22 May 2011

Writing and Windows

This is not a metaphor, nor about software. I like big windows and lots of natural light. I don't think I noticed this so much until I spent four years, in graduate school, living in a basement apartment. In many ways, it was the nicest place I had ever lived, up to that point, but it did not get a lot of sunlight, and I came to crave light.

I rented my first post-school apartment on a cloudy day. Because the town was on a grid, I was pretty sure that the apartment's windows faced east, south, and west. I hadn't realized there was a second, superimposed grid that ran differently. The room I had selected for my study, thinking it had a western exposure, actually faced north, and I never wanted to be in it, especially on days when the rest of the place was flooded with sunlight. I didn't get much done until I moved my desk to the living room, which faced south and east.

Then I moved to an apartment that did face east, south, and west, and I loved it, even though (or maybe because) it was a top-floor walk-up. I looked out into treetops. I started the day writing in a room that faced east and south, and as the day wore on, I often moved into the living room (south) and sometimes into the bedroom (west). The windows were very large. In the bedroom, there were French windows to a Juliet balcony. They were not well-insulated, and the building had many other problems, so that on the whole, I was relieved when I left. I have never missed the boiler, or the drafts, or certain of the people who moved in during my time there. But I still miss the light.

Now I sit before a wide window. From one side of it, I can see a tree, though I wouldn't say I look out into the treetops. I look out into the neighbors' windows, actually. But this is a good, big window, surrounded by pretty colors, and the other walls are lined with books. I could use more room, and I'd be happy to have a study with a bay window so I'd have even more light . . . oh, who are we kidding, I want to work in a solarium, basically.

We have been house-hunting for awhile, but the right house has not yet appeared. This one is too big, yet with not enough storage space; that one is too small (likewise that one and that other one). We saw one I loved, but it didn't really have enough wall space for all of our books, and it had at least one feature that is a deal-breaker for Sir John. There's one that has been on the market for awhile, at which we have looked at least three times now. It has many features we both like. But I went and looked at it again this morning, thinking about morning light and what it would be like to live in that house, to get up there and make some tea and do some writing before feeding the yowling hordes, and I realized that my biggest objection to that house is that its windows are too small.

There are other things. I wish that house were on a lot that is oriented differently. I think it's stupid to put the bathroom on the southeast corner (all that lovely light potential wasted on a bathroom?). I wish some of the windows didn't get such a great view of the neighbors' walls. On the other hand, it's on a nice block, the garden is lovely, and I love the basement, which seems sort of sick when I'm all about the light. But the basement is beautifully finished, with lots of storage space. There's a useable room down there, but the basement is neither totally transformed into a family or rec room with no storage, nor is it a cavernous, dark, unfinished hole (we've seen both).

Mainly, I now realize, I'm not happy about the windows. There are plenty of them, and the bedrooms all have two exposures. But except for the living room and family room (front and back of the first floor) the windows are small. The bedroom windows are less than half the size of the ones in our current house. And I don't think I can live with that. Expanding them might be a possibility. I'm not sure how much that would cost, though I have some rough idea from simply replacing (not expanding) ours a few years ago. I can easily imagine the dust that would be generated. I'd really like to move into a house that didn't need anything beyond maybe a coat of paint.

I am totally phototropaic: I follow light around. I want my study to be a room that I want to be in. If it isn't, I won't get anything done. Spoiled? Maybe so, but it's how I am, and it would be stupid not to take that into account.


undine said...

I'm with you on this one. We bought this house because every room was filled with light due to the large windows and have never regretted it.

Belle said...

Me too. I just had all new windows put in all around my house, and am reveling in the new, improved light. My apt while I was working on the diss was filled with light - and I loved that place precisely because of the light. I had good neighbors, horrific landlords - but wondrous light. Made a huge difference.

Anonymous said...

I'm like this, too. It's not a very Southern attitude and my house was less expensive than it might have been because the large windows made it less desirable to many people.

But the room I think should be my study, doesn't work for that. I have theories on why not but now I'll also look at the light ... perhaps it is not as good as I think.

Anonymous said...

P.S. on views ... although I did write a lot of my dissertation facing a white wall in 2 apartments, most of my writing rooms have had views of trees and this is good for me.

The best, though, had a sea view and was on the second story. I should remember that this would be my ideal space.

Dame Eleanor Hull said...

What I would give for a sea view!

This is why I'm being so choosy about the next house. It needs to go some way to making up for not living where I really want to, by being a house that could be there, or that has some fantastically desirable feature I could only afford here.