You know that one about the two best days in a vacation homeowner’s life?

The day you buy it. And the day you sell it.

lake house bedroom

Our lake song began five years ago this very weekend.

That was the time we borrowed my sister’s place. It was the first time in years that we had all our kids together at the lake. We were awash with familial love and togetherness.

And then I saw the For Sale sign.

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Despite his protestations of, “We are not doing this again,” it was mere weeks before my husband found himself covered in mouse poop and acorns as we removed insulation from the ceiling. I say, “We,” because much like Jim and Marlin on Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, he wrestles the alligators, mice, squirrels and bats while I chronicle events. She who sits and writes also serves.

This is much on my mind this morning as I grab coffee and walk to the porch for a quick scroll through Instagram before doing my writing exercises ahead of the morning hordes, who will no doubt render my keyboard if not mute, certainly moot.

It never ceases to amaze me, the feelings I have when I see the sun on the lake in the morning. We don’t own a boat and I jump in the lake approximately every third year - I wouldn’t call myself a water person. But there’s something so incredibly Zen about looking out on the water from my perch on this porch…my attitude gets an immediate adjustment.

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Interestingly, to me anyway, the porch weighs on me when we’re not here. It’s long and narrow with a low ceiling and it leaks like a sieve. The ceiling has been opened at the far end, revealing stained and rotting rafters, to allow for the free flow of water as roof leaks are tracked and repairs attempted. The leak of long standing necessitated replacing a few floorboards and the floor got a fresh coat of paint. To protect that effort, buckets dot the floor when we’re not in residence. When we’re here, as this morning, they sit stacked in the corner.

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Built in the late ‘50’s, the porch is an addition to the front of what started as a one-room cabin. The original windows thus open out onto the porch, cutting into key real estate in the space. After a few bumps and bruises, strategically placed benches directing traffic around the open windows have trained us to maneuver with fewer mishaps. The front side of the porch is lined with sliding windows that, despite the screens we had made for them, require vacuuming bug corpses out of the tracks in order to slide the windows open to the lake air.

At the near end, we have our growing rock collection. Rock painting has become the past time of choice for our grandchildren and the porch is both studio and gallery. I had assumed we’d be releasing rocks back into the wild, but no. The ledge that lines the windows is perfect display space.

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Not unlike the Zen I get from the view to the water, I find something restorative about the porch itself, even in its ramshackle state. I think about what we might someday do to this space, an ethereal second or third phase plan, to correct the leaks and improve airflow and overall functionality. Should we find a way to salvage the original structure? Is it wiser and more cost effective to remove and replace it?

This morning as I scroll through Instagram lake house hashtags, the polished perfection of space after space stands out in marked contrast to my little happy place. The grandeur and luxury of some of the homes is stunning. As a designer…as a person with a pulse…I love to pore over these images. But none of them capture the feeling that I had when I walked out onto the porch this morning. None of the images captures what it is I’m looking for.

As I sit on the porch, looking at both the minor imperfections and major flaws, I find myself a little resistant to the ‘remove and replace’ option. It’s not so much about respecting the history or integrity of the original structure – which is something I’m always mindful of in my work, but respecting the history of us, the tapestry of our family. Sure, I’d like not to worry about the rain and ice dams. I’d like the chipmunks not to run show on the patio or in the crawl space; I’d like to leave the windows open without worrying about somebody getting a black eye. But I want to avoid something that looks so new, polished and perfect that it doesn’t represent us.

I love good house porn. I appreciate what goes into styling for a photo shoot and what judicious editing can do. But I’m looking for real life. I’m longing for spaces that are lived in. I wish that I were a photographer with skills sufficient to capture what it is I see, with my eyes and my heart, when I walk out onto the porch.

Truths reveal themselves to me this morning.  Maybe you see what it is you’re looking for. And luxury is where you find it.

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