Friday, September 07, 2007

Life without a bonus room.

I don't talk a lot about work on this blog, for very good reason, but my job takes me all around the world into different people's houses. Seeing how other people live really makes you examine how YOU live. And more often than not, I'm flabbergasted at how much space people want and think they need. I guess the more realistic thing to say is, I'm amazed at how much house people can get for their money in almost everywhere except Los Angeles.

I remember the first time I heard the term "bonus room." My friend Lindsay was having a birthday party at her house in Mission Viejo and she was giving us a tour of the house. I don't remember specifically what she was referring to, but she informed us that the location of such-and-such was in the bonus room. She showed us the room, and boy howdy, was it a bonus room. There was no other way to describe it. It literally had no purpose but to be full of all the bonus stuff you happen to own. Lindsay's had two guitars, a drum set, a bar, and a pull down movie screen projector setup. My reaction was simply to say, "Bonus!"

Many of these houses I see all over the country, specifically in the middle part of the country, have these bonus rooms. One such room in one such house was literally bigger than The Treehouse (mine and gina's studio apartment). It was 650 square feet of play space for three small children.

It's impossible for me to see these houses and wonder what mine and gina's life would be like if we owned one of these houses. These houses that are 3000+ square feet. I can't say that these houses are too big, or too extravagant, because they're priced lower than our 1000 square foot condo. There's something to be said for having that much space. People say they need it, but the truth is, they want it. And who wouldn't?

I just can't wrap my head around that much space. I grew up in a house with a mom, a dad, two sisters, 1100 square feet, three bedrooms, and one bathroom. I remember specifically having to announce to the whole house, "I'm going to take a shower now, please don't anyone run any water," and then STORMING out of the bathroom in a towel into the kitchen and yelling at my mom, "I had ONE request, to NOT run any water, could you not wait FIVE MINUTES to do the dishes??" (That was clearly during my bitchy phase.) I remember having to strategically plan when to wake up so that I could have enough bathroom time before or after my mom, but never during, because the bathroom was extremely small (who knew there was such a thing as a DOUBLE VANITY?), and my mom obviously got bathroom priority. I had never even heard of a walk in closet until I was probably 9 years old... and I certainly didn't think they were common.

When I'm at home in our condo in Los Angeles, I never crave more space. I feel like we have plenty. We have two bedrooms and TWO BATHROOMS (a first for me), a small kitchen but one with plenty of counter space, a walk-in closet in one room and a huge closet in the other room, and a living room/dining room area with enough space to entertain. I think to myself, we can totally have two kids while we're living here. This is plenty of space. This is a mere 100 square feet less than my parents' home.

Then I travel. I go to other places. And I see how your life can be made infinitely easier by having more space. Your kids don't have to share a room. Your kids can have their own bathroom. You can have your own bathroom. And your guests? They can have another bathroom. You can have a room dedicated solely to TV watching, pool playing, air hockey, or even Twister. You can have a formal living room (although I really don't understand the purpose of that), a family room, and a huge kitchen with an island. You can have a huge back yard with your very own in-ground pool (my friends in southern California make fun of me for calling them in-ground pools - I don't think they've ever seen an above ground pool). You can have enough space for both of your cars to fit in the garage, plus jet skis, motorcycles, work station, and maybe even darts. Your house can be the house your children's friends come to to have sleepovers, pool parties, birthday parties, picnics, play dates.

My mind doesn't stop there. Because the truth is, for gina and I to buy a house like this, we'd have to leave Los Angeles. And leaving Los Angeles most certainly means moving back to Ohio. I think of what that would be like - being so close to our families. I day dream about my mom being able to visit whenever she wants, about us being able to see gina's nieces whenever we want. Christmases, Thanksgivings, birthday parties, BBQs... all with our families. Our kids growing up with their cousins.

Somehow, this is only appealing to me when I'm away from Los Angeles. Then I get back to the usually mild weather, the palm trees, the saltwater in the air. I see the mountains, I smell the flowers. It's always a transition I have to go through, but I realize that when it comes down to it, I love living there. And my dream house isn't a 3000 square foot house in Ohio. It's my friend Wendy's house - an 1800 square foot Spanish style house in Hancock Park with hardwood floors, four bedrooms, two and a half baths, a fireplace, a doggy door and a fenced-in back yard, in a neighborhood where people know each other. It's a house you can't hide from one another in, but where there's always enough room for everyone. This transition from anywhere else back to LA is almost as hard actually being away. It does, however, help me keep things in perspective.

(I still think a bonus room would be cool.)

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