COTE DE TEXAS

Downsizing Part Three–The Albans House, Today!

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This is the final of a series on Downsizing which started with the tale of Mr. Slippersocksman and me moving to an apartment for a myriad of reasons.

When we found ourselves in an early retirement that we hadn’t anticipated – we were faced with lowering our overhead.  But how?  We were faced with the truth that moving to an apartment for now would be the easiest way to go: no more huge water and electricity bills and no more property taxes!  Yeah! 

Still, I had spent 25 years making my house my home and I can’t say I don’t miss it, especially when I look at these old photographs.

We sold our house to a flipper whom we thought would update our house and either sell it or rent it out.  What we didn’t realize was after we signed our house away, our flipper sold it to another flipper.  It might have occurred on the exact same day for all we know.

The new flipper could not have been a nicer man.  He allowed us to stay in our house for a few months while we got used to the idea that we were actually moving.  YIKES!!!!

While we were staying there, the flipperman would show up and measure things.  He even brought a new front door by, but it was the wrong size.  I didn’t see the door – but I was instantly insulted!  A new front door?!?!?  What’s wrong with our gorgeous double French door?!?!?

 


But of course, everything is wrong with it when you are a flipper today.  Our door was definitely not a black steel framed glass door it is a must when flipping a house today.

Over the course of next few months we would drive by to monitor the situation on Albans Street.  There were BIG changes going on and some were ones that I had wanted to do myself but never did.   Still, when our former house showed up on HAR, it was a shock.  With everything I had put into the house now gone, I barely recognized it.  I wouldn’t have known it was mine if not for the address.  Seriously.

Let’s face facts here.  My house was not and never was AND never will be an architectural beauty.  It was a spec house that we updated while trying to add some decorative interest to it. 

Here’s the outside of our house, as it was:

I chose that pink brick with extra wide white grout which I loved for a few years.  After we moved in, I painted the window surrounds black, and I also painted the garage door black.   One day Sally Wheat told me to paint the house white like hers and I drove home, all excited – until I pulled up and saw my house.  It wasn’t like Sally’s gorgeous house which painted in white looked even better.  Who was I fooling?


Sally’s new landscape and paint.  Beautiful!!!

After that day with Sally, I would think that painting the house white would be left for the next owners to do.  I did hope that owner would be Elisabeth.  An only child, Ben and I planned she would own the house herself when we were gone.

When the house was sold, I knew that painting it white would be first on the list of things to do.  It was what any talented flipper would do.

And he did.

In these photos, there is one big difference between then and now.  The large water oak tree that had sold us on this particular lot had died some years ago and the dappled sunlight that was so pretty on the front lawn is now gone.  I wrote about that tree loss HERE.

While we waited to move out I would think about what the new owner would do to the house first.  Within a few days after our exit, I got my answer.

1.  New black steel front door.

Check!!!!

2. White painted brick.

Check!!!!


Here’s the Albans house today:

The new double front door framed in black steel.   He removed the old windows and put new ones in, with very thin dividers.  One surprise is he left the front porch floor unpainted.  I would have gone with black paint there.


The flipper painted the new garage door gray instead of black and there are new iron gates at the left and right of the house.   Not sure why there are dark screens in the upper bedroom on the right?  Also gone is the window box at that window where each season I fought to keep the flowers alive.  It was a losing battle and the last few years, I just gave up all together.


I just found an old photo of the window over the garage.  I must have just had it replanted which is why I took the photo.  It never looked this good after a few weeks!!!


And one good thing is the flipper added lights on both sides of the garage.   I don’t know why I never did that myself?  My gutters were painted a light cream to disappear, here they are black to accent all the white, plus I think they are new gutters altogether.  Good idea.


My house went through many decorative schemes during the years.  I wrote about the living room HERE and how awful it was for the first few years we lived there.


An early, blurry photo of the entry hall with sconces that I thought were GORGEOUS!  LOL. 

For years my house had a more English look with reds and khakis and checks and Bennison fabrics.  Later I went with an all white scheme and bought some white painted furniture instead of having only dark wood pieces.

The new entry with the Lone Ranger desk and slipcovered dining room chairs.  I’m looking at these sconces and don’t know where they are!  I wish I could hang them in my apartment, but forget that.  Where ARE these?!?!


