Tuesday, April 25, 2023

A Jewel of a Home by Carmen Leal


A Jewel of a Home

Carmen Leal


I joke that my character home is the consolation prize for moving from sunny Hawaii to gloomy Wisconsin in March. Maybe that wasn’t the right time to make such a drastic move, but life spiraled out of control after a car wreck and the ensuing concussion and traumatic brain injury. Moving was the only viable option. My son married a girl from Wisconsin and they moved to Oshkosh, If I could not live in Hawaii where I wanted, I might as well move to where we had family.


The 1875 two-story home with both a front and side porch had every must-have on our list; brick, two story, a first-floor bath and laundry room, a separate office, and a large enough kitchen. What wasn’t on the list was a yard full of weeds, most of them invasive to Wisconsin.


Buying a house long distance meant hours on Zillow scrolling through countless properties where I learned that some people are not very good at decorating. We did our walk throughs at obscene times like 6:00 in the morning because of the time difference and we never got to see the neighborhoods. We researched issues such as school districts, walkability, and safety, but it’s impossible to get a feel of the of the community without physically being there.


What I wish I had done was to hire an independent contractor to come and look at the house before we made an offer. I would have known about front porch that collapsed after we arrived, the need to rewire the back of the house so that we could run the washer and dishwasher at once, the windows that did not open because of the decades of paint that sealed them shut, and that the back of the house has no heat source! That coveted first floor bath is like using an outhouse in the winter.


What I did right was to listen to my gut. My Italianate home with massive curved windows and hard wood floors is made of cream city brick with the trim and ledges painted the traditional dark green and maroon reflective of many homes in the state.


The building was structurally sound and, with sweat equity and an interest-free loan from the city, we now have all new double pane windows, a driveway, a walkway, a new furnace, and insulation. We found a loan for a rain garden, front landscaping, and next month we are getting the trim painted thanks to another grant.


We painted the interior with brighter colors to offset the fact that the house is North facing. All new kitchen and laundry appliances, ceiling fans, upgraded electrical and plumbing, refinished floors, and rebuilt both porches


Antique and consignment shops are where I found furniture, pictures, mirrors, Tiffany-style lamps, and more to truly make our house into the prize it was meant to be.


Now, if I could only move it Hawaii.

Carmen Leal

Author of I Chose You, Imperfectly Perfect Rescue Dogs and Their Humans




  1. Thank you for being a stop on my blog tour. It was fun thinking of all the ways that we've been able to breathe life into this old house. Another year of gardening has begun!


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