Sunday, April 27, 2008

A Day in Heaven

My mom-in-law and I spent the day at the Bungalow Heaven Home Tour. There were 7 houses on display today, each an inspiration to the commitment of the individual homeowners and the power of organized, neighborhood activism. From the Bungalow Heaven Neighborhood Association's web site: Bungalow Heaven Landmark District is a rare and mostly intact collection of over 800 homes built from the turn-of-the-century through the 1930s.

Again, from BHNA web site: Because of the great number and rich variety of early 20th Century homes that still exist in this neighborhood, city architectural and historic surveyors in the 1980s nicknamed it Bungalow Heaven. The name became official in 1989 when it was designated as a city Landmark District -- the first city Landmark District in Pasadena. Attaining Landmark District status included development and approval of a neighborhood Conservation Plan designed "to assist homeowners . . . with restoration, alteration or additions, so that the historic and architectural qualities of the District are maintained and preserved."

The stewards of all these homes have done a remarkable job in restoring and preserving the historical character of their lovely little homes.
I admire them. I envy them. I simply could not do it myself.

I have always said that it is not our mission to restore our 1909 Craftsman. I only want to respect the character of the home. When we moved in, over 80 years of rental-dom left our house stripped of any historical character it may once have had. And we simply do not have the patience or the resources to bring it back, piece by piece.

I cannot have the missing built-ins rebuilt. I do not see myself with the cute little kitchen cabinets, all painted white. And I cannot live with Stickley or Stickley reproductions. It’s just not in me.

Those homes are beautiful. The antiques are lovely. They are just not for me.

There is a coziness, a modesty, a humility to these homes. They are balanced and tranquil and in the best possible way – they lack drama. And that is just not like me – or the me I want to be.

And I feel a little guilty. It’s like I’m not trying hard enough. Why shouldn’t I be willing to live with a vintage stove? Others do. And why must I have a dishwasher at this stage of my life? I haven’t had one before in all the years that I was renting. Why must I insist on having one now?

I don’t have a good answer, other than to say it’s just not me. But still, I feel guilty. Maybe that’s what a glimpse of Heaven is meant to do.

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