I could not be more excited to be typing these words: WE. BOUGHT. A. HOUSE!!!! A real live house!!! Or in a more technical sense, we bought a home! It is such a dream come true after months of searching for a place of our own! As a lot of you know, we’ve been looking in Sanford’s Historic District for several months. But after seeing about ten to fifteen homes, we couldn’t seem to find “the one.” When we left for Mexico at the end of August, I was feeling a bit defeated and began to wonder if the right house would ever come along. Fast forward to a few days after we returned home from our trip: I’m scrolling through MLS and see a new listing. Jitters of excitement coursed through my body as I flipped through the photos…crown molding, white shutters, a woodburning fireplace, original hardwood floors…..basically my dream come true! I made an appointment for us to see it the very next day.
I should preface this by saying that I have an affliction/ability to look at something long past fixing and see it for was it once was. We pulled up to the house that Saturday morning and my heart fluttered with joy. I looked past the faded paint and trees growing from the gutters. No matter that the windows leak and the plaster is cracked. Anyone can see that the house was once incredibly beautiful, and it didn’t matter to me what it looked like now. The biggest unknown about the property was the size of the backyard, and, because of our dogs and my love for gardening, that was a big part of our wishlist. You can imagine my relief as I walked through the back door to the yard to find there was plenty of room for the dogs to play, for me to garden, AND for us to park our cars! At this point, I hadn’t even seen the upstairs yet and was already convinced that the house was meant for us. I turned to Andres with my signature “I love it” face and mouthed to him “This. Is. It.” softly enough so the listing agent couldn’t hear me. Although, I doubt my face could hide my happiness. Andres gave me his signature look. The one that says: “Calm Down.” But there was no talking me out of my joyful glee.
“You’re moving to Sanford?!”
A few years ago, I would’ve been the first person to laugh at the idea of us buying a house in Sanford. The area had a poor reputation when I was a kid, and many still feel it’s seedy and undesirable. I actually shared that opinion for many years, mainly because I never actually went to the area. I just based my opinion on my vague impressions from years ago. Luckily, our good friends, Shelly and Travis, who bought a place there last year, opened our eyes to all that Sanford has to offer. Located halfway between the attractions of Orlando and the beaches of New Smyrna, Sanford lies on the south shore of Lake Monroe. Although it’s flooded from our recent visit from Hurricane Irma, the River Walk is a great place to take the dogs for a stroll or enjoy the sunset. Sanford’s historic district is adorned with beautiful city parks, majestic oak trees, and hundreds of turn of the century homes. The ambiance of the neighborhood is just a drop in the giant bucket of Sanford charm.
The combination of unique shops, delicious restaurants, local breweries, and endless entertainment make the city a special place to live. But, most of all, it is the sense of community and the welcoming attitude that won me over. Sanford is more than just rich in history. It is a place where the spirit of Southern hospitality greets you at every turn and everyone feels like they belong. The city has a pulse. It has heart. In this uncertain world, it is comforting to feel like you “belong” somewhere. It’s not like the whole town gathers ’round for dinner once a week, but it is amazing to see how the community rallies together, either in crisis or in celebration. We haven’t even scratched the surface of all the fun activities that Sanford has to offer. Every month there is a fun event planned. Sanfordians also love to support local businesses, buy local produce, and eat at family-run restaurants. One of the rituals I’m most excited about is walking to the farmer’s market in Magnolia Square on Saturdays for our weekly fruits and veggies. How much more small town charm can a girl ask for?!
Home Sweet Home
On October 2nd, the house officially became ours. Moving here feels like an adventure. Yes, it’s a mess. Yes, it’s chaotic, and something tells me that the chaos is just beginning. But I love this house. I love the giant front porch. I love the curved steps of the staircase. I love the natural light that pours through the windows. I love the antique doorbell that still rings cheerfully. I even love rotting wood and the disrepair. I know we can restore this house to its former glory. It will be/already has been fun, yet challenging….exciting, yet terrifying….rewarding, yet incredibly frustrating. I often compare couples therapy to tandem kayaking, but I have a sneaking suspicion that this renovation project will give a whole new meaning to the words “compromise” and “teamwork,” especially when you both have totally different ideas about what should happen next.
Our house was built in 1927 by Theo J. Miller for his second wife, Maude. In 1879, T.J. Miller left Belgium and settled in Sanford. He owned a furniture and undertaking business and started Lake View Cemetary. Later, he served as a director and officer in the First National Bank and was one of the founders of the Sanford Building and Loan Association. He also invested in the South Florida Railroad. The construction of our house illustrated Mr. Miller’s wealth. He had the majority of the home built out of block, and, 90 years later, I praise Mr. Miller’s decision. Despite being a neglected rental property for the past six years, this place is still standing strong. But, don’t get me wrong. We’ve got our hands full with this fixer upper. While picking at some peeling paint on a window sill one day, Andres’s dad’s finger went straight through the wood, revealing an army of feasting termites. We all just looked at each other and laughed. That’s the kind of thing that comes with the territory of buying an older home, but, luckily, we knew that going into this adventure.
Over the past few weeks, we’ve started to tackle the seemingly endless amount of prep work that needs to get done before we can paint. The copious amounts of dust and disorder that we’ve created since closing day makes it seem like we’re doing more harm than good. I am developing a love/hate relationship with our windows and crown molding. The previous owners painted all the woodwork with oil based paint (insert hellish screams here.) You may be wondering why that matters. Well, here’s another lesson we learned this week: you can’t put water-based paint over oil-based paint without priming it first. But before we could even think about painting, years of chipped paint has to be stripped from all the windows and trim. If I had a dollar for every time I thought we’d sanded our last piece of wood or filled each and every crack in the plaster, we could probably afford to hire actual painters, which we’ll probably have to do anyway in order to move in on time. And if either of us is ever diagnosed with carpal tunnel, the culprit will most definitely be this old house. We’ve become well versed in dealing with lead paint, rotted wood, and plaster repair. My vocabulary now includes words like “fascia,” “soffit,” “knob and tube,” and “shoring up.”
Getting the painting done is just the beginning. Our living room has a big red brick fireplace that sucks all the light out of the room. So, one of my next projects is to paint it a flat white. I painted the kitchen cabinets this past weekend, and I’ll attempt to refinish the counters. There is also wallpaper to remove in the kitchen, and basically every light fixture has to be replaced over time. Despite the overwhelming amount of work ahead of us, we’re on track to move in at the end of the month, something we’ve been anxiously anticipating for weeks now. It will take a few years of blood, sweat, tears, and sledgehammering to bring this diamond in the rough back to its former glory. We still have several projects to tackle on the outside too like painting, landscaping, and new fencing. But Progress, no matter how small, feels so good.
Keeping up with my blog posts has been a really fun hobby for me, but I knew it would quickly fall by the wayside unless I found a way to include the renovation process. We’re clueless, yet determined. So, we’re attempting to do most of the work ourselves, which means we’re googling how-to’s like there’s no tomorrow. As we finish each project, I’ll share the good, the bad, and the hilarious moments of our renovation journey. One important thing to remember is that this is not being written by someone who thinks she’s the next Joanna Gaines. Andres and I are your average homeowners, who don’t have a freaking clue what we’re doing. No interior design degree. No contractor’s license. We’re just a young couple trying to figure it out. Sometimes, perhaps the majority of the time, we’ll get it wrong, but we’re keeping our sense of humor. The unexpected is a lot of fun and figuring it out together will be the best part. My hope is that someday, this info will help someone else. Plus, if we can do it, hell, anyone can!