Grosse Pointe Homes – A Spring Photo Collection

IMG_0689 (1024x1024)I have a fascination with houses. I think a lot of people do. Who lives there? What does it look like inside? What stories happened within those walls? How has it changed over the years? Etcetera.

IMG_0296 (1024x1024)Most of the homes in Grosse Pointe have facades that are sometimes stately, sometimes quaint, sometimes peculiar. Whatever the style, most are also very well cared for, giving them a clean, maybe even weirdly pristine look. It’s very hard to explain. You just have to trust me.

IMG_0457 (1024x1024)Now that the weather is warmer (although still not warm enough – come on!), I’ve been able to go for walks and runs again. When I see a place that, I don’t know…. speaks to me (maybe the sun is hitting it just so, or maybe it’s the way a tree is standing), I take a picture.

IMG_0297The ones that I really like, I alter (not too much) on Instagram. I really try to bring out the home’s personality and what was reflected that day (a house can looks foreboding one day and cheerful the next).

IMG_0490 (1024x1024)I’m still hesitant sometimes to raise my camera (aka phone) to take a shot, especially when there are people around. What if the occupants see me? Will they think I’m casing the place? Hahaha. And don’t think I haven’t gone over in my head what I would say if someone walked out the front door (I love your house! or What kind of plant is that?).

IMG_0620 (1024x1024)And there are many times where I want to take a picture, but don’t, for fear of being noticed (yes, it’s dumb. I realize that).

IMG_0458 (1024x1024)And, as a result, most of my shots are taken so quickly that sometimes they ends up being blurry or not exactly right. Working on this project has definitely helped me (although it is very slow going) overcome my shyness with the camera.

IMG_0595 (1024x1024)I’ve been loving this project so much that I plan to continue doing a seasonal series – Summer, Fall, Winter. And Spring isn’t over yet, so I may have a part II.

IMG_0354 (1024x1024)So far, all the homes I’ve photographed have been within walking distance from my house. I need to hop in the car and drive a couple miles so I can explore the other sections of the Grosse Pointes.

I think a house says a lot about the people inside. What does your house say about you?

Our New Home!

house.backyardWe closed on our new home yesterday – what a relief. The whole mortgage process was complicated and stressful, but its over. We are now Michigan homeowners!

The house was built in 1960 and is 3248 square feet. Its exterior is traditional Midwestern brick, with painted shutters and a weathervane over the garage. It is located in the city of Grosse Pointe Farms and is walking distance to a small shopping district. It’s also super close to Lake St. Clair, a huge plus for us. We both love being near the water (in fact one of our criteria for moving out of San Francisco was that we had to move somewhere that was close to a large body of water).

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First floor bathroom.

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Family room

photo 1 (600x800)The first time we looked at the place, we crossed it off our list. We had just started looking, and everything was really dated and we thought it would be too much of a headache to redo. The kitchen window overlooked the backyard, but its appliances were over 20 years old (including the trash compactor, which I was baffled by. At first I thought it was a second dishwasher) and the cabinets? Formica. The sponge-effect painted walls, dark first floor bathroom and “heavy” decor (maroon leather couches, lots of flourishes) didn’t exactly help sell the place.

And then there was the wallpaper…

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In dining room, looking through hallway to the living room.

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Looking down to the dining room.

The second time we looked at it, we were further into our house-hunt, and paid more attention to the flow, layout and general well-being of the house. We liked the big, private (fenced in on both sides of house) backyard and nice patio (although it had just been cleaned, so was very slippery that day). My husband loved the big and very clean heated garage. Even though we didn’t love the styling (gold fixtures, ’80s lighting, carpeting selection, etc.), the rooms were decent-sized and the second floor bathroom placement made sense, unlike many other places we’d seen.

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Master

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Guest room.

However, it was a four-bedroom. Which meant that either our guests would have to sleep in one of the girls’ rooms when they came to visit, or that the husband would have to stick his office in the basement (with low ceilings that barely cleared his head). We once again crossed it off the short list.

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Basement

house.basement2We knew we weren’t going to find the perfect home, but we kept hoping something new would come on the market that would have most of what we wanted. So we kept waiting. But both of us kept looking at the house online, and somewhere along the way, we decided to look at it one last time.

