Sunday, July 19, 2009

Really Big Houses

One of the problems with living in Disneyland on the Potomac is that lots of people can't actually afford to live here. The cost of homes - even with the collapse of the housing market - is such that many young couples just starting out can't find homes they can afford within a reasonable distance of where they work. The vast herds of wealthy lobbyists, lawyers, corporate executives, and similar demigods has driven the price of real estate to stratospheric heights, and has led to the proliferation of the sprawling edifices disparagingly called "McMansions" - gigantic houses with all sorts of tasteful (and expensive) extras like gourmet kitchens, sun rooms, multi-car garages, spa-quality bathrooms, media rooms, game rooms, home gyms, and so on. Of course, land being as expensive as it is, these gigantic homes tend to sit on postage-stamp-sized lots, so that you have to turn sideways to walk between your mansion and your neighbor's mansion. It's ludicrous.

And it's expensive. If you're a clerk at the local grocery store, a janitor, a short-order cook, or a minor government employee with a title below the rank of First Principal Vice Deputy Assistant Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Making Air Travel a Pain in the Ass, you can't afford to buy a home appropriate to your income and the size of your family anywhere close to the capitol of your country...and you probably couldn't afford to pay the property taxes even if you could.

But nevertheless, I would love to live in a Really Big House.

I grew up in a modest 3-bedroom house in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with my parents, two brothers, and sister. Eventually, my father turned the basement into a bedroom for two of us, and installed a second (half) bathroom, which helped ease the crowding. But I always dreamed of having a Really Big House in which I didn't have to wait in line for a bathroom. In which I could have a bedroom to sleep in and another room for all my stuff. A Really Big House with long hallways, grand staircases, dens, parlors, sitting rooms, a solarium, and big French windows opening out onto terraces overlooking smooth, emerald-green lawns dotted with trees and flower beds. And a library - it absolutely must have a library, preferably with a nice stone fireplace. And a big kitchen with enough counter space that aircraft in trouble could make emergency landings without hitting the sink.

I'll never own the Really Big House of my dreams. But I'm close enough, and perfectly happy with what we have. Agnes and I have 2-1/2 bathrooms, so we're never far from relief when nature calls (and she calls much more often as we get older, dontcha know). We also have five bedrooms, allocated as follows:

The Grand Imperial Master Bedroom (use your imagination);

The Guest Room (which is large enough to be comfortable, and small enough to discourage lengthy stays);

The Nest (where Agnes can curl up with a book while her hair dries, and where we can stash the overflow from other rooms during spasms of housecleaning);

My Study (shared with Agnes); and,

Agnes's Workshop (currently piled high with fabric and equipped with an array of fancy sewing machines that each have more computer power than NASA used to put Neil Armstrong on the moon).

It's a minor-league place when compared even to the smaller of the McMansions, but it's a good size for us, and the payoff of the mortgage is actually glimmering on the not-so-distant horizon. We've worked hard be able to live in our nice, comfy Maison de Bilbo, and I'm not complaining.

But if I ever win the lottery, I'm getting my Really Big House. I think, at Northern Virginia prices, we can afford this one ...

And someone to clean it.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.



Debbie said...

A big house is great when you are married, raising kids and need a place to hide from everyone, and if you can afford the full time cleaning staff. I'm at the stage in life now where I want something more modest with a young studly "houseboy" who can give massages and mixes a great you can simply fire and replace when he displeases you. hehehe Single life is great!

bandit said...

With a few minor repairs it looks like you have a real winner. I remember when you blogged about your tools. You can put them to good use. I'm sure Mike will work on the roof for you.

Alex said...

I was once in the market for a large home, the plan being to rent out the basement and have an additional roommate upstairs. And even then, you'd probably still never see any of them.

That all changed when I discovered that I'm content where I am. If I ever get the desire to move, I'll build. And I still remember the good aspects of those McMansion floor plans that I liked.

Mike said...

I'm waiting for my son to find a place of his own so I can reclaim the basement.

SusieQ said...

Big or small, I love houses that are designed well and smartly decorated. Mine is about the size of yours, Bilbo. It has everything I want in a house including warm memories. If my walls could talk, they'd have happy stories to tell.

Bilbo said...

Debbie - you can be single in a big house as well as in a small one - and you can play hide and seek with the studly houseboy.

Bandit - I don't think I can afford the insurance to have Mike working for me.

Alex - good point. If you build, you get exactly what you want.

Mike - I'm with you on this one!

SuzyQ - If my walls could talk, I'd have to go someplace without extradition treaties...

Leslie David said...

I'm glad you added the caveat of someone to clean it. I've never wanted to own a McMansion--my sister lives in one in Bryn Mawr PA. I like my 2 BR apartment with no carpet which I can clean fairly well in an hour.

anOCgirl said...

who is this First Principal Vice Deputy Assistant Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Making Air Travel a Pain in the Ass? perhaps i should direct all of my traveling complaints to him/her.