I’ve been holding back writing this because it’s a highly personal tale about me and my family. But, since in the end, it DOES deal with interior design…..here goes….
Seven years ago when I Instagramed this photo, I had no idea what this exact photo would mean in the future – to me, to Ben, to Elisabeth, and to our family and friends, in general. This photo shows Ben on exactly the day his headaches become much worse. This day was the start of Ben going from having “bad migraines” to being diagnosed with the extremely frightful “Daily, Chronic, Migraine.”
And yes, that is a diagnosis.
When Ben was a young boy, he started getting migraines. I distinctly remember the first time I saw him with a migraine – we had just started dating. Little did I know how wrapped up in the world of migraines I would become.
Our Engagement Photo
Over the long years of our marriage, Ben’s migraines were manageable – he averaged one a week, sometimes less, sometimes more. He’s seen a host of doctors, from the general practitioner to the Head of Neurology at one of the esteemed medical schools in Houston, and many in between.There is no cure for migraines, nor was there any medicine developed FOR migraines until Aimovig, which was just released last summer, swiftly followed by two others medicines like Aimovig.
That’s it for migraine medicine – everything else is just anecdotal.
Over the years to lessen his pain and to stop his headaches, Ben has tried a host of medicines and treatments including blood pressure pills, head massage, botox, acupuncture, opiates, anti-depressants, IV magnesium, various electrotherapies, and on and on and on. If you have read about a cure – he has tried it. He had expensive, experimental surgery where the nerves all over his head were cut and stripped. That didn’t work, either. It’s all been the proverbial Band-Aid on an elephant.
And so, back in 2012, when I took that Instagram photo of Ben lying on the couch, what we didn’t know then, was that picture was the start of a long seven year migraine that didn’t abate except for just a few days at a time – and that was a rare occurrence. He laid on the couch all day long until the late afternoon when the pain became tolerable.
He could no longer work and lost his business as a result.
His former partner actually had the nerve to tell Ben that HIS wife would have found a cure for HIS migraines if he had them. Sure. Sure she would. The ignorance is astounding.
There is NO cure for migraines.
When this all started, Ben was 57 and expected to work for 10, maybe 15 more years. Thankfully we had some savings, but the truth is savings only lasts so long – and, it’s never enough. Besides worrying about Ben, I was now worried about our life.
How did we get here so fast?
Wasn’t it just yesterday that we were newly married, with a baby and a new house in the dream neighborhood that we loved? In the blink of the eye, we were near retirement age and our newborn was out of college and had been for five years. I was counting down the days until we reached 65 and became eligible for Medicare.
The living room in the old house.
Our beloved house that we had built and spent years decorating had suddenly became an albatross around our necks. Ben was too ill to worry about it, so I would do that for both of us. The property taxes alone were scary enough. The upkeep was staggering – after 25 years, everything needed redoing: the roof, the bathrooms, the floors, the landscaping – everything. And there were the stairs. Suddenly going upstairs had us thinking of where we could install an elevator. Or, moving to a one story. The ease of apartment living started to become very appealing.
The breakfast room in the old house.
All I could think of was I wanted to move and get a fresh start, but where and how? How could I ever pack up my house by myself - with all that we had collected, the good and the bad, the antiques and the useless junk?
The family room in the old house. That thought was overwhelming and paralyzing.
Besides packing up, there was this question - where would we go? It was so scary for me to even think about that each time I did, I would run to bathroom and be nauseated. To calm me down, Ben would say – “Don’t worry. It will all work out.”
In the end, he was right. It did.
The dining room in the old house.
One thing about selling the house that really stopped me in my tracks was hiring a realtor. I wasn’t in the frame of mind to have a chirpy millennium come into my home and point out all that would need to be discarded in order to “style” my house for selling it. I didn’t have the energy for that and neither did Ben.
The best solution was someone who would buy the house “as is” and flip it. You won’t make near the same money that you would if you go the conventional route with a realtor, but you won’t have Open Houses either. Plus, your house is sold right now, as opposed to next year. We didn’t have a choice really. We needed a fresh start.The nagging question in the end was always, how would I ever manage it all, basically alone?
Elisabeth’s bedroom in the old house.
HEY! I’m a Jewish American Princess!! We don’t know from emptying attics and packing boxes!!
Thankfully the people that bought our house arranged it all. They hooked us up with a team of people who spent a week packing us up and then moving it all which took a few days.
The worst of it?
A garage filled with Webb Design work and a library filled with beautiful and expensive design books. The attic? Who knows. We left it filled with all the junk and old luggage that Ben would never allow me to throw out. I’m sure the flippers threw that all out too.
The kitchen boxes – and I don’t even cook!
The best idea was this: The mover/packers rented these huge trash bins from Home Depot that when filled, they would come and cart them off.