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On our third visit, we only saw good things about the house. Both the kitchen and family room (which were connected by an open doorway) had sliding doors to the backyard (which housed a hot tub, which we’re inheriting), the upstairs layout was perfect (master set off from the rest of the rooms, and none of the remaining bedrooms was too large or too small), there were hardwood floors throughout the first floor (except for the kooky family room) and the dining and living rooms had big windows that extended all the way to the floor. Why hadn’t anyone bought this place, it was awesome!!

We put in an offer right away and after a short negotiation, paid just a little under asking. The home inspector who came to look at the house told my husband it was the best house (condition-wise) he had seen in a long time. Two new furnaces, almost brand new roof (it was totally redone a couple years ago), new air conditioning units, a central vacuum and a generator, all in excellent condition.

house.front2We met the sellers at the closing. They were sweet and gracious, offering to give us a walk-through to show us the lay of the land (how to use the generator, for example) and making themselves available if we had any questions. We were thrilled when they told us they were closing on a condo in the next few days and if it all went as planned, they would be out of the house by August 4th, one month earlier than planned.

So we hate the decor. It can be changed. And after meeting the previous owners I realized, they loved the decor. They loved the house. And they took care of it for us for 23 years. And you want to know something funny?…..we have a very small budget for immediate home improvements (and a larger budget for a kitchen remodel, hallelujah). We’ll need to pick and choose which things to do this year and which things can wait. Well, I won’t be mad if the wallpaper isn’t the first thing to go.

House-Hunting in Grosse Pointe: The Short List

In my last post, I revealed that we already found a home here in Grosse Pointe (we close next week!). Here, I’ll show you the homes that were on our short list, and give the reasons why they didn’t make the cut.

RADNOR CIRCLE

homes.radnorhomes.radnorbackRadnor Circle is little street in a quiet neighborhood very close to “The Hill,” a shopping district about three blocks long (coffee shop, a few restaurants, a high-end shoe store, Brooks Brothers, a couple banks, a real estate company, Rite Aid, kitchen showroom, and a handful of businesses that end with “Associates,” “& Company,” or “Enterprises.”).

The house was (yes it’s still standing. It just makes more sense for this story to put it in the past tense) 3100 square feet with four bedrooms and built in 1950. It had a huge backyard and what seemed to be great neighbors, one of whom was tending to her raspberry bushes the day we looked at the house.

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The kitchen overlooked the backyard (my ultimate), but the style wasn’t my favorite (I’m highlighting kitchens because it’s the most important room in the house to me). The home was in okay condition, but needed updates. The master bath was tiny (my husband gets claustrophobic, especially with bathrooms and especially when our two little girls insist on being in the bathroom with him at the same time) and two of the bedrooms had low ceilings (the husband would have to duck). There was also no family room (though there was a sunroom extension off the dining room, but it would not be usable during winter).

Ultimately, there were too many dislikes and we also felt it was priced a little high (and since we first looked at it, the price has been lowered twice and is still on the market at the time of this post).

N. DEEPLANDS

homes.deeplandshomes.deeplandsbackNorth Deeplands lies in the city of Grosse Pointe Shores. It’s right off Lake Shore Drive and not too far north, which makes it a desirable location for most. The home was built in 1959, and was 3800 square feet with four bedrooms. One cool thing was that it shared a backyard fence with my husband’s dad’s final home – something which felt comforting and was definitely a plus.

homes.deeplandsbarhomes.deeplandsentryhomes.deeplandskiWe quite liked this place and went back and forth about it for a long time. The rooms were dated, but there was something about the way the house flowed that felt right (good ju-ju). Loved the wet bar in the family room and the fact that the kitchen overlooked the backyard.

The bedrooms were fine, but the room that sat above the garage was slanted and odd and if I remember correctly, the upstairs bathroom situation was also weird. And no fifth bedroom for my husband’s home office, which would mean he would have to work in the basement, which was not ideal, especially in this case.

The house price was lowered one time, and is now off the market, which hopefully means it was sold to a great family who will love it there.

RATHBONE PLACE

homes.rath homes.rathbackWe were “this close” to placing a bid on Rathbone. In fact, we called our realtor, told her we wanted to make an offer and met her at the property to see it one last time. The home sat on a dead end private street (meaning the residents living on that street were responsible for repair, snow plowing, etc) in the city of Grosse Pointe. The street itself is beautiful, lined with large stately homes (most much larger than the one we were looking at). It was 3200 square feet and built in 1956.

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The home had many great updates, but unfortunately, not in the style that we prefer. Lots of dark and lots of gold. The selling agent made a point of telling us that all the fixtures in the home were recently updated to brass (which we would have switched out first thing). Still, the home was well taken care of, something that is a huge selling point for us.

