The High Cost of Living in the City
Matt and I have always lived as if we are part of a larger experiment. From housing ourselves and our family to our involvement in our community. Each house that we have created for ourselves over the years has responded to our needs at the time. We understand that how we live affects the larger whole, and that the eco-system of the city is rich with interaction. The obstacle we arrived at when moving to Austin, was the price of entry into the city. We have 2 kids, a large dog and a moderate amount of stuff (of course that is relative). When we moved to Austin, we ended up on the outskirts in a more suburban feeling area, almost remote. We honestly couldn't afford to buy a "teardown" in central Austin, so we settled for a house that we could move into given the amount of money we had to spend. Fast forward 3 years, and if you have been following, we decided to go back into the city to live. This decision was somewhat stressful but was a total no brainer, but we had to figure out how.
As designers we are not in the financial realm of other professionals. We make a reasonable living but not one that would support such a move. We are determined to go against what people tend to believe, that the city is not for families. Up until now, minus the past 3 years, we have lived in a city. In Chicago, because of the school situation, which I can go into another time, we found ourselves making the move back south to Austin. The biggest benefit we reaped from our time in Chicago was profit we made off of our home we had renovated and sold. This amount of money was our only ticket into a central Austin move. All of that being said, we have a limited budget for our Denson home and studio and we need this move to be one that we can afford. We purchased Denson for $350K and are adding an upstairs and back addition, in total about 750 sf. The house will be about 1800sf, which is admittedly smaller than any other house we've lived in because there is no basement or garage. Being designers and makers we have lots of hobbies that need to be housed in the studio.
As with any purchase, we had to compromise things. I wanted to be on a busy road where we could ideally have a home office in the front of the house and live in the back or upstairs. We needed a house that could be renovated, we don't have the money for a tear down, and we needed a bit of a yard to build some sort of ADU or guest house for renting out, adding to our income and making this whole move more sustainable for us. We figured being closer to where we work would help us cut down on driving and believe it or not, for the first time in our lives, our kids will be able to go to school near our home. Many other urban conveniences are not all currently accounted for like a walkable grocery store, but we are hoping that will come. We found Denson, this pristine little house on a busy street with everything we were looking for, our only compromise on this purchase is the ability to have our studio in the front of the house.
Once the purchase was made, we started designing. We scribbled, drafted, modeled loads of ideas on how to make this house fulfill all of our dreams and ambitions. Fast forward 3 months, and we have a MUCH more modest design, but one that we feel will get it done for our budget. The reality of living in 2018 is the cost of living in an urban area. In Austin, that word is barely applicable compared to NYC or Chicago, but living urban is more than tall buildings, it is proximity to other people, places and things. Austin is growing like crazy and we can see so much potential for its urban infill and growth as a city. As designers, we have to be in the middle of it to truly understand it. The people that have made it what it is are a huge part of its future and being a designer is all about understanding places and people. We are working to figure out how we can start a conversation around this place, this city and how we as creatives can work to be a part of that fabric.