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Column Classic: Unreal Estate

By Lisa Scottoline

I have an old house, which I love. 

And hate. 

I’m one of those people who says, “I love old houses.” 

But I lie. 

I’m beginning to accept the truth, which is: 

Old houses are a pain in the back porch. 

This realization strikes me every year when the weather turns cold. My house has stone walls that are incredibly thick, which means that come October, it’s freezing inside. Today it was seventy degrees outside, and fifty in my house. 

So, you say, turn on the heat, right? 

I can’t. 

Because my house has radiators, which hiss, clang, and bang. I can’t hear myself think when the heat is on. If you talk to me on the phone when I have the heat on, you’d think someone is breaking and entering. 

So, I heat my house by hot flashes. 

That’s the only way you can live in an old house. If you are an old house. 

By the way, it’s no more habitable in summer, when the weather turns warm. I can’t open any windows, because their sashes are broken. 

Yes, my windows have sashes. 

Don’t ask me why or even what that is. My windows are from an era when dresses had sashes, and I guess they went sash-crazy. 

Luckily, my door doesn’t have a corset. 

But it’s hung at an angle, like all the doors in the house. Either the doors have shifted or the floors have, but there isn’t a right angle to be found in the house. When you walk around my house, you feel drunk. And if you’re drunk when you walk around my house, you’re in deep trouble. 

After a margarita, I need a designated driver to get to my bedroom. 

How did I get myself into this mess, er…I mean, old house? 

Let’s talk turkey. 

I always thought that the world divided into two groups; people who like New Construction and people who like Old Houses. It’s like Democrats and Republicans, except the disagreement is over something that really matters. 

Like an attached garage. 

Furthermore, to be perfectly honest, I always sensed hostility between the New Construction people and the Old House people. 

Each thinks the other is a snob. 

The Old House people look down on the New Construction people as not being classy, as if it’s more high rent to have heating you can hear. 

And the New Construction people look down on the Old House people as being dirty, because they prefer what’s essentially a Used House. 

It’s like New Construction people think that Old House people are filthy, and Old House people revel in their colonial filth. 

To be fair, all of this could simply be PTSD from my second marriage. Thing Two was an Old House person, and I was a New Construction person, albeit secretly. I kept my preference to myself, as I sensed it wasn’t as ritzy, so when we looked at old houses, I fawned over the deep windowsills that would look so great with a window seat, which I would never use, as I’m not a cat. 

All I really wanted was a family room. 

Because in an Old House, there’s no place for the family to be, except around the hearth. 

Where’s the hearth? Take a right at the butter churn. Don’t trip over the spinning wheel. 

So of course, my second marriage being the picnic that it was, we ended up with an Old House and no family room. I lived in my Old House for years until I subtracted a husband and added a family room. 


My solution since then has been to take my Old House and constantly remodel it, thus changing it into New Construction. 

Or Old Construction. 

Like me.

Copyright Lisa Scottoline