Small is Beautiful

How much is enough?  How much is too much?  How much house do people really need?  Some believe that these questions are matters of personal preference with only the need to consider how much you have to spend on acquisition and ownership.  I think that’s too narrow a perspective.  We live on an island in space.  There’s only so much water, air and land for all beings to share. We must act individually to preserve an equitable balance of resources for all beings not only living in this nation, but in all nations and the land and water outside nations.  It’s all connected.  It is only because we delight in fooling ourselves that we are able to pretend our own lives are separate, and we can draw boundaries.  The boundaries are illusions; nations, races, religions – all the fences we put up to support a pretense that our tribe deserves special status.

As I drove the two hours to SEA-TAC airport to pick up my wife, it shocked me to endure that kind of traffic again after not having done so for 10 weeks.  I was able to navigate, but the look, noise and even smell of it offended me acutely.  It’s hard to believe I was ever acclimated to it.  Driving in heavy traffic in a major metro area is a soul-crushing task.  I wonder how much hypertension is caused by doing it over the course of decades?

The security precautions at SEA-TAC do not allow you to meet arriving passengers as they depart planes.  You must wait at baggage claim, a centrally monitored area which passengers must take a tram to get to.  This is a price we all pay for assuming there is an extremist around every corner waiting to get us.  Hard times in the human transport biz have meant that airlines are buying other airlines.  The flight number I needed wasn’t the same as the flight number on the ticket, nor the terminal, nor the gate.  It took 45 minutes to obtain the true ID and location of the plane arriving with my precious cargo.

Mrs. Invisible is the lowest-tech genius in North America.  She forgets to charge her cell phone and never brings a charger or empties her inbox of voicemails.  I had no idea if she made the flight, and I couldn’t leave a message because her mailbox (as always) was full. She doesn’t know how to view a text, and the phone was dead anyway.  Because her back was hurting she also let everyone else get off the plane first, so I waited, and waited, and waited.  I was stressing big time.  But at last she came up the escalator, my Mrs. Marple, in a stylish black raincoat.

Then we had to renegotiate the huge parking lot and tear back through the megatraffic vortex to get back to check out the house I had previously targeted.  As we drove farther and farther away from the gates of hell, I could feel my equilibrium returning.  The highways got smaller.  The trees got bigger.  This is the world as it ought to be, not as most of it is.  There’s enough, and not too much.

She looked over the house I wrote about previously (in “Hunters vs. Gatherers” on April 27th), and loved it.  Then we went to see ones she had selected as possible alternatives.  The first had a nice view, but the carpet and outdoor decks were old, ugly and moldy.  However, the second home was ten minutes drive from my current work, cost 50k less than the others, and had an even BETTER view.  Score one for Super Gatherer.  The only detriment for some shoppers, though not for us, is that it has a lot less living space.  It’s of vital importance to note that the space it has is more intelligently arranged and utilized than in the property I wrote about before.

I’ve named it Casa DeLuxe, the house of light, and this house is bursting with light, both natural and artificial. There are a variety of double-paned windows, hinged panels and a ceiling fan that runs silently to facilitate airflow from the direction of your choice.

Efficient baseboard heaters with separate thermostats allow temperature control to be configured during occupancy of specific areas.  There’s a wood-burning fireplace downstairs, where there are beautiful hardwood floors.

The missus only had the one non-negotiable, a view with water.  This one has views with water, trees and mountains, and it faces west for the setting sun.

There’s a well-maintained wraparound deck just right for two in nice weather.

The interior lighting includes recessed halogens, track lights, under-cabinet spots and even rope lights along the beams.  The illuminati living here will be able to vary the mood of the space in a hundred different ways.

The kitchen has an attractive island with drawers on the inside and space for chairs opposite in the center of the first floor.  This counter is adequate for main dining or socializing and makes everything easy and reachable since the gas range is recessed into it.  It’s so inviting we might even learn to cook!

Though there are only two bedrooms and full baths, there’s also a carpeted loft area convertible into multi-use space for media entertainment, writing or guest accommodation as needed.  One of the two baths is up there also.

There’s built-in and hidden storage all over the house both upstairs and downstairs like these large drawers on the side of the stairs.

There’s also a workshop-sized storage room outside the house opposite the carport that could be finished as desired.  The carport itself could be enclosed if we chose to do so, or we might have a writing room built above it.

A couple of blocks from the house, the community offers a small marina with storage for kayaks and a clubhouse with exercise equipment, pool and Jacuzzi for a modest monthly fee.  This is almost like living full-time in a vacation resort.  Since the house is so cheap, we will have most of the price to put down once ours is sold, and we got pre-approval for a loan even on my meager salary.  Pinch me folks, I’m dreaming.

The housing market depression can’t explain the availability of a treasure like this with a location close to water and all these amenities.  The hidden reason is that the tastes and values my wife and I share are out of sync with the main culture.  No one wants this gorgeous, low-priced home with intelligent upgrades because it is “only” the perfect size for two people.  It has been on the market for seven months and has had no visitors for most of that time.  Ours is the first serious inquiry.

