How many of you tore down walls and opened up spaces?

lavender_lassJuly 11, 2010

It seems to be a bit of a controversy sometimes, should old houses be updated and leave each room as is...or should walls be taken down and rooms opened to share space and light?

In the recent HGTV's Sarah's House, the old farmhouse was completely remodeled and spaces were changed and rooms rearranged...she even added on a whole new addition for the living room, bedrooms and bath. While I couldn't afford to do all that, there is a point to be made. How people lived then, is not always how people live today. We use spaces differently, like bigger kitchens and more bathrooms. Also, we have electronics...and need someplace to put them :)

I'm still in the planning stages, but I will definitely tear down some walls. The kitchen and dining room will be so much lighter and inviting, if the wall comes down. Also, thinking about taking down the wall between the living room and small bedroom to make that a bigger room for our main entertaining/TV space.

How many of you have done this? How many are thinking about it? How many wouldn't dare? Thank you for answering!

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You'd better do a little investigating before you start removing walls indiscriminately or when you retire to an upstairs bedroom, or you might awaken in the basement. The word to keep in mind is load-bearing.

There was only one house I really wanted to do this in, and that was a late 1800s brick childhood home and it was built as a double. I tried to buy it when I moved back into town and wanted to join the two living rooms and also the upstairs landing to make it one unit........ but had just been sold. Drats.

I live now in an 1820s Federal style farmhouse. My husband had done most of the major renovation before I met him, and that included tearing down the wall between the kitchen and dining room. I suspect there are only two interior walls in the house not eighteen inches thick and of brick, and this was one of them. What the house looks like are two, 2 over twos built in different eras so that they form an ell. I think the kitchen is in the older of the two since it has an eight foot wide, floor to ceiling fireplace with the cooking crane still intact. It also used to have (according to some former owners who lived here in the thirties) a steep kitchen staircase to the two rooms upstairs in this section. The original room must have been (just guessing) twelve by sixteen but not with a lot of useable space due to the massive hearth and stairs. It would have only had one window and an outside access door and door to what was probably the original parlour before the second section was added. That was probably made into a dining room very early on, as this structure was an old roadhouse and Inn at one time. So, my kitchen is now sixteen by thirty two and we have room for a huge island and a large oak dining set to serve twelve. I don't regret that he did it, I guess. Would have probably fought against it had I been married to him then, because it surely marred the integrity of the house historically. But I can't say that I don't enjoy my big kitchen.

I suspect you'll get mixed reactions on this board with your plans. I tend to be a purist and think that doing major structural changes to old homes will invalidate their desirability to folks wanting to really live in an old home and probably increase the value for prospective buyers who don't care.

I know my folks who came back to this town to retire and looked at another fine old home we'd lived in previously never did get over seeing it 'modernised'. That one was a travesty.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2010 at 10:54PM
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When I bought my house I needed an 8'x8' opening to accommodate the piece of trim you see. So I opened up the entry hall/dining room wall. There had been a 34" wide door a bit to the left of where the opening now starts. The hall was very closed off.

OTOH, when I renovated the kitchen, I actually re-installed doors long-since gone to have the freedom to close it off as desired.
I kept my opening things up desires in line with what was period appropriate. A gingerbread arch between two spaces was period , opening the kitchen to the dining room never is.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2010 at 11:02PM
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I live in an old cottage style home that was changed, used and abused when I got it. So, IMOH, I had little issue with changing things when we got started. There was a hideous oversized pantry built into the kitchen, and doors had been moved and removed. This was noticable because the plaster and lathe was falling down, so we did the only thing that made sense. Took it the rest of the way down. I cannot say that I have spent a lot of time looking for period ideas for my home because they seem to be rare and were basically peasant housing with little architecture to speak of. I would not choose to live with the layout I have seen in vaguely similar homes in my area, so we came up with our own.

Now to specifically answer your question. I am looking forward to opening the wall up between our kitchen and living room. Both rooms are small and seem cramped. We don't have money or room to expand, so making them seem bigger is our best option. I guess you have to decide what you need and then work with it as best your conscience allows. I love old homes, but have lived in so many and admired them and the differences (regardless of changes) that I can live with the changes, but love the history of what has been there all along.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2010 at 11:33PM
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I owned a number of late 19th Century, early 20th Century homes that were 12-15-wide. As was the custom, the first floor included a closed off entry, a hallway and a living and dining room. I removed all but the entry area in most of them with no compunction and no regrets. However, I did retain the high baseboards, hardwood floors and door hardware wherever possible.

Make no assumptions about structure.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2010 at 1:05AM
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Mine is an 1858 Greek Revival townhouse with the typical 2-room deep, side hall plan over an English basement; the original kitchen (demolished in the 1930's) had been outside. When we bought it, the 'kichen' - if you can consider a gas pipe, hot water tank, & an old hanging sink a kitchen - was in a tacked on addition that was barely big enough to be a bathroom (& the only place to put a new bath on the main floor). With only 2 large rooms on each floor, the problem was to fit a kitchen, dining & living area on one level with the least amount of architecural changes. We choose the main floor where the rooms were connected with huge pocket doors. We removed the entire wall & made it into a kitchen/great room. We then took the pocket doors & installed them in a new closet wall on the bedroom floor above where there had been a regular door connecting the 2 rooms. I'm sure some future owner will rant about my changes, but the pocket doors & trim remain in tact so it's just a matter of bringing them downstairs again & installing them in a new stud wall. If they want to put the kitchen back in the basement & schlepp food upstairs to the main floor dining room, that will be their problem!

    Bookmark   July 12, 2010 at 1:33AM
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How many of you have done this? I have not done it in the downstairs, main living portion of the house, that was originally finished as living space. I have done it in the half story that was later finished very poorly.

I think it depends on your old house. If I remember yours correctly, lavendar, you have an old farmhouse that has had additions (in the 50's?) and much of the old trim and fixtures are gone. If I recall your plan to remove the wall between the dining area and kitchen correctly from what you posted before, I can see why you want to do it.

My old home is nothing extra special, just a 1913 bungalow with a half story. The downstairs was original though, including hardware, windows, light fixtures, trim, etc. that we would not ever think of changing. The kitchen had been expanded to the back porch and the original pantry removed in the 70's. So, we did not knock out any walls, but we did gut the space and updated it. It is not a period kitchen by any stretch of the imagination, but the four doorways stayed (albeit we moved one) along with the old windows and door/window hardware. I like the door between the kitchen and dining room in my house. It separates the formal from the working area.

The upstairs is a different can of worms. We completely gutted it. It had some weird kind of fiberboard walls from the 50's (or earlier?) that were warped and a teeny half bath. The layout was OK, but we thought we could get more function out of the 500-600 square feet up there. Now it is a modern space with vaulted ceilings, skylights, white walls and bamboo floors. But we tried to keep some of the feel and some continuity with the downstairs. The bamboo we chose is about the color of our heart pine downstairs floors, the door hardware is reproduction to match the downstairs, the doors are architectural salvage to match one that was originally upstairs (maybe 1930's), the baseboards and window trim match the downstairs profiles - wide, but at about 2/3 the dimension because the space upstairs is so much smaller.

