people who went to Martha’s Vineyard were just rich people, and because I believed all rich people knew each other (this part turned out to be true), they were just going to stay at their pal Martha’s house for a stint. 

I believed this for a very, very long time. An embarrassingly long time. I learned that this was not true when I moved to the East Coast after college, met someone who said they were going to Martha’s Vineyard, and was promptly corrected. This was embarrassing. I remember how red my face felt. I went home, used Google to learn where Martha’s Vineyard is, and then promptly forgot. 

Anyway, all of that is to say that my Zillow alert is for basically all of the coast land from New York City to Canada for houses more than $1 million on more than an half acre of land, which I assume (but am not sure) includes Martha’s Vineyard. 

My “Martha’s Vineyard” alert is constantly turning up houses with tile on the ceilings, and crown molding seven-feet thick and stained glass with the Patriots logo, and wet bars in 17 rooms. One day, I will feature one of these homes if I can ever make it through more than four photos without gagging. Rich people, I have learned from this alert, often have terrible taste. 

But this house, this house is different. Whoever designed it so it could be built in 2007 understood that what makes a house is a specificity. This isn’t just any old house. It wasn’t built from a kit, or picked out of a catalog. It must have been sketched, because the curved walls and the strange shape and the attention to detail seems like the kind of imaginative work that only happens with a fountain pen. 

a wooden door with two blue planters on either side sits tucked inside a curved entryway

This house has at least three fireplaces, what looks like an outdoor pizza oven, and an upper deck with views of the water. The description says it is “built to LEED Gold Standard.” I asked Trey, my structural engineer husband, what this means and he explained very carefully how the LEED program works and what kinds of things you have to do to get that certification and what I took out of the five minutes of him explaining it to me is that this house is making an effort to be kind to the earth. Will that save it from rising sea levels? Absolutely not. But it does sound nice as hell to have 13 different heat zones. 

This house is large but still cozy, filled with wood trim but not dark like a dive bar. It has access to a body of water but no signs that say “Lake is where the heart is” or “Live, Laugh, Lake.” This house is perfect. It is like if a Nancy Meyers protagonist shopped at Madewell and cooked all of Sohla El-Waylly’s recipes while listening to Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors. Shut up, you’re projecting a fantasy. 

“Perfectly suited for intimate family living,” the description says. Ah yes. 6,182 square feet. Just the right amount of intimacy for someone who wants to run away from their family and scream into a pillow and not be bothered. It has a whole little carriage house with a bedroom and bathroom that you could rent out on AirBnb or hide in if your “intimate family living” devolves into one of its holiday political feuds.

In reality, it seems awful to have a house this big. The house has six bedrooms and six baths. How many roombas do you need to vacuum more than 6,000 square feet? I can barely remember to wash my one duvet cover much less the duvet covers of six different bedrooms. Six bathrooms with toilets and showers that need detailing? No thank you.

Or at least, that’s always been my stance. I’ve lived in this 700-square-foot apartment for 6.5 years. It is just the two of us here. When I dreamed about upgrading to a nicer space it wasn’t necessarily bigger. Maybe another bedroom would be nice, I would say. Or perhaps some outdoor space. But before this pandemic, I often joked that maybe I would just stay in my apartment until I died. Other people have done it! Some of the residents in my building have been here since the 1960s and now brag about their sweet, sweet, rent control. Three elderly residents have died since I moved in. Two on my floor! It wasn’t unfathomable that we could live here forever. What more did we need really than rent control and walking distance to a big park and a half dozen really good restaurants?

But staying inside this apartment for seven months has made me question that resolve. I haven’t seen my family, who live in Texas, since Christmas. I haven’t seen my best friend since February. My friends who live in New York used to come down to see me and stay on an air mattress in my living room. I used to go see them and sleep on their couches. Now, we don’t see each other at all, and because we are all millennials without houses, there’s no real way to see each other. I look at this giant house in Maine and I imagine convincing them to come for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Just stay the month. It’s big enough to avoid each other for days on end. Stay until all this ends, who cares. 

Of course, it’s easy to like a very expensive house. There’s one photo (number 37) of a window partially opened on a hinge out toward the water, looking at a big tree and a grassy yard and a huge swath of sky and water where the light is so gold and so soft, it makes the light in my apartment look like dishwater. On the other side of the wooden window frame and the gentle seafoam green trim there isn’t even a screen! Are there no bugs in Maine? 

Unlike the dome home, everyone I’ve sent this listing to over the past few weeks has fawned over it. Everyone wants this perfect house. Look at all the wood on the walls. Look at the kitchen with its tiny drawers and the not one but two giant tubs. The entryway to the front door even has a beautiful curve to it as the roof swoops above like a cascading wave. The top floor has a giant half circle window I want to lay under like a cat.

a curved window nestled inside a wooden wall

But no one has bought this house. It has been on Zillow for 392 days, which I assume is because it is listed at $2,495,000. That’s box season tickets money, have a Kentucky Derby horse money, never look at your checking account money. That’s an amount of money that barring some act of God or lucky lottery play, I will never see. Except for, of course, in my dream last night, where I sat at the window by the curved wall covered with wood and stared out at a rising sun over a shimmering teal water and felt calm for the first time in weeks.

After filing this story, an offer was placed on the $2.5 million dream home. If you bought it, please invite me to stay there for one month every summer, thank you so much.

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