DIARY OF A HOMEOWNER
As some of you know, I’m an ex-New Yorker (a Manhattan-ite to be more specific) translation: renter. Oh, lots of New Yorkers own glorious brownstones, large and tiny co-ops, even lofts, but most of the NYers living in the naked city rent. I had a great 2 bed/2 bath apartment between First and Sutton (for those who are City-wise) with a galley kitchen with a window (that alone made the apartment worth its weight in lox and bagels), and if I hung out that window I could see the 59th Street Bridge.
When something broke in my apartment, the live-in super fixed it. When I left town the doormen locked my mail and packages in the “package” room. They carried my “B” bags (Bendel, Bonwit, Bergdorf and Bloomie’s) to the elevator and helped me out of cabs when I came home. When I signed a new lease, the super had my apartment painted. And no matter how late I got home, there was a doorman to welcome me.
All these services and more were included in the rent. Granted it was a high rent (it was East Side after all), but then I had no other maintenance expenses or fees. If the air-conditioner broke and couldn’t be repaired, the building bought me a new one. If a pipe burst in a bathroom, the building hired the plumber. And, if an over-indulgent, spoiled teenage boy in the high rent high rise across the street used the hanging plant in my 8th floor living room picture window as target practice, fracturing the glass, the building replaced it (true story).
When my husband and I first moved to Los Angeles for television-movie-fame and fortune, we continued to rent. First, movie-tv star Harry Hamlin’s cottage in Laurel Canyon… then a larger rustic “cabin,” also in Laurel Canyon – all the while whistling Joni Mitchell’s “Ladies Of The Canyon” (well, I did – though my long, ironed straight hair and love beads were long gone). Who knew you could practically live in the woods and be five minutes from Hollywood? Not this Manhattan-ite.
As our fame and fortune grew (well, in our friends’ and family’s minds, anyway), the charm of the Canyon began to fade… though our “hyphenate” landlords (famous movie-tv star, then “famous adjacent” tv producer-director) paid for all home repairs and gardeners… they couldn’t fix the howling of coyotes at night or the agonizing screams of their kills… the possums and/or raccoons sleeping on top of our car or the snakes that loved living in the back stone wall of our garage dugout or on the hill behind us. Snakes!!! Rattlesnakes to be exact!!! I’m sorry. I’m from New York City - we don’t do snakes… especially rattlers. I can deal with coyotes and possums, even rats… but not snakes!
It was definitely time to leave the Canyon… so, when our accountant told us we really needed to “buy” something, it was like a sign from God. We turned to the Long Island of L.A. – the Valley - and bought our “modest,” over-priced, pre-war cottage-bungalow (even the houses in L.A. are hyphenates)
on a quaint and quiet street in the flats of Studio City… walking distance from Ventura Blvd., the Valley’s Northern Blvd (for you ex-Long Islanders).
Over the years, as our ‘hood slowly changed around us and McMansions sprouted out of the earth like poisonous mushrooms replacing those charming cottage-bungalows, we hired gardeners and pool men, learned to turn off the water to the house and found the circuit breakers. We decorated, then redecorated, then redecorated again and again (there was a reason I was an on-air HGTV design consultant).
We remodeled, built built-ins...
resurfaced the pool...
bought new appliances when the old ones died ...
We paid property taxes, which doubled. We bought homeowners’ insurance (which also doubled), flood insurance and earthquake insurance.
We tried growing tomatoes that ivy rats feasted on, but had modest success with plants and herbs.
We hosted Christmas parties, pool parties and barbeques, and never bought a lemon as our requisite lemon tree has fruit all year round. But lemons were the only thing we didn’t have to pay for.
Now that we’re of a certain age – that age in the tv/movie business where you become invisible (unless you’re Steven Spielberg or Meryl Streep) and work slowly disappears, it’s time to consider renting again. Maybe in Studio City. Maybe in Ojai. Maybe somewhere up north. The thought of no property tax, no homeowner insurance, no home maintenance costs (except our housekeeper) has won us over. So, of course, I redesigned and redecorated once again... this time to sell.
Now if I could only find a house rental with a doorman.
Take a further tour of our house: