Previously, on Mill Street Blues: Billie and the Jarhead were engaged in a battle with time, aiming to get the porches stripped and stained, the foyer ceiling insulated and replaced, the kitchen pipes to stop freezing, and several other tasks completed before winter temperatures set in and all work that needed to be done above zero degrees Fahrenheit came to a screeching halt.
Adding to the intrigue: a new project.
From the listing details available online, it had all the makings of a great flip: A low price. A great location near lakes, streams, and a gorgeous state park. A generous lot with a large garden plot. An attached two-car garage. A single-level ranch floor plan with two fireplaces and vaulted ceilings.
Sure, there were downsides. Like the floor to ceiling knotty pine walls. And the wall to wall knotty pine ceilings. And the mushrooms growing out from under the baseboards. And the leaky roof. And the saggy kitchen ceiling. And the master bedroom carpet—the color and condition of which brought to mind a black and white movie murder scene.
I take that back, as I would hate to offend fans of black and white movie murders. Let’s just say it was disturbing.
And let’s not forget the light fixtures, which were seemingly everywhere—including places one wouldn’t expect a light fixture to be. Like, say, five to ten inches from another light fixture. And we’re not talking about a set of matching or coordinating fixtures arranged together for stylistic reasons. No. We’re talking about a cluster of crap arranged apparently at random, perhaps by someone with exceptionally odd taste or poor eyesight.
I am not even remotely kidding. Imagine a flush mounted glass ceiling globe hanging just beyond the reach of a five-blade ceiling fan featuring a three-bulb light kit with scalloped glass shades, on the other side of which hung a white metal fixture with three angled spotlights on chrome hinged posts, all located within a 3-foot by 3-foot area in the center of a knotty pine plank kitchen ceiling—which, fun fact, I could touch without standing on my tippy-toes. Whenever I imagine someone working in there, I picture them hunched over like the doctors on M*A*S*H trying to avoid the blades of the helicopters as they raced to evaluate the incoming wounded.
And that was just the kitchen. In almost every room there were three to five light fixtures that were completely different in color, size, style and material. I say almost because one bedroom had just one light fixture. Just one. Now, I have no hard evidence to back up this theory, but I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that this may have been due to the lack of a ceiling—which had caved in at some point, leaving a large gaping hole above, and a pile of wet wood, insulation, and drywall on the carpet below. I didn’t scour the debris pile for additional light fixtures, but I’m guessing there was at least one more in there.
But for the exception of that bedroom, there was an excess of lighting and an utter lack of theme or sense to its location in every room of the house. So much so that I wondered: Had all these fixtures been acquired, perhaps Grinch-style, from the homes of neighbors while they slept? Or maybe secreted out of a store or factory one piece at a time in a coat or lunchbox over decades like the car in that old song by Johnny Cash? And then hung where they could be admired like a serial killer’s trophies?
Well, we bought it anyway. And almost by accident. After having one offer rejected by the seller three months earlier, and another ignored a month after that, we assumed we would not be flipping Murder Manor this summer or any other. It’s just as well, we thought at the time (ironically, I realize only now.) We had more than enough on our plate as it was. If our offer had been accepted, we reasoned, we may not have the funds to finish the Craftsman and get it on the market by June.
And then, as if to prove fate has a sense of humor, our realtor called to say congratulations. The seller had reconsidered and accepted our offer after all. Which obviously meant that the previous buyers had found something seriously wrong with the place (besides the weird lighting and the scary flooring) and wanted nothing more to do with it. Or the appraiser had found something seriously wrong with the place (besides the missing and saggy ceilings, and the gaping holes in the roof) and the previous buyer’s bank had refused to fund the purchase.
Big deal, we scoffed as we prepared to sign the contract. By then we had renovated so many properties, we were no longer afraid of surprises. In fact, so accustomed were we to bombshell revelations, you couldn’t have shocked us if you’d hidden electrical wire between a sheet of drywall and a layer of mud, handed me a hammer, and told me to hang up a picture.
That may have shocked us six years ago. But it would not have shocked us six weeks ago. Or even six months ago. Now we know to check for wayward wiring before we cut or hammer into anything. Especially when dealing with distressed properties. Ah, life’s teachable moments…
Anyway, even after all of that, it wasn’t long before we were asking ourselves some familiar questions. Like, “Isn’t this a cool layout?” And, “Wouldn’t it be great to have a fireplace again?” And, “Can you imagine sitting here every morning/afternoon/evening and not having to watch the neighbor’s dog do its business while we’re eating breakfast/lunch/dinner?”
So although we had decided in 2018 to love Mill Street, once we saw the potential for Murder Manor to become our Maison D’amour, we were suddenly quite keen to list the wing and gable farmhouse.
Of course, since deciding to keep the Knotty Ranch, we’ve already received some bad news that, in sum, tells us it won’t be ready to occupy until April 2020. Which is why it somehow looks worse than it did when we bought it six months ago.
On the upside, that gives us plenty of time to work on all the things I mentioned in the recap, above, as well as everything else we want to do at Mill Street before it goes on the market. We’ve already made some good progress with the kitchen, having gotten the window trim and wine boxes in and ready for painting. We also got the foyer ceiling and window replaced. Just have to paint them now, too, along with the door and the new crown moulding.
Barring any more unexpected issues, we just might get everything done in time to have a summer off for a change. Guess who won’t be holding her breath.