This Old House (Is Driving Me Insane!)

I’ve heard you shouldn’t let your heart get involved in real estate — that you should be practical, and think about your needs and limitations before buying or renting. Getting emotionally attached to a property is like love at first sight. Sure, there’s always a possibility that things will work out and you’ll live happily ever after, but the odds are never in your favor.

I used to be a habitual love-at-first-sighter. I’m a romantic, after all. A fresh romance is nothing if not too-good-to-be-true. It’s all clandestine make outs, flushed confessions and fireworks. No matter how many times you’ve believed it before, you’re like um, THIS TIME RIGHT HERE, I’m pretty sure I want to love this person for the rest of my life.

Cut to three weeks later and you’re drunk, standing out on the street in front of a bar in Puerto Rico, screaming “ALL I EVER WANTED WAS TO LOVE YOU” through your tears while the significantly younger, severely broken manchild in front of you throws up his arms and looks at you like you should have known what you were getting yourself into in the first place.

Oh. That just me?

Anyway, lucky for you readers, I never listen to reason. Leaving New York City and moving to the Jersey Shore meant I could have MORE SPACE. And things! And maybe even, dare to dream, a goddamn outdoor area. Needless to say, I was excited about all of the possibilities.

I started off on the right foot — spent the year leading up to my move obsessively checking listings on Zillow, Trulia and Craigslist. I was well-researched, reasoned and thoughtful. I set myself a budget and knew exactly what I should get for my money.

That was, until my real estate agent sent me an as-of-yet-unposted listing: a partially furnished 1920 Spanish Colonial just 4 blocks from the beach, with extremely unique details: a piano room, a parlor with a bar (!!!), an old gas fireplace, a red 1950’s Chambers oven in the kitchen, several window seats (hi, can you say LIFE DREAM?!), built-in glass shelving all over the goddamn place, a big green front door covered in a collection of knockers, and so much more. It was bizarre, it was stunning, and it was in major need of some TLC. It was, to sum it up in one phrase: completely impractical.

Green Front Door

Yeah, I was totally going to pass THIS up. Look at all those knockers!

I wish I could adequately express the rush of emotions that pumped through my body as I flipped through that slideshow of pictures. It went a little something like this: YES… YES, OHMYGODYES, YES. Chelsea, don’t let yourself get attached! Play it cool! Channel Nance! NO SCREW THAT, apply for it right now, nobody sleeps until you sign that damn lease!

In 13 pictures, all of the thought and reason b.s. I spent a year gathering went completely out the window. I knew what I wanted, and short of agreeing to donate a kidney as a term of my lease, I would rent that damn crazy house. I was a woman obsessed. I was Wayne Campbell drooling over his Fender Strat — “she will be mine. Oh yes, she WILL be mine.”

Well, I do live here now.

IMG_0002_2

Yep, here. This is the manor all dressed up for our epic Halloween Housewarming party. (Photo Credit: Elise Pereira)

I’ve lived here for 8 months. I want to say that that our affair has been the lightening-in-a-bottle experience of love at first sight with actual long-term potential. I want to say that the house is everything I dreamed it would be (and more!), and that having more rooms than I need has fulfilled all my life’s wishes.

But we all know that’s not how this story goes.

Apparently, old houses come with a host of potential problems like old plumbing systems, leaky roofs, poor insulation, and pests. WHO KNEW?! Naive, wanted-the-world-and-a-backyard-to-boot Chelsea sure didn’t! Or, if she did somewhere deep down, she ignored the voice of reason (read: her father) and traded in her sensibilities for a bizarre pirate mermaid wood carving mounted on the doorframe.

photo (24)

This is a thing in my house. Because, of course it is.

Really, nothing says you nailed the apartment hunting process like calling your NYC friends on July 3rd while they’re boarding a train to visit you for a fun-filled Independence Day weekend at the shore, and having to tell them, “you miiight want to hold off coming here ’til tomorrow… we currently have no running water.”

Bar room

SORRY, no running water today. But at least… we have a bar?

“Unforeseen” problems aside, there’s also the fact that old houses with gigantic rooms that have singular purposes need to be, like cleaned. And dusted. All that glass shelving? Favorite pastimes include: 1) displaying chotchkies, and 2) collecting a shitload of dust. Dave and I just adore our weekly how-the-hell-are-we-going-to-keep-this-house-under-control meetings. The best!

Oh, another fun fact: did you know it is not cheap to heat old houses? All right, I kind of knew this, but figured how bad could it be?! HA. My old as hell windows are currently mocking me as they rattle under the pressure of 60-mph shore winds and suck the sweet, sweet (and pricey!) warm air out into the atmosphere.

Sometimes, living here makes me feel like I’m in a noncommital back-and-forth relationship with a dirty hipster. Basically, like 2010-2012 Chelsea, but far more sober and without craptastic bangs.

I’ve considered giving up more than once. But every time I think I can’t take it anymore, something magical happens to remind me of why I moved here in the first place.

Red Chambers Range

Why, for the Chambers oven, of course! Honestly. Was I going to see this and not sign a lease?!

Case in point: The last time the house turned on us (which involved the ceiling leaking water all over our pantry), our landlord came out to asses the damage. We got to talking, and he took out his phone to show us pictures and share stories of the old gal’s glory days. That’s when this gem came out:

“Bruce Springsteen used to jam here!”

Say what now?! Bruce… jammed… here?! In this house?! In the very same music room we play in nearly every day?! We’re not even his biggest fans, but holy crap, that’s just rad!

Piano Room

The Piano room, where Bruce probably played. The piano’s busted, so Dave and I fixed it up with our plethora of instruments.

Apparently, the Boss was friends with the owner of our house, back when he lived in Asbury Park — a young lad trying to break into the music business. Even into his early famous years, he would come over  and jam and hang out here. That is, until they had a falling out and fell out of touch. So the story goes.

And just like that, she pulls me back in, revealing the cold, hard truth: I couldn’t leave the crazy bitch if I tried.

Sun Room

The sun room decorated for Christmastime, where the lady of the house (AKA pest control) rules over her kingdom (AKA us).

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5 thoughts on “This Old House (Is Driving Me Insane!)

  1. I can confirm every word of this. And Nance would have been hella mad at my enabling self because I was (almost literally) on wife’s shoulder scrolling through those initial pictures of “The Manor” saying “YOU HAVE TO GET IT, YOU HAVE TO FOR THE BOTH OF US.” I feel like I have partial ownership stake in the house and I have to say, I don’t regret it one bit. I love that bizarre old house.

  2. P.S. You didn’t even mention the array of mirrored surfaces that give a certain circus fun-house feel to the place. “You’re three rooms away but I can seeeeee youuuuu.”

  3. Chelsea love your writing. Yes, Nancy would have been maybe a little mad, but she is smiling at what a great lady you have become. Keep writing kid it is GREAT!

  4. In spite of my meagerly acknowledged misgivings, I have to admit to growing rather fond of the place with all its eccentricities and its Addams Family vibe…..but then I don’t have to live in it……you have done a lot with it,. but the deferred maintenance will always get you in the end……best kitchen ever though….

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