Why a Window in a Closet?

Old_Home_LoverSeptember 16, 2012

Our house was built in 1875 and if you click the link you can see the arched windows on it. Only one room has s closet of any note, and that closet is built out to where one of the widows is in it on one end. Why?

I was tempted to believe the closet was an addition later but it has the original wood trim and plaster that seems to match the rest of the room. Would they have done this to keep the windows even on the exterior, or is the closet probably later and I'm wrong about it being original?

Here is a link that might be useful: Pics

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Sounds pre-electric.

Windows,lanterns, gas jets are the source of light.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2012 at 10:47AM
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Ahh! Just got an image of myself setting all the clothes on fire trying to use a candle to find my slippers rofl!

    Bookmark   September 16, 2012 at 10:52AM
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I can't really answer your question other than say most old houses didn't have closets, they used standing cupboards, armoirs, ect.

But, I must say your house is spectacular. What are your plans? Restoration or remodel? The woodwork is amazing and looks to be pretty much intact throughout the house? The doors - wonderful. I do hope you restore, but there is MUCH work there to be done. Please tell me more about your house.
Also, where was the original kitchen?

    Bookmark   September 16, 2012 at 10:55AM
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Schoolhouse: Thank you, yes we are for certain planning to restore!

The sellers left tons of boxes there and we asked that everything remain (it was an estate) and they couldn't understand why, when all of the "nice things" had already been sold at auction, lol! I can't wait to go through the boxes, as I saw what I believe are blueprints and there are tons of books! We plan to remove a bathroom they put into what was probably a study right at the top of the stairs and turn it into a small library with the books that were in the house.

I have always wanted a project like this and I can't wait to get started! As for the kitchen... that's apparently the horribly faux-panelled room with the fake wall. We plan to take out the panelling (hopefully there's plaster beneath) and open it back into a large eat-in kitchen. The place is essentially a blank slate inasmuch as there are no appliances, no countertops, no real bathrooms... but I'm in love!

    Bookmark   September 16, 2012 at 11:17AM
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How large is the closet? It's possible it was actually a sewing room originally. If you plan to use it as a closet and it ever gets direct sunlight, make sure you seal the light out; a friend lost her entire wardrobe due to sunlight through a window bleaching out the clothes.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2012 at 1:32PM
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Chibimimi - Hmm. It seems so narrow to have been a sewing room. I just can't figure why out of 7 bedrooms this is the only closet. I know they were rare then but why one at all? The sunlight issue was definitely on my mind, thanks!

    Bookmark   September 16, 2012 at 2:07PM
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Weren't there things such as airing out closets?

Also if it is 6' wide or so it could be a bedroom for a servant. An antique sized mattress is 72" long, and a 3/4 mattress 75" long and there were mattresses less than twin width at 33" wide. I've seen very narrow bedrooms in some pretty large houses. I've also seen plans with servant's toilets in the basement, so accomodation of servants was often minimal at best.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2012 at 3:20PM
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Terrific house! Can't wait to see what you do with it - & you're so lucky to have all the boxes of 'junk'.

Is the room large enough to have been a trunk room or a small nursery? In my experience, a closet in 1875 woud be unusual.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2012 at 10:59PM
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My 1915 house has original closets in each bedroom, and everyone of them has a window. Likely because they didn't run lights to every closet I assume. The only un-windowed closets are the small coat closets in the great room

    Bookmark   September 17, 2012 at 8:24AM
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Good GOD, your house is amazing! I could look at the photos for hours! Talk about a dream house.

(Sorry I don't have anything more constructive to say!)

    Bookmark   September 17, 2012 at 9:07AM
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civ - that is so cool! I have never heard of anything like that, but I guess that's the real charm of the old places... you never know what you'll get!

jlc - That's plenty constructive! We only found out yesterday that we got it (been waiting for a seller reply for 14 days on pins and needles) and so I am still running around in a half daze that it's going to be mine, lol!

antique - Actually a small nursery seems possible now that you mention it. I think it's too narrow for a servant, I imagine they would be obtrusive just moving around in there and since the place has a separate 'servant's quarters' it didn't seem worth putting someone in there, but a nursery I could see...

OMG I love this forum, lol!

    Bookmark   September 17, 2012 at 9:48AM
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might this one closet have been a trunk / suitcase room?

    Bookmark   September 17, 2012 at 10:02AM
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" I just can't figure why out of 7 bedrooms this is the only closet."

Very unlikely it is a clothes closet then.

Armoires (morphed into chiffoniers) ruled for a long time before closets.

An armoire for hanging clothes and a chest of drawers for smaller items.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2012 at 11:12AM
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My grandparents' house was built about 1850-ish. There was a large linen closet on the second floor that had a window. Partly to have light in there and partly, I think, to keep the number of windows balanced when viewing the house from outside. The closet was large enough that it was eventually turned into a small bathroom.

