6 months after moving out of our single family house and renting our first apartment downtown, we were finally able to sit back and breathe. Our old house had finally sold, and we were feeling quite settled and content on Queen Street. All of the little projects had been tackled, everything had been hung on the walls, and it felt like home. The ringing of the nearby bells on Church Street had become an expected and welcome sound in the background of our days, and we were used to the constant stream of tourists in front of our windows each day, excitedly pointing out the charming homes and shops along the way. And we lived in one of them! It was pretty idyllic, almost dreamlike, to be able to just focus on the here and now and be happy, without any nagging worries going on behind the scenes.
The problem with dreams, though, is that eventually there is a moment when you have to wake up. Finding out that we wouldn’t be able to renew our lease was that moment for us. Our landlord had decided that he wanted to move into our unit, and we would have to leave. It was quite the blow, learning that we would be forced to pick up and move yet again, with two young kids in a very competitive rental market. We took a minute to mourn and wallow in our bad luck, and then hit the streets looking for a new place to call home. And that’s when we learned, once again, that things often happen for a reason, and maybe there was a place out there that we would love even more.
So let me back track and tell you about the day that we saw the place we are currently calling home. I can still remember the look on the landlord’s face when he saw us walk up to the imposing Charleston double style home towering over Wentworth Street, showing off with its’ ornate Italian style double piazzas and Victorian double doors. His eyes widened in surprise, taking in our double stroller that housed two small children, and he said with an ominous chuckle, “You are all planning to live here? It’ll be tight!” (And he didn’t even know about the dog and two cats yet!). We laughed nervously and assured him that we were used to small living, and apprehensively followed him inside. I have no doubt that as he trekked up the grand staircase ahead of us to the second floor apartment, he was thinking that this would be a complete waste of his time. I, however, was too busy deeply breathing in the musty odor that only accompanies old homes and taking in the intricate plaster work along the moldings and chandelier to care.
After escaping the dank, dimly lit stairwell and patiently waiting for him to open the door to the unit, we were rewarded with a flood of natural light. I think that is what first sold me on this place- all that glorious sunlight streaming through the windows. How could you not be happy in a place like that? Ignoring the college student decor (or lack thereof) and mattresses on the floor, I couldn’t help but look around the place in awe. The shockingly tall ceilings, double fireplaces, huge windows and french doors everywhere I looked had my jaw dropping to the floor. Stepping out onto the large Southern style piazza (which was pathetically adorned with one sad little folding chair at the time), had me dreaming all sorts of dreams of what this space could be. There would be reading, and relaxing, and coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.
After Kevin and I had kindly thanked the landlord for showing us the place and had pushed the stroller out of ear shot, we both had the exact same sentiments- there was no way we could live there, but we HAD to live there. Let me explain.
So, while we had already downsized, we were still living in a pretty standard set up on Queen Street. We had the lower flat of a 2 story home, with a long driveway for parking, and a backyard. There was a living room, a playroom, a dining room, kitchen, two normal sized bedrooms. Besides the occasional pitter-patter from the neighbors above us, we could almost pretend we were still living in a single family home, so it wasn’t a far stretch from what we were used to. This place, on the other hand, was a far stretch.
For one thing, there was a shared parking lot out back, but no yard for the girls to play in or for the dog to use when nature called, and no additional parking for guests. There was an intimidating amount of stairs leading up to the unit (and I could just imagine the headache that would come with trying to get two children up and down those stairs, along with a cumbersome double stroller). The front door opened right into the living area, with no separate entry. There was also no separate dining area (and only a tiny galley style kitchen), so the dining table would have to be in the living area as well, which, although it felt deceivingly spacious with the super tall ceilings, would definitely be a challenge to arrange furniture wise. The only closet in the entire unit was also in the living area (yes, you read that right, there were no other closets). Immediately to the right of the front door was another door leading to an almost identical room that would be the master bedroom. It felt enormous at first, until we realized that the second bedroom was a tiny room off of the bedroom, so in order to create some sort of pass-through between the bedrooms we would need to figure out a way to divide it up. The current tenants had a long curtain going across the room for privacy, which I wasn’t feeling and knew we would have to come up with a different solution should we decide to live there. I had no idea how we would fit a bed and a crib into the second bedroom, let along something to store clothes. And what about the toys? There was no way we could store toys in that bedroom, and the living space would already be cramped housing both living room and dining room furniture. There was just no way we could make it work.
That natural light. Those windows. Two fireplaces. Three sets of french doors leading out onto a breathtaking piazza. A claw foot bath tub. An entire wall of built-ins in the bathroom. Ornate crown moldings. Original wood floors. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. We went home that night still discussing the place on Wentworth, going back and forth over how many challenges there would be to make it work for our family. We looked up the history of the home and learned that it had been built around 1850. It had survived the Civil War, the great earthquake, and Hurricane Hugo. Finally our weakness for historic charm and character (and our apparent need to make things difficult for ourselves) won out and we put in an application. I think by now you should know that Kevin and I tend to follow our hearts over our heads, (for better or worse), and just trust that everything will work out. I was nervous but also excited for the challenges ahead. If I could make this space work for us, I could make any space work…right?
Almost 7 months later, and I can’t believe we ever doubted we could do it. I am going to share a tour of our space very very soon, (I would do it now but I think this novelesque post is quite long enough for one day, and thank you if you have stuck with me this far!) along with some of the things that helped make it possible for our family of four to live comfortably in less than 1000 square feet (spoiler alert: purging and de-cluttering was huge). Until then, here is a little teaser of the outside of the building.
Wouldn’t you need to live here too?!
Photographs by Amanda Seifert Photography