It's done... we've signed the lease and we're moving in the second half of October. I'm kind of excited about it, but my excitement is a bit tempered, as you might expect, because I still have that damn house in Cleveland. I hate paying for two places.
The biggest win is really that Diana is excited about it. While our apartment was certainly adequate, shared living spaces suck. Facing a retaining wall to the north sucked (though it was easy to beat those 90 degree days). Not having any reasonable amount of storage space was particularly terrible. So the criteria for a new place was that it had to be a house or townhome, or something in between. I also wanted it to be not more than a dollar per square foot, and not more than $1,800 a month. I know how ridiculous that sounds to anyone living in the Midwest (considering my mortgage for an 1,850 sq. ft. house was only $1300, with taxes), but believe it or not, that's fairly reasonable out here when paired with all of the wins of living here (higher salaries, no income tax, low energy costs, and what not). The commuting distance also had to be not more than a half-hour by car, but I compromised on that by about two minutes.
What we got was a 1,750 sq. ft. duplex on the ridge in Snoqualmie. It's not far off I-90, east of Seattle. It's about a half-hour to the airport, and only a block away from the main road. It's walking distance to the library and the stop for the Connector bus to work. The views are all mountains. Most windows face southeast, so winter not withstanding, it should get direct sun at least half of the day. It's a pretty solid location, even if it is further out.
The layout of the house is kind of strange, because technically there are really only two bedrooms. The master, which is quite large, is off the downstairs area, where the kitchen and living room is, and it has a master bath from there that's quite giant. The upstairs has a nice sized bedroom and the secondary bathroom, and a strange "bonus" room. I'm not sure why it doesn't have a door, but it's where our spare bed is going. I suppose if we have people over, we'll get some kind of Asian-style privacy screen or something. The windows are high because of the roof outside. It's strange, but far from a deal breaker.
If you come in the front door (rare for us since there's a two-car garage), the office/den is to the left. It has four windows and double doors, and I think it's a wonderful space. The foyer also has the half-bath, a coat closet, and the stairs, and it has high windows that let in all kinds of light. To the right is main living areas and kitchen.
I used to like the idea of a distinct kitchen area, but not so much anymore. I really like the mixed kitchen/dining/living room concept because people so often do stuff in those places independently of each other. It makes sense that everyone can do their thing and yet be able to communicate. I think it's one of the reasons people always hung out in the downstairs room at my old house, because of the connection to the kitchen.
The living room has a big vaulted ceiling and a gas fireplace. Why it doesn't have a ceiling fan I don't know. Above the fireplace is a huge "well" for a TV, like CRT style TV. It's a little high for my tastes, but I suppose we'll try to make it work. Some amount of cables going up to it is unavoidable, which is the thing I'm most annoyed by.
The kitchen only has marginally more pantry space compared to our apartment, but it has a real, ice-making fridge and a better dishwasher. The stove is electric, which I hope I don't hate. The sink and dishwasher are on an island, so overall the configuration makes it easier for more than one person to move around. There's also a closet under the stairs that we can put some shelves in for more pantry space, I think.
While I'm not sure that the layout of the house is very well thought out, it does suit our needs particularly well overall, and I'm sure we'll be happy in there for the next year or two. Like I said, the upstairs is weird, but considering it's primarily Simon space, it'll work pretty well. I'm looking forward to living there.