The best thing about this place was the backyard. A built-in fireplace, new patio, lots of space and a “secret” doorway to access the city park, which was just over the backyard fence. When we first viewed the house, we didn’t pay much attention to the park, but the second time we went there (the day we were planning on placing a bid), it was Memorial Day. From the backyard, we could see and hear the 30+ groups of people enjoying their holiday. As my husband pointed out, it was a happy kind of noise and something we probably wouldn’t notice after a while. Me, I wasn’t so sure. I felt exposed and hesitant to share my living space with all of Grosse Pointe.

We talked it over that night and decided not to make an offer. My husband wasn’t in love with it, so he was fine letting it go. Plus, it was at the high end of our price range, which would mean we could do very little in terms of remodeling or decorating. It sold a few weeks later.

 STEPHENS

homes.stephenshomes.stephensbackStephens is a coveted street in Grosse Pointe Farms. Meaning that if you say you live on Stephens, people might say, “oh!” Meaning, it’s a very picturesque area, with beautiful (and expensive) homes. This particular home was the Canadian consulate. It was in pristine condition and everything was redone. It had a great open floor plan with sliding doors off the family and dining rooms. At 4600 square feet and six bedrooms, it was a little out of our price range comfort zone, but we looked at it anyway.

homes.stephensliving homes.stephenskitch homes.stephensentryMy husband really liked the spacious rooms and the fact that he would be able to have an office not in the basement (which actually would have been a great place for an office – it was finished like a main floor). And yes the kitchen had the best appliances and cabinets, but the whole place felt very sterile to me and I’m not sure that could have been remedied with decor (which we wouldn’t have been able to afford anyway, had we bought the house).

We didn’t have to discuss it long, though, because two days after we looked at it, our realtor called and said the sellers had received multiple offers (one of which they accepted later that day). It had been on the market for three days.

CLOVERLY

homes.cloverlyhomes.cloverlybackCloverly is a street one block parallel to Stephens. Another coveted street in Grosse Pointe Farms. Of all the places we saw, we loved Cloverly the most. It had a gorgeous facade, big backyard and lots of character. It was built in 1929, was 4200 square feet and had five bedrooms. The owners took excellent care of the place and it showed.

homes.cloverlyliving homes.cloverlykitch homes.cloverlyfamiliyBUT….the garage was small. It wouldn’t fit the motorcycle and it probably wouldn’t have fit both of our cars, or if it did, no one would be able to open any doors. The kitchen needed updates and it faced the street. And it was segregated from the rest of the house (being part of the servants, area back in the day) so whoever was cooking (me) would be totally alone (and not be able to keep an eye on the kids). And, if again I’m recalling correctly, I think this is the home where the basement ceiling was also quite low, which meant more ducking for the husband.

No matter how much we tried to justify its shortcomings, we could not bring ourselves to place a bid. After our first walk-through (I think we did three?), the owners lowered the price by $25,000 (or $30. Something like that). It sold shortly afterwards.

We still look longingly at the Cloverly house when we drive by. It was the one that got away. Fortunately. Because Lord knows I would not be happy up in that kitchen.

 

 

House-Hunting in Grosse Pointe

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I have a confession to make. We’ve actually already bought a house (no, not the one above, sadly). BUT we haven’t closed on it yet, so I don’t want to jinx anything by posting much about it. I will tell you that when we first saw the house, we nixed it off the list. But more about all that later.

When it comes to describing homes in Grosse Pointe, the words “formal,” “traditional” and “decorative” are at the top of the list. If you want a mansion, there’s one waiting for you here in Grosse Pointe. All these beauties below (and the one above) are on the market right now…

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Our needs (and budget) don’t call for a mansion or anything close. Just wanted to give you an idea of the larger homes in the area. Most of the larger estates line the waterfront, with a view of the beautiful Lake St. Clair, but many can also be found inland.

Moving on. Many of the homes currently for sale were last updated in the 60s, 70s or 80s, so the interiors leave much to be desired. At least by me. Although we have seen some homes that were recently updated and they also seemed to be heavy and ornate for my taste (we’re not in Northern California anymore, that’s for sure).

Some trends I’ve found:

1) Pool Tables. Grosse Pointers love them a game of pool, apparently. Usually the pool table is found in the basement or a wood-paneled room (which is another big trend – lots and lots of wood. The darker the better.).

