“Character” Flaws: Old Homes & Their Quirks

Egon Schiele House with Shingle Roof Old House II

Egon Schiele – House with Shingle Roof (Old House II)

There’s a certain mindset you have to adopt to move into a character apartment or home.

It’s best if you sit down, close your eyes, and imagine getting a stern talking-to from some grizzled old Clint Eastwood type.

“Kid. Them’s facts you gotta face. Things ain’t perfect. Just the way it is. No sense gettin’ worked up. Ain’t perfect, ain’t gonna be perfect. So what’re you gonna do about it? Cry? Snivel like a baby? I don’t think so. Yer gonna learn to work with it. Because this is what we do.”

My toilet? Every time it’s flushed, the flapper gets stuck on the bobber. I know, they sound like cabaret dancers, but, no, these are toilet bitsies. But 10 days into my tenancy and I know: Jiggle the handle 15 seconds later, and everything’s right like rain. I don’t need no stinkin’ screwdriver, I just need the Zen of understanding the flush.

We learn to work with it, because this is what we do.

Finicky toilet, but in exchange I have a view to kill for, stunning hardwood floors, and a million other things that I had on my wish-list for an apartment, including windows on three sides, a yard, and both and front and back door.

There are also spiders, an itty-bitty single bathroom that makes me feel like a giant at 5’7, and a few other things, including the world’s narrowest doors for storage and the loo. So what? That’s character for ya.

The reality check is in the mail

If you’ve found an old place you think will be perfect, then good luck with the reality onset the week you move. Brace yourself, honey. There will be weirdness.

Unlike my old character home, I can so far make coffee AND toast at the same time, so the gods have kissed my breaker box. Unthinkable in my last character space. It’d throw a breaker every time!

My kitchen faucet? Not centered over the sink. Not even close, bub. It took me two days to figure out why the right side of the counter kept getting soaked, hence why the water runs down the now-settled-for-eight-decades-thus-crooked counter-top and pools over the seam, now long-buckled from moisture.

Buckled? Meh. Gives it character. Yeah. Sure. That’s what my mom said about my right eyebrow. “Gives you character.” So that’s what I tell myself about my kitchen sink and counter.

“Perfect” is subjective

Robin Williams gives Matt Damon the big relationship talk in the film Good Will Hunting. I like to think it’s also true of real estate.

“You’re not perfect, sport, and let me save you the suspense: this girl you’ve met, she’s not perfect either. But the question is whether or not you’re perfect for each other.”

Or whether you can learn to be.

For now, at this stage in my life, this quirky character apartment and I are right for each other. It doesn’t matter that the floorboards under my bedroom window are creakier than a 90-year-old man at the chiropractor’s office. It doesn’t matter that the front door needed three decades of oil lube to unseize the deadbolt on my second day here.

That’s character. It’s personality. Maybe you want a simple, predictable home. It’s okay to want that, but be honest. You’re not gonna have that in a character home. I guarantee you, somewhere, somehow, there’s funky little oddities about that “cute” space you’re so drawn to — whether it’s plumbing issues, old windows that jam upon opening them, limited power supply, or whatever else the passage of time can induce.

Getting to know your space

But if you’re a real fan of character and heritage architecture, those perceived shortcomings are often things that endear you to the space, like a secret handshake that only you know how to operate.

Like when all you really want is some toast and coffee, and it means setting it up so the kettle draws from the living room power panel and the toaster oven from the kitchen. Somehow, knowing that you now know this about your space, and that you’ve endured to learn to work with it, makes the owner-home relationship that much more special.

Because that’s character for you.

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