Yet another what style is my house post

rogeraf1February 20, 2011

My house is similar to some others that have been posted, but I was hoping that my house might conform more to one particular style rather than the general categories everyone else has been hearing.

Our house was built in 1919 in Cincinnati, OH. In the link there are pictures of the built in window seat, baseboards, transoms, doors, door knobs, floor, and house front. There is a picture of the pocket door as well, but it was too dark to see that much. Of note is that it's a double wide pocket door - it looks like they took two standard doors (like the rest in our house) and attached them. While it does work, there is one major renovation that I need to make before it is fully functional again.

I'm also interested to know if someone can identify the type of wood the floor is made out of as well as the wood that the doors are made out of. Also, would the wood of the doors and other trim have come pre-stained? I ask because a number of other homes I've seen from this period have wood that looks (nearly) identical to that in our home. The only wood in the home that was ever painted are the baseboards in the kitchen.

There are a few newer (1970s) additions to the home. Is there anywhere I can get baseboards that are similar to those here? Thanks for any help!


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Your house is a bungalow, the trim is similar to that used in colonial revival houses from what I can tell of the door trim. Couldn't quite make out the top of the baseboards.
The pocket door is one piece because that was done if there wasn't room in the plans for two equal sized doors--it is NOT cobbled together. Your trim could be oak or fir.
Your floor pattern is laid out to accomodate a central carpet or rug--the wood may be oak, but I'm no wood expert. Your two panel doors look like they might be fir or birch--the two-panel style was popular starting around the end of WW I.
Other users have more of an eye for wood types, let's see what they say.
Nice house, you are lucky to have unpainted original wood!

    Bookmark   February 21, 2011 at 4:59AM
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Yes, your home is a bungalow. And a double Yes that yo are very lucky to have unpainted wood. To me, the trim, floor and doors look to be oak. The floors = white oak.

You will be able to get matching trim by having a millwork shop cut it to match. Any decent place should be able to cut it for you - we've done that in our bungalow.

If you want to clean the door knobs and backplates - just wash in dish soap and water. If you use chemicals to clean them, you will definitely lost the patina.

The "varnish" finish on your trim and doors is most likely shellac. If you want to test it, take a rag, dab of denatured alcohol on said rag, and wipe in an inconspicuous spot (like under the window seat). If the finish comes of easily, it's shellac.

Congrats on your new old home!

    Bookmark   February 21, 2011 at 5:44AM
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I vote for fir, especially in the door detail picture with the panel with the pattern that looks like a river delta gone crazy; I have a fir door just like that. Love it!

Looking at your trim, I wonder if you could match that color by mixing minwax gel stains in aged oak and walnut. A little aged oak, and a lot of walnut. Or you could try a two-step approach, where you'd apply the aged oak lightly, wipe off right away, and then later go back and do a normal application of the walnut. I'm not advocating for minwax products, I just happen to know those colors well. The shellac finish coats would slightly yellow the tone so don't panic if it doesn't look yellow enough after staining.

Thanks for the detailed pictures of your hardware. Could you add a photo of the switchplate cover in your front room?It looks like a style that classic accents or rejuvenation might carry, but I'd need to get a closer look to be sure.

My grandmother's bungalow (1925) had a triple window in the front door too; I like that look, must find out what the significance is.

I love the way doors and windows are trimmed out in bungalows, it looks so quietly solid and unpretentious, reminds me of Stonehenge.

When I bought my house all of the woodwork was stained and I wanted to go for an "old white" look (on the walls, not the trim) but it turned out my woodwork wasn't dark enough to carry it off. But I think yours is. I would have used something like Farrow and Ball's hardwick white or cornforth white, which as you will see aren't whites at all, but would look great with your woodwork.

I really like the mix of colors and textures in your living room decor, especially the chair and the lamp. Please share more pictures as you continue with your house!

