Hello and Welcome! I am so pleased that you are here. I am feeling amazed and overwhelmed, excited and unprepared. So many of my dreams have come true in the last two years I feel like any minute now, I am going to wake up in a studio apartment in New Jersey and find it was all just a dream. Where do we begin? My name is Sergeff Suomi and I have been an artist all my life. When you are a child, people start asking at an early age, “What are you gonna be when you grow up?” I always had the same answer. ” An artist”. In seventh grade I announced to my art teacher that I intended to be a professional artist, so I was going to need extra training from him to get me there. He agreed to the mission and gave me all the tools I would need to get into art school. But then, life happens, you know?
I met the most amazing people during my first year at The Joe Kubert School. This was no ordinary art school – this was a Comic Book school. If you take all the freaks and geeks and nerds and dorks that don’t fit in at High School and put them in a small school together, you have a magical kingdom of artists, writers and geniuses. Finally I had found my tribe! My teen years had been plagued by depression, so being happy was a whole new experience. Still, as a rebellious youth I grew bored with the daily routine and was just so anxious to really START my life, i.e. I was sick of school and I had lost interest in comic books. By then I had also fallen in love and became focused on romance as my reason for living.
I will share more of this sordid tale as time goes by. For now, I need to skip ahead 30 years so you can see a bit of my life in Santa Fe, NM. That’s where TWIGS the flower shop/ art gallery was born. The hermit and I were very happy in Santa Fe but we had to work hard for someone else and had very little room for all the creative projects we wanted to pursue. Santa Fe is a beautiful tourist town where many people desire to live, so housing rates just kept going up. Once we realized we could basically trade a 2bd townhouse for a 3,500 square foot mansion, we were excited. It was a big risk, we would have to give up our jobs. Isn’t 55 too young to retire? How are we going to make a living?
Northeast Ohio is not the best fit for unemployed artists. However, when my dad got sick in 2016, I knew I was going to have to move back to that hometown I had been avoiding for so long. It’s a question of what do you want your life to be? You know? These are the years you have left in your life. How do you intend to spend them? What are your priorities? Did you spend enough time with your loved ones? When you are on your deathbed, will you regret anything? I knew I couldn’t continue to visit my mom once a year and say that I was happy with that. I wanted her in my every day life. I needed to see her, hug her, bring her flowers, go to bingo, help in the garden, laugh about silly things, go on adventures like we used to do. So that was it, the hermit and I were moving .
The House Hunt: It became my daily routine to get on the computer and look at realtor.com, sometimes trulia or zillow for houses within 30 miles of my mom. The first thing I noticed is how much I hated modern houses. The thought of living in a 3bd ranch style home with attached garage depressed me. This is where my love of old houses truly blossomed. Who doesn’t love an extravagant stone castle or a creepy old second empire like the Adams Family house? These are the homes of eccentric billionaires right? I don’t know the first thing about restoration or construction. I can’t buy a hundred year old house…or can I?
The houses that made my heart race were Italianates with 12foot ceilings, original windows, ornate trim, porticos on the front, towers. They looked like wedding cakes! Good enough to eat. There were a few houses that got me fired up and I called the realtor representing them, but the low price meant they were popular and I didn’t rate a return call. I knew I had to get serious, so we went to see if we could get a HELOC loan from our bank, and to get preapproved for another mortgage. What we wanted was an old house with at least an acre of land, very cheap, but livable. We could do some repairs, but most houses on the lowest end had been completely gutted. Two different Victorian houses fit the description, I called but the house was already pending with a buyer. It was May 2019, I had been looking for the perfect house for us for 2 years. Dad passed away in October 2018, so I really needed to find something, but my search was exhausted and I felt like giving up.
I skipped the house search for a few days. It felt too painful. On my day off, on a whim I looked and could not believe my eyes! A grand old Italianate lady of red brick and frothy white trim. Vines growing up the sides. A fairy tale mansion out of a Jane Austin novel! I knew that house. Last time I visited mom, I joked about leaving a note in the mailbox ( like Kathleen Turner in War of the Roses) saying I would love to buy your house if you are ever going to sell it. That was the house. The man who lived there was actually name Mr. Rose! Finding your house is like falling in love, I was elated, but also very afraid. What if we can’t have it? Will they accept our offer? Will the bank approve? What if the inspection reveals terrible secrets? We had to move fast to grab it before someone else. Suddenly my whole life revolved around my need to own this house, and my fear of losing it! It was a roller coaster ride. At the last minute, our banker called and said the underwriter refused the loan. What?! Because we were seasonal workers, I guess he thought we were a bad bet, even though we HAD been approved by the bank. I scrambled around and called my sister and my mom. We were going to lose the only house that I now wanted. I had been building my imaginary future based on acquiring THIS house. Well, we got the house. It was touch and go the whole time. But I finally relaxed when my realtor texted me, “The house is yours!” and gave the keys to my mom. (We were in Santa Fe) 18 months later, I am still pinching myself.