  

The earlier design theme.   Walking into the front door, was a large open space where I added a French wine table.  During dinner parties, I would use this for extra place settings.   The bird cage is long gone, but I still use those same blue and white vases.  The purple transferware is in my guest room today.


Here's a larger nighttime view of the foyer with the Lone Ranger demi lunes.  To the left is the dining room and living room.  Behind the table is a built in with a marble top.


The built in.  I never showed the bottom cabinets in photographs because I hated this built in!   I used to think I would put a fabric skirt around the cabinets to hide it.  I wanted to remove it altogether but never did that.   I just learned to ignore what was always a thorn in my visual path!!!


The built in did have advantages.  It was a great place to display things like Ben’s crystal collection and the faux marble bust.  Flanking the mirror are antique sconces from Tara Shaw.  I do know where these are!  They are renting space at my sister in law’s house.


This is the final way the foyer looked with the blue and white vase and piles of new books that never made the trip up to the library.


A desk from Lone Ranger replaced a brown wood version at the bottom of the stairs.   At the right is a short hall where the powder room is. 


The view from the powder room hall to the dining room and the living room, along with a piece of luggage in the photo, just for good luck.  WHY is that there??!?


I used to love this view at night coming from the powder room and going into the family room.  I always kept my sconces lit – all day and night, never turning them off.   For years, it would drive Ben crazy until he finally just gave up.


An early view of the living room before I changed it all for white linen.   The day bed was covered in check and the three chairs were in various Bennison fabrics.  Another set of sconces hang on the wall.  During this time all the walls were a soft yellow and so were the curtains.


One Saturday, I toured a showhouse in West U that was decorated in all white linen.   The next Monday, I got rid of all the printed fabrics and painted the walls a soft taupe gray.


One other look.  Read about the various designs this poor room went through during its 25 years under my thumb!   HERE


The fourth version of the dining room with the yellow curtains and walls and a plaid silk skirt.  I also had a round table in here and then a rectangular one.  Before this yellow plaid I had a beautiful Bennison skirt which I changed for some reason.  The chandeliers and sconces also changed several times during the 25 years.

 

Finally, the fifth version in white with linen checks.  Not sure where this skirt is today or the table itself.  Or those sconces which I still think are so pretty!

Ready to see what the front part of the downstairs now looks like?

One note about the real estate photographs.  The camera used distorts the dimensions.  All the rooms look stretched out and distorted.   The rooms look bigger than they actually are in real life. 

The foyer.  The walls are a soft gray.  The floors were stained a very dark brown. 

Note:  The floors needed restaining - badly.   While the usual choice for the floor stain would be the lighter French oak look – my floor has the old fashioned small planks, not beautiful wide ones.  The dark stain is a better choice to make the dated planks look more modern.   I would have chosen the dark stain myself.  I think.

The living room.  It got new windows, which were badly needed.  There was a terrible leak in one of them.  The flipperman also changed the molding around the windows.  You can see the dark floor do look nice.  My stain had a subtle red cast to it which I always HATED.  I would have given anything to have these floors!!!! 

No chandelier.  No gorgeous crystal chandelier from Tara Shaw.  Instead there is a ceiling fan.    No comment from the peanut gallery, please.

I once wrote a story about taking out all the ceiling fans and how Ben had such a fit over that.  He approves of this fan, I’m sure!!!


The dining room.  New fixture.  No comment.  New door – without the panes.  Good choice if you want the house to look more modern.  I had a French door between the dining room and the kitchen and that was removed.  I loved that door and added it for an extra architectural element which was sorely lacking in this house.

Also, when we moved in there was a window here – after a few months I had it removed and put in the French door that opens to the side garden.


The view from the entry to the dining room and living room.  It looks so different without furniture!!!!!


And the view from the foyer to the dining room at the left and – look!!!!  The built in is gone!!!  Good choice.   This would have been the perfect place to put an antique console and then accessorize with smalls and a gilt mirror above, flanked by sconces.  Hmmm.  That was how it already was!!!  LOL. 

I’m sure the young couple will add a modern console here with a large painting above it.

 

Without the desk and chair along the staircase, the stairs look so exposed.  The flipper changed out the white painted wood balusters to black iron and he painted the newel posts black, along with the railings.

When we moved in this house, my father came by and said the stairs were terrible!   By code, West University insisted in all these handrails and newel posts.  After the final inspection, I removed the added handrails, but we were stuck with all the newel posts.    I called a designer friend for ideas because I had none and she said – paint the balusters and newel posts white – it will make it all disappear and not be so noticeable.  We did that  and it did look better.   Later I painted the handrails black which looked more rich than the brown ones.