So, I guess I'm a purist if there is enough left of the original to be a purist, or if the original can be reproduced and still be functional. I highly value the original parts of my house.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2010 at 1:21PM
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Calliope- I do know what load-bearing walls are :)

The one between the dining room and kitchen is not load bearing, but there is an old woodstove pipe closed up in the wall. The living room/bedroom wall is load bearing, but I've seen many shows where a large steel beam is used to open up most of the load bearing wall. A bit of a wall on each side of the opening would be fine and still provide space and light to both areas.

It is amusing/sad though, what you see on some of these remodeling shows, where homeowners pick up a hammer and start knocking down a wall...with no idea what they're doing. Ever notice how many get sick with respiratory problems during some of these shows? If you don't know what you're doing, hire a professional who does!

Kimkitchy- You're right, it is an old farmhouse from about 1904, with an addition from the 1950's. I'd love to replace some of the moldings and fixtures and make it more of an early 1900's style home. I love the simple, wide moldings in the old part of the house. The skinny 1950's molding style just isn't me! LOL

    Bookmark   July 12, 2010 at 5:04PM
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Long time readers of this forum will be familiar with my oft-repeated advice to new old house owners to delay making big changes until they have lived in their house awhile (I recommend a year). This comes from my own experience.

When we bought this farm (c 1840 country-style Greek Revival) many years ago, the kitchen (apparently original one) was a long narrow space about 10 by 25, spanning the width of an entire wing. Sounds OK on paper, but keep in mind it has five doors and three windows - and carries all the functional through-traffic in the house across the small direction. Plus this is a wood-heated house and one of the essential (and difficult to reposition) chimneys is smack dab in the middle of one of the long walls (between two of the doors). A kitchen planning nightmare, to be sure. (Although this was the orginal kitchen, it had, and still has, not a single built-in feature as it is the ultimate in unfitted 19th c style kitchen).

Anyhoo, one of the five doors was a narrow one: 24" wide and only 74" high that lead into a small room 10 X 10 that had at one point been functioning as a pantry. Early on, I took it into my head that if I opened up the short (seemingly non-load bearing) wall between these spaces and essentially 86'd the narrow doorway that things would be better. So we got out our pry bars, pulled off the wainscotting, removed the door and trim and then, the short section of plastered wall down to the wall studs. (Of course I removed all the trim, wainscotting and door furnishings intact and have them safely stored.) But it turns out I can't actually remove the wall studs because they are morticed to the diagonal braces necessary for this timber-framed structure to hang together. So now I have a jail-like curtain of pit-sawn, rough-hewn, vertical 4 X 4's and similar morticed, tenonned and tree-nailed diagonal braces right in the middle between these two rooms. And I am very sorry I took the trouble to do this. (My cats however adore this internal jungle gym, and climb, scratch and claw at it constantly- with my blessing, including parts I wrapped in hemp rope to make scratching even more fun!)

Of course, I can replace the plastered portion of the wall -and it will make an excellent, modest-sized beginner's plastering project some day. Meanwhile I do get more light since the absent wall adds another window opening to my narrow kitchen "space". But I really regret doing it.

Because if I had been more astute and savvy about old houses I would have discovered a couple of things before I had at that wall: 1) even though the kitchen, the pantry and part of an adjacent dinning room, a large entrance hall and a large, dirt-floored wood storage room are all, to the casual viewer, united under a single roof of a wing, they were began as odd spaces, aggregated over time, with a rabbbit warren of foundations underneath, and therefore seemingly interior walls were once exterior walls, and 2) despite the removed trim revealing the name of an early owner, the actual "pantry space" had orginally not had a communicating door to the kitchen, as evidenced by the clearly visible on the floor, ghost (and nail holes) of a complex set of built-in pantry cupboards that would have spanned across the doorway. (I have since located the removed cupboards in use in the chicken barn of a neighbor. He's unwilling to part with them at this point, but I am biding my time and they will return here, eventually.)

Altogether, I didn't pay too a high price for my intemperate assualt on this wall (it's small, easily repairable, and all trim came off intact) and I learned a very valuable lesson: study and ponder and look high and low (like the floor to see what it tells you, duh-oh!) before considering removing wall partitions. And most of all pay attention to the house, not your ideas of modern house arrangement.

It is an entirely contemporary notion that kitchen and dining spaces should be combined. There is much to be said for keeping them separate; 19th c owners of even the most plain of country houses would have recoiled from a move to recombine the uses since the separate spaces were a sign of social and economic "progress" from earlier, more-primitive, more space-deprived, first-settlement dwellings.

I am always astounded by people who go out of their way to purchase an old house and then proceed to substantially rejigger the room arrangements so that the house winds up being like a recently-built structure that just has a passing nod to older-style buildings. If you want that, it would seem easier (and much cheaper, less full of unsatisfactory compromises and more respectful of the remaining built world) to just cut to the chase and buy a new house instead.

Still, it is your house, so you can mess with it to please yourself. And as evidenced by my late, and now lamented narrow doorway (c1890, removed @1980), which itself had displaced a run of cupboards (pre-1880s) that had, in turn, been installed in a bumpout created some time post 1840, folks have been changing up their (older) dwellings for centuries.

My advice, though, is to let the decision hang for a good long time, while your house teaches you to see it more clearly (and to generally avoid making over old houses into facsimiles of new ones.) My biggest pet-peeve in the old house world are the TV shows -like This Old House - which set people on the path of old house destruction, all in the name of improvement. Meh!


    Bookmark   July 12, 2010 at 7:00PM
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You all must have much nicer homes than my little farmhouse. First of all, I couldn't possibly live in it for a year (or even a month) in the condition it is today. The ceiling in the living room is caving in, the bathrooms were flooded years ago, the furnace went out several years ago and I'm sure there's mold from when the basement flooded. The good news, it got rid of the renters that were here, when we inherited the farm.

We live in a very nice manufactured home, but I want to remodel the old farmhouse for two reasons. One, my husband's family built the addition, and two, I want to have a home I can remodel to fit my lifestyle. The farmhouse has some charm (I mentioned the brick fireplace and Bing Crosby did eat dinner there once) but it needs a LOT of work before I'd even stay the night :)

Also, out on the farm, a formal dining room seems a bit out of place, while an open country kitchen, with a big work table, woodstove and lots of light sounds just least for me!

    Bookmark   July 12, 2010 at 10:59PM
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Oh my! It sounds like you will have quite a job on your hands. I love old farmhouses and love the combined kitchen/ eating areas. There is something to be said about history, but you have to love the home your in. If you don't you won't be happy and that is its own price to pay. I kind of chuckled when I read the part about having much nicer houses. I have my own nightmare story to share- it has become a standing joke with my mom and stepdad because they help put so much work into it when I got it.

When I bought my home, it was the only thing I could afford after my divorce and that wasn't much. I bought it for less than half of what all of the other similar size homes in the area were going for and there was a good reason for the price. Most of the house was in horrible shape. The "repairs" were a joke and half baked. There were holes in the walls my kids could climb into. I took a few weeks before I moved in, with the very much appreciated help of my parents, and put quick fixes in place to make it survivable until warmer weather. I moved in during January. Imagine my surprise when I went hunting for my son and found him playing in snow in the upstairs closet. LOL. I didn't think it was funny at the time, but needless to say it was one of the first rooms tackled and definitely one of the warmest ones now! We insulated that thing 7 ways from Sunday!

