House Hunting

I am a real estate agent’s worst nightmare. As the daughter of an architectural designer and an interior designer myself I am insanely picky about homes. I spent many weekends as a kid with my Dad driving around looking at homes as he pointed out beautiful facades, sites and details.  I also have a major obsession with old homes- show me a new McMansion and I’ll turn on my heel, but show me a dilapidated 1860’s Greek Revival cottage and I will clean out my bank account for it.  Unlike some people, I can see potential in a disaster, but since I don’t have the funds to do what a lot of my lovely little wrecks need, I have to find something in between old and sturdy/updated.  And in the booming Boston market, this has proven very difficult. Homes we’ve been looking at not only are selling in a week, but selling for over asking. You have to move fast, which when making such a huge decision feel impossible to me! Gratefully my Dad is an incredible resource and has helped us avoid money pits and pushed us towards homes that I may not loooooooove but he insists he can help make adorable. So we continue our search… so in the meantime here are some styles of homes I would love to live in (99% are from Cottage Living….(WHY did that magazine fail? It was so good!)

This 1920’s cottage is the stuff I dream about.

A small brick front Charleston cottage:

I am currently laser focused on Greek Revivals…

or a bungalow (very rare up here in New England)

Or even this Victorian style guy…

Pretty much anything on architect Patrick Ahearn’s website makes me weep with joy:

However, this about the size of a Patrick Ahearn house I can afford:

(Can you even stand it?)


  1. YES! We were renting in Marblehead and bought a 200+ year old house in Newburyport, so I totally agree. (And I love your picks…) I am looking forward to your house-hunting chronicles!

  2. We are sooo on the same page with this! Great choices. I miss Cottage Living too. It was great, so approachable and realistic! Please come to the South Shore! ;)

  3. The answer is clearly to move to Atlanta where we have an abundance of houses like the ones you’ve shown. Alas, it’s not the northeast. But having read your blog for 2 years, I do think you’d like it.

  4. My parents are currently selling my childhood home on the South Shore that totally fits this description ;)

  5. i absolutely love patrick ahearn. and the houses you picked are so cute! beautiful but unpretentious.

  6. The website you linked to just made my eyes fall out!!! Best of Luck!!!! Be patient and you will know when you know! I will have to show you my home some time.. we lucked out in Myers Park in Charlotte with a 1930’s cape code cottage with super tasteful updates :))))))

  7. I agree with Jessica — move to Atlanta!! Clearly that’s the solution :)

    My dream is to buy a dilapidated historic home and restore it completely, even using historic paint colors and recast fixtures … the whole nine yards. My significant other’s dad is a historic preservationist so I’m convinced that this is a sign it will happen for me one day!

    And yes, I still mourn the death of Cottage Living. However, the entire staff of Cottage now works for either Southern Living and Coastal Living, so you can still find ghosts of Cottage Living in both of those publications every month!

  8. Love this post! I am with you on Cottage Living Magazine, too. I was heartbroken when they stooped publishing it. It was so good. Wonder if anyone is listening? Anyway, thanks for sharing.

  9. Our home looks just like the first picture. It was built in 1921. We’ve done a lot of updating and cosmetic changes but we love our old home.

  10. House Hunting is one of the most humbling experiences known to mankind. Perseverence and a sense of humor are essential. Seems like you have both, not to mention insane talent. You go girl!

  11. Dream big! My 70 year old mother did what many considered crazy (I think bold) and bought a five bedroom 1871 Gothic Revival home to be her retirement “hobby”!!

  12. I wanted to be a heritage preservationist when I was in school, and most of my classmates didn’t really get that since they were all very ‘forward-thinking’ designers with a modern aesthetic. Since I graduated, my tastes have grown and I appreciate all kind of architecture, but buildings with history will always have a place in my heart. I love these pictures just as much as I love glass houses.

    …although… what if there are ghosts?!

  13. I want to put a little playhouse in my backyard behind my pool in the shape of a hampton style shingle house. Then I would get the best of both worlds. I live in a stone house and this would be my beach house. I think it would save me alot of money and would be just plain fun.

