We looked at two the other week. The first was on Brandon St. in Billerica. This house is e-flipping-normous -- about 3500 square feet, which even by our standards is plenty big. It has no storage per se, but has so many rooms that it really doesn't matter. The main floor is a real delight for entertaining: a good-sized living room, a huge game room (currently with a full-sized pool table in the middle, and plenty of room around it), and an equally huge dining room. It has a decent deck outside the kitchen, and the cutest micro-deck on the other side, just big enough for two people to have breakfast. The price is good, and the location quite decent -- just off Treble Cove Road, about ten minutes north of the Burlington Mall off Rte. 3. On the downside, it doesn't have central air yet, and the kitchens (there are two) are both pretty mediocre, so it would need some work. The game room's decor is almost comically golf-oriented, which isn't exactly us, although it's well-done. Most problematic, the master bedroom is fairly small, and the layout doesn't permit any obvious ways to extend it. Still, we're thinking about this one seriously.
After that was a truly terrible house on B St. in Reading. It was -- well, it was probably very chic in the early 60's. The decor can best be described as rococo -- painfully, hideously rococo. Each bathroom had its own distinctive style; for example, the main floor one, all black pseudo-marble and gilt fixtures. Its one strength is a double-sided fireplace rising up in the middle of the living room, which is kind of cool but divides the living room into almost unusable spaces. Nothing to recommend this one.
Today started with another winner -- indeed, one of the most viscerally appealing houses I've seen so far. Again, it's in Billerica, on High Street this time; we're starting to think that fate is pointing us at that town as a good compromise of price and location.
The house has a number of negatives by our usual numbers, but they play out in surprisingly positive ways. The living room isn't really as big as we want -- but it is really beautiful, all warm dark wood and vaulted ceiling, with a huge homemade fieldstone fireplace rising up through the roof and a small gallery loft overlooking it. It has an inground pool -- which is designed to be (relatively) low maintenance, is a nice modest size, and has a couple of jacuzzi seats built right into it. The back yard is much larger than we really want -- but it's all rolling hill with scattered trees and big rocks, rather than soulless lawn, so the result feels almost like a forest glade more than a yard. It feels like the kind of yard to have twenty people hang out around in the various natural nooks, rather than the usual bare football field. (We haven't decided whether it naturally came that way, or if they had a really talented landscaper who understood how to make a space feel natural.)
I suspect it isn't The House, because it has too many practical issues. It's large enough, but almost half of that is in an apartment that is separated to the point where it can only be accessed from the outside or through the garage. And it isn't really great for the sort of indoor partying we tend to do. But it would be fabulous for outdoor entertaining, the sort of place that could happily hold almost any sort of outdoor SCA practice, up to and including a modest archery range. And it's consistently quirky, mostly in good ways. That's enough to make us at least think about it.
The next two weren't as great. Eastern Ave in Burlington had another somewhat dated house -- not quite as horrible as the Reading one, but still very distinctively 60's. The dining room was gorgeous, and it had a lot of character throughout, but it was full of built in furniture that screamed "grandmother's house". Its nod to modernity was the half-apartment over the garage, as distinctly early-70s with its raw wood and orange carpet as the kitchen was distinctly 60s with its avacado green cabinets. Not totally painful, but wildly overpriced and not especially appealing.
Seneca Ave. in Wilmington turned out to be a development, new enough that it wasn't in our map book, and the house was just the sort of McMansion you would expect to find there. Perfectly nice in its way, but utterly devoid of individual character, save the painfully cute decor the parents had painted onto the rooms for the two baby girls. Surprisingly small, and not particularly good for any kind of entertaining. While we aren't rejecting the McMansion thing out of hand, this was a good reminder that some of them are pretty bad for our purposes.
After that, I needed to head off to armorer's, but msmemory and Susana went to look at one on Harriett Ave in Burlington. This was also a McMansion, but apparently a nicer one. She was rather taken with its open floorplan and space; it sounds like we could work with it well. And the location is great -- actually inside 128, which most of our plausible options aren't. On the downside, it's very expensive -- really outside our range unless we can bargain it down by about 50 grand. That's within the realm of possibility (the market is fairly soft right now, and few houses seem to be getting their original asking prices), but we think it's likely to find someone willing to pay the full price, so we probably won't get that one.