Eight years ago I bought my little house due to a divorce. I downsized and lost 3000 square feet, an angry husband, and many beloved pieces of furniture – a wing chair, an antique trunk, some beds, a dresser, and an antique dresser and mirror that I refinished by hand after buying it in a junk store when I was twenty-two years old. I’m still sad about that one.
I followed convention and set up two rooms of comfortable communal lounging space, put my dining room set in the tiny dining room, and squeezed my kitchen stuff into the tiny and mostly-original-to-1975 kitchen, including almond tile, brown grout, and pressed-board cabinets. The black-market shiny high-end appliances made the kitchen look updated, but oh, the stories I could tell about those appliances:
The illegally-installed (too low) oven with the filed-off serial number and no model number (it died one summer, 2014). The third repair guy fixed it, but not before the second repair guy slammed it back into the cabinet and broke the cabinet.
The freezer that turned my ice cream into soup (2011).
The hood vent with no guts (2011).
The dishwasher with movable inside parts that kept falling apart (until 2017 when I got a new one).
The built-in microwave that died (2018). I bought a counter-top model.
The cupboard floor that had gotten wet, was rotten, and smelled like a dead animal (2011).
The sub-zero built-in fridge that started a wall fire since it was illegally installed with no designated electrical circuit (2016).
As the boyfriend on the day of the house closing said, “You bought a pig with lipstick on it.”
Yes, I did. And I had to make money to pay for my rising health insurance costs, dental bills, and college tuition. The living room turned into a dress shop, the dining room turned into a tea cup store, and I lived in the sunken family room with one sliding glass door. It was dark, and it was depressing.
One child went to college, another one came back (even though he had never lived here before), then left again, a girlfriend stayed for a week when breaking up with her boyfriend, and then I got a puppy.
In 2017 my sis moved in, and she had trouble going down the step to the recliner in the sunken room and back up the step to the bathroom and bedroom. I got the idea one day to flip the rooms around and put the recliners in the living room.
I had always been hung up on how to get the living room’s Yamaha upright piano down the step to the sunken room, but in the end, I left it in the dining room. I moved the dining room suite to the sunken room, dumped a 30-year-old sofa sleeper (actually two brothers-in-law from Vallejo came and picked it up after seeing it for free on Craigslist), sold off the tea cups and dinner plates to people planning weddings (also Craigslist), took two random side chairs to the beach house, and suddenly I was sitting in a brighter room with a better view. My son came over and moved the TV and all that goes with that.
I enjoyed the winter sunsets, I enjoyed my lovely garden, and I enjoyed my new point of view. This was last spring (2018). Then in October, my new neighbors behind and below me cut down five pine trees, and suddenly Las Trampas Ridge, which was hiding behind those trees, appeared out my window.
One day I was sitting in the living/family room looking at the now-empty dining room except for the piano, and thought to myself, what if?
What if I took down the dining room wall and enlarged my crappy kitchen? What if I got that good contractor on the verge of retirement and charged the cabinets and appliances on my Home Depot card and took two years to pay it off with no interest? What if I gave myself the new kitchen the house had always screamed for?
Now as I sit in the opened-up living area, I have a view of things I’ve never seen before. I can see my bird feeders at the kitchen window. I can see the hills of Las Trampas Ridge and the spring sunsets behind it, my neighbor’s oak tree, and my beautiful new kitchen.
My crappy little tract home isn’t as crappy anymore. The floor is still sloping enough to send a marble across the room, and the newly-raised kitchen ceiling has a dip in it (sagging roof). But the pig has on a full face of make-up, and she is ready to party.