Our Story: Finding the Cottage*

HOUSE-OVERLAYI grew up in a military family; we moved a LOT. And, while people are often quick to assume that was difficult (it does have its own challenges, for sure), it also made me a bit of a house-hunt-loving girl with the heart of a gypsy. Even as a kid, I enjoyed discovering new neighborhoods, going through the house hunting process, setting up new rooms, and seeing the possibilities in old houses every couple years. I still love it.

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The Annual and oh so very small town cute Fourth of July Parade

Five years ago, when we were living in the KC metro area, my husband’s role in his company changed and we were asked to move to Columbus, Ohio. Our oldest daughter still had a year left in high school, so we were lucky and allowed extra time before having to make the transition. This meant that we had a year to research and plan our move. A whole year to plan! (And to practice patience. Ha)

 

IMG_2552Bexley’s Parks and Rec Building, originally home to the Jeffrey family.

As you can imagine, I was obsessed. Researching cities, neighborhoods, and schools commenced immediately.

Over the next few months, Jay and I were glued to the online listings in Columbus. We would get excited and then disappointed when we saw really good homes go under contract within days. Even though we scanned the new listings with daily dedication, we knew the search would be futile until we actually had feet on the ground and could look at immediately available inventory.

IMG_5359The city is an official arboretum and all of the trees are protected.

So when the timing was right (read: our house on the market, manageable closing dates, high school graduation, estimated moving time and planets all aligning) we planned a weekend to “try on” neighborhoods and maybe buy a house. We had our eyes on a few communities. There were several good options to choose from; Columbus is home to some excellent school districts, beautiful neighborhoods and lots in the way of activities and attractions for families.

IMG_0966Each house is unique and several have been used for movie sets.

Even so, I kind of had my heart set on Bexley, based on what I had gleaned from online research (i.e.: stalking city Facebook pages, instagram and school websites). But I also knew that the likelihood of finding something was exceptionally small. Of the available homes online, several were way out of our price range, and others didn’t have enough space or bedrooms for our family of 5.

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Bexley is a unique place, just three miles from the city center, which would shorten Jay’s commute from 40 minutes to ten. It has been called an “enclave” of sorts; it is only two square miles and boasts its own city government and exceptional school system. It is made of walkable movie-set-like streets with historic homes and has a strong tradition of community. As you can imagine, inventory is limited. And when you are moving in from out of town, you get what you get if you’re lucky to get anything.

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Our first day in town was not particularly encouraging. We drove for hours. Liked some towns, but not the commute. Liked another commute, but didn’t like the busy streets the kids would have to cross to get to school every day. Liked one house well enough, but it was the nicest on the block, which isn’t always the best bet. Inventory, everywhere, in early March, was limited and depressing. It was still wintery cold and gray.

 

 

Our realtor was driving us through Bexley after popping in to two less than perfect options (one was in our price range but needed a full gutting, and we weren’t thrilled with the location of the other), when came to a stop sign outside (what is now) our house. A realtor had put a “coming soon” sign in the yard just that morning, and we called immediately. The location was perfect — just a block from the elementary school — and the house had a well-kept look about it, even if the front of it was obscured by giant holly trees.

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These are actual listing photos.
2The holly trees were full of spiders and cobwebs. They HAD to come down.

I was afraid to get my hopes up. I told myself someone had probably called ‘dibs’ or something. We were learning quickly that a lot of homes in desirable communities were basically sold by word of mouth. Or people just make offers on homes that aren’t even for sale at all. How do you compete with that???

1dWho knew there was a house back there? And a copper door portico!
3-side…and a porch!
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Which we had landscaped. And updated this awnings.
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I have planted hydrangeas everywhere. They are my favorite and love Ohio’s cooler summers.

We were the first people to see it the next morning and made an offer that day. A lot of updating had been done during the 80s and we knew that we would be undoing a lot of those design choices. The stairs and entire second floor had wall-to-wall carpeting and we would remove that. The bathrooms (all 4.5 of them!) were outdated and still sport what I like to call a ’80s-on-the-cheap’ vibe.

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One of my favorite features is our storybook front door.

But I was gobsmacked by the charming curb appeal of this 1930 Tudor,  interior extras, like built-ins and custom moldings and the entertaining potential of the courtyard patio. And it was the right size. The perfect location. Everything was in working order and completely functional. It had a screened in porch (win), and the kind of curb appeal you just can’t manufacture.  And so, 48 hours later, we were in contract.

Plywood bathrooms, Adams Family holly trees, funky 80s kitchen updates and all.