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Zillowing Out

A $315,000 House Where We Can Hibernate For Winter

Chris Thompson/Defector

Today is the very first day of autumn in Philadelphia. Technically, this is not true, but I had to put a sweatshirt on this morning when I walked to get my coffee, and then questioned my decision to get iced coffee because my hand got too cold. These are the hallmarks of autumn, and so it feels true. This is the first year in many years that I have felt like autumn has arrived on time. Usually, when I am sweating outside the second week of October, I beg the Earth to give me the falling leaves and the crisp air and the feeling that things are changing yet again. Perhaps this is a false flag and I will feel that way next week. But for now we will not think about that.

Despite Winter famously being a difficult season for me because of my consistent mental illness, I look forward to it every year because I love being cozy. I like to be inside my house, and I like how the act of becoming cozy is something you can do for yourself and others. Making yourself a warm drink to hold feels like kindness. Grabbing a big blanket to drape over yourself on the couch feels like you care about you. I look forward to that: being able to be nice to myself in those small ways. Plus, I really like wearing my coat because I love having extra pockets.

This week the house I have for you is perhaps the closest you can get to becoming a bear and hibernating all winter, something that seems very appealing to me at this point. I would very much like a big nap and to laze around during the long, cold, nights ahead. Why not do it in a little bunker filled with light? It doesn’t seem like the worst idea!

This week’s house was sent in by Chris. In the past, Chris cursed us with the terrible cave house that ruined my entire week, his week and many of yours as well. Perhaps he is here for redemption. Perhaps this is an apology. This house is also underground so I guess we will just have to find out.

At $315,000, this is one of the more affordable houses I have seen in years. Interest rates are going up, I guess. It is located in River Falls, Wisconsin. I looked at this on a map and it seems to be a suburb of the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. Because the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport is one of my favorites in America, I choose to be optimistic. Here let’s look:

Screenshot: Zillow

Ah-ha. Yes. A house for little mice.

One concern I had when Chris mentioned that this house was underground was that it would be terrifying and bad. That seems fair. Another concern I had was that it would be cavernous in a dark and sad way. From the outside, though, I can see that there are quite a lot of windows. We have windows inside the arched concrete entries, and there are dome bubble skylights on top of the house. I am a little concerned about how easily I would become snowed in here. It seems like it would only take a couple feet of snow to make you house-bound forever and to block out all light. But then again, the government is doing nothing about global warming, so perhaps it won’t even snow here in the future.

“It definitely has a very ‘Hobbit shopped at a Design Within Reach run by snooty and aloof elves’ kind of vibe. But I still find it weirdly charming,” Chris said. “For the life of me I cannot figure out the floor plan to it though, which is very problematic.”

Let’s see if we can figure it out, shall we?

Screenshot: Zillow

Okay, this is clearly the entryway. Boom. Nailing it.

But really, I love that the door has been cut to fit the shape of the roof. These are the kinds of details I crave. If you are going to live inside a strange dome house, you might as well go as hard as you can into the dome aspect. Immediately, you can see what Chris meant by mentioning Design Within Reach, a famously expensive store. Every object in this house looks both boring and like it costs $5,000. That is not my style, but I do see the appeal of it. Having nice things rules.

Here is the view from that same spot looking the other way.

Screenshot: Zillow

Does the ceiling look like someone found a bunch of really big pool noodles and covered them in cement? Yes. Do I like it? Also yes. I particularly like this little side table that mimics the same shape. That’s a really nice touch.

I am not really interested in white walls and furniture in general, but at least the white chosen here is the right one. If you are going to have a sleek modern little hut, you need a cold white, and this is the coldest one there is. Imagine when there is the fabled snow outside. It would be the exact same color. That’s cool.

I also like that the floor is not white. Too often people treat white in homes the way they treat black clothing which is: if it’s all the same color people won’t realize that half of this stuff sucks. This is not true. I can tell. And usually that is why people make things all white or all gray: for resale value. This home does not seem as concerned with that. Is the floor cork? It might be. It could also be a stone of some kind like granite. Personally, I think this room could use a rug.

It looks like based on this other view of the same room (see the TV.), that the front door is down a little hallway and then we pop out in this great room of sorts.

Screenshot: Zillow
Screenshot: Zillow

Based on my understanding of the shape of this house (which is based on nothing), I think this kitchen is down another little hallway like the front door, but on the other side of the TV.

The trendy Smeg fridge screams “staged” to me, because it does not even fit into the fridge cabinet designed for the space. I personally do not care for Smegs. Though if you work for Smeg and want to send me a free one, I will immediately change my opinion. I just think if you’re going to pay that much for a fridge you should get …. more fridge.

Anyway the rest of this kitchen is lovely. I like the wood cabinets a lot. It is a little ridiculous that the oven has a wood front-piece. I assume that silver block is where the wood front-piece for the dishwasher is supposed to go.

I’m not sure what’s going on underneath the counter on the back wall. It could be that the kitchen is wheelchair accessible, but the rest of the house is not, so I think it might just be wasted space. I would personally put in some shelves and another rug.

Off the kitchen, we have a laundry room.

Screenshot: Zillow

This is what the suburbs are good for, to me. This is the benefit. If I lived in the suburbs (which I hope to never do), I would demand to have a laundry room the size of a New York City bedroom with a deep, deep sink. Beautiful.

Let’s move on.

Screenshot: Zillow

Now, sadly, I must join Chris in his confusion. Where the fuck is this? I have no idea where this room is. I cannot tell if the house is shaped like a U or if it is a big square or if it is windy like a snake. I think the later would be the most fun but no one consulted me. If they had, I would have told them that no one is posting Pelotons anymore, which is how I know their day in the sun is over, and also that this rug is at least 5 times too small.

Good room for activities, though. Maybe it could be a craft room, if we can find where it is.

Here is a bedroom:

Screenshot: Zillow

A half wall is always an interesting choice for a bedroom, but it seems like this bedroom is somehow lofted. Where does this house go uphill? What is happening? What is beneath it! I flipped back and forth through these photos for a full hour and couldn’t figure it out, so it is one of history’s mysteries.

In here we have a rug that is exactly the same color as the floor. Who made this decision? Fire them.

But I’m not fully against the open bedroom. Sure, it would be an absolutely impossible house to live in with kids, but not everyone has kids. Having the sunlight seems more important than having the privacy for the few times a year guests made it out to see you in the suburbs.

There is another bedroom in this house, but it looks basically the same, so we will move on.

Here is a bathroom.

Screenshot: Zillow

This toilet is WAY too close to the counter. I would have a permanent bruise on my shoulder from somehow managing to stand up into the corner of this sink. And at 2,236 square feet, there’s no reason for the bathroom to be this small. I know it is not ideal to have a pedestal sink because you lose storage in a house that you absolutely could never hang a shelf in, but you have to do it here. This giant wooden block makes this bathroom seem tiny! There is another bathroom that also looks small, but it too is mostly white and cramped.

Here is another living space, though!

Screenshot: Zillow

This is exciting to me. I love this slanted window, I love that there is another fireplace in here. I love the built in desk. I think you need another couch in here, or better, you could continue that built in cushion platform around and create a custom conversation pit!

Overall, I dislike this house 300 percent less than I disliked the dungeon, but I am still not sure that I would want to live here. I would like to paint a wall and hang an art and have more things than this house would allow, but I see how it could be a beautiful exciting place for someone else to live!

Screenshot: Zillow

This week’s house has been listed on Zillow for $315,000 for 10 days. It is currently under contract. If you bought this house, please invite me to visit. I would really like to sit by the fire while it snows.