And here is how the stairs looked, with the painted white newels and the black banisters.  I do think the white looks better than the black.    And my poor Georgie is running up the stairs away from me.   Georgie was terrified of cameras – it all started when I had my house photographed for Houston House & Home.  We wanted to photograph her on the chair with Sammie Jo and it was so traumatic, she would run away from cameras ever since.


And here are the stairs with the black newels and new iron balusters.


And here is a very old photo showing our earliest scheme in the family room.  A tailored pin striped sofa, skirted table, and chair.  This was right before I slipcovered this sofa in linen.  Ben was so angry when I switched this sofa out for a white linen version – he still says it was the most comfortable one we’ve ever had!!!


The last version of the family room.  I added the arched doors with the chicken wire a few years ago.  But otherwise the room remained the same despite all the decorative changes.  I started out with a gray ticking sofa, then a khaki sofa, then a white slipped sofa, and finally this sofa – a fabulous version from Hien Lam Upholstery.  The chairs all came from her while the slipcover on the sofa came from Shabby Slips.  I’ve had glass coffee tables and a wormy wood version and finally this one – that is now paying rent at my sister in law.  I really miss that piece!!


I went through a few versions of curtains and ended up with these, which I loved.  Aidan Gray lamps, of course!

My sweet friend and partner Monica provided the curtains and the shades.  She didn’t make them – she just measured, ordered it all, and had them installed by the fabulous Bennie.  Sigh.


An early messy view of the bar between the kitchen and the family room.  I never liked this bar and today I would lower it and make it counter height.  I used bar stools there years and years and years ago.  Ugh!!!! 

In this photo you can see how the built in connects with the bar and kitchen.  I don’t care for slanted walls but it came with the house and it was another element I grew to ignore.


An early view of the kitchen.  When I first moved in – everything was painted a soft luscious cafe au lait shade.  The backsplash tile matched the walls exactly.  When I painted the house yellow – it all clashed and was horrid.   Something had to go.   First the tiles and then the paint!!


New gray walls and new marble.    When I added the marble, I put in a new casement window that I loved, along with a farm sink and new faucet. 


Another view of the newly remodeled on a shoe string kitchen.


The opposite side of the slanted wall – with the small refrigerator that I thought looked built in!   You can see how the floor was starting to really look bad. It needed to be restained, but I just couldn’t move out for those two weeks.   Now THAT is really funny to think about now!!!


The view past the counter into the family room and stairs.


An older version of earlier curtains.   This table is another piece I miss!!!  I did take the bakers rack with me to the apartment. 

See how red my floors were!!!  Awful.  I always hated them.  And notice how worn they were getting.   It was things like this that paralyzed me after Ben got sick.  I hated to spend big money on the house knowing we wouldn’t be there for that much longer.


The loves of my life!  How I miss thee!!!!!  Let me count the ways:   the window, faucet, sink and marble.   OK – I would KILL for this in my shabby apartment kitchen!!!   LOL


Here’s how this all looks today:


The family room.  Can you spot the changes?  Don’t sweat it.   Details below.


Here, the chicken wire was removed and glass was put in instead which makes sense for a more contemporary look.  White marble replaced the brown marble on the fireplace that I had – something I would have loved to do myself!  Nice TV  - that comes with the house????

We had the TV placed on the wall under the stairs where those cabinets are.  Our old TV used to fit in that cabinet!!!  Too funny to think how small our TVs once were!  

The new owners will have to place the sofa in front of the fireplace to watch the TV which is something I just did not want to do.  I prefered my sofa against the windows. 

And there’s the original doggie door that we closed off when we first got curtains.  I put in another one in the kitchen so the dogs wouldn’t dirty the curtains.  This door was hidden by the fabric.


OK.  This is where I spent my life!  Right here where that plug was – over about a foot or two, next to the fireplace.   Twenty Five Years!!!!

Our TV hung where the top cabinet is – you couldn’t see it – and the bottom one held all the equipment.  There is surround sound in the ceilings which is great for movie watching.   Sigh.  It sure was!!

 

I never showed this angle.  Who wants to look at an ugly TV.  But look how much lower the TV is than if it was above the mantel?  It’s eye level – no neck strain. 



