Thursday, January 20, 2005

Perfect Timing

Does anyone else ever get those moments of panic where you're sure you're making a huge mistake? When doubt takes over and you wonder if you should just go buy a tract home like the rest of the world? I've always been a believer that when the time is right things will fall into place and that things happen for a reason. So far our project seems to be adhering to that belief...this is one of those stories.

There was a point last summer between the time we had closed on our land and before we started construction when I was having a period of major doubt and uncertainty about our entire project. It had started to seem more like just some crazy idea we took a few steps too far instead of something that we could actually make happen. Wrapping up our design details was taking longer than I had anticipated putting us behind schedule on our construction loan timetable and costing us a hefty interest payment every month, and we had decided to go ahead with the purchase of our lot (which used up around ¼ to of our overall budget) instead of accepting the gift of a recently inherited city lot being offered to us by Vern's parents. In terms of the actual logistics of getting the house built, there were just so many more questions than answers that I felt lost, confused and a little scared. I had been struggling to find a qualified ICF contractor, and my search for other subs was becoming frustrating as well. No one seemed to understand what we were trying to accomplish and why much less display the level of experience and professionalism that I was looking for. Then we came face to face with a reminder of what we were doing.

We were out riding our motorcycles on a scenic route we've traveled more times than we'd remember, cruising along the bluffs near the St. Croix river and enjoying the sights on a beautiful summer day. It's an area of mostly old Victorian homes and cottages, some renovated and some in increasing states of disrepair, a touristy, small downtown that plays up the historic river city genre to the max with antique stores and railroad memorabilia and turn of the century brick storefronts lining the main street. It's a place that's about as far from modernist as you'd think you could get. We were caught up in weekend sightseeing traffic coming into the business district and for whatever reason I looked up from the cars and road in front of me at exactly the right moment and spied this:

I was completely shocked. It was like this house had appeared out of no where at that exact second. I had been this way numerous times and never caught even a glimpse of anything like it before. I gave Vern the “lets turn around signal” and went back. He pulled over thinking I was crazy until I directed him to look above us up a steep street. We really couldn't believe our eyes. Here was a blatantly modern house smack dab in the middle of a place we had been hundreds of times and the last place we'd ever expect to see such a thing. It was like it had been built overnight.

We drove up the hill and stopped in the street out front to get a closer look and noticed that it was being worked on. My exuberance and surprise got me off my bike immediately and right up to have a chat with whomever I could find that was willing to indulge me.
As it turned out, the owners were working to wrap up what they said was “a total rebuild”. Apparently they had contracted to have the home built new five or six years ago and as it was put “nothing was done correctly and the whole house was practically falling down”. Our conversation went on to become a tale bad contractors, shoddy construction, lawsuits and “paying to build the house twice”. You wouldn't think this would be a reassuring or confidence inspiring chat given all my doubts at that time, but it was like a magic pill. I just couldn't get over the fact that out of nowhere and when we least expected it we had come across others who shared our vision and were willing to put their effort into into making it a reality.

This event may have been a simple coincidence and maybe I'm crazy, but it worked wonders on my psyche despite the horror story. Seeing a physical example of something in the realm of what we had been dreaming of for ourselves was exactly what I needed to buoy my confidence and reaffirm my knowledge that there are others besides us in this place that believe in something different and better when it comes to a home.

Side note: The owner told me he designed the home (I'm not sure if he is an architect or what) as a literal interpretation of a Mondrian painting which was a weird coincidence because I had just mentioned Mondrian to our architect the week before and this had been in my head as a jumping off point for designing our homes' exterior since the beginning. Apparently the major issue that forced the rebuild was mold and water due to improperly installed windows and a stucco exterior over traditional wood framing. Incidentally, this has been a huge issue with newer homes here for the past four or five years and has forced more than a few big dollar builders into litigation or out of business.

I took the picture with my phone's camera so it doesn't really show a lot of the architectural details that made it cool. The big blue wall on the upper part is curved and walks out onto a deck. There's a second story breezeway/sleeping porch between the two major volumes of the house and the shed roof barely visible on the back was a deep, inviting patio. Too bad they didn't invite us in to get a better look :)


Blogger Peggy said...

Just going through some of your old posts. Cosmic. Just cosmic.

11:23 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home