Our old garage.
My entire garage went in those bins on the driveway. I even saw a roll of Bennison Fabric, never used, peeking up from the refuse.
Some Fortuny went in there too.
I could cry thinking now of all that was thrown out. At the time I was too busy to cry, except for once.
The entry in the old house.
The most pressing issue quickly became where would we live?
The truth was we never used most of our house. Ben and I lived in our family room. When he got sick, many nights Ben just stayed on the sofa not even using the bedroom. We kept saying we could be happy in an efficiency as long as we didn’t have to pay property taxes!
Our bedroom in the old house.
I mentioned to my cousin that we had sold our house and were looking to rent a house or a condo while we tried to get Ben well. My cousin said there was an apartment in his complex that was up for rent, right on Buffalo Bayou, the one place in Houston with a view. Houston is flatter than a pancake, without any hills and our bayous are our natural beauty. That’s a joke. But, Buffalo Bayou IS unique to Houston. It’s the one bayou that was left alone and not concreted over. On weekends, people even kayak down the bayou. In most parts Buffalo Bayou is amazingly the same as it was when settlers first came here in the 1800s.
Buffalo Bayou back then – it looks much the same today outside our apartment.
I love this photo of Buffalo Bayou in the late 1800s. Those carriages! How in the world did they get down to the bayou in the carriages??? And they must have been so hot. Again, not much has changed on the bayou.
Further up a block, there has been an incredible revitalization of Buffalo Bayou with dog parks and restaurants and trails and more.
That same day, we went to look at this apartment, which was the only place we even toured, and put down a deposit. Two bedroom/two bath, 1500 sq ft.
Half the space of our house.
Actually, it was all such a relief. No more Property Taxes! YEAH!!!! No more outrageous electrical bills, yard work bills, ridiculously high water bills, and no more home owners insurance, among other bills.
The guest room in the old house.
Of course I was worried about decorating the apartment, but just decided I would move in and figure it all out somehow. There were a few things that gnawed at me and still do.
The First Biggest Regret:
This is just some of them. There is another wall behind this, out of view, filled with even more design books. Then there were the books on the landing shelves and Ben’s books in the guest room. I’m sure there were close to 2,000 books.
They couldn’t come with us, there was no room. They would have to go. To Half Price Books.
It took three days for the moving team to pack them all up and take them to Half Price Books. In the end, I should have just left them there in the house.
The check from Half Price Books for all of these?
Which I actually never even received from them.
It makes me sick to think about, but with three storage units already, they just had to go.
The entry in the old house.
Silver lining: I did have all the newest books on this table downstairs that were packed up and came with me. And I’m slowly buying those books I miss the most or need for the blog.
The Second Biggest Regret?
The Doggie Door.
Aww, my doggie door. Sammie Joe and Georgie both passed away but now we have the twinsies – Micki and Lucy. How in the world would we ever deal with no doggie door??!?!?
Micki & Lucy learn to wait for the elevator in the new apartment. There have been a few accidents while waiting.
We’ve always had dogs and always had doggie doors. Getting into the routine of early morning, freezing cold walks has not been easy, but honestly, it’s also fun. More about that later – the fun part.
It took two days to load the moving truck and then two more to unload it. A million thanks to my sister in law Shannon and Ben’s brother Kirk and Wills and his friends who helped me more than I can ever even say.
Thank you Webbs!
The breakfast room in the old house.
I never cried, not once UNTIL that hot July night when the movers were trying to bring my armoire in and nothing looked good and nothing fit and I had way too much furniture that I thought would fit and I just burst out crying and couldn’t stop. Ben called Elisabeth and told her to call me. It didn’t help. Then he called Shannon. I think I sobbed hard for 15 minutes.
Done. Over with.
It’s been almost a year now and we love being here. We love walking the dogs along the bayou (Ben does that when he feels good) and we love the elevator and seeing and talking to people all the time!! It’s so different than being at home, isolated and alone.
As for Ben.
When his Chronic, Daily Migraine started all those years ago, our neurologist told us about this new drug that was coming out, some type of monoclonal antibody therapy.
It’s been in the making for decades. Aimovig is the first one on the market. At the time we were so excited!! When can we get it?!?!?!? Little did we know we would wait five years.
Aimovig came out on the market last summer.
Be started on the Aimovig which for four months was a miracle. The headache beast was gone and only poked out once a week at most. He even went back to work!
It was a miracle drug for four months but this Christmas the headache returned and except for a few days, it’s been constant again. Very depressing to say the least.
This month he started on the second “miracle” drug. Not such a miracle so far.
But, at least we are settled now. I’m not sure how long we will be here, but it’s a huge relief to not worry about everything that owning a house brings. We’re on one floor, no stairs. We’ll take it year by year.
