Tuesday, January 20, 2009

From XL to S

A Place to Dwell has done a wonderful post on the "not so big house."  Having moved a year ago from a big house into a house half the size, I was nodding my head emphatically at every word she wrote.

When my husband, son and I left NYC in 2004 and ventured to LA (the third such loop in 10 years, mind you, but that's another tale), we were stunned to discover that for about the same price as our Upper West Side apartment, we could purchase this 1928 Paul Williams architectural Mediterranean.  
At nearly 5,000 square feet, the idea was intoxicating.  My husband and I had never lived in anything so grand.  I envisioned my son and his friends running through the corridors playing games of "Hide and Seek"  that weren't just theoretical.  I saw dinner parties that would gravitate into the sexy beamed living room where everyone would have ample room to relax and spread out.  It was a no-brainer.  We pounced.

At first, living there was a marvel.  The house was beautifully preserved with countless original features and in good working order.  We threw some wonderful parties.  My husband and I would wake in the morning and rub our eyes to make sure we weren't dreaming.  It was everything we thought we wanted.

Then, in 2007, I had the opportunity to travel to India with two girlfriends on a three week tour of Rajasthan.  We visited bustling cities like Delhi and Agra, majestic towns like Jaipur and Udaipur and tiny rural villages in Northern Alwar.  I was overwhelmed not only by the country's rare and immeasurable beauty but by its harsh realities.  I came home profoundly changed by what I had seen...and wanting to return immediately.

Train station, Haridwar

Holy beggars, Rishikesh

Temple sign, Udaipur

Family outside their home, Ajarbagh

Village children, Ajarbagh

When I returned to Los Angeles after a month away, I looked at our house with eyes that had witnessed a new reality.  As gorgeous as it was, it no longer appealed.  I remember saying to my husband, "We live in a Hummer.  I want to live in a Prius."

I felt slightly sickened by it. Why did three people need so much square footage?  What kind of a carbon footprint were we casting?  When we were all in different rooms, we were so far apart we might as well have been in separate apartments.  All the space between us made it easier to distance ourselves from one another emotionally as well.  It was sooo not "A Bloomsbury Life."  

As luck would have it, a week later I drove by a 1935 Monterey Colonial for sale just two streets away.  This house was everything our Paul Williams was not:  snug, intimate, bijou-like.  As soon as I stepped inside, I knew it was right.  The floor plan was a classic French lanterne, running just one room deep the length of the house, with big windows and lots of light. Unlike the other house with its many separate wings, running into each other in this one would be blissfully unavoidable.  

When we made our offer to the owner, sitting knee-to-knee in her cozy kitchen banquette, she suggested we all grab hands and pray aloud for everything we hoped would come to pass: a swift sale for us, nice new owners, no contingencies, etc.  To humor her, we did.  Well, somewhere the spirit gods heard our supplications, because nineteen hectic days later we had closed escrow on both, handed over our house keys to a lovely couple and moved into the new not-so-big one.

Prayer offering to Shiva, Rishikesh

It's been a year now and while we feel thankful to have experienced life on a large scale, we count our blessings every day that we are in smaller digs.  We are closer, literally and emotionally.  Thank you, India.  Because of you, we are finally home. 

(A shout-out to ArchitectDesign,  as the lanterne link came through him.)


The Curious Intellect said...

What a beautiful and inspiring story!

Ms. Katee/e-polishblog said...

Just found your blog. Loving it!

We moved from Michigan to California (Cardiff) back in July. We downsized from about 3000 sq feet to 1000. I wanted to live "at the beach" and of course the same size house in Cardiff as in Michigan just was not affordable for us. At first I was freaked out about such a small home, but now I am loving it. Things are so much more simple! I have less to clean now. I've de-cluttered and gotten rid of so much useless crap that we never needed in the first place. It is really liberating!

JMW said...

I'm so honored that you referenced my blog on your site! And, it's wonderful that you are a follower of the "not-so-big-house" movement, achieving it with your beautiful home.

Mrs. Blandings said...

I used to have visions of grandeur, but after watching folks acquire what I thought I wanted, I realized we have all we need right here. I hope to never move. I love that you did it and didn't just think it.

So Lovely said...

Oh Lisa - this post is lovely. I was raised in an enormous house and always felt slightly disconnected. I have always been a fan of a small, open plan houses.

After spenting time in Indonesia and Darfur, where my sister lives, I realized I needed very little. She lives in a tukul (mud hut basically) and has everything she needs.

Laura said...

Lisa you are so very ahead of the curve! I a huge readjustment in attitude is about to happen in this country...a mass downsizing if you will...you must feel very good to have been among the first!

Jamie Dierks said...

My husband and I live in a smaller two-bedroom house, even though we could realistically own a McMansion. Makes house cleaning easier. lol

Susan's Snippets said...

Lisa - I lived in a large home some years ago...a home filled with things, but not love. Since my divorce, the children and I eventually found ourselves in a 1899 farmhouse, one-third of the size of our previous home. Guess what? We have learned to get along and cooperate because at first we had to, but now we want to.

good for you

pve design said...

Wonderful story. I think we should all think the same way and be inspired by clever people like you.

Habitually Chic said...

After decorating a 8,000 square foot Hamptons house last summer, I realized that bigger isn't always better. There were so many rooms and the hallways was so long that I actually got tired walking back and forth. There was nothing cozy about it and I'm sure it was terrible for the environment. So I applaud you for down sizing. I hope more people make the change.

P.S. If you live in a Prius, then I think I must live in a Smart Car! Lol!

P.Gaye Tapp at Little Augury said...

Another beautiful post, I did the same several years ago-from and to much different surroundings from yours-but for similar reasons.

Life and age change us- at least for me it was the age too! Love the photographs of passageways in today's post too.

Unknown said...

Finally checking out your blog...
As the person who lives in that big house,I find myself delighted and amused by your point of view-you are so right!
But that said, I(we) do adore the house and it's what kept me from returning to the (much missed and adored) Westside(of NY not LA)


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