When we arrived here two years ago, we were told that the comuna of Providencia has two sorts of apartments: we could have a brand new apartment with all mod cons, but it would be the size of a shoebox, and the mod-con kitchen would fit in a closet. Or we could have a larger apartment, but it would be older, and it would be falling apart. “Literally” our rental agent had told us, her eyes wide.
“The larger apartments are in the older buildings and the owners don’t want to do anything and the walls are all falling down.”
We had no interest in shoe-boxes with kitchens in closet, two years ago or this time around. So, with no faith in named addresses, subtracting fifty-percent from listed square footages, and assuming that if an agent was talking, there was fibbing going on, I went out in my highest heels to find us a fixer-upper flat. Something older, a place that needed a little love. It’s liberating, looking at fixer-uppers to buy, instead of to rent. You look less sardonically, and more judiciously. You don’t need to concern yourself with the surfaces of things – past the cracking and peeling and molding and slumping, all the way down to the bones.
Our ‘new’ place has lovely bones. Everything else, on the other hand - the building we’ve bought into is about twenty years old and all of the former owners have been… let’s be diplomatic and say that they were uninterested in the art of constructive maintenance, and leave it at that.
When we took possession, there wasn’t a window in plumb or a functioning hinge in the place. The floating floor listed and boomed alarmingly, the bedroom carpets appeared to have been the last resting place for twenty years worth of incontinent cats, and the cabinetry in the kitchen was in such an advanced state of mildew that they could be pulled apart with bare hands –
But the bones are lovely. We’ve stripped the place right down to them, and now we are neck-deep in the agonizing, exhilarating process of building her back up.