When we were in our cabin and thinking about our next home, our wish list stretched on for miles. We wanted the idealistic old-fashioned neighborhood: mixed use development where you can walk to a town center, with sidewalks, lampposts, and great shared spaces, both public (parks!) and private (cafes!). It would be diverse and near great schools, with lots of other kids and friendly neighbors nearby, and it would have a yard that offered refuge and didn’t demand too much work.
The wish list for the home’s interior was twice as long, and the counter space I wanted stretched on for miles. I wanted a good layout above all, because we don’t have the money to move walls. I wanted a connected family room and kitchen and a separate entry hall—the last house we owned didn’t have either, and I found one boundary constraining and the other missed for the transition it provided. I wanted an office my husband and I could share, and a separate gathering space for kids—we had wanted a basement, but most Texas homes don’t have basements. Because of my kids’ ages and gender, it would be ideal for everyone to have their own room. Plus we wanted space to host overnight guests. Also hardwood floors, natural light, a white kitchen, oodles of charm, white woodwork, unique builtins everywhere, and for it to look like it was designed by the editors of the now defunct Cottage Living.
Of course, you can’t always get what you want.
Because when we actually started the hunt, we ran into the constraints. Shocking, but we couldn’t find a classic, mixed-use neighborhood full of old bungalows in our price range and school requirements in San Antonio. We also didn’t find a lot of classic-looking homes. Then there was the constraint of our budget, which stretched farther here than in the mid-Atlantic, but still caused me to cross several things off my wish list. And, most constraining of all, was timing. We were hoping to find this perfect gem in three days. And the housing market here in San Antonio, the seventh largest city in the U.S., is bustling.
The last home we owned was our 1980s fixer-upper. I loved what it turned into, but balancing working on it with raising kids and my husband’s demanding job was difficult. Even though nothing gets things your way like doing it yourself for yourself, we didn’t want a project house.
The other route we could have gone to customization is to have worked with one of the new home builders in the area and selected a floor plan and finishes from their options. This whole process intimidated me, and I suspected I would lose myself in all the wonderful details. It was tempting, but not right for us, not right now.
Both routes would take time, and we didn’t want to draw out our transition. This was already our second move in two years. But being transplants, we wanted to put our time into making connections in our new hometown and not spend endless weekends on our house. Our transition time needed to come to an end stat.
When it came down to it, we wanted ease of living over customization. This is a long way of saying that, for the first time in our lives, we saw the appeal of the cookie-cutter suburban home.
And this one, located on a cul-de-sac and backing up to a greenbelt, is the one we chose. We loved that when we were out hunting, we saw a school bus stop and let out about twelve kids just up the street. When we came outside after looking at the house, some school-aged boys were playing football in the street.
The photo above shows our kids looking into the windows of the new house before they walked into it for the very first time. They were pretty nervous about the house we chose for them since they didn’t get a chance to see it before we arrived to move in.
Our separate entry way. All these pictures were taken when we walked into the house for the very first time after taking ownership. They’re a little blurry because I was excited.
This is our dining room before we moved in. Note that I didn’t get my hardwood floors. We have concrete and ceramic tile. I’ve been surprised at how much I like both so far. The fact that our golden retriever’s hair blends in perfectly with the tile floor certainly helps.
Our office and dining room, adjacent to each other, have oak semi-builtins. We’ll take them! Customization of them to come . . . eventually.
The living room has fantastic windows that look out on the backyard and the greenbelt.
While I didn’t get my dream of an all-white kitchen, it is connected to the family room.
Here are a few shots after paint. I’m a neutrals girl, through and through, and we had everything but the bedrooms painted in Classic Gray by Benjamin Moore. It’s a white with a tint of gray.
Before the paint change, the house felt a little dark to me, which steered me away from too much color on the walls. Lightening the walls and removing the window treatments solved that problem.
We’ve done very little but paint. Adding curtains, changing light fixtures, revamping the builtins, changing one rug and adding another, and adding curb appeal are all things we’d like to do eventually. Plus there will be other tweaks and touches along the way, I’m sure. But none of it feels urgent. Because it’s not.
Our dining room furniture was found on Craigslist through two different sellers. It looks less like a blank canvas in real life, because it’s never this clean.
Our old slipcovered chairs made the move and now sit in our office. My husband and I built a desk for two with plumbing pipes for legs, which sits on the opposite wall (below). I’ll share more about that project soon, and I’ll clean up the desk surface for those pictures, I promise.
This is the living room furniture we’ve had since Colorado. The pale rug on the pale floor isn’t ideal, but, again, it does blend with golden retriever hair. So, I’m not sure if contrast or convenience will win out.
This is our backyard. It does offer refuge without being a ton of work.
Our favorite part of the yard is all the visitors we get in the greenbelt.
And that’s our house so far. Sure, I have thumbtacks holding up curtains in our master bedroom, and the kids’ spaces are very hodgepodge—we’ve only been here since July, and I want to take my time deciding what to change and how. Still, it’s very much home already, and we are incredibly grateful for it.
So, of course, you can’t always get what you want. But I still think it’s important and useful to think about your dream house. Because if you don’t know what’s important to you and your family, you might not recognize the right house for you when it comes along.
In case you missed it, you can read about our decision to move to Texas here.
And you can read about my perspective on living with things not-yet-done here.