I have a relative (to be nameless) who walked through my house criticizing just about everything. The bathroom was too far away from the master suite. There wasn’t enough closet space. She wouldn’t have painted the living room yellow. I kept thinking, “Well that’s a good think bitch, because it’s not your house!” It’s not fair to compare your lifestyle to mine. People’s homes are so *personal*… so idiosyncratic. You wouldn’t want to live in my house? Good – because it’s not for sale at the moment.
I like people to see my house, if only because I think it’s kind of interesting to walk through. It’s cheaper than a Parade of Homes ticket. And I like showing off a little bit of my personality. Normally, I think of myself as a nebbishy little computer geek, a gay bear without much personality or outstanding characteristics. But when I get people to see my house, I fee like Howard Hughes. I may be a little strange or flighty… but at least I have an interesting house. Otherwise, I don’t have much going for me. The boyfriend and the house, and that’s about it.
The creative joke I tell people is that, “If it looks beautiful, it’s Michael’s idea.” However, this story is #1) true and #2) not that funny, thus disqualifying itself as neither creative nor a joke. That’s the curse of living with a designer… your house is full of a lot of odd things. I’ve only recently learned about “window treatments” and “levolor blinds”.
However, I can’t minimize my role. A lot of the cool ideas were mine. I talked Michael into the beige striped entryway, leading to the yellow living room and dining room. The really gay glass swan table from Toscano, matching the swan chandelier and swan scones on the walls. As a math geek, I drew diamonds on the bathroom walls in a perfect 4:3 ratio for Michael to paint in with gold and red. Occasionally, I have a good idea, and filtered through Michael’s brain, we often make a good team.
I know I couldn’t have restored and decorated this house on my own. I don’t have the talent or skill. I might be missing the gay gene for antiques. And if Michael left me or died, I don’t think I could stay in the house by myself. It’s just too big, and too much a part of our life together. I’d move out all the porn, and then open it up to realtors as soon as possible.
I bought the property on Halloween 2002 from the Denver Botanic Gardens. I paid $750,000 total… $100,000 of it from my savings and $50,000 borrowed from my parents. I couldn’t finance more than $600,000, because more than that amount would put it into a “jumbo” loan with a higher interest rate. I locked into 6.125%, which wasn’t the best rate at the time, but not too bad.
The house is currently not a house. The city of Denver has it listed as two condominiums, one 1,642 sq. ft. 2 bedroom 2 bath condo worth $357,900 for the ground floor, and a second 2,419 sq. ft. 3 bedroom 4 bath (!) condo worth $618,600 for the upstairs and downstairs. I am currently trying to get the city of Denver to combine both parcels into one tax license. Originally, they said I would need a lawyer and construction permit. Now, due to some kind of paperwork screw-up, the house is being listed incorrectly, and they will change the assessment for free “right away”.
I assume that the new house will be the union of the two estimates: a 4,061 sq. ft. 5 bedroom 6 bath house worth $976,500. On the other hand, Denver’s assessor is known to do strange things. I just hope I don’t have to get the house appraised again. I think I could sell the house at $1.2 million if I did it right.
More details about the house at: http://patrickkellogg.com/life/house.htm
The former owner of the house was Betty Yates, who lives there with her husband from the 1970’s through the 1990’s. By all accounts, she was a very nice person, and after her husband died, she became very involved with the Denver Botanical Gardens. She moved her bed into a room near the front balcony so she could see the gardens every morning when she woke up. The gardens created a custom back yard for her, and on her death, she left the house to them in her will.
My partner Michael says the ghost of Betty Yates still inhabits our house. We had a construction man for a while who didn’t want to work late in the house, because he heard noises and saw lights turning on and off. It wasn’t until Michael finished an upstairs room and christened it the “Betty Yates” suite that he felt her ghost was satisfied and quiet. I wish I would have met her… she sounded like an amazing woman.
After Mrs. Yates’ death, the Denver Botanic Gardens kept the house and tried to rent it out. However, that wasn’t a good plan. They chopped up the house into three condominiums right with the Denver rental market took a plunge. They built a wall through the main entryway, so one renter had the main floor, and the other had a strange two floor split that sandwiched the other condominium. Each floor had its own kitchen, but shared plumbing and phone lines.
When the Gardens first got the house, it was still filled with original antique furniture from the 1920’s: armoires, buffet tables, several sofas, inlaid wood desks. The de-construction crew cleaning the house called up a junkman on Broadway, and accepted less than $5,000 for all the stuff. I’m still extremely mad at them.
At the time, the director of the Denver Botanical Gardens was a man by the name of Brinsley Burbidge. That’s not a typo, that was his name. A famous English writer, Burbridge was mostly known for favoring big freestanding clay pots, which he spread all through the Gardens. His three-year reign ended in 2002 with scandal: even though Brinsley had a family and house in Highland Ranch, he decided to live in the upper condo when he “worked late”. He ordered the Gardens staff to fix up the place, installing three new phone lines for his office fax machines and internet. Meanwhile, his female secretary lived in the lower basement apartment.
