When you look at hundreds of Zillow listings across dozens of American cities every single day, your brain creates shortcuts. The outside of a house can tell you a house is interesting, but it can’t tell you it’s uninteresting. Many houses that look absolutely commonplace open up into a hell-scape that will suck you in forever. Take this one, for example, which has an absolutely haunting description that I hate. We will not be discussing that house today because I don’t want to.
Most Zillow clues I understand. No pictures of the promised “outdoor space”? It sucks. No photos of the closets? They are so small. First image is the kitchen? It was just renovated but nothing else was. Art on the wall that is actually interesting? This house has not been staged.
But there is one type of listing I can never quite read immediately and those are the ones that begin with a picture of the sky. They are not super common, but it is a powerful opening to the cadence of a house listing. Obviously, I am not on Zillow dot com to see pictures of the sky. If I wanted to see nice sky photos I would go to texasranchesforsale.com. Yet, here is a big picture of the sky in the first slot. Does it mean the house has nice views? Sometimes. But sometimes the photo is taken by drone. Does it mean the house is in a beautiful place? Sometimes, but lots of ugly places have great skies.
This week’s house opens with a sky, and it’s a really good one. Let’s look at it.
Wow, what a nice sky. It’s beautiful! We’ve got mountains! We’ve got water! We’ve got the clouds doing some kind of mesmerizing sun reflections that makes them look like they’re on fire. Behind the ridge, the sun sets or rises, I’m not sure which. It doesn’t feel ominous. It feels hopeful. It feels enchanted. I want to see what this house has for us, don’t you?
The next photo does not help us much. It shows a rusted iron gate with a lock that protects a dozen flowering plants, and a couple of mysterious dark steps leading up to a red house.
The next photo is a photo of a ferry. Hm. What is going on here? This lead up is both concerning because it does not drop us immediately into the house, and interesting because it seems to be trying to sell us on the environment around the house, as if to promise that it’s not just what’s inside that matters. The outside also exists.
This week’s house was sent to me by Zillowing Out reader Lerr of West Seattle. Or more technically, Lerr told me it was found by his friend Ben, and that upon seeing it he sent it to me. This is good. It is rude and illegal to see a house like this and not email it to me. I want to have fun, too! “It’s in a really great location near Alki beach for a reasonable price for that area,” Lerr says. Again with the location of the house! Okay! “Then you open it up and see room after room of pure art.”
Well, that’s a really good lede in my opinion, so let’s go inside!
Immediately we are assaulted by interesting things to look at. The first photo seems to be taken from the corner of the living room, so that we can see into the kitchen and into the entryway. The walls and ceiling are black. The built-in shelves are a mocha brown, and the trim at the top of them does not lie flat and instead zags along the ceiling. There is a fireplace under the television that could be real or fake, neither would surprise me. Strange totems with ornate designs stand guard unevenly in the doorway, and there is a little gnome of some kind on the table. Something about the angle of the walls and the uneven ceiling and the black floors makes it feel like I’m look at something surreal, where all of the angles are just off, but this house is standing, so I assume they are right enough.
Shown another angle of the wall with the books and television, we learn that this is the entry room. A big (also black) door with an oval mirror is swung open so we can see the greenery outside. Did you forget there’s an outside? But in this room we have a lot of accessories that in another house could look they belong in a suburban teenage girl’s bedroom. There is a chandelier. There are many tall candle stands. There are gold masks. There is a zebra print futon. And yet this looks like the home of a TikTok witch instead. Maybe it’s all the black.
Next we have a photo that looks like a goddamn painting. Here we gaze out the window. There are roses in a chiaroscuro lighting that’s damn near a renaissance painting. Their shadows are gray and purple, their whitest whites a dull pink. Outside the window, a wood(?) carved rabbit has been suspended from a tree to look as if it is flying. I love this. To me, it is perfect.
So many of the houses you see when you scroll through hours of Zillow listing have no heart. They have been diluted into something so dull and boring it could fit anyone. They have been gutted and staged until there is nothing interesting left to look at. Soulless. What is the point in owning a house without a soul? Why even bother? Don’t you want to live in a house that someone loved before you? Don’t you want to see that the shapes this house makes with its body were lived in and appreciated and taken good care of? I do! I want a house someone loved.
Look at this nice porch next. There are so many flowers, all alive. There are statues and benches, and paint that looks like it gets touched up every year. There is art on the wall and twinkle lights hanging from the ceiling. It’s not a blank canvas, it’s a beautiful one. Imagine standing on this porch and looking at the water, the breeze on your face, the leaves of the plants rustling in the wind. It’s lovely.
Back inside we go and into the kitchen. his room is less cohesive than the others, and the appliances need updating. I do still like this kitchen, though. I love the bench seating against the big window, and the fact that with the addition of a small island you could have a nice triangle shape to do your cooking and cleaning and chopping in. The thing that doesn’t work for me in here is the small section of cabinets painted a light green. Why? But I love the hinged window above the sink with all it’s little treasures.
There’s a small bathroom on this floor with a little shower. Cute. Helpful. Let’s head to the stairs. Look at this fun little hershey’s kiss banister ornament on the stairs. Look how the post that buttresses the railing is octagonal instead of a boring square. Look how the walls are painted a nice plum purple, and the stained glass window on the landing radiates light.
Upstairs we have a bedroom with a big painting of flowers in a tri-panel, a vase the size of my torso, a footboard engraved with what looks like a hibiscus contour line drawing. There is a wind chime attached to the foot of the bed, which I will be saying nothing else about.
The bathroom upstairs is mostly normal. There’s a cute checkerboard ceiling tile that matches the floor of the kitchen. What’s good is that there is a tub in here. Too many homes have only showers now. That’s bad. What’s also bad is that there is no mirror? While I am not a huge fan of mirrors in general it does make me a little suspicious that we are dealing not with witches but vampires.
Anyway, there’s also a sitting room up here with a very nice big window and some Jackson Pollock paint dripping floors. There is also a little room for children with a banister that is identical to the one on the staircase, and built-in shelves underneath a lofted bed. There is also a PORTHOLE WINDOW. Hell yeah!
The only photo of the main bedroom was taken with the lights off and the sun shining through the huge windows that look out at the water. This was the correct decision. Who cares whats in that room when you can see all that water and all that sky. There is another small half bath off this room (also with no adequate mirror) riddled with tiny windows outside. And then we are back outside.
It’s dark outside, the shining lights of the house flowing amber in the evening, but the sky and the water are still blue. This must be summer: long, endless evenings on the porch under the still blue sky with the ice clattering in your emptying glass. Sometimes, at the end of a stressful and hard week when you are filled with anticipation and anxiety (speaking for myself now), it’s nice to remember that the moments that feel small and normal and easy are often the most beautiful ones, that though we shape the spaces we live, they also shape us back. The frantic reflects back at us off of the dirty dishes and empty fridge and messy desk, but the calm reflects back too, and so does the beauty.
It’s a good house. Even if it might be for vampires.
This week’s house has been listed on Zillow for $699,000 for 35 days and is already pending sale! Whoever bought this house please allow me to come sit on the porch and have a little cocktail. I will not tell anyone your secrets.