Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Realtor Listing Images v. Real Living: the Dining Room

With so many people spending so much more time at home, due to the countless closures and restrictions that have occurred in the wake of the Covid-19 virus, there has never been a time when the "Theology of Home" mindset--the idea of making your home a true Domestic Church, an oasis of peace and tranquility for you and your loved ones--has been more essential (IMHO). No matter what storms are brewing outside your doors, inside your house, you can create a comforting and beautiful atmosphere that is like a foretaste of what awaits us after we leave this imperfect world and go to our eternal home to be with our Lord.

I have always been such an inveterate homebody that the quarantine life (not that we have been living that life as strictly as some) comes somewhat naturally to me!  I've always been happiest at home, with my family gathered about me. If I had to pick one place to spend my time during this earthly life, that would be it. Home. Not Paris.  Not Rome (that's right, not even my beloved Rome!).  Just HOME.

I have always been a nester, too, never happier than when feathering my own little corner of the world.  And we didn't always have the most impressive of nests, either: during our married life we've lived in two different tiny apartments in TX, a modest base housing duplex in TX, a 3-bedroom ranch house in FL purchased with a VA loan, a 1,000-sq. ft. rented ranch house in IL, another slightly bigger rented Cape Cod house in NH; and then finally, we bought what we figured would be our "forever home" in NH, a 4-bedroom Colonial that sat on a bucolic wooded lot more than an acre in size, at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac street.  With five Catholic school tuitions to pay and five large and growing boys to feed, we didn’t always have a big home improvement budget, so we put a lot of DIY sweat equity into that house (a foreclosure bargain for us, because it was not quite finished off when the builder went bankrupt and it sat unoccupied for two years) over the course of the 26 years we lived there.  And it became  perfect for us, a home we thought we wouldn't ever want to leave: not only was it a spacious, solidly-built, lovely house in an idyllic setting, but it was our home base, our true north—most importantly because it was filled with memories of raising our boys. We moved in when the oldest of our five sons was half-way through first grade, and it was the only home our youngest ever knew.  We imagined how well it would fit all the grandkids we would someday have when they came to visit us there.

But the funny thing is, before we owned that beloved Colonial, every other place we ever lived was every bit as much "home" to me, an oasis of peace and a source of joy.  Home really isn't a place; it's a feeling.  And I got that desired feeling of utter contentment and “belonging” every time I walked into the door of any apartment or house where my people lived, no matter how humble it might be. 

When all of our boys grew up, graduated from college, and started establishing themselves far from NH, we spent most of our time on the road visiting them, and every time we pulled into our driveway we would ask ourselves, "Why do we even have this house?"  We were never there anymore!

When it became clear that three of our five boys were going to stay settled not far from each other in VA, we decided to make the move to live closer to them and our growing brood of grandchildren.  So in late 2016/ early 2017, we started looking at listings that would put us as equidistant to all of our VA peeps as possible.  And one listing kept drawing my eye back, not matter how many I looked at--even though it was just one of those quickly-built, pre-fab houses in one of those cookie-cutter neighborhoods where every other house looks practically identical to the one two doors down.  It wasn’t a one-of-a-kind treasure, by any means; but this sweet house just looked RIGHT for us.  When we finally took a trip down to walk through it in person, we only looked at this house and one other, and that's all it took: my mind was made up (and my husband was happy with it as long as I was; he's pretty awesome that way).

Our cozy cottage is not as large or well-built as our old house.  The yard is the size of a postage stamp.  But I have grown to love this house so much--and when I think of home, I no longer pine for that Colonial in NH. I think of this darling white-picket-fence house in a quaint little VA town, which became ours in the spring of 2017 and which has become my home in every way that's important.  (And now all four married sons live in the area, and all 16-going-on-17 grandkids!  And this is the house they think of as "Papa and Grammy's house," so how can I not love it?)

If you've come here often over the years, you might know that I am a big fan of having a dining room for special holiday meals, even if it isn't used all the time.  Our dining room in NH was almost ridiculously oversized, and it was one of my favorite things about that house.  If this VA house hadn't had one, I don't think we would have bought it; there is a roomy breakfast nook area off the kitchen, but fortunately, there is also my must-have formal dining room.  In the listing, this room was set up in a very minimalist way (probably staged for selling).  With so little furniture to distract the eye, the beauty of that gray-painted tray ceiling really stood out.

I have a lot of dining room furniture--I mean, really...A LOT.  But I hoped I'd be able to squeeze it into this room.  One glass-fronted china cabinet was repurposed to showcase my porcelain doll collection and has a spot in our new master bedroom.  But I was able to fit the rest of my pieces--including the antique oak dining table and chairs, with a matching sideboard, that my mom passed on to me when she and my dad downsized many years ago.  There isn't as much room to walk around the table as there was in NH, but we have made it work for us here!

I guess my decorating style would not be considered minimalist [insert laughing face emoji here!].

In our old dining room the antique oak sideboard served as a bar.  One thing I really appreciate about this new house is the little bar area (kind of a mini butler's pantry) between the kitchen and dining room, right around the corner from the sideboard.  (The kitchen in this new house, in fact, is wonderful; it's bigger and has lots more storage and work space than our old kitchen had--but that's a topic for another installment of Realtor Listing Images v. Real Living.)

Over the years, I've often wondered what kind of blog I have.  I'm not an Internet "influencer" when it comes to any of the usual topics--Faith, fashion, home decor, parenting...I just write about this and that, when the spirit moves me.  For some reason, all this Covid stuff is making me focus even more than usual on my home, and I want to write about how blessed I feel to have one that I love so much.  But as I said, that's been pretty much the case no matter where we've lived.  As long as I have my familiar things about me, and my husband by my side, I could live just about anywhere.

That's all for now.  But I do have the real estate listing pictures from the other rooms in our VA house, and maybe I'll be back to show you how different (and more cluttered!)  this place looks, now that it's set up for real living and not for show!    


  1. Real life is nearly always better than the "magazine worthy" pictures. The love is in the mess and belongings and togetherness. I am so glad you have a dining room to host in and love.

  2. I love this ... so true! And I can't wait to be there to visit you in your beautiful home!

  3. Home is definitely a state of mind, always best found with the ones you love.