I recently toured Orchard House, the home of Louisa May Alcott, that has been restored to about the same time period, 1857, and the parents' bedroom had a large, walk-in style closet with a window. The other bedrooms didn't have closets, or at least I didn't notice any.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2012 at 12:40PM
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Just the speculation here is fun! I really hope the giant rolled paper in the attic eaves is as I suspect the blueprint. Maybe it will say for certain.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2012 at 1:04PM
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You have found what I would consider my dream porch and it comes with that bonus sun room (hmm...what I could grow there)! That is a FABULOUS house! And you are right, you sure did take on a big project. Congratulations!!!

I assume there is no moving in until you have working utilities anyway, but do you have plans to do some work, then move and and do more, or do the whole project before living there? I only ask, because that is one very large house, wow.

And oh, the closet.... I have a friend with a large stone house from late 1800's and they have a walk in closet in their main bedroom. 5 bedrooms and it is the only one with a closet. It has a window also. I always assumed it was for a mini-nursery. It is really way too big for a closet back then.

In the addition we just added to make our master bedroom, we had to put a window in my walk in closet also (to balance the outside of the house). I hadn't thought about needing to protect my clothing from light, I am very glad Chibimimi mentioned that.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2012 at 3:11PM
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We are definitely planning to do some of the major updating then move in. Our goal is to have a roof, plumbing run and at least one functional bathroom, radiator heat back online, all electrical updated and replace any rotted places and close the ceilings up by next fall. Then we can probably move in and do a room by room sort of thing to complete.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2012 at 1:07AM
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I had a 1926 colonial. Every bedroom has a walk-in closet (unusual, for the time, I know, but they're original). Every one of them has a lovely casement window--the original wood ones with a larger center pane, small corner squares and longer top, bottom and side rectangles. Each bedroom otherwise has windows facing only one direction, so I've always figured the closet windows (which for the most part face a different direction than the main room ones do) were there for some cross-ventilation back in the days before AC.

Now, if you've ever had casement windows, you know they're a very difficult window to 'curtain' if you want to be able to open them. We solved that problem and cut down a bit on the light in the closets attacking our clothes by putting in stained glass. We have frosted, bubbled glass for the center pane, the corner squares are a lovely straw gold, and the rectangles are a light green. We used the same stained glass in the casement windows in the living and dining rooms--and they were one of the big selling points when we listed our house for sale last winter. Half the houses on the street were the same style--but none had the beautiful original windows, nor stained glass--ours stood out from the flock.

Your home's lovely--have fun with the restoration and enjoying the results of your hard work.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2012 at 8:22AM
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That is one beautiful house you've got there. Just for some encouragement, I'll post this picture, taken a month or so after we moved in to our "fixer upper". You're not alone!

    Bookmark   September 19, 2012 at 7:08PM
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This was taken last week-end. I won't tell you how many years it took, because you might get depressed, but it is more about the journey with these old homes. We do everything ourselves, so it does take us awhile...
Don't be in too much of a hurry, because there is so much to learn and discover about homes such as yours, and sometimes when one moves too fast, mistakes are made and things are lost.

And you will want to learn how to plaster. It's funny because everything you read, and every contractor you talk to, will go on about how it's a lost art, steep learning curve, not for the faint hearted, -et al. Well, we've done a million miles of it, and it's no harder than a cat 5 drywall job. Don't be intimidated, and don't believe what you hear. Any contractor you might find willing to plaster your walls will charge you an enormous amount because no one does it, -and so they can. And the beauty of the internet means all the plasters can be purchased with ease, as well as all the other old house stuff that pre-internet was really tough to track down.

Do it yourself. Read, study, then practice in less significant rooms. You'll be glad you did.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2012 at 7:19PM
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Oh Clarion it is beautiful! Please tell me a little about what you did to arrive at such a difference!

    Bookmark   September 20, 2012 at 11:53PM
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Well, I did:

Study, learn, practice.

None of it is that hard. It's just very time consuming. Plan for that and you'll be all right.

There have been so many times where I've thought "the hell with it, we'll just hire somebody" (to do this or that job).

But then you realize the difficulty of finding someone who knows how to do the work you need done, and who then does't run away at the first sight of your wreck of a house, and if you do find that magic person, you realize the cost will be astronomical, -and then you've lost the deep satisfaction that comes from tackling and overcoming something you feared. When you do it yourself and do it well, -it can become addictive.

The rehabing of old houses in the shape that yours or ours are in, and doing it well and period appropriate, is a skill that is difficult to find and hire unless you live in a very expensive zip code.

With plumbing, electric, etc you are well served by picking up the relevant Black & Decker books at Home Depot. They make it easy, step by step.

For period appropriate plaster and woodworking, the internet is your best friend. You found Gardenweb, -so you're off to a great start!

I gave you the before (when we first purchased) and the after. Here is the middle when we had to demo the whole thing to add electric, plumbing, and insulation:

    Bookmark   September 21, 2012 at 6:59PM
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Well said Clarion.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2012 at 12:07AM
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