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Zillowing Out

A $575,000 Historic Home For Me To Claim As My Own

Chris Thompson/Defector

Last week, I went to a beautiful house for Thanksgiving. It was in the Poconos. It was listed as a "chalet" on Airbnb. I booked it in August because I'm a psycho, so you know it was a good house. It had a peaked roof and a fireplace and a lofted bedroom. The kitchen didn't have a gas stove and the can opener was so dull that I sliced the shit out of my finger, but these were the only problems with the house. (My thumb is fine.) Even those problems were kind of fun. I was surrounded by people I love, who really understand me and love me for who I am. It is rare to have these people and I am still (a week later) feeling sappy and grateful to have this. Because I was so happy amongst my friends with my little idyllic Thanksgiving, it took me a full two days to fall into my normal sicko behavior.

At my core, I am a demon who should never be given any information, much less access to reporting tools and skills, I immediately did what I would call "investigative journalism" and what many people would call "creepy." What I learned is that the house had been bought in 2013 for $240,000 (not awful!) but that the improvements inside were expensive. The light fixtures were hundreds of dollars. The piano was worth $35,000. I learned many other things that I will not share here.

I'm also highly superstitious, so I have a fear deep within me that saying you want things and saying you desire things publicly inherently means that you will not get them and cannot have them. But I wanted that fucking house. I did not want to leave it. I wanted to keep the chalet for myself. This is emblematic of another constant internal battle I am having between my political stance as a communist and my desire for luxury. Morally, I know better than to want fancy, shiny things because I know that I will feel bad if I have them and other people don't. But what I really want is an impossible dream where we all get to have luxury, where everyone gets to have a moderate amount of beauty and wealth. I (someone who lives in a 650-square foot apartment that I rent) want a second home. I want a chalet, dammit. I want a space that I can go for long weekends and where my friends can come for the holidays. I want to live inside a Nancy Meyers dreamland where it is always fall and we wear sweaters inside, where maintenance doesn't exist and all the drama has a humorous undertone.

Someone asked me last week in the comments (Zneeley, I think) if I would ever write about a house that I liked and that had my stamp of approval. I have done this a couple of times, but it is true that the majority of the houses I write about here I hate or am afraid of. Part of that is because it is simply easier to write about things that you feel passionately about and hate is an easier strong emotion to have toward houses than love. But part of it is also because I am sensitive. Not sensitive in the "can't take criticism or heat" sense, but sensitive in that my emotions are big and sometimes hard for me to manage.

This comment also reminded me that it's okay for me to bring y'all houses that only I like. It's a concept that I've been thinking about a lot because I'm really bad at doing what I want to do. It has taken years of therapy to bring me to the realization (this week, at that) that other people's emotions are not my problem, much less my job to deal with. I want you all to be happy. I want you to enjoy the houses. That is part of my job, but you've shown me again and again that you do like when I just show you something I like.

All of this is to say, I absolutely love this week's house. I mean, LOOK AT IT:

Screenshot: Zillow

Wow. It's so idyllic. It is shaped like a fancy barn. Look at all those windows. Let's run through some specifications before we go inside. This house is five bedrooms and four baths. It is 3,240 square feet. According to Zillow it "was once a summer cottage for honeymooners" and a part of the historic Catskill hotel, The Rexmere. My obsessive researching taught me that the Rexmere burned all the way to the ground in 2014 for ... uh ... mysterious reasons. So that's frightening and a little ominous. But how good is a house really without some drama? The house was built in 1903 and is in Samford, New York.

There are lots of kinds of second houses I would like to have: a big ranch in the West, a lake house, a chalet in the mountains, a yurt on Whidbey Island, an apartment in Mexico City, a $2.5 million Maine mansion. But the ones that are always the most painful to me are the ones like this, where they are close enough to where I live and my friends live, and they are just expensive enough that I naively believe if I sold out I could make enough to have them. Or in other words, my own choices keep me from having them.

Awful. You're telling me my own decisions to pursue art and believe in equality mean that I cannot buy this perfect house? You've gotta be shitting me!!!!

Let's go inside.

Screenshot: Zillow

Now this is an entryway. One thing I believe in that everyone else seems to hate is transition spaces. I do not believe in open-plan and I especially do not believe in the front door opening straight into the living room. I don't even like this in restaurants. I want there to be a vestibule. I want to be able to take my coat off before I'm all the way inside. I want a moment to collect myself, to allow my body to transition from whatever outdoor horrors I just escaped into whatever awaits me indoors.

