by Michel Van Devender

Hi! It’s been a long minute since we’ve checked in. Outside of sharing several of our favorite recipes (yes, we’ve indulged in quite a bit of COVID baking at our house), we’ve been a little absent on the website. We’re still here and can hardly believe it’s September. What an insane and surreal year 2020 is shaping up to be! Since March, our lives have felt like they were carjacked, leaving us riding in a runaway, speeding car, with our entire family in tow. Anyone else? 

When we launched Black House Blue Sky in January, we had high hopes of sharing creative and curated content on a weekly basis or at least on a regular basis, or so we thought. The plan also included documenting our new construction project. As is the case with so much of life, things just don’t always go as planned. However, in my wildest of dreams, I could’ve never imagined something unfolding straight from the scripts of a sci-fi movie in the way of a world-wide pandemic. The time we had set aside for developing our Black House Blue Sky vision was quickly redirected to juggling parenting 24/7 and homeschooling. If you have children, you know what I’m talking about… breakfast, lunch and dinner, breakfast, lunch and dinner … If you have an elementary aged child, you also know the hands-on demands of remote learning are no joke and all-consuming. As stay at home orders were put in place, life as we had known it and our comfortable, productive schedules had all but vanished, becoming a thing of the past in a matter of weeks. The Black House Blue Sky website and blogging took a necessary backseat to the needs of our family. 

On top of the increased family demands, our new, modern build we broke ground on in January, pandemic construction as we’ve come to call it, was in full swing and ramping up. When we closed on our property and construction loan back in December of 2019, we were over-the-moon thrilled to have a new design project. However, as I’ve expressed before, I’m not sure we would’ve embarked on building another house and moving if we could’ve seen into the COVID-19 future. We are, of course, thrilled with our house, and what’s shaping up to be our favorite project to date, but it hasn’t been without its stressful moments. There are innumerable details and selections that come with the build process, and we live for these, but the pandemic with stay at home orders, restrictions and closed businesses reduced us to making many of the selections from our sofa at home. We ordered samples and products, mostly sight unseen, based on website pictures and descriptions. If you’ve ever done this, you know the challenges and limitations. Let’s just say there was a lot of trial and error, and there were many, many returns!

In anticipation of moving to a new home in late summer/early fall, we put our house on the market at the end of May. The month or so leading up to this, we were knee deep in repainting, repairs and overall fluffing, preparing our house for showings. We knew our new build wouldn’t be ready for move-in until September, but we were also nervous about the real estate market and how long it would take to sell in unprecedented, uncertain times. The day after we listed our home, some sort of flat wind tornado ravished our street, dropping 100 year old trees, weighing thousands of pounds. I will never forget the howling fury of the wind and the thunderous crashing sound of the trees falling. It took no more than thirty seconds of 70 mph wind to topple the trees onto roofs and into our neighbors’ homes. In our block alone and on the same side of the street, four homes were severely damaged, one a total loss. Thankfully, nobody was physically hurt; however, the trauma of a near death experience leaves a long lasting wound for some of these beloved neighbors. 

Even with living on what looked like an apocalyptic, war-torn street, our house went under contract in eight days. We were both grateful and relieved to sell during a pandemic, and at the same time, dreading what was familiar and ahead of us – temporary housing. Thankfully, we were able to negotiate an end of July move, leaving a gap for the months of August and September. It all seems like a blur, and I’ll spare you all of the details, but June and July were spent packing and securing housing. Ultimately, we decided to store the contents of our house and go the Airbnb route. I’ll save our temp housing story for a different time and a separate post, but I will say it’s been an interesting “adventure” and the Charlotte Airbnb market is severely lacking, with much room for improvement. 

There were the physical and logistical aspects of selling our house, but I’m not sure I was completely prepared for the emotional impact. I guess you don’t really know how you’re going to feel until it happens, and you’re in it. There was so much sadness while still feeling a great sense of excitement and joy for a our family’s new adventure and for the sweet family who was purchasing our home. It was truly bittersweet. The weekend after our house went under contract I think I cried off and on the ENTIRE weekend, even feeling weepy for a couple of weeks after that. I thrive on change, progress and forward movement, but am also deeply sentimental, almost to a fault. There were soooo many emotions around the history and memories we had created over the course of the past five years in this special space – the birthdays, the holidays, the gatherings, the developmental milestones celebrated, the laughter, the everyday living, all of it. There was also worry about how our boys would adjust to a move and a new neighborhood, leaving behind the only neighborhood they had every known.

In hindsight, part of the loss was also tied to the creative attachment I had to this house, intense and unlike anything I had felt before! Albeit, this is the first house we’ve designed and built, initially believed to be our “forever” home (although, looking back, I’m not sure why I thought it would be forever). The house had become part of my identity, and in some way, an extension and expression of who I am creatively, who we are as a family, how we live and how we love. There’s an emotional charge evoked by being and living in these spaces we create. It’s difficult to put into words, but is deeply felt and experienced. When you’re a designer, it is impossible to hand off the design and build to your architect and builder. Instead, with each of our personal projects, renovations and builds alike, we find ourselves pouring our creative hearts and souls into the manifestation of a vision, a dream, an aesthetic, loving the process. We were intimately involved in every aspect of the process and design of this house, from the architectural drawings and modifying those (so many times we lost count) to the build phase (when even more modifications to drawings happen in the field) to all of the decisions, including making the selections and choosing the finishes – lighting and plumbing fixtures, cabinetry, hardware, paint, stains, tile, countertops, exterior materials, etc., etc. Then there’s the interior design and landscape design that follow. You name it, we had a hand in it… EVERYTHING! The team and our collaboration, with its synergistic energy, resulted in the very best end product – the 5th Street house. Over time, acknowledging this attachment and allowing myself the time and space necessary to process all of the emotional contradictions has given me better perspective. Letting go never seems to be easy for me, but I know it is a necessary step in preparing for the next chapter and the new opportunities and adventures that lie ahead for our family.

So, that’s a synopsis of what we’ve been up to over here at Black House Blue Sky for the last six months. We’re currently in our second Airbnb and just a couple of weeks away from our much-anticipated move in day. All of this long recapping to say, if you’re still here, thank you, thank you, thank you! We’re hoping to start posting more regularly… some of the content will be a retrospective and a catch up, especially with regards to telling our modern house construction story. We’re still managing remote learning at our house for the unforeseeable future so we’ll see! Hope you’ll stick around though. We truly appreciate your patience as we continue to navigate what BHBS is, and what it will evolve to be, in the midst of living life with all of its twists, turns and curve balls. 


Remote Learning
Our New House
5th Street House
Under Contract in Eight Days
Never Ending Packing
Moving On...

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