Problems Are Opportunities

By on 12 April, 2011 in Historic Midtown, Sandra Nickel with 0 Comments

One of the things I most enjoyed about last Saturday’s tour of homes in Old Cloverdale was seeing how clever homeowners, faced with significant challenges, not only overcame them, but did so with style so engaging that the solutions became standout features!

Take, for example, one big bungalow with a bathroom absolutely lacking in storage. You know the type — virtually a room-sized space, but with nothing in it but fixtures. This particular home had been on the market a number of times previously. I had even written an offer on it at one time, but my buyer backed out after receiving a home inspection report that rivaled an old fashioned Montgomery telephone book in length and detail.

The more fearless buyer who purchased the home at that time — 1998 as I recall — worked on it for a few years then sold it to an investor. He loved and missed the home so much, however, that when it came back on the market later he bought it back!

Speaking of back … back to the bathroom. Whether it was covering a doorway (the house at one time seemed to me to have hundreds of them) or just a vacant spot on the wall, the bathroom storage solution he cleverly crafted was among my favorite features of the totally renovated home. Its detailing — beaded board back and an unusual A-frame shape — even stacked up well against all the original Craftsman brackets, moldings and built-ins.

And then there was the “you walk right into my living room” problem absolutely endemic to all but the largest and finest old houses. Whether a tiny cottage or a much larger classical revival style, most have front doors that just dump you unceremoniously right into the living room.

One clever Cloverdalian confronted that very situation and looked to his front porch for a fix. Imagine my surprise and delight as I approached the home through a beautifully landscaped yard, stepped through doors onto his screened front porch and found myself standing in “an outdoor foyer!” Louvered panels and a matching door partitioned off a large section that remains a screened porch. But the smaller south section is now fool-the-eye so well furnished that one forgets they’re still “outside.”

Last but hardly least, the pervasive issue that is the “dark underbelly” of having an old neighborhood with dense tree cover. We love our shade and hate the fact that hardly anything will grow beneath it.

Ingenuity to the rescue! First I discovered a sweet little garage/servants’ quarters converted to a marvelous home. And rather than a muddy front yard, it boasted a charming “you never have to mow it” brick courtyard.  The other staple for grassless areas is monkey or mondo grass. And I observed it looking at more than one home appearing as the preferred ground cover, not a compromise at all.

Tour chair Jeff Benton had told me the six homes featured were intentionally selected to demonstrate the variety of living options available in one of Montgomery’s historic districts. I observed many different demographics in attendance: singles, young couples, families with small kids as well as a lot of empty nesters — well over 200 in all. So, mission accomplished, all you who volunteered to make the event a huge success. Hat’s off on another memorable afternoon in Old Cloverdale!

Sandra Nickel has been listing and selling residential real estate for over 29 years, most with an intense focus on Montgomery’s Midtown neighborhoods. Sandra serves on the Mid-Alabama Coalition for the Homeless, the Cloverdale Business Coalition, Historic Southview, the Volunteer and Information Center, Landmarks Foundation and her own neighborhood Garden District Preservation Association.

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