Archive for the ‘State Street apartment’ Category

I mentioned my first Bellingham apartment in an earlier post. It was a squat, ugly, motel-type building housing three floors of identical 500-square-foot apartments lined up in rows. Cement walls, painted stark white, meant every sound from neighboring units traveled effortlessly. Each apartment’s bedroom window overlooked the walkway passing every exterior door (again, imagine a 1970’s Holiday Inn), so I had to keep a fan running on high at night just to be able to sleep over the sound of cars pulling into the parking lot, feet tromping by, and heavy metal doors slamming shut.

I moved there from Des Moines in August of 1996, just a few days after finishing grad school. I’d never lived outside of Iowa; it was scary to be so far from home.

The only redeeming qualities of that homely little apartment were its location in the fabulous old South Hill neighborhood (just down the hill from Michael’s new job and on-campus apartment) and the view from its massive living room window.

The jaw-droppingly gorgeous, ever-changing water views kept me there for five years. Michael even crammed his stuff in alongside mine after we married, and shared the last two years there with me.

After my first year in the apartment, while working on the copy desk of a small newspaper in a nearby town, I landed an editor position for a company in Palo Alto, working from home, so I seemingly spent all my time for the next four years in that itty-bitty box.

But because of that view, it simply didn’t feel small. One glance outside the window and it felt huge, expansive, unending.

I never wanted to move, because I knew it would likely be my only opportunity to ever live so close to the water.


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Since graduating from college in 1993, I’ve lived in six places (I have no exterior photo of my first Bellingham apartment, so imagine an example of squat, sad, two-level motel architecture squeezed in as the third photo from the left). My first apartment, in Des Moines, Iowa, was fantastic simply because it was my own — but also because it had hardwood floors, tall ceilings, great light, and plenty of closets. Let’s not mention the closet-sized kitchen.

My next apartment was the former servants quarters in a massive home atop Terrace Hill, right next to the Iowa governor’s mansion. In fact, the same architect designed both homes. It was quirky and sprawling and my home base for less than a year, while I finished grad school and prepared to move to the Pacific Northwest.

When I landed in Bellingham, Washington, in August of 1996, I lucked upon an unremarkable box of a tiny apartment. Lucky because it was in a fantastic neighborhood — near the university where my boyfriend (now husband) would work and live on-campus — and had a giant picture window overlooking Bellingham Bay. For a girl from landlocked Iowa, enjoying seagulls, sailboats, and nightly sunsets from the comfort of her couch was a remarkable change of pace.

Michael and I lived together in that minuscule apartment for the first two years of our marriage, but in 2001 a friend offered to rent us her charming condo in Fairhaven. To a couple of young professionals with no kids, it was like living in a candy store: bars, bookstores, restaurants, and boutique shops were right outside our door. I lost my living room water view, but could climb up to our rooftop deck to take in the magnificent sunsets over the bay.

We bought our first home — the one mentioned in the previous post — in 2003. It was the dog of the neighborhood and the price was right. We changed every surface of that cozy cottage and, in perhaps our smartest remodeling move ever, hired a designer and construction team to gut and replace the original 1924 kitchen.

When Michael got a job offer in Olympia, Washington, in 2008, we felt it was time to move, though it was incredibly difficult to leave our first true home behind. Despite the faltering real estate market, we sold our sweet little house in just a couple days — we had five offers the first day it was on the market — and were able to move into a much larger home.

But here’s been the rub: our current home doesn’t really fit our style. In fact, it doesn’t have much style at all. We call the neighborhood “Beigeland,” and although I love having lots of space and a quiet, safe neighborhood to walk around with the kids, I still pine for crown moldings and my stainless steel range hood, among other much-missed details.

One of the things I want to do is post photos of all these old places I’ve called home, and also make a record of the homes my children have lived in. I often play a game where I try — and fail — to remember where every light switch was in my childhood home; I’d like to document those light switches for my kids.

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