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2) Grosse Pointers also love roosters in the kitchen.

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3) And stone fireplaces. (and maroon leather couches. That one came up a few times, too.)

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4) Matchy-matchy. Especially matching curtains to other pieces of furniture (bedspreads, chairs, couches).

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5) Telling stories on the walls. With paint.

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6) Wallpaper. I don’t think I saw one wallpapered room my entire 18 years in San Francisco. Here, it’s everywhere, in every house. Maybe just one room, maybe the entryway and hey, maybe on the ceiling because why not? I have to say that the whole concept of wallpaper is growing on me and I’m actually considering redecorating the new downstairs bathroom with some funky wallpaper (what is happening to me?).

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7) General over-the-top-ness. Let’s put down three Persian rugs in the sitting room! On top of each other! Or, wherever are we going to put our hundreds of wine glasses? I know! Let’s build an entire room for them. Made of dark wood, of course.

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8) Black toilets. And sinks. And bathtubs.

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9) The “I hired a designer” look. And by “I hired a designer” I mean, “I hired a Grosse Pointe designer.” Though I am sort of loving the pink chairs. Loving.

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10)  One of the trends I think is great is that many of the family rooms or dens here have built in bars. Useful and fun.

homes.bar (518x376)Many of the photos above were taken from homes we didn’t see, but some were taken from homes we did walk through and put on our shortlist (and one of the photos is from our new house!). House-hunting in Grosse Pointe has been a fun adventure (house buying, that’s a different story). It’s much harder to picture a house as your own when it’s not cleaned up and staged, but I’m glad they don’t bother with that here. I love looking through a home and seeing how it’s been lived in. How it was loved. (And sometimes how it was neglected).

There’s something surreal about walking into a stranger’s home. All their things, just out there. What bedspread they picked out, what kind of clothes they wear, which photographs they have on their mantel, what kind of pasta sauce they use. House-hunting has given me some insight into the people of Grosse Pointe (said as if they are aliens). Some are conservative and uptight, some are showy and want to be seen, some are laid back and comfortable, some are fun and eccentric, and some are busy and frazzled. I hope our new home will be a true reflection of who we are, too. Funky downstairs bathroom wallpaper and all.

*All photos taken from Trulia.com.

 

 

 

Sold!

 

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Our (former) San Francisco home. Top floor.

We are no longer San Francisco homeowners. We closed on Monday!

The real estate market in San Francisco is beyond crazy right now. In order to sell our place, we shelled out 5K for a new paint job (inside) and another 5K for staging, and multiple other dollars for cleaning, gardening and a hardwood floor repair and polish. Was it worth it? Absolutely. It sold for well over the asking price.

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The living room, all pimped out.

After all the primping, the selling process was quick and easy. We had two weekends of open houses, a few agent showings and accepted bids on one day only (that’s the way it works, there. You do not accept any bids before the official date). I have to say that even with things being the way they are, we were still a little nervous about how everything would turn out. Selling your home is a stressful process, no matter what market you’re in.

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The kitchen, looking into the dining room.

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Dining room looking into living room and foyer.

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Second bedroom and office nook.

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The backyard.

Speaking of the crazy housing market, did you hear about the 3-unit building in Pacific Heights that went for $1.7 million OVER ASKING? According to Curbed SF, the list price was $2.095 million and went for $3.801 million, which means that it sold for 81% over the list price. Or the 4-bedroom home in Noe Valley that went for $1.31 million over? Or the 2-bedroom home in Glen Park (not one of the top most desirable neighborhoods in the city) that sold for $600K over asking? The list of these ridiculous offers is getting longer and longer.

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The Pacific Heights home that went for $1.7 million over asking last month.                                              Photo credit: sf.curbed.com

So who or what is driving up prices? A lot of it is due to the ever-booming tech market (Google, Facebook, Twitter and various IPOs) and foreign investors are also a factor. Another reason is because there just isn’t a whole lot of inventory out there right now. According to a local news article (KPIX 5), real estate agents said that if “new properties stopped coming on the market, San Francisco would run out of homes in five weeks.”

We’ve already started the house hunt here in Grosse Pointe. The market isn’t as bad here, of course, but it’s still a pretty hot market, considering, and there isn’t a whole lot of inventory here, either. For example, a home we looked at least weekend went on the market on a Friday afternoon and sold by Monday morning. But we’re hopeful. That at least we’ll find something by winter (please God!).  Stay tuned.

*photo credit for all our house photos: zephyr real estate