Last weekend I moved – an entirely frustrating and time-consuming ordeal that we all go through at least a few times in our lives. After 16 months in a cookie-cutter condo building, I left my highrise rental for something entirely different.
I found a newly finished basement apartment in a beautiful Victorian house on a wide leafy street a mere 15-minute walk away from my old address. And even though my postal code remains the same, my new place feels a world away from the glass and concrete wasteland I once called home.
Back on street-level (well, I guess technically I’m below it) there is a whole world I had forgotten about, a diverse neighbourhood where people manicure their lawns and next door’s cat prowls by your window.
Subterranean living has its deficits for sure – natural sunlight is at a minimum and cellphone reception is spotty at best. Taking out the garbage has become a real chore rather than something I could send down a magical “someone else’s problem” chute.
And, yes, the view leaves a lot to be desired (the view is dirt; it’s a basement, remember). But you know what? The lookout on the 21st floor had its problems too. It was unnerving how easy it was to peer into the private goings on of the residents in the adjacent condo development. After a while it started feeling a little bit too much like Rear Window for my liking.
I never anticipated that a basement would feel less claustrophobic than a brand new apartment, and, yet, your rental dollars go a lot further when you invest them underground. Despite the low ceilings, the space feels vast in comparison to my 500-square-foot cube. I’m no longer tripping over my furniture and I can actually have more than two guests over for dinner; I just can’t invite anyone over six-foot-six.
I’m sure the novelty will wear off eventually, but for now living in a brick-and-mortar-home again is oh so charming. I’m comforted by the ambient noise of the furnace and footsteps overhead. Rather than suffocating on recirculated condo air, I wake up in the morning to a refreshing chill of a real house.
Downtown space is at a premium and building upwards is the obvious solution for overcrowded cities. But while vertical living is an unavoidable reality, I’m not sure that people are meant to live 20-something floors up in the air. There’s just something much more human about being back down to earth.