Meanwhile back in El Lay, home #1 is being staged as painting nears completion.  The realtor and stager are thrilled, and sale is expected within a week of going on the market.  If it goes into escrow, it would give us leverage to offer an amount lower than the asking price to open negotiations on Casa DeLuxe.  I would have never thought of that, but our realtor here says if you offer full price right off the bat, the sellers will think the home is under-valued and be unhappy.  I did not realize the extent to which people distrust each other’s motives.  I’m only an apprentice in this world of material exchange, where our best interests are compounded.

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19 Comments

Filed under debt, Ethics and Morality, Money, symbolism, Technology

19 responses to “Small is Beautiful

  1. The house looks beautiful. I love the stair-drawers!

    My recent airport experience wasn’t as bad as yours was–a fact I am grateful for. I’m currently in Wichita, looking for a next step. So far this place seems a nice mix of country and city. Much flatter than I’m used to, but that makes biking an ideal consideration. We’ll see what happens, and good luck to you and Mrs. Invisible with the sale of the old house.

  2. Particularly love the photo with the boats. Reminds me of a few good summers spent on the coast. Thanks for sharing.

    D.

  3. it’s got a pool and a hot tub in walking distance, plus a wrap around porch? That one is the one. Those storage drawers are mega nifty. The only thing i wouldnt like is the gas stove lest one leave it on. I’d be sad to leave LA though cause I bet there’s always something to see and I’d want to imagine I’m Malibu Barbie or that I lived in Compton before I became a movie star.
    Hope y’all are having an awesome weekend!
    Lisa

  4. Deborah

    The difference in American homes and UK homes never ceases to amaze me. That beautiful house with the beautiful views is considered too small by most people? It looks out of this world to me. You must be absolutely thrilled.x

    • When I was an American child, I thought as one and longed for largeness in a home, but now I am grown and have put away childish things. I’m in complete agreement with you, Deborah. They put in many of the improvements to the house (such as the kitchen island AND those stair-drawers) in hopes of attracting viewers. Those are designer innovations. The kitchen had been walled-in before. That’s also why they added high-speed communications wiring to every room and lights and power even in the storage spaces upstairs. We are indeed thrilled and I hope we can make a deal..

  5. SOLD!
    I’m drawn to the “vacation-ness” of it all. Same reason we bought this little house. It’s like high-end camping every day here.
    A lot of your adventure is so similar to ours. Our house was listed as a two bedroom, comparitively small bungalow. Everyone (including the sellers) wondered how we were going to fit four kids into this house.
    But I had vision, and it had potential. We were able to accomodate with very very little renovation. In fact we only put up one wall and took down half of another to make everyone fit. We left behind a house with double the square footage, half the mortgage payment and a third less maintenance to live more simply. The bizarre thing is, we pay double the mortgage, on the same income, double the utilities, it’s double the work to live here, yet, life is soooo much more affordable these days. I don’t think we’ll ever go back.
    Your anecdote about traffic made my stomach flip over. I will never miss city life.

    • I applaud your vision, and the courage it took to embrace it and make it real.

      It took us a long time to choose to live in sync with our values. Longer in my wife’s case than mine. Think how odd it must have been to be a “contemplative” writing TV news for 33 years. I have at least lived in very small spaces (like a sailboat) and tiny apartments before. I love it when space is smartly arranged and nothing’s wasted area. Behind the stairs is a closet, and in it is a new over & under washer/dryer. Because the carport is in no one’s view, my wife wants us to investigate adding a room atop it with steps from the storage shed, where we may add a half-bath.

  6. I love it! I love it! I love it!

  7. Mikey, that is truly a beautiful house, and I expect that it will also be a beautiful home in short order if you and the Gatherer choose this one. My own technology-indifferent wife displays the same uncanny ability to find houses, furniture, and all manner of small items for our daughter online. She’s a Craigslist marksman, a confident sure-shot sniper with an eagle eye. Great photos here.

    • It’s amusing how she can shop online, but can’t program an answering machine. It’s kind of like the way some women only play slot machines or video poker but would never consider sitting at a card table. No buttons to push.

      Thanks for dropping by.

      (Matt’s latest is about downtown towers, with cool photos.)

  8. Pie

    The views! The views!

    I’d kill to be able to have a home like that here in Blighty, but it would cost an arm and a leg, thanks to our ridiculous house prices. If you would consider putting a small pie in one of your drawers, it would please me, sir.

  9. Wanda Arcos

    I think this place looks perfect for you two. The extra storage room and adaptable carport sends it over the top. I can’t believe the gorgeous views! My one concern—where are you going to watch your movies? That downstairs space seems really small for the way you like to kind of spread out, no?This is a small quibble when you throw in the place to keep your kayaks, and the jacuzzi and pool. I hopw all goes well with the sale of old and purchase of new.

    • The idea is to put a big flat-screen up in that carpeted loft. Downstairs, the show is out those windows. Thanks for your good wishes. I believe the CA house is already sold, so we should soon be able to make an offer on Casa DeLuxe. The next post is about that game show.
      Nice to see you here, by the way. (Wanda is a pal from church.)

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