The Run-Down Dream House

A fixer-upper that is worth so much more than the sum of its parts

Sophie Lucido Johnson


Illustrations and photos by the author.

I’ve been spending a lot of time with my house lately. It’s with me in my imagination a lot. Our roommates recently moved out, so we have twice as much space to manipulate. I have so many dreams about long red curtains, crushed velvet couches, things that I think are called “light fixtures,” but I can’t be sure, because Googling “light fixtures” does not ever produce what I’m picturing in my mind. I daydream a lot about stumbling on “amazing rescue pieces” (which I understand to be sets of chairs from the 1930s or whatever) from Facebook Marketplace for very cheap.

(As an aside — I can no longer navigate Facebook. I feel confused when I open it, like I’m looking at a map of a mall in a city that I have never been to and never plan to visit. It seems like a lot of the furniture on Marketplace links to websites like Wayfair or Crate & Barrel, which I am completely capable of visiting on my own, and which do not have any “amazing rescue pieces.” The whole idea of a “rescuing” a piece of furniture is that you’re saving it from a terrible fate, like the kind of demon trash compactor that’s in “Toy Story 3.”)

The upstairs living room has the best window in the house, absolutely. It’s a big, south-facing window, and it looks out into a lot of trees. Our former roommates turned it into a cozy sitting room with a huge television and lovely drapey plants. Since assuming ownership, we have so far done two things with it: (1) run around it with my one-year-old while making noises intended to elicit echoes; and (2) daydreamed about it.

The dog Doc is sitting on the part where a superfluous wall was removed; see below.

The floor upstairs is crooked. If you put a marble on it, the marble rolls. This is not high up on the list of things to fix.

That list is never-ending, as it always is with a house like this. Honestly, when we saw it, I didn’t think there was any way in hell we would buy this house. The pictures on Redfin were great, but pictures can lie, and these pictures’ pants were on fire. The roof leaked, there were mice in the walls, paint peeled in every room, the haphazard addition to the…