Here is a link that might be useful: Hardwick White and Cornforth White

    Bookmark   February 21, 2011 at 6:34AM
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Thanks all!

columbusguy1 - the top of the baseboards are slightly less thick than the rest of the baseboard. They become thinner toward the top.

patser - thanks for the tip with the cleaning. I haven't touched any of it yet because I didn't want to do something that would ruin the beautiful patina.

slateberry51 - You seem to be about right on with the color. When we moved in there was a note on my basement workbench that said Eve's Dark Walnut. I've used the miniwax dark walnut stain for a number of applications around the house (including new pantry shelving and an upstairs door). The color isn't quite right, but neither of these are next to the older features in the house so people don't notice. Since I'm using new pine I figured it won't ever match exactly. However, I'm hoping to do the pantry doors soon, which will be very close to an original door so I'll likely experiment more with stain before completing that task.

Check out the more pictures link at the bottom of the post.

The first one is of the requested switchplate. Any idea of when this might be from? The evergreen in the front yard and the fact that I'm an Eagle Scout means this won't be leaving regardless.

There are also pictures of the original transom mechanism for the front door. The mechanisms for both the front and back door still work.

There's also a switch plate, which I was told was for the original coal burning furnace. Does that jive with you all? The house originally didn't have an upstairs (merely an attic). I, therefore, assume the wooden feature in the hallway was originally an attic access - any ideas?

Here is a link that might be useful: More pictures

    Bookmark   February 21, 2011 at 1:29PM
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The last pic of the switch is for the old furnace, it connected to a chain which controlled the damper. Mine has three settings: open, closed and check.
Sorry to see you don't have original switches anymore, but that is an interesting plate in the first picture. I'd say it's from the '50s? I'd imagine you originally had brass plates for push-button switches--that is what my house has everywhere (a 1908 foursquare).
Is the attic access still functional, or do you now have a complete upstairs?

    Bookmark   February 21, 2011 at 2:20PM
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The attic access still moves - they didn't nail or screw it down, but the most it can move is slightly out of the way because the newly added (70s) upstairs subfloor blocks any more movement. I'd love to have the push-button switches, but that was all redone presumably when they added the upstairs and the electric was updated. We still have the knob and tube wiring, which is in good condition.

How did the coal purchases work when these were coal burning furnaces? Were there coal delivery men or did you pick it up from somewhere? I ask because we have a front room in the basement (below and encompassing the total size of) the porch. It's all poured concrete with one gap that was filled with a glass block window. I've taken to calling it the coal room, but I'm not positive that that is what it was. It does have an original door that was painted blue (like the concrete floor in the basement).

I went ahead and added pictures of the basement to the more pictures link. It includes first what I think is the coal room, then a picture of the basement empty then a few filled shots for perspective.

Here is a link that might be useful: More pictures

    Bookmark   February 21, 2011 at 3:01PM
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Another question: Why would they build an elaborate (faux) fireplace in the living room when fireplaces would have been readily used at the time? There is no chimney for ours, but there is a gas hook up with a gas fireplace (without a vent of any sort). It was apparently started at one point since there is soot on the concrete within the fireplace. I can just imagine the room filling with smoke and the realization that it was all a big waste of money.

On another note - is there a name for the dark brick that the house is made out of? Was it more or less desirable to have this dark brick? I ask because ours is the only house in the neighborhood that I've located with the dark brick. It's interesting because ours is also the only similar design that was originally built without a second floor for whatever reason.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2011 at 5:53PM
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Push button switches and push button switchplate covers can be found at That's where most of ours were purchased. You'll find them at other sites, but when I was searching, classic accents had the best price.

I love your functioning transoms!

Do you have a coal door on the outside of your house?

Here is a link that might be useful: classic accents

    Bookmark   February 21, 2011 at 5:56PM
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Coal was delivered, as was ice if you had an icebox rather than an electric refrigerator. Coal often came in through a chute or window as far as I know.
Regarding the mantle, no clue--every upstairs room in my house has a gas pipe coming through the floor for a heater, and all but one would have had access to a flue. Remember, old houses weren't sealed up like they are today, so perhaps code allowed for a ventless heater? I have seen some gas heaters online which looked like parlor stoves, log sets, or box-like units with the ceramic grates which glow a nice red when heated. My parlor fireplace has a modern log set which I put in to replace one of those box types--the gas company said that kind was against code now.
I would kill for a steam or hot water heating system--forced hot air is just too variable, either hot or cold depending on when the furnace kicks on.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2011 at 1:56AM
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i don't have a lot to add, except for that the details are incredibly similar to my 1915 Cincinnati bungalow. the floors are the spitting image of mine - quartersawn, oak. mine is face nailed though and yours doesn't look to be. molding and baseboards are identical. a nice quality, tight-grained pine.

