this old house

There are numerous perks to renting a 100-year-old house, chief among them guessing which paint layer belongs to which decade and just how much lead is in the chips you keep plucking off the carpet.

But there is a special kind of thrill in renting a 100-year-old house that has not been maintained whatsoever, and whose owner has in fact stated numerous times that she does not desire to spend so much as a dime fixing it. Benefits to this approach to property management include being able to live in a two-bedroom house two blocks from downtown and paying a little less than the average going rate for that privilege.

And yet, issues! Our house has them.

I love this house, don’t get me wrong. There is something I’ve always liked about older houses. Older houses have charm, as they say. Personality. Then again, maybe that’s just something the inhabitants of old houses have fabricated in order to make themselves feel better about the fact that anything could break apart at any minute.

Quirky. We’ll call it quirky.

Let us count the ways.

Like the fact that the floor sags so dramatically at either end of the house that to open the windows in one room you have to pull down hard, and in the other room you have to push up hard.

And how the permanently-beer-stained-mud-brown-relic-of-party-house carpet that hasn’t been replaced since the 1990s reminds us never to sit on the floor ever and maybe learn how to levitate so we don’t have to touch it ewwwww.

And — well, let me just show you the rest of the wonderful quirks perks. Let’s have a tour, shall we? Take my arm, friend.

Here we have a nice board over our inoperable fireplace, which provides a pristine canvas to practice our art skills. 

Are you tired of pesky doors that freely open all the way? Me too! In this age of mindless modern conveniences, I enjoy a physical challenge. Just suck in your gut, dear, and try to edge around it.

Whoops, don’t mind the hole in the ceiling. Nothing’s come out of it in a while, except that bat, that one time. Kidding! It was actually a raccoon. Kidding! It was actually a river of blood. Don’t worry, we’ve had the place exorcised since then. I think.

Yes, that window is closed. No, it doesn’t close any more than that. It’s okay, though. The ones next to it don’t open, so at least we have, you know, one option for escape.

And here we have our adorable “breakfast nook” area, rendered completely useless by narrow benches you can barely keep one buttcheek on, not to mention the fact that the benches are too close together to fit a normal table between. If There Was A Problem, Yo, I’ll Solve It: we “fixed” this area by hanging a curtain in front of the benches, installing shelving, and turning it into a closet.

Now, walls, there’s something that’s boring, right? I mean, they’re just flat! And white! What a snoozefest. But then I found the perfect design solution: CRACKS.

All that texture adds visual interest. You don’t even need to hang pictures, really. No, I mean really, don’t even try. Most of them just fall back out of the wall, anyway.

If you’re lucky and brush your hand against a door jamb in the right manner, you’ll get shards of paint embedded under your fingernails. Just like splinters, but with more lead poisoning! This has never happened to me, except for the half-dozen times it happened to me.

I… I don’t even know what’s going on here.

Take care not to step on the heater grate. That thing will melt your shoes if it’s running. My favorite day of the year is the Great Heater Burnoff Day, which occurs at the first wintery chill of the season. We celebrate by throwing open all the windows and doors and letting the angry flames incinerate all of the debris and particulates that have fallen in during the months it’s lain dormant, as we huddle in the back bedroom, coughing. 

PS, I was not kidding about the pre-stained carpet. Three steam cleanings and it still looks like that.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I sure do enjoy fumbling around in a creepy cupboard in the pitch dark after I foolishly dared to run the washer, microwave, and TV at the same time. Which unlabeled fuse blew this time? Let’s unscrew all of them until we find out!

That? Oh, that’s a portal to another dimension, conveniently located over our dryer.

(Here’s how you get up there. That old tried-and-true chair-on-dryer-machine method.)


Don’t be afraid. There’s really nothing up here that can hurt you. Except these rusty roofing nails sticking straight through the wood that will snag your clothes and give you tetanus.

Okay, sidebar! Turns out I was lying a little bit about there being “nothing” in the attic crawlspace. Turns out we found a LOT up there last week, when the beau attempted to clean it out in preparation for the move. Among the things he found, most of which never belonged to us:

  • A neon Kirin beer sign
  • An old 2-foot corked novelty bottle of Seagram’s (sadly empty)
  • Hockey equipment
  • A mostly-deflated oversized birthday balloon (???)
  • A hardhat
  • A black round lamp base from the 70s that we’re keeping now, thank you very much
  • Giant speakers
  • Christmas ribbons and bows strewn haphazardly everywhere

We’re thinking about just leaving it all up there for the next residents to find and wonder at. “Sweeeeeeet, a beer sign! That’s going over the fireplace, bro!”

Anyway, that’s it. Thanks for coming on my tour. Now you see why I’m chronically embarrassed to have people over.

Everyone’s home has quirks. Tell me what bugs you most about yours?

11 Responses to “this old house”

  1. I have a list of complaints about our current digs — the hideous 90s faux-wood-trim kitchen, the awful appliances, the fact that our buzzer doesn’t work — but I think the winner has to be the carpet. Future landlords, take note: light beige berber carpet is pretty much the worst choice you can make for your rental property. Berber carpet holds onto stains like a toddler clutches his favorite blanky. Your carpet will never, ever look clean, not even after your renters spend an entire weekend shampooing it.

