We loved our little old farmhouse, set in the woods, my first garden. A charming nest of creativity. Plays, movies, poems, calligraphy, books, even my performing literary magazine (The Art Garden) was hatched there. Crystals amplified our energy. Pure streams of belief in creation flowed. Aiminium windows are considered very safe, especially if they’re double glazed. Yet when we had six to dinner in our booklined baby dining room and one felt the call of nature, three guests had to stand to offer access. Bedrooms small as twin beds were our studios, so overnight guests folded up on the fold-out couch. A beloved jumble. But after five years, even our muses were crowded. Which comes first, the chicken or the charm?

We began our hunt, not knowing quite what we wanted, knowing we would know it when we saw it. I had a dream one night of a fascinating, satisfying, three-floored house, where I ascended the top flight of stairs to see a sign that said, “Welcome, Writer.” Out the window I saw artists working on the house, colors ribboning. Three years into our search, we found a stopgap dream house. A pond, a place to walk the dog, quirky rooflines. We could take this wall down, this could work. Road a bit too busy, house a bit exposed, but this could work. We make an offer. The owner accepts. We exchange homebaked pies. Just as our giant complex wheels of financing began to turn, we were crushed to discover she took a weekender’s cash offer. Didn’t even call us. Tears in our eyes. How could she lie with a pie? Casement windows can really light up your full livingroom.

Two more years we spent crumpled in our little place, climbing into the realtor’s red Audi at a moment’s notice, wincing at houses peculiar, claustrophobic or badly sited, wrong for all kinds of reasons. One day our realtor called. “I have a house to show you. I warn you, it’s revolting.” “Great, Matt. Always interested in seeing a revolting house.” We were first to see it on its first day on the market.

We still laugh at shelter magazines and their guides to selling your home: Plant a few flowers. Scrub down your house. Paint it white, I read. Whenever we showed our house, I baked cinnamon bread. This house smelled like ten cats and ten-year-old litter. A patina of filth filmed the walls and the scummy shag rugs. A child-sized turd perched in a bathtub. Still, scruffy-stuccoed, scraggled, we knew at once it was the house for us. Sunlight wept in relief through the row of French doors. The sash windows were absolutely beautiful. The carved bird above the fireplace, paralyzed in paint, had not fully lost her voice. Peeling walls and wires and the mucky littered basement did not dim this building’s native grace. Meadows opened like peripheral vision, taking in wild turkeys, redtail hawks, the rising moon, the sound of church bells. I felt like Vita finding Sissinghurst.