Our house is a very, very, very fine house in the parlance of Graham Nash. But our house one-ups his storied home in Laurel Canyon where he co-habited with Joni Mitchell and two cats—our house has a past, a potentially dangerous past due to its connection with overseas bombs.

That’s quite a teaser to read more, isn’t it?

We’ve lived in our home for thirty-five years. It’s provided my husband with endless projects, which has been part of its purpose. Between our March 1986 purchase and the present, Casa Colando has been transformed.

Because we’ve entertained several thousand houseguests—for both dinner parties and extended stays in our dedicated guestroom—we’ve told the story of Casa Colando’s purchase repeatedly. It’s a tale that’s not exactly memorized, but it never strays from the truth. Because my husband and I participated fully in its hunt, I’m going to retell the tale with alternating points-of-view.

The tale according to PJ: “The hunt for a new home emerged from two status changes in my work life, one great and one calamitous. My speech-language pathology practice had succeeded more rapidly than I’d dreamed—from zero to fulltime, making money to stash in a savings account.”

“Conversely, the traffic between our home in Laguna Hills, 17 miles south of my Irvine-based practice, had burgeoned beyond expectations, too, so that the 17-mile drive took an hour. It also shortened Larry’s drive to Cerritos in LA County. More time at home with each other was achieved. Another, much-needed component of the new home was that it be a single story.”

Larry’s turn: “Via PJ’s blonde persuasion we began searching for a new home. Both of us needed to reduce our work commutes and, frankly, we’d renovated every room in our Laguna home, so it was time for a fresh start. We signed up with a realtor PJ knew and began the hunt, pre-qualified by a bank for a jumbo mortgage.”

“I’m not a huge fan of change, but I signed on for all the reasons were right for both of us. Each weekend we spent a day making the rounds of houses, but the pickings were slim for single story home.”

So, one day we adventured on our own and found a ramshackle, barely visible house with a ‘For Sale’ sign stuck among the brambles. A thicket of plants which destroyed the house’s curb appeal. It possessed all the magic ingredients:

  1. Single story
  2. Architectural angles and rehab potential
  3. Location in OC-centric Irvine in a great neighborhood

PJ picks up the story: “I called our realtor on Monday. While she may have been mildly abashed that we’d searched behind her back, she was elated at our discovery. She knew that “I won’t know until I see it” is often the case in a house hunt, just as it is a hunt for a mate.” She made an appointment for us to see the home asap.

“I followed Larry into the home. Three feet inside the home, his shoulders relaxed. THIS. WAS. THE. ONE.”

“He’d looked past the beater cars parked at the curb and the driveway pocked with oil droppings, the vicious pair of barking Terriers, the unkempt Coral tree that created a potentially hazardous exit from the garage and the billowing bouganeavilla that shrouded the front door. The linoleum floors, black-out drapes, and bullet hole in one of the floor-to-floor windows were invisible to him, too, as he saw only the potential. Through our realtor we made an offer on the home, hoping to bring its price within our budget.”

Larry continues the tale: “Finally, a house with architectural aspects that thrilled me, a house I could imprint with my 3-D mind’s creative spirit. While it was beyond our budget, through our realtor made an offer. PJ and I weren’t going to let this house get away. When we learned that the house hadn’t even had a looker, we had hope.”

“The price was lowered, we stretched our budget by cashing in some stocks and bonds, and we bought the house in mid-March 1986. Ah-h-h. We had time to sell our home in Laguna Hills and the elderly couple and their adult children had time to make their plans to move on. All of us expected the date to be in June.”

“All was completed with a single caveat—the buyer of our home in Laguna Hills had difficulty funding their mortgage. Angst returned to our lives when we managed two mortgages for two months.”

“Finally, a move-in date was achieved in mid-August 1986 and friends helped us with the move with only the promise of pizza. Among the crew was a bloke newlya arrived from Australia. His accent and his brawn began our longing to visit Australia some day.”

PJ: “I’ll have the last word—for now–because the plot will thicken after our move-in. The wonderful part about enduring two mortgages for two months was that we didn’t have to live in the mess of the kitchen tear-down and remodel. Family members came from the Midwest to help make our new home livable, including my dad who brought his rusty chainsaw in the overhead bin to help us fill four monster dumpsters with detritus from the yard.”

“There is always good to be found in any situation.”