I have had a lot of people give me grief over the changes made to my house, because I am only the 5th owner of the home, being that the first two owners built or bought young and died here, and the last 2 before me didn't stay long. The house is about a hundred years old. My husband and I both have an eclectic taste in homes. Kind of more cottage and cabin than what is popular in our area. But as we move on with our remodeling, I am happy to see the changes we have made and enjoy the process of what we are doing. It doesn't have to make anyone else happy because they don't live here, but I do love the reactions of the people who saw what we started with and what we have here now. It is amazing what you can do with very little.

Do what works for you and take your time and see what will make you happy when you make changes. Just make them for you and remember you have to live with them. Just because "people" do all kinds of things doesn't mean that they will be right for you. Do what you love and you won't regret it!


    Bookmark   July 13, 2010 at 6:52AM
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I might consider changes but I have 8 fireplaces in this house. It's a center entrance colonial with 4 rooms up and 4 rooms down. Every room has one fireplace wall that it shares with the adjoining room. And man those chimneys are big! Each room's closet is in the wall on the side of the chimney. In the kitchen, you can go into the walk in pantry and actually see the back side and shape of the fireplace in the kitchen! Built in 1780, it's way too cool to alter :)

    Bookmark   July 13, 2010 at 7:36AM
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I will be knocking down walls and tearing up some ceilings, but only walls that were added to make it into apartments. Our remodeled footprint should resemble the original one far closer than the current one.

Here's my take on your choice....No I'd never open up a dining room to a kitchen in either a modern home or an old home, but especially in an older home. It's just not right for the home. Even farmers had dining rooms...dining was their time away from the farm. We had a dining room in my great great aunties little house on the farm and a table in the kitchen. If you must, shift a wall a bit or open things up like casey did, but no wall???? gad no I wouldn't do it

We looked at dozens of homes before we bought this one and in many walked out as soon as we saw the knocked down walls. They're obvious because the combined spaces don't belong. This was true of small and large homes. If you're never going to sell you home (and I can tell you of many people who were never going to sell and had to anyhoo later) than I suppose go for it...but hope that when you do have to sell you can find a buyer for an old home who doesn't really want an "old" home...but instead a 1970's ranch with a great room and some icky tuscan decor...cuz to many, that's what it feels like when walls go missing.

And I tried to say that is obviously my opinion and not the word of God :oP I just hated how many houses that we saw which were ruined all in the need to have a large kitchen that wasn't appropriate to the hosue in the first place.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2010 at 1:25PM
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It's well & good to criticize removing a wall simply to have an open floor plan - I do it all the time - but the fact remains that if the now demolished, original kitchen was outside & the house has 2 formal rooms on each floor (& in the South this was common practice in cities until after the Civil War), where would YOU locate a functioning kitchen?
>In one of the two basement rooms & put the dining room in the other? The main floor ( 1/3 of the house) would be wasted because no one would go there.
>Or carry food from the basement to a formal dining room on the floor above? No niche for a dumbwaiter & I'm afraid the cook/maid/owner would go on strike!

This is a strict historic district & an addition is pretty much out of the question, even if money were no object, LOL. The majority of these houses had a connector built between the outside kitchen & the main house when servants became a thing of the past but mine never did; a PO put the barest essentials in a corner in the basement & let the outside kitchen fall down. At some previous time, many owners made the back porches into kitchens but mine wasn't one of them - & I couldn't be happier about that because my double back porches are a delight - so grandfathering an enclosure was out. I've also seen back halls made into small galley kitchens but my staircase is placed in the back half, leaving only the front hall as a possible kitchen space. I don't think so! Any of these 'modernizations' would have been far more destructive than my removing a stud wall.

Regardless of its beat-to-hell condition, I'm lucky in that my house is very close to its original state (excluding mechanicals of which there were none). It's not a museum & I'll leave it in a condition that can easily be reversed if future owners so desire.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2010 at 4:29PM
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If I were really going to be authentic to the old house design, there would be a small 12'x13' living room with a front door opening right into it. Across from the door would be an opening to the 10'x13' kitchen, with a small table. There was no formal dining room, until the addition was added, in fact, they closed off the front door in the winter and put a woodstove there to heat the room!

There was a steep stairway opening from the pantry (off the kitchen) to the upstairs attic. There was a very steep (one relative fell to their death) staircase down to the cellar. Off the living room, in the front, was a small 8'x8' room (approx) which was the parents' bedroom. The kids were up in the attic (no bathrooms in the original house). There is a falling down porch off the kitchen (on the side of the house) that was used for storage. There was a bathroom added later on the back, off the pantry, but the roof is now separating from the back of the house.

In the 1950's, a large living room with the fireplace was added, with a new bedroom and bath in the back. Under this, the basement was expanded off the cellar area and another fireplace is down there (rec room?) and a small bedroom, no bath. Upstairs is more attic space and the original attic was made into two small bedrooms.

To be original to the house, I'd have to rip off everything added later, including the bathrooms. Not to be obnoxious, but not all old houses are beautifully built Victorians...some are just little houses with a few quirky features that for whatever reason, we decide to try to fix up, rather than tear down. If I don't start pretty soon, I may not have a choice, as the roof has been leaking and there has been flooding in the basement. We patched the roof and we're hoping the structure is still secure enough to tear it down to the studs (especially the original part) and start over :)

    Bookmark   July 13, 2010 at 5:26PM
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When it is suggested that you live in it for a year before making changes, it doesn't mean that you don't fix critical issues like caved in ceilings and leaking plumbing. It is directed towards cosmetic changes, like removing walls. I found this to be very good advice.

One thing about most old houses is that their proportions are much better than most newer homes. By this I mean, the ceiling height, room dimensions, window sizes all fit together to create the charm. You will probably loose that by taking down walls.

I am by no means a purist, but I feel a responsibility towards my simple old house that includes honoring its history. And I have learned to love it as is. That is my philosophy, which is not necessarily appropriate for everyone.

It sounds like you have already made your decisions, but waiting until you have lived in the house for a while is still good advice.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2010 at 5:46PM
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I admire anyone who has the strength, tenacity and patience necessary to bring back an old home to mint condition. They're saving a piece of history...but many people don't live like that anymore. It's not impossible to restain trim that's been painted (not fun, but not impossible) or put up a wall that's been taken down. My concern is there seems to be such a resistance to any change...many people might not buy an old house because they're intimidated by the work and they "don't want to live in a museum".

I guess it seems that some people don't want ANY old house changed and I think that's a concern. I see this in so many things lately, people who have adamant opinions about some topic and there's no room for discussion. Whatever happened to let's agree to disagree? Patrick Henry ring a bell?