Lots of changes here – new doors!!!!  No more panes!  Again, a great look for the millenniums.    Next – notice the bar – the cabinets above it are now gone!!!!!!!  Love that!!!  He put new corbels and trim on the bar.   And notice – in the kitchen where my bakers rack was – a huge refrigerator is there now!!!  The huge built in refrigerator is another must in a flipped house.

It’s funny because the house originally had cabinets and a built in desk where the refrigerator now is – but I had it all removed so that I could use my antique bakers rack. 


The kitchen.   See the new corbels and trim on the bar?  New humongous built in refrigerator and cabinets.  Again, it looks nice and was very much needed.  No more pet door.  Sob.

 

This is hard, y’all!!!!!  I don’t ever think about the house – I try not to, but to write this story, it all comes flooding back.

I just thought you might want to see what the house looks like now that it has been renovated. 


New hardware.  No door where the dining room leads.


Gone is the black painted pantry door. It’s just plain white now.


He moved the double oven where the refrigerator was, added another oven drawer-something where the double ovens WERE.  And at the bar he added a wine refrigerator.    I think he either added new cabinet doors or new cabinets altogether.  Not sure.  But the drawers and doors are different today.


He likes this.  He really likes this!!! 

The flipper highlights my favorite things in the HAR photos.  And this was one thing he did not change. The man has good taste!


Upstairs:

There is a large (to me, at least!) landing.  Right off the landing – to the right – is the guest room.


The guest room with its window seat.  A lot of people ask for the color on the walls – it was a Restoration Hardware paint that I doubt they carry today, unfortunately.  It was a really pretty blue-green with emphasis on the blue.  The Aidan Gray chandelier is now in our bedroom at the apartment. 


And the window seat where the window boxes were.  I’m wondering now where that standing lamp is? 

The front windows are now two – where before it gave the illusion of one large window.  


And off the landing is this space – a small library – which overlooks the foyer and made a perfect place for the dogs to perch.  Even with the new library – the stacks of books continued to grow.


The upstairs – nicely painted and empty.  Something it never was when Ben and I lived here!    Before we moved in, we had those double doors built, at great expense, so no one could see inside our house.  I don’t think we ever once closed them!!!

I am really surprised he didn’t get new covers for the air conditioning vent – like those wood ones that are actually good looking.

And looking back toward the master bedroom where the open door is.  The hall leads to the library.


And my bedroom with the wallpaper by Simon Scott.   At the window, I hung one large shade and four panels to make a dinky window look like a large, beautiful one!   I miss that small sofa!


The armoire from Joyce Horn.

Yes, I really miss the wallpaper.  Not going to lie!

OK.  I know I keep saying I miss things.  Well – it’s hard to look at things I will never see again, but I must say – I love my new life and new apartment.   Plus moving here made me use my pieces in a new way and appreciate them all over again.


And the view on this side.  Through that black door is the bathroom, something I never ONCE showed!!!!  Ever!!!  Never!!!!


And the bedroom today.  See how the dimensions look distorted?  The room is not anywhere near this large.  And see the window? 


And looking back to the landing.

The floor really came out beautiful, I have to say.   And the wall color is very nice – a cool gray.


The bathroom.  He put in new counters, probably quartzite.  New faucets, hardware, lights.   There is new tile floor – marble?  Not sure.

He did take out the opening between the sinks where I sat and put on makeup.  Wonder why he did that?


Completely new shower – with new tile.


New tub.  Surprised it’s not a stand alone.

I never once took a bath in 25 years.  I think Elisabeth took a few when she was young.  She must have, I just don’t remember!!!!

And we had a regular window which I loved to look out.  Now it’s frosted.


Elisabeth’s room.  I think this is its fourth version. We left the bed at the house.  I just didn’t have the room for it and it wasn’t an antique, so why pay to store it?  The movers took it home and I’m glad they put it to good use.


Her room.

All new doors.   These are a more modern profile compared to what was there before.


Her bath.  Not sure why he went with black faucets.

Through the door is the library.


I wonder if he left the glass paneled door to the library, along with this frosted door to the closet?

This is a room I do wish I had here.  Ben likes to read historical books about war – WWI and II, Vietnam, etc.  He buys them used from libraries and independent shops where he pays an average of $5 a book.    I wish the books I read cost $5!!!!



And another view showing the back of the library. 


And here it is today.  