  14. I am also looking forward to your ‘house hunting chronicles’. If you decide to consider the North Shore, my sister ~Debbie~ is a Realtor at Coldwell-Banker with 20 yrs experience ~ CJ

  15. There are lots of super cute 1920’s houses in Needham within a short walk to the town & train stations. We just renovated ours & couldn’t be happier there. Good luck with your search!

  16. Amen, sister!! I have this same challenge. I noticed there are a ton of beautiful, more affordable old homes in the east side of Providence. Probably too far from Boston for you, but might be worth investigation.

  17. I love cottages!! I have one myself and only wish it was a teensy bit bigger. Not defeating the purpose, just need a little extra space. If we stay here more than a few years I would like to add a glass conservatory! HA – yeah right.

    And PS – why do ALL the good mags die? What I wouldn’t give to have an old House and Garden or Domino back. And same with Cottage Living! WHY?

  18. Funny, the bungalow you have pictured is one that my friends Katherine and Ashley redid several years ago — and that’s them standing on the porch! It is an adorable house! I love all of the houses you have on here!

  19. loving that i check your blog daily….and today i look and see my hubby’s lanterns on the homes designed by Patrick Ahearn.
    thanks for all your blogging…and all the goodness.

  20. Thank you for summarizing my real estate ambitions in one blog post…. I feel ya! I have owned 4 homes and have yet to find ‘the one’… but I still hold out hope!!

  21. I too am house hunting…and it is arduous [especially due to my pickiness]. I know that I will find something but like you said everything we covet, sells quickly or is extremely overpriced. However, I remain hopeful. And you should too.

    Good luck!

  22. Basically, you love a house with character!!! You def are lucky to have your talented father on your side (loved that post about your Dad’s cnm pany!) My favorite house is the 7th down but they are all amazingly stunning.

  23. I am so with you! I keep telling my husband that I want an old house with lots of character. New constructions just don’t appeal to me, no matter how fancy. Your post sparked a whole lot of random real-estatey searches on Pinterest. Lots of day dreaming to do! Hope you find the house of your dreams :)

  24. 100% agree! there is seriously SO MUCH wrong with the MA real estate market! Its as if a passion for design and an eye for architectural details is a curse- the more I know about it, the more my searches frustrate me! Is a charming cape style in a good neighborhood, with a yard, and walking distance to the beach too much to ask for? (kidding)
    Thanks for featuring Patrick Ahearn- I was not familiar with his homes before and am now completely obsessed! Although, not quite enough to move out of the Boston proper quite yet!

  25. I am totally with you. There was nothing “wrong” with our old house, except that it was bland. Hollow-core doors, typical new-build moldings and baseboards. I couldn’t stand it. We bought a picturesque piece of land and built a 1920’s-style 2-story Craftsman bungalow. Most people don’t appreciate all the custom choices we made so that the bones of our home reflected the choices you might find in an older bungalow. They just know they think our house is really neat.

    Actually, we almost built the 2006Cottage Living Idea House. We had our builder spec out the costs, but there were so many unique details to the plans that it went past our budget. I too loved that magazine and don’t understand its demise. This McMansion trend has got to end!

  26. I think I freaked out my real estate agent when I insisted we go into a condemned home. It was an incredible Greek Revival that was in terrible shape. She just stood in the middle of the entryway while I wandered around. House hunting is exhausting, no doubt. My fave is the bungalow, but I ended up with at 1977 contemporary style house that needs so much work, but I’m looking forward to it! Good luck with your search!!

  27. My good friend is going through a similar situation in house hunting — so frustrating! And I know exactly what you mean with all this builder basic, McMansion stuff. What’s up with all those random alcoves and stuff? Give me built ins an non-manufactured charm any day. I hope you find something soon!

  28. Oh God, I can so relate! Show me a new boxy house and I cringe– there is no soul. We bought our 120 year old folk victorian 7 years ago at the peak of the market and although I love it, it’s frustrating to have to spend all our money constantly fixing it. I love all of the trim and details, but I would kill for an ensuite bath and a mudroom. I guess having less room just comes with having a historic house! But it’s really cool and I make myself feel better by telling myself we’re being green by having a smaller house. Come move out to Franklin and we can be neighbors– at least you will be close to the outlets :) Best of luck and don’t stress. Your house will find you when it’s the right one.

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