You can see where this was headed. Burbridge divorced his wife, married the secretary, and resigned from the Gardens. Meanwhile, the staff, angry at the lost hours fixing up the unrentable while elephant, was only too happy to dump the house on the market. It was on sale for six days before I made a bid, and to this day, the Gardens staff rolls their eyes when they talk about the “love pad” sitting at the northwest corner of their land.
My bedroom looks out over the Japanese Tea Garden. Not a really good view… I look at the thatched roof of the Tea House. Also, I keep the blinds drawn, so the Gardens patrons see me naked when I wake up in the morning. A better view is from the upstairs Betty Yates suite, looking down into the “cutting garden”, a circular garden and shed used to dry the cut flowers and herbs for various classes.
I can almost see the Garden’s “Monet Pond”, except for a badly placed pine tree. I’m tempted to chop it down some evening and blame in on the beavers. I joke that I like to get drunk and sit on my balcony and yell for everybody to get the hell out of my back yard. But every November and December, the Gardens come alive with the “Blossoms of Light” event, and my windows are filled with a thousand multicolored lights decorating the trees. But to tell you the truth… the gay couple at the back of my house outdoes the professional show each year with their amateur display. At Christmas, my house is as lit up as a parking lot.
Mike and I spent 6 months fixing up the house before we moved in. We had an odd magical weekend in March 2003 when we stayed late to paint and wallpaper, and ended up getting stuck in the house during huge snowstorm that year that dumped 7 feet of snow. I remember walking across Cheesman Park to get to the grocery story along with dozens of other stuck city-dwellers. The primitive lifestyle wasn’t as much fun when we moved permanently into the house in July of 2003. Michael wanted to rent out his old house to students that needed to be moved in before the school year. The problem? Our new house had no hot water and only partial electricity. The contractor wouldn’t show up for days at a time, until we threatened to sue. That was a long summer…
When Michael met me in 1994, I lived in Boulder, Colorado, in a 750 square foot apartment that I rented for $600 a month. The living room was filled with black industrial shelves filled with electronic parts: a broken oscilloscope I never got around to fixing, audio cables and stereo equipment, broken parts from medical equipment I built for my undergraduate electrical engineering degree and couldn’t bear to throw away. Looking at photos of all the junk, I’m shocked that Michael allowed me to move into his house six months later.
Where do I get my money? My family owns a chain of chemical distribution plants in the Midwest. (www.barsol.com/) Founded by my grandfather, Ferrell Clark “Bud” Barton in 1938 with one truck and a handful of customers. Today, the company has six plants covering a twelve state region. And I own about 8% of that.
Barton Solvents is a middleman. We get truckloads of chemicals, store them in giant tanks, and then parcel them out into 55-gallon barrels or smaller. I am proud of our customer service and sales education. I could feel guilt that I am helping ruin the environment by distributing dangerous chemicals throughout the Midwest. But we’re just fulfilling a need: if you don’t like chemicals, please don’t buy tennis shoes, cars, clothing, food, or any other product made in the US. If you want to go back to a luddite pre-industrial lifestyle, be my guest. We’ll be shipping chemicals until then.
I never joined the family company because they didn’t deliver in the Minnesota area where I grew up. Plus, my cousins are running the company capably now. I kind of regret not learning more about the chemical industry, and I would love a more active role on the board of directors. But on the other hand, I’ve had a great life and a lot of isolation from family politics and drama. My dad created his own life and career apart from Barton Solvents, and I’ve always admired him for that.
I have to admit I live in a McMansion. The house is way too big for two people. However, I’m not in the mood to demolish any of the rooms to satisfy environmental concerns – the house is the way it is. Adding new windows and turning the heat way down still gives me a $700 a month heating bill during the winter. Plus, I can’t imagine what room I’d give up. It seems like everyone in America needs a kitchen, dining room, living room, TV room, computer room, exercise room, pool room, storage room, bedroom, and enough bathrooms so every family member and their guests can all crap at the same time. Add it up, and that’s how you get a 4,000 square foot house.
I can be little defensive about living in such a big house, but not really. My mortgage is $4,000 a month no matter how big my house is. I know that amount will barely rent you a two bedroom apartment in San Francisco. The house has been the only profitable investment I’ve made in my life. And the time and energy I’ve put into fixing it up makes me a little proud at the achievement. I’m not ready to downsize at this time in my life, if only because I don’t see the *point*. If I wanted to cut my environmental footprint on this earth, I’d have to rethink my consumerism, carnivorous appetites, and long commute to work. I’m tempted to move Vancouver, a city with public transportation and health care. And gay marriage. Until then, I am a guilty product of the United States.
Actually, moving from Michael’s Denver bungalow in the trendy Highlands neighborhood into a house twice the size, means it is *easier* to keep clean, not harder. We don’t have a dog or cat anymore, so it’s nice not to have animal hair everywhere. For some reason, the extra space is easier to vacuum under, and getting a cleaning guy to come by every other week has saved our relationship. But unlike when space was tight and I had *piles* of crap to knock over, the bigger house seems more spacious. Only using a handful of rooms makes it easier to straighten up, there the other unused room only need dusting, if at all.
So, that’s my house. I hope I’m not showing off. I hope you like the photos.
Click here for the photos.