  2. I love the crazy things that you find in old home attics!

    We’re so torn between finding a super old space and building when we move next. This home we live in is about to turn 100 and we just love it so. Unfortunately, all the previous residents were plodding suburbanites so there are no amazing party remnants. We DID find an awesome vintage porn VHS hidden in the basement.

  3. Ha! I love this. And I am so happy that you are leaving that carpet as I now have carpet heebie jeebies.

  4. I live in an apartment that my (suburban ranch house-dwelling) aunt refers to as “charming” and that I refer to as “boringly mid-century, with all the frustrations of a ‘charming’ apartment. To wit:
    –hard wood floors (only bad in context)
    –single pane windows that don’t sit correctly in their frames
    –one of which has a small hole repaired with packing tape
    –no insulation
    –a wall heater with an on/off switch rather than any sort of thermostat
    –the left side of the sink doesn’t drain properly, despite my years of snaking/drano attempts
    –two light switches that, as far as I can tell, control absolutely nothing
    –one light switch that operates an outlet in reverse (up is off, down is on)
    –the world’s oldest, shittiest venetian blinds, most of which I leave up constantly because it’s too much of a pain to fight them up and down
    –and the building itself has an elevator, technically, but it’s been sealed off during my entire 6-year tenancy. I live on the 3rd (and a half) floor.

    on the up side, by apartment is huge, cheap, allows cats, and is located right next to a grocery store, drug store, and several bus lines. so I think it’s a net positive.

  5. I am so glad I am not the only one who lives in a house like this. And yeah, no people over either.

  6. Oh I enjoyed this post way too much. Well, really I enjoyed it just the right amount, I have no idea what enjoying it TOO much means.

    This brought me right back to our basement rental that we lived in for 3 years. It was an old house that was chopped into approximately 5 suites, though we never did figure out exactly. The landlady was also pretty committed to not spending a dime on the place. When we called her to fix the gas stove (the knobs were messed up so you couldn’t tell when you were turning it on) she sent over a “handyman” who “fixed” it by putting cardboard under the knobs. We managed not to die in an inferno somehow. There were also the mice that once made an appearance while we had people over – there’s a trick you might want to tuck away if a party is ever going on too long, mice clears people out FAST. And then there was the nearly completely lack of outlets (none in the bathroom, none in the living room so our TV was plugged in in the kitchen through a variety of extension cords). Oh and the carpet. I tried not to think about the things that lived in that. And I tried not to look down because some of them were visible.

    Old houses are fun and I loved getting a tour of yours.

  7. I cracked up (a lot) while reading this post. Our 100-year-old apartment is also “charming.” The paint chipping of the door jambs was particularly familiar looking. Probably one of the most annoying things in our place is that about half of the apartment is over what used to be an outdoor carriage-parking area, so it is all open under that part of the apartment with seeming non-existent insulation between the floor and the elements. In Quebec. So, for example, on days like today when it is -17 F (with a “feels like” temperature of -44F)…..uh……it’s COLD in that part of the house. Well, all the house, but especially that part: it’s like walking on ice. And there’s evidence of half-effort repairs over the years that have cut corners. In the case of the electrical wiring in the office, they literally cut corners with the wiring. It exits from inside the wall to cut around the corner (outside of the wall). Maybe they were running out of wire? Anyhow, I am sure it is a major electrical hazard and probably illegal. Thankfully this place has enough actual charm and a great location, which compensates for most of the negative. And we don’t have carpet. (We do, however, have “rustic” wood floors that give us splinters during the 6 months of winter. The last one I saw about a week or two ago was 4 inches. I measured it (and took a photo!) because it was the biggest I have seen. Anyhow, this type of stuff makes for great stories. :) Thanks for the tour of your place. I was laughing out loud throughout.

  8. Thanks, Lyn! Now I don’t feel like our house is completely un-sellable – I just filled a shit-ton of cracks and will be painting tomorrow, and there hasn’t been carpet since we moved here nine years ago! This totally made my Tuesday better, because apparently THIS Tuesday’s adventure is that we DID have a bat I n the kitchen.

  9. A couples months ago i removed the mantel from our fireplace. Afterwards, I was vacuuming up the 50 years of dust that has accumulated in all the cracks and crevices of the bricks. What did I find? A bracelet circa 1970-something. Yes, I’ve worn it.

  10. This past summer we moved into a 1925 house that has been converted to four units. We have hardwoods in most rooms except for the middle room, which has beige-y berber carpet that is mostly clean looking. The floor is totally crooked so you have to be careful when walking too quickly around the house or you may just lose your balance, esp in the bathtub. The bathtub slants downward so sometimes if you not careful it is easy to almost fall when trying to get out. The insulation is horrible so it is really cold during the winter and no matter how high the heat is on it doesn’t really get that warm so we end up paying through the roof for no heat. (We keep it lower now, not doing that again.) Also, I don’t think any of the windows open. I tried but they didn’t want to budge.
    Those are my main complaints with the place but there is a lot of actual charm to the place and we have a giant porch with a porch swing and sun shades so you can actually enjoy the porch during the summer months too. We are within walking distance to Bishop Arts District and parks and ten minute drive from downtown Dallas. All of that makes up for some of the hazards of the place.
    Thanks for taking us on a tour of your place, Lyn. :)

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