regarding the style, this is a classic arts and crafts one-story bungalow. although the porch area of the house is pretty unique with the double-pitched porch roof and the partial enclosure. i almost wonder if that was reworked at some point in the house's history.

BTW, i am incredibly jealous of your amazing window seat. i commissioned to have one just like that built in my house and the cost at over $4,000 is just more than i can handle right now.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2011 at 12:48PM
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Roger, I don't know the answer about your fireplace but once I lived in a rental house that had a similar brick mantle and no chimney. There were even supports in the basement to carry the extra weight and I seem to recall the house hadn't been plumbed for gas until the 70's so unlikely the f/p was ever used for heat.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2011 at 2:34PM
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Unfortunately, it isn't an uncommon practice to remove chimneys all together rather than repair them. So that may have happened, although you should be able to find evidence. The interior brick fireplace in a house this old strikes me as odd. Tile and cast iron with a wooden surround were much more common.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2011 at 3:39PM
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In the Four Square where I lived, the fireplace didn't look like it was ever used - no doubt because it was strictly ornamental. There was absolutely no evidence that a chimney/flue had ever been there. As I recall (I lived at this house in 1983) the top on my mantle wasn't wood, it was brick that had been corbeled(?) to form a shelf & didn't have a niche like the OP's. We could never figure why someone spent so much money to build a non-working f/p.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2011 at 5:24PM
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patser - Thanks for the link. I'll probably get those for the switches I was planning to upgrade. I saw them at a house our two while looking for our home and I really liked them. We don't have a coal door on the house. A PO cut large holes into the concrete foundation and put in glass block windows throughout. It was a great upgrade that let tons of light into the basement during the day. Even at night the sparkle of the glass is nice and it feels much more open than with tiny dingy windows. (I just wish they would have kept/left pieces of history like a coal door.)

My wife really wants a functioning gas fireplace so we'll probably install one at some point. I'm certain the f/p was never functioning, but I still wonder why it was built like it was.

civ IV fan - I'm pretty sure the porch is original. The roof staining matches that of the rest of the house perfectly. The foundation also shows no changes - so the porch was at least there; although that doesn't rule out the possibility that the roof was reworked at some point. Thanks for the compliment on the window seat. I truly love it. If we get a nice sunny day sometime soon I'll open the curtains and take a picture of the full floor to ceiling woodwork that makes up the whole window seat. We've also got blue velvet curtains that look much nicer than PO's ugly curtains imho.

Now for some more questions:

Does anyone know about the type of brick used here? It's dark brick, which I don't see very often. It also has an interesting texture added to it, which I've shown in one of the additional pictures. Some of the bricks merely have textured vertical lines, but many have this curvy texture in addition to the vertical lines. Is there a name for this type of brick or a way for me to learn more about it and why it was used?

Also, there's a patch that was clearly replaced below the kitchen window. It looks like there was something in the place before that window that took up more room, but I don't have a clue as to what it could be. Any ideas?

I took a video of the problem with our pocket door the other day, but it's 5 minutes long and 300 mb or so so I'll have to break it up and change format to upload it. Is there someone here that knows about pocket doors and might be able to help? (i.e. is it worth the time and effort to figure out how to make this into appropriate sized videos to upload it?)

Thanks for the wealth of knowledge! I'm truly enjoying learning more about my house (and older houses in general by reading everybody's recent and not-so-recent posts).

