Friday, January 4, 2008

Favorite things - about old Homes


When I talk about old homes, I mean 1928 and older. Homes built before the stock market crash. Those times where different and the homes of that era are different as well. Here are some examples.

Possibly built before electricity, possibly built before indoor plumbing, before the modern automobile, heated by wood or coal, lighting with gas. No such thing as sheet rock. Wood floors standard, no wall to wall carpet. Smaller lots with alleys.

If your home is original you might have sawdust or newspaper insulation, there could be lead paint or asbestos. Windows could be rotten or drafty.

Have you guessed yet that I love old homes? There are things that an old home has that can't be matched by a new home.

History. Because its old, its seen a lot and been through things. If you renovate an old home and you do it with care you might witness a few things the home has seen.

As you remove the layers put on by previous owners it is like viewing the rings of a tree. As you see what makes up the house you can try to understand the reasons for things that were done.

The extra six feet added to the original model t garage, the untouched closet with two hooks, one for the Sunday best clothes and another for the weekday clothes, a coal chute in the foundation wall, the stub of a gas pipe behind the kitchen light fixture,

the canning stove in the basement, the furnace that's bigger than your car, the window in a closet because there were no lights. The odd swing of doors that accommodates light. The pipes in the bedroom wall upstairs and extra outside door from when the home was duplexed(happened in the 40's all of the time),

the bathroom that was a pantry or a closet. The kitchen with so many doors there is no room for cabinets. Writing on walls by remodelers long gone about girls who were beautiful before your parents were born. A hammer in a wall cavity recovered 100 years after it was lost. The history of families long gone written on the bottom of a buffet drawer. Dated marks on walls that show growth spurts of kids from long ago. Notes about how much fuel oil was purchased and what it cost.

But really, you have to live in this place, why would you want to do that?

These were not stupid people who designed these homes. They just lived in a different world.

Older homes have more, bigger windows that let in more light. If they are original the glass is wavy. They might leak a little air, but that's healthy, the garage is detached, giving more wall space for windows and light, fumes from your car don't leak into the house. Often the woodwork is wide oak or clear pine that couldn't be purchased today. The walls are solid plaster that deaden sound. You can close doors between rooms for privacy or heating considerations. There are larger foyer and dining spaces, built in buffets, beveled glass, brass door knobs, wainscoting beamed ceilings, high ceilings, walk up attics, clothes chutes.

The inside of an old home can be a thing of beauty. I think of light and space and rich wood or wide painted trim contrasting walls and accenting windows. I think of windows you can't bear to cover with curtains.

The exterior, even of many modest older homes, has the potential to be classier than 90% of the newer homes built today.

There is something about the look of larger windows, skirt boards wide window trim, freeze boards sofit brackets and steeper roof lines that makes an old home look elegant.

The garage is in the back of the house where it belongs and the house actually has a face instead of triple garage doors and expansive concrete.

Old homes are built on smaller lots with less grass, manageable sidewalks and no driveway to shovel. Because of this you might even know several of your neighbors.

There could be a guy down the block with a snow blower that just keeps going and does everyone's walk. Oh, this is possible because your neighborhood has sidewalks. And if you are lucky you might be able to follow that sidewalk to a store, park, friend's house without ever getting in the car.

There are lots of good things about homes that aren't old, but that's for another time.

John T.

1 comment:

khavelin said...

Hey John,

I'm with you--I love old houses and we still love the one you sold to us a dozen years ago.

I'm sitting in the dining room, looking at the built-in buffet, plate rack, and the living room's stained glass windows. Sure, our almost century-old house has problems-- we're going to have to put in a foundation under the sunroom this spring when the ground thaws. When it was built in 1914, the room was a porch but now it's starting to settle... Still, it's a dandy house.

You should come up and see how it's looking these days.

Cheers, Kate