The back yard was really a courtyard.  We used to have grass on both sides of the patio – but we replaced it with gravel after just a few years in the house. 


The left side.  That huge rose bush is from the Antique Rose Emporium in Brenham.   It was about 20 years old and was HUGE.  A beast to trim!!


There is another old rose bush on this side, but it is a smaller specimen and doesn’t get nearly as big as the pink one.


That fountain was an anniversary gift one year and there were two pedestals with beautiful urns from the old Garden Gate in the Village that were another anniversary present! 

I picked out the fountain and the urns.  Ben loved Garden Gate and would go there for every birthday and Christmas.  I think I had over 20 stone animals that he bought there!!!  I finally had to gently tell him – Ben, I think we are tapped out on stone rabbits and gophers.


After – the flipper kept the lanterns I added and he put up some shiplap on the porch ceiling.  New fence – another thing we needed and kept putting off.


After:  They left the fountain and my old Wisteria table and chairs.   My friend said we should go get that table!  LOL.  It came with the house.  They own it, not me.

Arvoir!

Finally, this is the last time I’ll probably ever show my old house or talk about it.  Its memory will slowly fade for me – though writing about the house makes it hard to believe we really moved out.  Was it all a dream???  Looking at all the different decor themes over the years makes me sad to think it’s all over now, for good.

I’ve never lived at one address for so long – we were on Albans Street for almost 25 years.   We had so many good times there with family and friends, along with quiet times with just the three of us.  We hosted sleepovers for Elisabeth’s friends and rocked out to music like The Dave Matthews and The National and the soundtrack to My Best Friend’s Wedding.

Elisabeth had more than a few birthday parties there.  At one, they watched the new movie Twilight but I was the one that became hopelessly hooked on it.  One sweltering summer, Elisabeth and I stayed cool inside and watched the movie Rent – every single day.   During school days, she spent endless hours around the kitchen table doing homework with Jenny, her tutor – now married with two kids of her own.   We made friends with our pooper scooper and mourned with him when his teenage son was shot. 

We felt safe there, mostly.  We were never once broken into, never once burglarized, but there was that time when a very young Elisabeth came home to an empty house and called 911.  When I drove home, late after being stuck in traffic, and saw three police cars in my driveway, my knees almost buckled when one burly cop asked if I was Elisabeth’s mother.  She ran out crying MOM!!!!

The police had to come out again when our friend Claudia’s son poked his big head out the balusters on the staircase.  After much hysterical laughing and gyrations, he realized his head was stuck.   He survived and grew up and last year Dillon volunteered for the Israeli army.

And then at the end of 1998, two murders, each a few blocks away from our house, pierced the safety of our small neighborhood.   The employees of the nearby Wig Shop were brutally attacked and one worker was murdered by a crazed teenager.  Two weeks later, the infamous serial train murderer killed a sleeping doctor – two blocks away!   I remember calling Ben - crying – begging him to move us away from there!  But West University was usually a safe haven where the police drive by each house several times a day. 

I spent years outside on the back patio writing this blog, often late into the night with just my dogs for company.  Once a week I recorded the Skirted Roundtable there.


Twelve years ago, I started blogging on a whim, for a few of my friends to read.   It became a large part of my life and something, to my surprise, I thoroughly enjoy.  The blog brought much to our life here – my house was even photographed for three different magazines.  On the flip side, a terrible case of shyness and introversion kept me from branching out and meeting more of you who have so kindly supported the blog and my family.

As the years passed, we watched the gentrification of our street as it changed from being all tiny cottages to now, mostly 2 story new houses.  For years we had a wonderful rose garden along the side of the house until the looming crepe myrtle blocked its needed sun and they died. That tree ended up a curse.  Its droppings almost ruined my car that I kept parked on our driveway.   Lesson learned:  never plant a crepe myrtle near a driveway or sidewalk.  

We learned we are safe from flooding when we survived Hurricane Harvey without a drop of water inside – but we spent one week in darkness after the less notorious Hurricane Ike.

Just like they say - time passes by in the blink of an eye.  When our house was built, we had a three year old who spent the night in our bed for years, while Ben slept in Elisabeth’s bed.  When we moved out she was 27, a grown woman.  


When we moved in I still had my two cats whom I had adopted years before I even knew Ben.  We added a beagle, an English Springer, and three Cavaliers into our home.


It was a good life spent on Albans.  I only hope the new owners will enjoy as good a life as we did inside these walls.