Sunday, April 23, 2006

Home Tour

I had a special date with my husband yesterday: the 12South neighborhood home tour. We flashed back to a humid Sylvan Park tour we took while dating. We were both more concerned with discreetly wiping away our perspiration than with the architecture. (Though we did end up buying our first home in the area a few years later!) Some things are so much more fun when you are married.

Homes in the trendy 12South neighborhood are mostly cottages and bungalows. Renovators there have had to work with odd-size nooks, outdated kitchens and baths, old windows--challenges that bring out one's creativity, especially on a budget. For instance, fellow blogger Jordana's staircase had treads painted a warm red--perhaps done as a cost measure originally, but the result is a charming cottage touch that ties the upstairs to the open kitchen. Oh, the kitchen! Rosy red painted cabinets, open shelving, a long table in the center: all details that make the room an inviting space instead of just a work area. My husband studied the clever way her picket fence was built on the original chain link posts. They were painted white, with horizontal boards screwed into the metal as a base for the uprights. Reusing the posts saves both money and time (digging, concrete, costly wood timbers).

Some other ideas we took away from the tour:

Original art makes a big impact. A feature which distinguished almost all the homes was prominent use of real paintings, not just framed prints. One bold oil above a fireplace "made" a tiny living room--I can't keep thinking about those colors. It makes me itch to start painting something for above the baby's crib.

Original hardwood floors, even scarred, trump prefinished every time. Several homes with additions had replaced old with new. The tiny homes with patched and finished wood floors seemed richer by contrast--the imperfections added character. We will remember this when we face the lure of prefinished floors in the next house.

Tiny front yards can have so much impact, with relatively little landscaping. Home after home had a small shaped area of grass surrounded by interesting plantings. We even saw a driveway paved entirely with wood chips that carried through into a winding backyard path. Some type of border--bricks or stone--would have given the drive a more finished look. But as for cheap and easy, with a natural look? Great idea.

If there's not an organized tour event where you live, you can always invent your own tour by visiting Open Houses on Sunday afternoons. I highly recommend this as a way to learn about a neighborhood, take note of new renovation trends, and talk to homeowners (and agents) about a particular real estate market. Not to mention learning from other's creativity!

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