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A $330,000 Earth-Sheltered Home To Hunker Down In

Chris Thompson/Defector

Every once in a while I fall into a terrible, horrible trap. See, the key to successfully looking at Zillow houses during all of this is being able to prevent yourself from falling in love. Falling in love is painful, and there is no love more painful than unrequited love. That kind of love is projection. There are some keys to making sure you do not fall into a house crush. The best ones are to look at houses that are haunted, or completely out of your price range, or in cities you would never go to. I assume that owning a house could also help somewhat, but I can’t know. 

House crushes are dangerous and it’s best not to have them, but sometimes you just can’t help it. You see something that you think you want without knowing anything about it and you project your hopes and dreams onto it. Imagine how good your pots would look on that six-range stove. Imagine how happy you would be if you had a roof deck and lived down the street from a restaurant you went to one time. Imagine purchasing this house and filling it with all of your photos and you imagine where all of your good furniture would go and what all the furniture you hate would be replaced with. Sometimes, a house crush is unreasonable, but the worst house crushes are the ones that you could, in theory, if just a few things were different, have. 

I got a house crush a few weeks ago that I absolutely cannot afford but is also not a million dollars: the worst kind because a different version of you (one who was a consultant???) could have it, but you cannot. The house I have a crush on is pending sale, but it wasn’t a good fit for our column anyway: It’s too well designed, it’s too beautiful, the only thing I have to say about it is I WANT IT. Instead, today, I bring you a house crush that a reader named Joe emailed to me this week. Thank you, Joe!  

At first, I wasn’t enchanted with this week’s house. Not my type, I thought, but it really is so cute. After looking at it one time, I kept thinking about it. I started accidentally imagining it as I went for a walk. I started thinking about reader Joe buying this house the way I might think about the Hinge profile screenshots a friend sent me. What a nice crush! And when you see a crush this good, well, it’s really unfair not to share it. Especially after the terror of last week. 

Screenshot: Zillow

This week’s house is $329,900 and located in Madison, Wisc., which I have never been to but have heard is extremely cute and fun. It is “earth sheltered” according to the description, but what that means is it has an absolutely adorable half circle front that makes it look like a little faery house. The door is on one side and counter-balanced by a long narrow window on the other, which I find very aesthetically pleasing. In the photos up right now there is a lot of snow on the ground, so it looks like it’s just peeking out. Should we go inside? Let’s go inside. 

Inside we have a little entryway where we could leave our shoes, and a few steps down into a sunken living room. The wall to our right is curved in a nice big arch that becomes the ceiling. What a nice dome. Someone could paint the ceiling a brighter color and pull up this gray shag carpeting and have a very fun mid-century modern dream house in no time. Outside, there is a weathered deck that seems to have many levels. We could go out there to have an afternoon coffee maybe. Wouldn’t that be nice? 

There is a small staircase to our right, and we drop out into a kitchen area. Here we have a dine-in kitchen with a bar counter dividing the space. All of the cabinets in this area look like they are worth $12. They look absolutely terrible. All the overhead light, you can just tell, would make you look like you’ve never slept a day in your life. The counter on the bar does not match the counter on what looks like it’s supposed to be a built-in bar off to the side? The only indication that this might be a wet bar is a little scalloped shelf that I assume is supposed to hold bottles of booze. The floor might have a pattern in the tile but it’s so vague it looks like someone just threw down a bunch of Tetris blocks and called it a day. 

Screenshot: Zillow

Outside the kitchen is a “three seasons” (the description does not indicate which season is not allowed, but I assume winter?) patio with big windows and sliding glass doors, and down another few stairs in the kitchen is a giant room with the same god-awful tile. This room has no furniture in it, so we are left to use our imagination, but I think it would be nice as the cozy living room that many suburban people have where the big TV and maybe a ping-pong table goes.  It also has an extremely off-putting wall made of driftwood? I don’t know what this is about. I am afraid of it. Off of this room there is a laundry room and half-bath, both of which look like they belong in a cabin in the woods and not in our little bunker home. The terrible tile is here in the bathroom but not in the laundry room, for whatever reason. 

Screenshot: Zillow

Something I have realized more and more is that the key to buying a house (again, I am not a homeowner and do not know how to buy a house) is not what the house looks like but what it is. The Good Bones theory. One thing that I find endlessly annoying is that so many houses at the bone level are identical. Their rooms are laid out the same way, their closets are the same size, the bathroom is exactly where you would expect it to be. I am sure this is comforting in some way, but it is not fun for my needs (intrigue while browsing for hours instead of doing a single chore). 

What I really like about this house is all the stairs. This is counter-intuitive. It is certainly not handicap accessible, and I personally am known to eat shit on stairs fairly frequently because of my terrible balance. But what I like about it is that each room is its own distinct space. There is no great-room garbage here. Each room is here for a singular purpose, and while the current owners have not seen the value in this, that also means that each room can have drastically different and interesting design work done. Imagine having a different flooring in each room and runners to transition you on the stairs. Imagine the kind of solidity that comes from having a house that has rooms on (by my count) four different levels despite only being two stories tall and built into the earth! This is interesting to me; I like it! 

Screenshot: Zillow

We haven’t even seen the last story yet, and for this we must go all the way up all of the stairs: back into the kitchen, and around the corner and into the sunken living room and back to the entryway by the front door. Now we will go right. First there is a bathroom. Just awful. Hideous. The same break-’em-over-your-knee cheap clapboard cabinets are here, but also the tub is very upsetting. This shower area has a clear wall (only half the wall is glass, so it seems pretty useless to me), and the tub part that is underneath it seems very very shallow. Maybe it is just the angle of the photo but it is sloped on the sides kind of like a soap dish. It looks like if you got in there you would slip around and around knocking your knee against the spigot, getting shampoo in your eye. As someone who believes all tubs should be big enough to submerge my entire adult body at one time, this is a crime. This whole bathroom must be gutted. Let’s leave this. It has upset me.

Screenshot: Zillow

Here there are two adorable bedrooms. One has that narrow window from the front of the house, and the other leads out onto the balcony. Both have one curved wall/ceiling which seems like more of a problem in the smaller front room. I know what you are all going to say: that this is wasted space; you can’t even walk in half of this room because it is curved; how would you even vacuum. And to this I say: Why can we not have a little bit of fun with our crush who we are certainly not going to marry? Maybe we could put a cool couch over there, or we could build some shelves, or we could just enjoy the strange walls of our new house. 

We have seen it all. Or almost all of it. There’s one more thing; come with me. 

Screenshot: Zillow

Right here, by the sidewalk up to the house is a Little Free Library shaped exactly the same. It’s so small! A little round home for books! Adorable! It is too cute for me. A life this cute cannot exist. It just can’t. It’s far, far, too much.

This week’s house has been listed on Zillow for twenty-four days. If you buy this house, I support your marriage, but please, please, rip up those tiles.