Monday, March 02, 2009

The (im)perfect home.

To offer a bit of closure to last week’s entry, I’ll share that Bordeaux and I have successfully found an apartment. It was, however, a much more complicated process than we had anticipated. We encountered a few major problems. First of all, no one is buying right now, so everyone is renting—and we really wanted to live in the City Bowl, which is the most desirable area for renting. Secondly, as freelancers who have spent the last eight months traveling, we weren’t really seen as ideal candidates to most apartment agents. But perhaps the biggest problem of all was that our first viewing was at the most incredible apartment we’d ever seen—with high ceilings, wood floors, great views, tons of built in cabinets, and a massive kitchen—so how could any other apartment ever compare?

Along the way to signing the lease, we traveled all over the city, viewing about a dozen different apartments. We saw some sweet flats, some depressing houses, and a few pretty bizarre properties.

We visited one house that was, literally, a drug den. We showed up to the open house a few minutes early, and were welcomed inside by a rattled-looking German woman. As we stepped through the house, we discovered discolored mattresses and homemade drug paraphernalia scattered around the rooms. It should be a sign of our desperation at that point that we actually considered this house.

We later visited a three bedroom Victorian cottage that retained most of its original features—like the charming fireplace and architectural detailing, but also plumbing and electricity. The place was falling apart, the previous tenant told us, roof leaking, floor collapsing-- and the landlord never fixed a thing. When the landlord asked if we wanted the place, we pointed this out to him, and he assured us that he was going to get a ‘big bank loan’, then he’d take care of the remodeling in ‘drips and drabs’—he just needed a tenant there while he did it. So that they can pay rent to live in a gutted apartment, should he ever actually getting around to making any repairs?

Finally, answering a Gumtree ad with no photographs, we found our apartment. It was right in the City Bowl, in the perfect location. Two bedrooms, with a big lounge and an open balcony, at a surprisingly inexpensive rent. But looking it over, we were still infected by the first apartment we had viewed—so all of its flaws stood out. Ugly grey carpeting ran throughout. The walls were a glaring white. The mirror over the bathroom sink was too high for me, and the medicine cabinet awkwardly screwed into the opposite wall. And the kitchen, though charmingly retro, had a hideous brown countertop.

As a friend pointed out though, sometimes an imperfect apartment is better, because you can make it your own. We got permission to paint, and over this weekend we finished two rooms. We took down the too-high mirror, and are moving the medicine cabinet to its place (just a little lower). And while cleaning the kitchen, Bordeaux discovered that the countertop was just a tacky lining. He peeled it away, revealing the original counter underneath was still in great condition—in a brilliant shade of robin’s egg blue. And peeking under the carpet, we’ve discovered parquet flooring—though doing anything about that will be a much bigger project.

With that said, I’m once again settled, and will hopefully be getting back to more regular travel, food, and culture oriented entries—writing about Cape Town, detailing explorations in South African food, and sharing some images of Asia that I didn’t get to post while I was there.


Nik Daum said...

Congratulations on the new apartment. In the first photo, I though the door opened to a view of the ocean until I realized it was just a gray rail.

Can I ask the general amount that's reasonable to pay for an apartment down there?

Prêt à Voyager said...

congrats on finding a place! what an adventure. loved the commentary.


Yoli said...

Congratulations on finding your new place. It is very charming and I see so much potential. Wishing you much happiness in it Xander.

jess gonacha said...

congrats on the apartment! i think it looks mighty fine. show us pics once the painting and revamping is complete!!

Heather Moore said...

Well done! You'll have fun fixing it up, and living in the City Bowl is worth it. I know some great parquet people if you do decide to clean 'em up, by the way!

dorothy said...

were our kitchens separated at birth??