Here is a link that might be useful: More pictures

    Bookmark   February 25, 2011 at 12:06AM
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RogerAF - Regarding the kitchen window. It is hard to tell without a picture, but in a house like this the kitchen window was probably taller such that the sill was only 2 or 3 feet off the ground. Back then they would put a table in front of the window. This was back when a kitchen had maybe two cabinets and a stove. With the modern kitchen, we need more counter space and often the windows in old house kitchens are shortened so that a counter-top / sink / dishwasher can fit underneath.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2011 at 9:06AM
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Roger, I agree with Civ, on the kitchen window--my kitchen has one window which is the same length as all the others and reaches to about two feet off the floor. It was blocked by a refrigerator when I bought the house. My 'fridge now lives in the pantry. My pantry window is also full size, with an original cabinet in front of it--they built a sort of 'well' around it and it's trim.
The dark brick I have seen around before, mostly in southern Ohio--I went on house tours in Hamilton--and one or two houses in my own area are made of it; there is almost always some rumor that it is imported and cost about $5 each and came individually wrapped--as if! I seem to recall somewhere that it originates from old works in southern Ohio and was widely used around the early 20th century. You might be able to find replacements in salvage yards or local brickyards--box stores are hopeless. Try looking online under 'textured brick' I think.
Anyone else have better info?
Just what is the problem with the pocket door? Doesn't run smoothly, hang straight, hard to move, squeals? A lot of old pocket doors ran on tracks at the top of the opening, earlier ones also had a track on the floor to help. There are often adjustment screws on the hangers to allow for levelling the door if the house has settled. More details please rather than just saying it has a 'problem'. :)

    Bookmark   February 26, 2011 at 3:16PM
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I've got a picture of the window up (4th to last in the photostream). As you can see even before the change the window was many feet off the ground (the ground is another foot or two below the bottom of the picture). My only thought was maybe one of those AC units that sits below the window (rather than in it), but I'm not sure the space was big enough.

The 3rd to last photo shows the textured brick we have. I've tried googling textured brick to no avail. I'm not even sure if this would be classified as red brick or grey brick - it's very dark - almost black inside and more of a brown on the exterior.

I'm still working on cutting up the video of the pocket door problem. I'll try to post it this week sometime. The problem is that it doesn't hang straight. I found what I think the root of the problem is. There are brackets that hold up the track that the pocket door hangs from. The large screws that hold up those tracks are bolted into two pieces of metal. One of the pieces of metal broke allowing the track to sag there. The problem is that even when I remove all of the wood I can screw out, it's about six+ inches into the woodwork still. So how do I replace this metal piece? Is there an easy way to take the door off of the track (and get it back on)? I'd obviously like to do this without going through plaster if possible.

I went ahead and posted the pictures I took of the pocket door hardware. The 2nd to last photo most clearly shows the bolt holding the track up - it's the flat head screw in the picture. You can see that it goes through one metal piece and then through a second metal piece (which is perpendicular to the first). You can kind of see how the first metal piece is not tight against the second metal piece (like it should be). You can see the bolt going off into the background. There's a nut on that bolt that is the only thing keeping the track from falling.

The last photo is just a cool hardware shot. You can see the C-shaped bracket holding up the door with the two large wheels in the background that slide along the track.

Thanks for any help!

Here is a link that might be useful: House photos

    Bookmark   February 28, 2011 at 12:57PM
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if the window wasn't reduced to allow for a kitchen counter (ie it was already high enough or there is no counter/appliance beneath the window), the only reason to reduce it would be when they were replacing the window, the original opening was a non "standard" size since windows today are available in only relatively few heights and widths.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2011 at 1:23PM
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Neither of those options seem to be the case here. There's no counter top or appliance on that side of the kitchen. We've got a fridge in front of the window (as did PO) since there's no other place to put the fridge. The current window is the same size as every other window in the house, but none of the other windows have this brick work change. There's also a window 5 feet or so to the left of this window (also within the kitchen). I assume the original kitchen also had matching windows. It seems like this mystery may remain a mystery... for now at least.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2011 at 1:35PM
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Perhaps the alterred window was once a door?
With the stops removed on the pocket door--you said everything easily unscrewed was removed--it may be possible to remove the door from the track, giving more room to fix the sagging track. I believe the rollers should just lift off.
If all else fails, you can break the plaster in a small area next to where the repair is needed, and gain access that way.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2011 at 7:03PM
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