If someone thinks white trim is better than wood, they don't insist everyone paint their trim. That would be silly...but I've seen people get very heated about someone wanting to paint their trim. It's their house and they're paying the mortgage, who cares? It's not something that can't be changed with some time and work. How many of these old houses originally had central heat, electricity, plumbing, TVs, computers? We bring those things into the home, we adapt, but not everyone has to live in their home the same way. If you don't want a TV fine, but you might want the plumbing.

Wouldn't it be better to keep these old houses around, even with some small changes, than to let them slowly fall into disrepair? Maybe that's not a problem where some of you live, but here, it has been. I think we should encourage people to buy old houses and save them...make them work for today, and goodness me, if that means taking down a wall of painting some trim...even adding on a bit, at least they're saving a house that can be "renovated" to its original glory later on...if anyone want to do so.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2010 at 6:21PM
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lavender lass

Don't let them get you down!

Not every old home is worth preserving as is. My first home, built just when w.c.s migrated in from the backyard, stuffed three pieces into a 3'x4' cranny with a nook for the cast iron tub. I never got around to revising that. But I did open up the itsy-bitsy formal living areas.

Destruction: the first step in creation.

As I became more experienced, and economics dictated, I learned that for many homes, their "highest and best use" as the appraisers put it, was as landfill.



Very nice work!

    Bookmark   July 13, 2010 at 9:39PM
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I know what you are saying Lavender. Lots of lovely old homes in my home town in NH have been torn down. Unfortunately often landlords ran them into the ground and then abandoned them.
We have a 1920s home with lots of small rooms. No lovely large rooms like Vic. homes I have lived in. Originally there were 2 apartments. We put "windows" from the kitchen to the dining room/living room: two rectangles with a space between them roughly the size of the trimmed space between our double windows in the dining room and living room. Sooo much nicer. I imagined a laser cutting holes in the wall, we painted the hole the color of the living room, and the "windows" start about 10 inches above the kitchen counter. We could't take the whole wall - we would lose the whole counter in our tiny kitchen. The former upstairs kitchen is a bedroom. Its funny to think that by converting original 2 apartments to one house we are doing the opposite of the landlords I complaineda about. But it IS a change to the historical use of the house.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2010 at 9:56PM
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You just asked us what we would do .......I didn't tell you what I think YOU should do. I just warned you about load-bearing walls. When you uttered the words "I will definitely tear down some walls" and mentioned HGTV in an adjoining paragraph it sent up red flags and I feared for your well being. LOL I used to like to watch that channel, but for the last few years, it has been like venturing into a foreign planet.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2010 at 10:59PM
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Lavendar Lass,

You asked if others had torn down walls, and so you've gotten answers about that. I, for one, tried to also share my experience tearing down walls (well, one, anyway) and what I learned from it because it sure would have helped me if the I'd known then what I know now. In those far off days an internet community like this didn't exist, alas.

I don't want to let stand the idea that only people with lovely, magnificent Victorians or who "want to live in a museum" would want to keep a house intact. That's not true; my farmhouse is a plain Jane version of what was current in the 1840-1850. It was dated even for its time when it was built.

Luckily for it, at least from my point of view, it has had a succesion of very conservative (re change and also spending money on changes, I think) owners so it has survived largely unaltered and therefore acquired a certain cachet and desirability for that reason alone. If these owners had made endless changes, or I had, then it would have lost some of its original integrity (and as Igloochic pointed out, its value and re-saleability).

I choose to live with its deviance from the modern norms of house and room arrangement and lack of many "essential mod. cons." because I value the house for itself, both the way it is now and because that's also the way it was.

For instance, I don't have any central heat (or A/C) even though I live in a very rigorous cold climate because it would be complex and disruptive and damaging to the house to install it, not because I find woodstoves more convenient or attractive. When we bought the house in December, we discovered that the the chimneys could not be used before significant work was done on them, so we lived here (in northern NY) for one (miserable, I'll admit) winter with no heat at all, except for a space heater in the bathroom and electric blankets. After chimney repair, however, the house very comfortable -and self sufficient during any power cuts- being heated the way it always was.

I only have only one bathroom (installed in 1960) and it's on the first floor of a house with bedrooms on the second floor. I may change this, but then again, perhaps I won't as, again, it would be very disruptive. (And I still have the working outhouse. LOL)

Some of my rooms (which we use, daily) have no electricity. In those rooms we use oil lamps, some original to the house, or candles. I'm not trying to live a pseudo-historical period lifestyle, I just have a sense that there is some value in making only the absolutely necessary changes. And using lamp light instead of electricity is simple, convenient, and more than adequate. One of the rooms without power we use as a library and music room. When we're there in the evening, we have planty of light to read by or sing or play instruments. It's very restful and extremely lovely, so we see little urgency to electrify the space. (Though it shocks visitors and the Town's house assessor who couldn't believe it until I showed her around that a good third of the house has no juice.)

One of the great lessons a thoughtful old house owner can learn from "slow-remodeling", is that you can happily live with a lot fewer of the things that the late-20/early 21st century real estate/house-reno mania dictated. The go-slow approach not only saves you from (often expensive) early mistakes, it saves you from rushing into gotta-have changes just to keep up with features in newer houses. Many of those must-have features in modern houses will date them to this period in a few years' time. Seems illogical to impose them on non-modern houses (usually requiring removal of intact, period-appropriate, older features).

If you like the way modern houses are arranged (open kithen/dining area, is one very popular item) then why not buy or build a house for which that feature is at least authentic rather than imposing it on an older house? If you like the shelter-magazine/HGTV version of the farm-house style but want modern room arrangement, that's no problem with a modern house, either.

But remember, 100+ y.o. farmhouses, even plainish ones, wouldn't have had the same room usage as people think of now with a kitchen/dining room combo because the family activities and roles were very different. People didn't usually entertain in the kitchen, for one thing, That's a very recent, largely suburban-driven, phenomenon. Even relatively modest families 100 years ago had hired girls to do (or just help with) the cooking in the kitchen and serving the family in dining room. Look at the census records and see how often single men and young women were included in the units as hired men and domestics. Even if the family couldn't have afforded help, they would have aspired to and would have had more formal dining and living spaces were ever possible so they'd be prepared for their upward mobility.

However, it sounds from your description of your project, Lavender Lass, that you may need to think about where you want to end up before you spend a lot of $$. A house with lots of mid-20th additions and features (added living room with big fireplace, etc.) is not the same as an old farmhouse without one. Maybe you should be thinking of it more as a 50's house (without MCM details, if that doesn't thrill you, stylistically). Do you plan to move from your current house to this one? Are there other heirs whose memories, taste or ideas you must deal with? Is your husband completely with you on this? (Renos are notoriously hard on marriages.) If you're living elsewhere, you have plenty of time to suss what to do.

And, truly, if it's as far gone as you describe, maybe it's time to demo it and build something you really like on the property. Nothing lasts forever,alas. And, please, don't make the mistake of thinking that you can somehow bend the economic curve and get more house for the money by (intensively) renovating an old house vs. buying or building something much closer to what you really want. There are no free lunches here and that quote on the top of this forum's heading, is, sadly, absolutely true.


    Bookmark   July 14, 2010 at 4:20AM
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No central heating. No electricity. Reading by lamplight. (Whale oil, I presume.) Playing instruments and singing for amusement every evening.