Decorating the new apartment.
We could have chosen a brand new apartment with a fabulous kitchen with quartzite. But, most of those are just boxes that overlook your neighbor. The one we chose was older, but its public spaces was just completely redone and is gorgeous. But what sold us are the views out our apartment that make up for the lack of quartzite (kind of.) LOL
We’re really enjoying seeing the seasons change and we can see the sky and the moon – things that were impossible from our former postage stamp sized courtyard.
Here’s a look at the apartment.
Goodbye to the old!
And – here we are!! So fancy! Established 2018! I haven’t decorated the little patio outside our door. Just a Ballard’s mat signifying our move-in year.
When you enter the front door there is a loooooong hall to the sitting room/kitchen and master bedroom. The second bedroom is at the left off the hall.
It’s hard to take a photograph of the entry area, I did my best.
The entry area had this nook that fit my Buffet a deux perfectly. I also decided to use all my Masonware that had been in storage for years – as opposed to using the all white accessories as I had at the house.
On each side is a one of a pair of blue and white vases. The bottom door tends to open, so I started placing this heavy cameo there and I did it again in the apartment.
And looking back at the front door.
I like the Masonware here. It’s colorful and it gives guests (and me!) something to look at when they walk in, instead of the long boring hall, full of doors.
On the left wall in the entry, I put the small antique mirror, the sunburst, and two Chinese figures.
From this view, the Masonware looks so pretty captured in the mirror.
The long hall was an issue for me. It’s a lot of doors where the laundry and closet and guest bath and bedroom are. At first I put down a runner down but it didn’t look great. So I thought I would treat this area as a gallery (lol.) The arrogance!
Down the hall, there were a series of three light fixtures that were just horrible, flushmounts that probably cost $15 each. Instead I put up three stars that cost around $90 each. Oh, this is so funny!!! I’m cracking myself up.
The lights were one of the best things I did. It really changed the look of the hall. I keep them on low – so it’s a soft glow. Between all the doors, I put something of interest on the walls (if I might say so myself!)
If my poor Monica hadn’t passed away, I would replace the doors with portieres ala what Brooke/Patina Farm did in her closet. But Monica is gone and I don’t have a new drapery person.
At this end of the hall, I put up these four antique prints of show horses ? (hey, Ben bought them!!!) The baskets below are our “office.” We keep all the staples and envelopes and tape and pens in there and I’ve even trained Ben to say “There in the office!!!!” when I ask him if we have any stamps. At the left is a lantern that I’ve had forever. Since all my sconces are now either in storage or gone, I still have this.
At the end of the long hall is the dining area on the left and the kitchen and sitting area on the right. The clock fit perfectly on that bit of wall between the kitchen and sitting room.
The clock and all the white painted furniture is from The Lone Ranger. LOVE HIM!
The sitting room – I used the furniture from our family room, mostly.
The windows are nice and open all the way on both sides.
The two side chairs from the house didn’t fit, nor did my coffee table – the long rectangular one. This was when I started crying!! Haha. It seems so silly now. But I didn’t have as much room as I thought. I had no floor plan and didn’t really measure anything, so I made every mistake I would never make with a client.
My sister in law is babysitting my chairs and coffee table until we move one day. And my gorgeous antique chandelier from Tara Shaw is at HER sister’s house, until we move one day. It was just too long for here. And too dressy.
I’m using these Restoration Hardware lamps that were in my guest room at the house and they are a nice change.
Ben's inspired to collect books about Buffalo Bayou. We have three now and a few new fossils.
I ordered seagrass to cover the rooms. It’s one big piece in here – there was no way around it to have two pieces.
Outside – it’s fall on the bayou.
Across from the sofa our TV and this table that was my tea table in the living room at the house. Underneath are a collection of shells and coral.
One loss – I had two of these chairs and planned to use them both, but the movers left one behind. We sent Elisabeth to go retrieve it that night and the new owners had already thrown it in the Home Depot bin and it was ruined. Sniff.
On top are some mineral spheres via Ben and antique books and clock via me.
I bought the zebra rug from my great friend Artie of Color Outside The Lines. He’s always selling things and this was a GREAT buy! Thanks Artie, my sweet, sweet friend.
This side table holds boxes and more coral and more books. There’s a large bar that separates the kitchen from the sitting area where I’ve put more THINGS on top!
Hey, I thought we were editing!!!!!!
I culled through the crystal collection and took the better pieces – and put them on a silver tray. A pair of Aidan Gray lamps flank the bar.
The other side with amethysts and a pink rose quartz sphere which is my favorite thing ever, so far!
Behind the sofa I hung the large mirror I bought years ago in Austin – one of our earliest antique purchases in our marriage. I flanked it with the same collection of celadon plates and urns. The chandelier was the one in our dining room at the house.
