Ni hao!

Stop looking at my un-updated blog like that.  I was in China for three weeks – not lounging around the house, being lazy.  But I’m back now, and to celebrate, we’re having someone come over to auger tree roots out of our sewer line.  So merry Christmas to us!

In the nick of time

It’s cold, and everybody in the tri-county area needs a coat every time they leave the house.   Which is super-inconvenient, since the coat rack Travis made for us is by the front door.  What a sticky pickle!

But I’m a resourceful lad – a resourceful lad with an antique barn board from ReStore, some gigantic hooks, and an open wall in the mudroom.  They’re off-center on purpose, and that purpose is either (1) to leave room for three more hooks, or possibly (2) because it looks rad and ApartmentTherapy-ish.  Who knows which is right.


AO Eyewear

We were at ReStore for something totally unrelated (vintage wallpaper to put in a frame), but I couldn’t pass up new-in-the-box AO safety glasses, straight out of 1962.  This was one pair out of a hundred, and in the spirit of the season, I’d love to share the awesomeness.   So let me know if you want some, and we’ll figure out shipping and all that.  Cheers!

Assuming you’re Canadian and have a half-million dollars to spend without warning, how could you not want to get on the waiting list for a house on the Toronto Islands?

Your first task is to join the list. As the list is capped at five hundred, you have to wait for existing people to drop off. About three people get properties each year, and about fifteen to twenty leave for other reasons. After a critical mass of vacancies accumulates, a call for applications is announced, and vacancies are filled by a lottery run by the Trust’s auditors.

The last call occurred in November 2007, with 375 applicants for forty-seven spots. The next call, for thirty spots, occurs in November 2009. Keep an eye on the website, apply at the appropriate time, and cross your fingers.

If you get on the list, you’ll have to wait. And wait. For how long? As the Trust declines to make predictions, Torontoist will engage in a bout of speculation.

You’ll start at the back of the queue (#471 to #500). Under a best-case scenario in which twenty people ahead of you drop out each and every year, you’re looking at around twenty years before cracking the top 100 and up to five more years before getting to the front of the list.

However, not every single vacancy will arise ahead of you. The Trust hasn’t yet compiled data about the ranks of the people who drop out, but it seems reasonable to assume that, as the years go by, a growing percentage of vacancies will arise behind you. And these vacancies don’t help: if you’re #300, you don’t move up if #400 drops out. Plus, the further you advance, the more hardcore the people on the list become, such that—other than actually getting a house—death or infirmity might be the only reasons for them to drop off.

Downsizing the Dream Home

Maybe houses in the South don’t really need a fireplace. Interesting article from the WSJ on new demands buyers are making on Giant Corporate Homebuilders – smaller, simpler, cheaper, etc.

Fearful that their market is evaporating, company executives have spent the past few months trying to figure out what buyers are willing to give up, and what they aren’t. On the latter list are four bedrooms, a downstairs powder room, a garage that fits at least two cars, and granite countertops in the kitchen. “We feel that’s one of the things homeowners are still holding onto,” said Shane Roach, vice president of home-building operations.

The master bedroom must have its own bathroom, with separate tub and shower. The tub is still big, but the jets, standard equipment for at least a decade, are now optional in new models. It turns out few buyers used the jets more than a couple of times. The children get one-piece, fiberglass tub-shower combinations, instead of tiled walls.

The “home-management” center — a built-in desk in the family room — has disappeared from the newest plans. Such luxuries are now available at an extra charge. Window casings are 2¾ inches wide instead of 3½ inches wide in one scaled-down model that Wieland is just now putting on the market. In another, company officials want to move a master-bedroom window from the side wall of the house to the rear. Smaller houses come on smaller lots, and having a window on the side makes it hard to avoid noticing that the neighbor’s house is just a few yards away.

The other day, Mr. Kingsfield, the company’s sales chief, pulled into a golf-club development near Canton, Ga., and stopped at a lot where workers were listening to mariachi music as they stacked bricks to form the facade of a 3,335-square-foot home called the Madison.

A couple of years ago, a new house in this neighborhood would likely have had a two-story foyer that framed the curved staircase inside. But the Madison’s staircase is neither grand nor visible from the front door. In fact, it climbs out of the mud room next to the garage.

“In an ego-driven market, it’s where you walk in the door and impress friends with the staircase,” Mr. Kingsfield said. “That’s gone. It’s not about impressing anymore. It’ll still be nice. There will still be wood, still be trim. But it’s more conservative.”


Look, Autumn – I don’t like you and you don’t like me, but I concede that you’re aesthetically pleasing.  It doesn’t mean I like winter, though – got it?

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I had to wear gloves and a balaclava on my ride to work this morning, and now there’s snow falling outside.  It seems appropriate, then, that we’re mailing in our application for federal weatherization funding tomorrow.  Thanks for the blown-in wall insulation, President Obama!

To Shane (in the comments): You’re right, although technically I owe more thanks to (1) China, for extending us more credit, and  (2) my daughter, for taking on the investment.