What the heck are you doing on this Net? It's the work of Beezlebub Himself, don't you know!

    Bookmark   July 14, 2010 at 8:22AM
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Well, this has been interesting reading, that's for sure! I actually love all the different perspectives here. I may have said this before in lavendar's former post about her farmhouse, but it seems to me that some old farmhouses kind of evolve and change over time "organically" with the families who live there. I, for one, think that's ok. Historically, farm family's needs changed. The family grew and the house grew. There were prosperous times and there were lean times. In the prosperous times, the house might have changed - as in your 1950's addition. In the lean times, the house deteriorated. I think it is good that lavendar doesn't want the house to be torn down. Keep it in the family and live in it as it makes sense for you. Maybe the next generation will inherit it and they'll make changes too. It continues to change over the generations.

Don't get me wrong. If it were a house with original details and rooms with good proportions and purposes, that had not already been added on to in weird ways, I would have a strong opinion that the walls should not be altered, windows and fixtures not replaced, etc. But, even then, it is just my opinion. As a group can try to share our reasoning and convince others of the worth of preservation and restoration, but we won't always succeed. Sometimes we do come off as holier than thou and I hate it when we so put off a poster that they never return.

Humbly, that's my 2 cents worth today...

    Bookmark   July 14, 2010 at 12:08PM
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You know, as you share with us what the house is and was Lav it does give a different take on things. I wouldn't change my answer if this was a simple farm house...big or small I love old homes in a good semblance of their original state. Adding power is one thing :) But it's when people take away the physical adding a bathroom really badly (I have one that's terrible) or central heat badly (I have an area with oddly lowered walls and ceiling to hide duct work) or make a big open kitchen and dining room. One of the great charms of old homes is the separate dining room.

But do you really have an "old house" anymore? How much is gone or too far to be saved (it sounds like you're taking the old place down to the studs, so there wouldn't be much left). In which case, it's not an old home anymore, so does this thought process really apply? Is the newer portion bigger than the old? What does it look like? A victorian farm house or a MCM something? Again then the question and answers take on a different meaning to many.

IF it's a victorian farmhouse here's where my "acks" come up.....

Don't put a toilet in the parlor!

Don't put a sink in the bedroom!

No bathtubs in the bedroom either!

Plastic showers are painful (but removable thank god)

12 x 12 tiles are not victorian!

Tuscan kitchens in historic homes not in tuscanny is almost worse than a plastic shower!

Big duel purpose rooms....(ie kitchen/dining)

and badly added additions in totally different styles both inside and out or one or the other.

I've seen all of this stuff in homes we looked at and each one cost the seller big bucks if not the loss of a sale in many. I'm just saying (I guess) think it through carefully if you ever want to sell the place as an "old house".

    Bookmark   July 14, 2010 at 3:20PM
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You know, there IS a remodeling (aka "remuddling") forum for those who want to deviate to any great extent from the original intention of a house. This forum is for old house nuts who want to remain true (more or less, give or take!) to the old house esthetic

Of course SOME changes do get made over time - and I would also have different opinions and advice for the person whose house has already been ravaged by 100 years of sloppily done, careless remodeling VS someone who has a pristine well kept old house with all original features that might need only some refinishing & minor repair.

Anywya, in answer to the question - the only walls I might tear down are ones that were put in after WW2 to close off the front parlor and make it into a bedroom.

I much prefer having dedicated spaces - kitchen, living room, etc. - its nice having flexibility to close doors if someone wants privacy in one room or another. I also like being able to paint & decorate rooms differently - don't like large cavernous spaces with a bunch of different functions. Seems like it would be hard to keep it tidy and hard to decorate bc of lack of walls. I hate hearing and seeing refrigerators from other parts of the house - and don't want to have to see dirty dishes either.

In most of the old houses I've lived in the taller ceilings and bigger/wider windows gives a great sense of spaciousness and light- even if the square footage might not be huge.

That said, a larger opening into a kitchen or whatever certainly wouldnt be the end of the world either. Its just that when people start talking about removing multiple walls and trying to impose this modern "great room" concept where everything takes place around, and in view of, the kitchen- well, that suggests to me that this person doesnt really get old houses and might be better off finding something else more to their liking.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2010 at 1:06PM
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Thank you all for your input. I appreciate you taking the time to answer and some of you are right...I did ask you what you would do in your home. Then, I told you why mine doesn't really stack up to some of the "finer" old homes.

I would post a pic (if I could figure out the whole picture thing) but I'm afraid you may all think I should tear it down! It really is in pretty bad shape, but it could be a nice house again, with a LOT of work :)

There are some old homes even I (don't faint LOL) would hate to see torn up in a bad remodeling. I grew up around some of those homes and the woods and paneling, finishes are just amazing. Maybe that's why I don't care if someone wants to paint old pine or oak...maybe I'm actually a wood snob...painting rosewood or mahogany might make me cry, too!

I think Kimkitchy has a point that some people are scared away from the forum and telling people to go to the "remuddling" forum may not help, but I would hope there are some things we can agree on...maybe encouraging people to even think about buying an old home and "gently" restoring it as they live in it a while (if it is livable) is a good idea...but I'm still taking down the wall between the DR/old LR/'s awful! LOL

Has anyone seen the movie Love Letters with Joseph Cotton and Jennifer Jones. It's a wonderful movie, but I'd recommend it just to see the house. It's a beautiful "cottage" and that's what I'd like my house to feel like. I'd probably have painted the kitchen (Yikes) but I wouldn't have touched the living room...which was huge with a great fireplace.

Igloochic- I promise...NO toilets in the living room!

Here is a link that might be useful: Love Letters

    Bookmark   July 15, 2010 at 6:36PM
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Lavender, it's nice to see you on a board other than Cottage Gardens! Nice to see you outside of the normal digs! You always have insightful things to say in such polite manners. I am not always polite, but I try.

I have a situation which I feel is quite similar to yours, Lavender. I'll tell the obligatory story about my house, post a couple pics, and let you know what I plan on doing.

My Partner's house (technically his parent's but will be his shortly) was originally built in 1870, as far as we can tell. It was then added on approximately 3 times that we know of. It was all done fairly well - the basement is one basement, it's not falling apart by any means, etc. It is quite liveable. Just needs a new ceiling in the bathroom.

That being said, for a modern family (or, in this case, my partner and our dogs), it can be a bit boxy and cut up.

Luckily, when the PO (my partner's grandma and the mother before that) added on, they did so wisely. The living room, dining room, and kitchen all line up in a perfect rectangle. So all I have to do to open up the kitchen to the dining room and living room is make an opening in the wall so I don't feel so isolated out there when cooking. The rest of the house is a different story, there are 4 small bedrooms and a large landing upstairs.

We moved to our current house in the city (Cleveland) because of the tax incentives for first-time buyers. It is a beautiful old colonial built in 1910 with dark, detailed molding, 10' ceilings, pocket doors, the whole shebang. I LOVE it. We are now spoiled.

So, when we move back to the "old house" as we call it, it will be decision time. We have several options, but, living in the house as it is, and just cutting open the kitchen, isn't one of them. I personally, after living with 10' ceilings, cannot go back to 7'6" ceilings. I think I'll whither up and die!