Lots of blue and white! LOL. My two huge urns in my dining room are renting a room at my sister in laws. Rent free, of course.
Across from the sitting area is the dining area which has strange proportions.
The sun makes the walls look peach. They aren’t.
These demi lunes were in my entry at the house. My dining room’s skirted table with the gorgeous cream matte silk is in some storage room somewhere in Chappell Hill (I hope.) My metal breakfast table with the curvy French lines is renting a room at my bestie’s, Lisa’s, along with the cane chairs.
The lady and the barometer made the cut.
That was the hardest thing – deciding what would go and what would stay. I chose antiques over reproductions as much as possible. The good things, like the breakfast table and coffee table, I would rather my family and friends use them than live in a storage unit. I didn’t sell anything because I’m hoping one day Elisabeth will want it all.
From the other way towards the long hall.
There was another one of those $15 light fixtures here, so I bought this online. A little glitz to go with all the gilt.
The table top changes a lot.
The kitchen is not much to write home about. At all. I just try to ignore it. I’ve decorated it as best I could, but…
If it was a condo, this would be bombed out tomorrow. Ignore.
There’s a big balcony with a few of my chairs and things.
Here’s a view from our apartment of Buffalo Bayou when we moved in. It provides hours of entertainment for Ben – and a few minutes for me. He’s obsessed with the wildlife there, the turtles and rabbits and ducks, etc.
This winter we could see the bayou winding all the way to the right, since the leaves had dropped.
Recently, the trees are sprouting leaves again. It’s amazing to have a view after only having a tiny courtyard for 25 or so years.
Off the dining area is our bedroom. The two bedrooms had carpet, but we had them take it up and put down the floor in there, so we could cover it up completely with the seagrass! Makes perfect sense to me!
Go ahead. Ask me. The answer is YES.
Immensely so !!!
Do I miss my handpainted wallpaper that Simon P. Scott GIFTED me with!!! Go HERE to read the story.
My desk. Those lamps were in my living room at the house, but they look better here to be honest.
The armoire actually fit in the elevator AND the bedroom. I didn’t think the armoire would fit in the elevator and had Shannon’s son on standby to run it up the garage to our floor.
Hey, I wasn’t thinking rationally!!!!!
Blue opaline collection. Instead of my usual end tables – I used this pair of demi lunes from The Lone Ranger.
The other side.
Oriental altar fruit.
The chandelier came from our guest room via Aidan Gray.
And last, is the guest bedroom:
The bedroom is used for TV watching during March Madness and College Football days. Also, this is a very comfortable single bed and Elisabeth used it for a few months in between apartments.
That was another selling point for me for this apartment. Since it’s older than all the newer ones – the bedrooms are very large and so are the closets.
Now, if only the kitchen was better!!! Good thing I don’t cook!
I basically used my living furniture and Elisabeth’s bedroom furniture in here.
I took these photos at night for some reason. It looks prettier in the sunlight.
The Chandelier came from our library and the mirror is from Tara Shaw.
Lone Ranger desk. BVIZ pillows.
The santos came from Olivine.
Across from the daybed is the antique bakers rack inherited by the infamous Betty Rae aka Mother!
I couldn’t give away the old books. I was so surprised that they filled up this rack. And the globes stayed, but only the old ones. The others were repros.
And the chaise is across from the daybed. This was also in Elisabeth’s room.
I will probably get curtains for the two windows here that you can’t see.
I would also love them in the sitting room and my bedroom but there is the issue of the obscenely bright sun from east. It’s brutal here for some reason. Silk would disintegrate in a year or two or three. Anything printed would quickly fade. I might do an indoor/outdoor fabric like a pretty check, or maybe just a white linen. Snooze. I could do pretty silk panels here in the guest room because the sun is not nearly as bright in here and I probably will if I can find someone.
So, this is it.
Baby Boomer Downsizing.
If Ben hadn’t gotten sick we would have probably stayed in our house even though we dreamed of downsizing. But he did get sick and reality quickly set in. Living in our house became too expensive.
Besides that, it made sense to move. I think of the stairs and all those rooms we never used. We never used our living room or dining room or guest room. I only walked in the library when I needed to find a book. I didn’t lounge around in there and read like I imagined I would.
We didn’t need a four bedroom house anymore. Our bathrooms needed updating and we needed a new roof. Our floors need to be sanded and stained again. We had a house filled with junk in every drawer and shelf, in the attic and in the garage.
In other words – we needed a change and a fresh start and we will stay here until we figure out where we go next. Who knows how long that will be. All I know is it’s been a huge relief for all of us.
And we’re not alone. It seems like every day I hear about another friend or family member who is downsizing.
And that’s all folks!!!!!!