Everything isn't arranged to the point that I want to post pictures, but until then I'll ruminate on this, the third home we've had since joining the foreign service.
Overall, I like the house. It's got some very (very) strange parts, but I think that's pretty standard for just about any house overseas (and a lot of houses in America). It's very large - maybe four or five thousand square feet (???), with three stories. The first story has the kitchen, the living room/dining room, a storage room, a bathroom/laundry room, and the Mysterious Concrete Space.
The second floor has seven rooms surrounding a landing, complete with chandelier, the size of the largest room. The girls share one room, the boys the other, Eleanor has a room, Brandon and I have a room, we use one room as a storage room, one as a study, and the last as a guest bedroom. Unfortunately, there are only two teeny-tiny bathrooms and they are both inside rooms.
The entire third floor is open. We're going to use it as the school room, toy room, TV room, exercise room, and my studio. It's got lots of space.
We have a courtyard in front, complete with a separate house that the landlord lived in right until about two weeks ago when the house was finished. Most of the courtyard is paved, with a small grassy area (aren't I glad we don't have a dog) and some small planter-ish areas in front of the windows. Brandon and I just laughed at the swing set and dome climber instructions about not installing over asphalt, packed dirt, concrete, or any other hard surface.
Our house has several features that I really like. I love the kitchen. It has plenty of cupboard space and even plentier counter space. It has an eight-foot tall west-facing window overlooking our courtyard and stays nice and warm with the afternoon sunshine. I don't like the easy-bake oven, but I guess I'll take it since the rest of the kitchen is so nice. I love my Bosch dishwasher. Every day I give it kisses.
I also like our second-floor study. One wall is west-facing windows, and so it is filled with sunshine in the afternoon. Most of our books are here, and it's very cosy in the evening and in the afternoon and in the morning and probably even in the middle of the night. I think I could live in the study.
I like the third floor. There are, again, lots of windows (perhaps you may have noticed that I like windows) and enough space that I can teach school to the older children while the smaller children have an enormous space to play in. Our toy room was on the third floor in Baku and so nobody used it during school, choosing instead to turn the first floor into a disaster with whatever they could find.
I like having a courtyard to call my own. I've never actually lived in a house that has its own yard; the closest I've come is in Utah where Brandon and I lived in a duplex that had a shared backyard. Last Saturday, after the dome climber was finished, I kicked the children outside to play until dinner and locked the door. I cooked in peace until they realized they could come and bang on the window.
I don't like any of the bathrooms. Our 'powder room' is about the same size as the kitchen, tiled in a pattern that, combined with the florescent overhead light is almost enough to induce seizures. All of the fixtures are spaced as far apart as possible, to try and use up all of the empty space. If you were so inclined to use the bidet, you have to scoot about five feet over to wash your bum. The bathtub is just that - a bathtub with no surround, and the washer and dryer complete the cozy ambience.
The upstairs bathrooms are barely large enough to fit a shower cabinet, a toilet, and a sink. No cabinets, drawers, or room. Next to the bathrooms are closets the same size as the bathroom, empty of anything. I would have perhaps made the bathrooms a little larger and skipped the closets.
The floors are a wonder to behold; downstairs we have "wood" floors and upstairs we have ""wood"" floors. Brandon and I like to scoot across the floor and count how many valleys are in the concrete floors underneath. It's like nobody ever heard of a float or a level. All of the toe railing is plastic, with the corners capped in plastic corners that pop off with the slightest provocation. I'm pretty sure that our staircases are made of plywood, spray painted brown.
All of the house is covered in decorative molding - that is styrofoam. I'm not making any promises about how it's going to look when it's done.
But my very favorite weird-house feature is the Mysterious Concrete Space. The house is on a lot that was once a hill, and to fit it in the lot, the owner dug into the hill. So the first floor is level with the road in front, but the second floor is level with the road in back. All of this means that there was no room for a basement, which is where everyone keeps things like boilers (we found the original one that is coal-fired) and water tanks and plumbing. So instead this house as a space at the back that is unfinished concrete. Which is fine. Except that this concrete space rises two floors and the back of our grand staircase has a ten foot tall window that looks into the concrete space. There are windows at the back of the space (at the second floor level) and so some light is let in that way, but it's still really weird.
In the end, however, it's not my forever house and so I'm perfectly happy to live here for the next several years. I finally came to my own place of peace about housing when I realized that every house has things that are really great and things that are really obnoxious. There's no house anywhere that has all great things and no obnoxious things and so I don't have to worry about whether I got the best deal possible because there is no best deal. It's just a bunch of strange houses in a strange country that are only temporary anyway.
And of course, it's just a house. What's more important than the wonderful dishwasher or non-functioning lights or stained glass transoms or cloudy windows or vast spaces or cold bathrooms or tall ceilings is the people who live in the house. And no matter where we live those are always the best parts.