Even more luckily, the dining room, kitchen, and living room that I spoke of are also one floor, so we can rip off the roof and raise the ceiling.

Lavender, I know what you are talking about with old houses that don't have much "character". Ours is one. There isn't much unique in it...a lot of the molding was redone in the 50's, old molding was painted, there's nothing special about it. But still, since it's been in the partner's family, we'd prefer not to tear it down.

The BIGGEST problem is outside - it looks like two houses smashed into one. We will have to work on fixing that too. I posted in the remodeling forum but people didn't really seem to understand why I wanted to do what I wanted to do. It will be in the intellectual space BETWEEN tearing down/totally remodeling and preservation.

Here are some pics to describe what I'm talking about and I'm sure you may be able to understand the pain!

Back of house. Looks like a farmhouse, kinda, right?!?!?!?!
From 2010-07-24

Front of the house. What the heck is this? Some sort of 50's re-inventing? Hideous:
From 2010-07-24

This pic is the side with the kitchen to the right, dining in the middle, and living on the left. The weird front addition shows:
From 2010-07-24

And the kitchen wall from the living room with the dining room in between (dont mind the mess, we are still cleaning and removing stuff):
From 2010-07-24

The biggest issue will be unifying the outside of the house (mostly making the front look farmhouse-ey) and raising the ceilings of the main living areas to 10'.

I'm sure some of you have encountered similar issues.
Best of luck to you Lavender. I would love to see some pics of the house you are speaking of!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I would love to build a replica of our current house on a piece of land we'll own, but we'll see. I have looked for some plans online and I can't fidn any I "love". And buying a new home is for sure a no go...I find nothing more disappetising than highly-pitched hipped roofs, especially in Ohio!

As a side note, I believe half the reason houses today are so much larger than in 1950 is the vast enlargening of the master suite (WIC's, huge master baths, which combined add up to the size of the actual bedroom), utility rooms, laundry rooms, and lots of closets. That alone is enough to add hundreds of square feet! That's half the reason we can't find an acceptable stock plan online; there are huge utility rooms, master suites, etc., that we just don't need, and don't want to pay for. It seems nowadays everyone must go to the mall everyday to buy clothes to fill those WIC's and have enough items of utility to fill a utility room. I sure don't! And my mudroom is the 1x2 area next to my door where I throw my shoes! lol.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2010 at 4:31AM
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Circus Peanut

hi Lavender,

Both of my sets of grandparents were very modest midwestern farmers (cattle, hogs, grain) and thus I grew up staying on poor/ramshackle/plain older farms most of the summers of my childhood.

It strikes me that there are functional needs in a farmhouse that are not the same as those of an urban home, even of the same period, and from reading this thread I gather that a large majority of the old home owners here live in the urban versions.

A "mudroom" might sound like some kind of ghastly remuddled modern frippery, but my grandmother's 1908 covered side porch with sink was an essential space for my grandfather and the hands to take off their overalls and drop them in the waiting laundry basket, clean off muddy boots, and generally become 'civilized' before entering the home from the farm. This room opened right into the kitchen, which was a large rectangle with a long galley kitchen on one side and a big extensible table in the center. Guests entered via the front door around the other side of the house. This kitchen was indeed the heart of the home. Must you eliminate the existing walls to create such a space, or could you add this space on instead?

Re. your specific proposed changes: do you have a floor layout with measurements? That would greatly help envision what you're doing.

For planning ahead purposes: do you really want to remove the only ground-floor bedroom? Will there come a time when it becomes a boon to the older you? There are a lot of good reasons to maintain a close-offable room on the ground floor (disabled guests? their barfing children? tiny baby taking a nap while visiting mother is in the next room?). I'd weigh that one carefully.

Cheers and enjoy! Looking forward to photos of your money pit. :-)

    Bookmark   July 29, 2010 at 2:20PM
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Hi Lavender!
I totally understand where you are coming from. Our farmhouse was built in 1895 and when we bought it I'm pretty sure that it would have been easier to tear it down and build a new house and sometimes I wish we would have :)

The way that the house was structured was not going to let us live the lifestyle that we wanted to, there was one TINY bath upstairs and a toilet under the stairs...lovely improvement that someone decided to make, there wasn't even a sink in the room just a toilet, so weird! Also, the bedrooms upstairs were tandem and the maid's quarters over the kitchen had a ceiling so low that you could barely stand in it, and I am 5 foot 2! Not to mention there was a huge chimney that ran up through the center of the house as a way to heat the rooms.

Now I am sure that there are many people on this forum that don't agree with making changes to old houses such as mine, but by removing that chimney that we would never use we gained enough room to have a full bath on the first floor without changing the footprint much at all, so I think that was a wise move. But as for the upstairs it just wasn't feasible for a young growing family to live in tandem bedrooms so we completely gutted the upstairs and reconfigured the rooms. We now have 3 bedrooms, 2 full baths, a laundry room, and a large walk-in closet, and I couldn't be happier.

We have tried to stay with the style of the house as much as we can by buying woodwork and things that would have been available in houses during that time period but we have also converted it into a modern house. And we love it, and in my opinion that is all that matters...don't let anyone make you feel guilty about making changes that you want to your house, afterall you are the one that has to live there :)

    Bookmark   July 29, 2010 at 3:07PM
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Well said, mgkinz

    Bookmark   July 29, 2010 at 4:12PM
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Some old homes have had remodeling and renovations done on an on-going basis for so many years even the remodels are historical. The thing is, they weren't character homes to the people who lived there when the home was only thirty or forty years old.....they were just older houses. Much like we'd look at a 70's or 80's home today. We want to scream and yank it out because it's not vintage and it's not modern it's just OUTDATED, and we are old enough to know the style in our lifetime and have no desire to perpetuate it.

But, if the house is lucky it's still around more generations and what you have is a home not kept correct for its vintage.....ever. A hodgepodge. Every home kept historically intact with few exceptions have had owners who were considered old-fashioned and out of touch with the times by the people of their generation. Thankfully for assorted reason, they didn't cave and kept it so.