This house has a very nice transition space because it is separated from the other rooms by doors and stairs and is also big. You could sit on this couch to put your shoes on, or you could sit in the other little sitting area to the left of the door to wait for someone to come pick you up. I find this enjoyable and beautiful. But what I really love about this space is the shapes. Most houses have one shape: rectangle. Everything is a rectangle now, which is really a shame because our eyes want diversity, they want shapes that conflict. The way this chopped off triangle lines up with the curved half-circle stairs is so enticing. The triangle created by negative space above it that holds the rectangle of the door? I love it! This white wall is shiplap which generally I do not love because it is overused, but this one wall works for me.

One problem with this listing (not the house) is that the photos are out of order, so we will hop around a bit. Here is a bedroom:

Screenshot: Zillow

Wow. So many windows! Such high ceilings. The molding is subtle but nice. It does upset me a little that in this room (unlike many of the others) the moldings and doors have been painted white instead of staying the nice cherry-wood color they are in the rest of the house. This room in general seems a bit more modernized. The floorboards are much wider and paler, the three white walls more bland than some other rooms, but we could work with it. This could be our first guest room for our friends when they come to see us. Do you think they would like a bigger bed? I'm not sure.

Here's another room:

Screenshot: Zillow

I must admit that I am in love with this room. I think this might be a wall closet but I honestly don't care what it is. I love it! I believe that homes should have lots of treasures, but the problem with having lots of treasures and beautiful things is that there is never enough space to keep them and every plastic container that exists makes me want to die. Why would I want an IKEA built-in closet when I could have these impractically narrow drawers to line up my socks in?

Look at the panes on these windows! They probably leak so much but my enthusiasm cannot be tamed. Let's go into another room:

Screenshot: Zillow

Wow lovely. Classic. Simple. Imagine the cat that we could get as a pet for our dog laying on that circle rug in a beam of sunlight. Beautiful. I assume this is the top-floor room because of the sloped wall and the tops of trees that we can see out of the window. Knowing that we were this high up, I became confused and had to consult the Zillow guide again.

Here I learned that there is a full basement. The first floor has a dining room, the kitchen, a living room, and three bathrooms. Hm. It's kind of annoying that all the bathrooms are on the first floor except for one. Our guests probably won't love this, but we make sacrifices even for our dreams. According to Zillow the first floor also has three bedrooms. But this doesn't really make sense. Hm. It doesn't even list all of the bedrooms and what floors they are on. Zillow is failing us.

This is one of the problems with expensive nice homes: there are never enough photos to get a full lay of the property. Based on the photos of the outside of the house and *coughs* some information I found in other places on the internet, it seems like the actual layout is: one bedroom, dining room, living room, half bath, and kitchen are on the first floor. Three bedrooms and two full bathrooms are on the second floor. And the third floor is the main bedroom and main bathroom (with soaking tub and sauna). Why aren't these things pictured? I don't know. Why does God hate me? We can't know these things.

One of the most upsetting exclusions from the photos is the lack of kitchen. There is this:

Screenshot: Zillow

At first I thought this was a kitchen, but it's actually the main bathroom on the top floor. You can tell because the little toilet is there in the corner and through the doorway you can see the sloped edge of the cathedral walls. This is a nice bathroom if a little dark. Replace those boring apartment complex tile floors with a nice lighter tile, though, and you're cooking with gas.

It seems fair to assume that the kitchen is not very good. I assume a house from 1903 meant for honeymooners would have had servants and usually kitchens that aren't used by the wealthy people who live in the house are kind of shitty. Also kitchens famously sell houses so if it were a good kitchen we would be seeing it. We aren't so we must assume it is ugly, but that's fine. I'm tired of cooking. In my new dream life, I don't have to cook because I only eat snacks all day or go out to dinner because I am rich. In my new life I will simply pay to have the kitchen redone with my infinite money. I mean, look at this:

Screenshot: Zillow

I love it when a house is good enough that the photos on Zillow are from angles people actually stand instead of from a camera shoved into the topmost corner of a room with a wide angle lens. In this photo we see a little peek of what you would see as you walked up the stairs. It's so nice. Look at this beautiful wallpaper. It's a little girly for my taste, but could be hardened up with some frame choices. Look how dark the wood on these stairs is. Beautiful. Don' t you love it here, in my home? I sure do. Sadly, you cannot stay forever. I have secrets to whisper to myself and plans for a dinner party later this week. Would you like to have a cup of coffee on the porch before you go? All right.

Screenshot: Zillow

Wow here we are, safe from the rain and the sun, free to sit on this low wall or in a chair and look out at at his little pond. This house has 2.5 acres, so we could go for a little stroll without seeing anyone. That's nice, isn't it? A house of one's own, so far away, so secluded, so beautiful. We can dream of it, at least.

This week's house has been listed on Zillow for 22 days for $575,000. If you buy this week's house, please consider adopting me as your child and friend.

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