Brenda W. Clough and her husband moved from Reston, Va., to Portland, Ore., early in 2020. Brenda, a novelist, shared their experience and what they love about their new home in an email. The following was edited for length and clarity.
A major move is a great excuse to renovate your lifestyle, and I was about done with the suburban experience. Now that my kids are out of the nest, we do not need four bedrooms, a big yard and access to high schools. We have shifted gears and became city folks. Now, from my window I can see the Portland Art Museum. Streetcars can be seen rolling by. We no longer have to mow the lawn, clean the gutters or weed the garden. The people at the front desk accept my Amazon packages for me.
What I like about our new home is that it is within walking distance of just about everything anyone could ever need. The Safeway is across the street. There are two weekly farmers markets several blocks away. The main branch of the public library is a five-minute walk, the doctor and dentist are 10. There must be at least a couple dozen restaurants within an easy stroll. It will take us years to explore everything, and then we can get on the streetcar and ride to the other side of town and explore that. Suddenly life no longer revolves around driving.
I also wanted modern architecture. The D.C. suburbs are almost purely Colonial in style, a Mid-Atlantic thing. Now I have become a fan of poured concrete and Brutalism. My current home has plate-glass windows that go from floor to ceiling. There are no steps at all. I can’t hear my neighbors, and I don’t have screens on the windows. There aren’t many bugs downtown.
Because I am a novelist, I also needed a place that could accommodate our 10 tall bookcases full of books. I dragged the ones in the picture all the way from the East Coast to the West, the tools of my trade: a science fiction and fantasy collection that spans 70 years and historical volumes focusing on Antarctica or Victorian England. And these are only the survivors of a major cull. I weeded out half of the books and gave them to Reston’s Used Book Shop in Lake Anne, which has been enabling my book shopping for decades. It costs roughly a dollar a pound to move stuff coast to coast, a price that powerfully focuses the mind. Moving like this is the opportunity to prune all the possessions back. It has been liberating to get rid of stuff from the basement, garage and attic.
As you can see from the photograph, I have a single 50-foot wall that runs the full length of the condo from the front door all the way to the living room windows. It was this feature that sold me on the place. Books do furnish a room. To have them all lined up in one place makes organizing and surveying them much simpler. Now I do not have to wander from room to room looking for that one volume about Wilkie Collins. Because this is an earthquake-active zone (like the entire West Coast), the bookcases are affixed to the studs in the wall with earthquake straps.
But the most dangerous feature of this dwelling? I live within walking distance of Powell’s Books, one of the biggest new and used bookstores in the country. The 10 steel bookcases are almost full, and I have vowed I will try to keep new book acquisition down to a dull roar. I don’t want to have to move to a bigger place to accommodate the books.”
In this ongoing feature, we ask homeowners what they love most about their home. If you’d like to share your story, please send a photo of the room/feature you love (preferably with you in the photo, too) and 400 to 450 words describing the space and why you love it to: firstname.lastname@example.org.