So, I agree that there are definately old homes out there where it doesn't make any difference really to 'save' intact. But, when you find one worth saving I can get militant about it. LOL.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2010 at 4:50PM
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I do renovations here in Memphis presumably for a living (I'm a lawyer too) but mainly because I am an old house freak and closet architect. In the 70's I went through the stage of stripping woodwork and trying to be faithful to originality. That was in vogue back then due to "This Old House." Today it is rare that I come across a house that retains enough of its original features to attempt to maintain that look. Most have been butchered, cut up into apartments, etc. I have no problem in houses like that opening up some walls to create the kind of spaces people want these days. On the other hand, if I lucked into a house w/ predominately original features such that is would appeal to the small market of people who are willing to give up convenience to live in a museum piece, I would be very reluctant to alter the original floor plan, at least as to the major rooms.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2010 at 6:54PM
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I'm hoping this isn't hijacking...I'd love to hear insights!
We're just starting a remodel of our 1912 farmhouse kitchen. It was remodeled in 1965, and now that we've gotten the soffit and asbestos vinyl out, it looks like the 12x13 kitchen opened into the adjoining 12x12 bedroom. The seven foot opening was turned into closets (one for the kitchen, one for the bedroom). The living, dining and kitchen all line up on the south side, the new bedroom is on the north side. What would a 12x12 space have been? All the other walls of that room are original. Would a kitchen have really been this large? Of course, now we're debating about the wall and how to use the space.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2010 at 3:55PM
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A 12 X 12 adjoining a kitchen? Before shooting off an answer, it's hard to wrap my mind around your description without a floor plan sketch of how it is now. Is that possible? If there is a seven foot gap (new wall) between a kitchen and a 12 X 12 adjoining room, it was probably the old dining room, and there may have been an archway between them. Pretty typical. And then the room useage changed.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2010 at 6:32PM
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I'm sorry I'm having the hardest time getting the layout in the right format. I found this layout online, and it's basically the same of the kitchen, dining room, living room. Then on the other side of the hall is a bedroom (opposite kitchen), bath, bedroom (opposite dining/living). The only updates we've seen have been to the kitchen, and the two baths. Thanks for thinking through this with me!

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   August 5, 2010 at 11:37PM
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The kitchen in my current house (built in 1910) is actually 18x12. They converted the adjoining screened-in-porch as part of the kitchen, they did a good job. The kitchen was originally 13x12. So yes, they really were that large sometimes. My Mom's kitchen is 12x11 in her 1929 home.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2010 at 12:55AM
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My 1913 home is in the same alignment on the south side; living room, dining room, kitchen. I wonder if your 7 foot opening from the kitchen might have been into a 12x12 breakfast room.

My house doesn't have that configuration on the north side, so it's a guess. My north side is small den off living room, bedroom (~12x12), bedroom (~12x12), stairs, bathroom (6x12).

    Bookmark   August 6, 2010 at 1:03PM
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Krycek- Good to see you over here :)

Sorry I didn't respond sooner, but I don't check on the home forum as often as the garden forum. I like your house. It's got a lot of potential...and I see what you mean about the back of the house looking more like a farmhouse. Was the front addition originally a porch? I think the hardest thing about renovating some of these old homes, is figuring out the rooflines.

Circuspeanut- I agree, living in the country, you definitely need a mudroom...preferable a large mudroom! The side porch on this old house was used the same way. It was the main access to the house all year round (except summer). Then, the wood stove was moved away from the front door and taken outside, so people could enter into the living room. The rest of the time, everyone came through the porch...which had 3 doors...and it's not that big a porch! LOL

    Bookmark   August 6, 2010 at 2:18PM
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Lavender, I would also have to say the toughest part is the roof-lines...we know exactly what we want to do on the inside and it won't be too difficult. It's the roof lines that are killing us! They are already a mishmash and messed up. We will have to get a designer to figure out how to get a decent roof line on the front of the house.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2010 at 4:51PM
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Ah, I just found out some interesting information! My partner pulled out an old reel from the 1960's and the front of the house was quite different. There wasn't any of that ugly stone at the bottom, it was all white (no stucco), and the crown around the top was also white and more ornate. So it looked much better and used to almost look like a "fancy farmhouse" facade.

We may just try to recreate that look. There were also leaded bay windows on both sides of the doors. Interesting what history can teach us! We may not even need to put a whole new roof on.

Interesting indeed! And it's interesting what people do...they made it so ugly in the 70's!

    Bookmark   August 7, 2010 at 1:04AM
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While the rest of my house is being restored back from the multiple apartment abyss, I did a partial tear down of part of the exterior back wall.

My house was built in 1910. It is brick. The dining room was originally 15 feet long and there was a 5 foot butlers pantry. The long-ago previous ownerÂs (1939?) built a porch onto the exterior back wall of the house. A butlerÂs pantry was between the back porch and the dining room. More recent previous owners (1960Âs?) made the dining room 5 feet bigger (to 20 feet) by removing a butlerÂs pantry. They also turned the back porch into a kitchen (and turned the existing kitchen into a bedroom when the house was divided into apartments). They also closed off the exterior windows from the dining room/butlerÂs pantry. The new kitchen/back porch was isolated from the dining room by a single little door and had little windows. Light no longer entered the dining room from the back of the house.

I wanted to keep the existing kitchen where it was, and I wanted room to sit down in the kitchen, so I made the kitchen bigger by tearing down part of the wall (exterior) between the dining room and the kitchen. I built the kitchen 5 feet into the dining room, thus returning the dining room to its original size of 15 feet. I also made the entire back wall of the kitchen into windows. Now light from the back of the house enters the dining room again. So that the kitchen and dining room are still separate spaces, and not a great room, I built a framed opening between them, same as between the original living room and dining room.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2010 at 8:40AM
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Krycek- Great news! That will look much better...and no redesigning roof lines.

Lynnie- Sounds like a great solution. Your kitchen will be much brighter (and more fun to be in) and still match the rest of your home :)

    Bookmark   August 8, 2010 at 6:40PM
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"There is a divinity that shapes our [houses'] ends, rough hew them how we may."

Old houses basically end up navigating their way from their original state through successive idiosyncratic ideas of modern livability. They sort of have their own cumulative karma that way, which we become a stage of when it is our turn to mess with them or refrain from doing so.

The houses in my neighborhood of early 19th century to early 20th century rowhouses have been renovated one by one in the three decades I have lived here. Some of them have been violated terribly (usually by developers) but others have become more brilliantly themselves, e.g., a parallelogram house with parallelogram rooms had part of its second story undone, so that what had been a hallway became a cat walk. (A later owner decided to reclaim the space and had the second floor restored, to the great detriment of the feel of the space, IMHO.)

In restoring a small 1922 Sears kit house, I am going with the purists in some ways: scraping and repainting the original cypress siding; restoring the opening between the living room and dining room to its original size; putting the back door back where it was originally. On the other hand, I removed the wall between the small kitchen and the pretty large dining room (for the flow of space and light), and -- apostasy! -- I replaced all 20 original windows with new double-paned Marvins for the sake of energy efficiency.

So the next guy will come along, say "what were they thinking," replace the wall between the living room and the dining room, and curse me for not keeping the original windows. I can live with that.

I guess my point is that we need to be not unduly harsh in judging one another's inclinations. There are no hard and fast rules.


PS Krycek, if you manage to get a postable image from the "reel from the '60s," I think we would all like to see it. It does seem to me that only the sort of mansarded front part of your otherwise cool house is off.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2010 at 11:51AM
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"Also, out on the farm, a formal dining room seems a bit out of place, while an open country kitchen, with a big work table, woodstove and lots of light sounds just least for me!"

Many people expect a "farmhouse" to look like that thanks to images in magazines of remodeled modern kitchens. The reality was that after a long day toiling in the fields, being able to close off the hot kitchen from the dining room so you could eat in relative comfort was a blessing. In the country at least, it wasn't until the widespread use of electric fans, water coolers and air conditioners was the kitchen considered to be a room anyone wanted to hang out in; before then it was just a hot, steamy, and pretty much no nonsense work space for preparing meals and washing up afterward. There was a reason women of any means at all hired someone else to cook. ;^)

I would never, ever open the wall between the kitchen and dining room here. Mainly that's because there's a whopping 15 to 20 degree difference in the temperature between the two rooms in the summer after I finish making dinner.

That said, since we bought this farm, we have done some rearranging in the 100+year old house. The bathroom had been created by taking a corner of what used to be the screened sleeping porch at the back back and closing it in; MOL just crammed in a closet directly off the kitchen. We moved the bathroom to the other end of the porch, away from the kitchen. And we've been working to open up the wall between what had been the former porch and bathroom and the kitchen so when we're done there will not only be room for the washing machine, but also a tiny, walk in pantry, a place to sit and take off muddy boots, and a small table and chairs with a window looking out over the backyard toward the west.

As further sacrilege, I'd like to one day move the bathroom off the back porch all together and put it in the middle bedroom, and turn that part of the porch into a laundry/utility room. You can't get to the second bedroom without going through the middle bedroom, and in otherwise similar sized homes the same age and with an otherwise similar floorplan, that space is actually a small, short hallway and a bathroom. I'm guessing that the family that built the house needed the room to sleep more than a bathroom, as they didn't even add one until almost 60 years later. So as far as eventually moving the bathroom into the house itself, you could say that I want to upgrade the floorplan to the high end version of what was available when the house was built.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2010 at 2:43PM
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Littledog- Are you in the midwest? I only ask, because my grandmother was from Illinois and she used to talk about the "summer" kitchens that were outside, by the old farmhouses. It was also where they did the canning. She said all that heat and humidity made indoor cooking impossible :)

In our area, we have hot, dry summers, but a bigger concern are the long, cold winters! Taking down a few walls, so the heat can circulate in the winter...that's my major concern. When we have power outages, it would be nice to have a woodstove to cook on, too. We don't have access to natural gas, but we have lots of wood all around the a wood stove in the kitchen and fireplace in the living room are wonderful when the power does go out.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2010 at 5:49PM
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I'm in Oklahoma where it hasn't been under 90 degrees in over a month. I would love to have a summer kitchen, (and a real washhouse too) but unfortunately, someone put the garage too close to the house so there isn't a good place for either one at this time. (However, that's subject to change if either the cottonwood or the mulberry drop any more substantial limbs.)

We do heat with a woodstove, but I opted for an electric range in the kitchen. Without having to take out walls, I wonder if you could allow air and heat to circulate by adding registers and transoms over the doors?

    Bookmark   August 14, 2010 at 12:23PM
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I took down parts of walls and that works great for me. There is still an open airy feeling and circulation but with enough separation to creat a distinct area. In the kitchen I took out a piece of wall that was the mirrored backspash to a built in hutch in the adjacent dinning room and now have a passthru. I opened up the wall above it for storage/.decorating reasons. In the front room , there were the very obvious outline of 2 arched opening that had been poorly drywalled over ,so I opened those up to add to the one that was already there.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2010 at 10:31AM
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That looks really nice! And the original detail in the house is stunning. I love the light above the dining room table.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2010 at 2:04PM
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Dear lavender,

This post really caught me! Time does strange things.....This is the story of our farmhouse:

It started as a one room house with a lean to roof- pre-civil war- kitchen out back. Some time after, the farmer must've made a little money- so he added a second story to the room and a winding widow staircase- he simply added the second story on top of the roof- there is a 6" difference in post height from one corner to the other- the ceiling is completely level!!! In 1897 a huge 2 story addition with symmetrical turrets were done with an entire new roof line made of slate- Victorian details were added. We are only the 2nd family outside of The family that has owned it. We are doing our best to do right by the house. It is not easy- let the house speak to you.

I did take out a set of doors to open things up. The doors constantly knocked each other and after investigating I decided that the people who did the late remodel would not have made such an incredibly awful mistake- and I was rewarded- it was a tack on in order to shut off rooms and conserve energy.

My house has morphed so much over the years- long before I was ever born! We all do our best and leave what we hope to be viewed as improvemnets along the way. I intend to add a one story turret to the kitchen area for an eat-in. Yes, at some point the kithen was pulled in from outside! All design details will match what is already here and hopefully later generations will have a hard time figuring out when it was done.

Have fun!

    Bookmark   August 17, 2010 at 9:40AM
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Hi all, I'm brand new to this site - and this topic is dear to me! When we bought this house 12 yrs ago, it was a "flip", and our 1st house. A neighbor gave me a postcard of the church across the street w/a photo taken 100 yrs ago, and pointed out my house in the background much as it looks today, seeing that contributed to my change of heart (too late). Anyway - the flippers had completely gutted the 1st floor, altering so much of the floor plan that we don't know how it was originally. (At the time we were glad, and wished that they'd taken the time to do the 2nd floor also - which is still hairy plaster, lol). I'm ashamed to say, that I took too long to catch the "old-house-bug", and WE took all plaster and lathe out of our bedroom, drywalled it, etc. That's how I know how "hairy" it is, lol. Well, I can't undo it now - but I've learned a lot since. IF we sheetrock any other upstairs rooms, it'll go over the existing plaster. If the next owner wants to repair it, they can. I'll make sure it's documented that it's still there. Which, finally!, brings me to my point. Make the changes you're comfy with - I'm not a purist - but DO keep a record of what you do, for future owners. Maybe keep a box, if you take out a wall save a piece of that (smelly) old wallpaper, or a small bit of the plaster with the layers of paint. If trim or such needs replaced, add a small piece to the box. (Or store it all in attic - we've all read stories about lucky dogs finding original stuff like that, right? Not me, lol). Add a copy of original floor plan, and notes regarding where the materials were - you've got a time-capsule. ;-) Sorry to ramble on, but if they had done something like that here I wouldn't be cursing them for making a quick buck, would even forgive the shoddy work and shortcuts! :-) And I'm no expert, for sure. I can't even figure out what style this house is.

liriodendron, this neighbor is using your cab's in a CHICKEN coop? That would drive me insane! Have you offered to replace them with something else? I feel sorry for ya - those are some lucky hens.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2010 at 3:18PM
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Oops! I should have mentioned (was kinda the point of orig. post) that we DID remove the wall between kitchen and living room. D.H. put in a counter (kitchen side) with a raised bar (living room side). It was a new wall, with a poorly done arched doorway (drywall crooked, "mud" chunks falling off) and a "window" in the wall which rendered it useless for placement of a fridge or wooden pantry. Does it fit in with the age/period of the house? Not one bit. But he did a beautiful job, it added a lot of (badly needed) storage under/counterspace over, (did they have 1 pot, 1 pan, and take turns with the 1 plate & fork back then?), and allowed me to keep an eye on kiddo's while in the kitchen. (Ok, I can see the tv while in there. Whatever, lol), yet still defines the 2 spaces. It can be easily removed, & the wall put back in, I suppose. Not while I'm here!

I love it now, hated it before. Isn't that the point of it all? To love our home, and not resent it for making things difficult? (Now if I could just get the floors level. If a person wore skates in here they'd have a broken neck - without trying to move!). :-)

    Bookmark   August 17, 2010 at 5:19PM
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