Need your opinion on this house style-potential purchase

wethepeopleMarch 31, 2013


I would really like some thoughts and opinions on a house I am considering purchasing. We have been looking for about 4 months and this is one of the few houses that we have seen that delivers most of what we want. The dilemma is that I am not sure I like the style of the house and we want a house that wont be a problem for resale.

The house style is kind of fake rustic/western/cabin-ish. It has a lot of wood, which I like, but wood planks in the family room and very high knotty pine ceilings in the first floor rooms which I do not love. It also has knotty pine as beadboarding in the master and the front/office room and as trim in other places. I can live with it. I just dont love it. The kitchen feels a little small and the bathrooms have cheap, basic countertops and fixtures. The fixtures and countertops are liveable but just seem to be low end for a house in this price point( mid 500s).

On the first floor the master, family room and the hallway where the balcony is have super high ceilings and I am concerned about the costs to heat and cool. ( Two story vaulted ceilings. There is a ceiling fan in almost every room.)

Please take a look at these photos and let me know what you think of the rustic look. Is it too rustic? Would it put you off as a buyer? Are you put off by either the kitchen or the bathrooms? The ability to resale this house painlessly is a BIG deal to us, so maybe going with a house style that is so specialty is not a great idea (?)

Also, feel free to contribute any other opinions about the house that you think might be helpful.


This post was edited by wethepeople on Sun, Mar 31, 13 at 12:26

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Is this in an urban, suburban, or rural area? What climate? What region of the U.S.?

    Bookmark   March 31, 2013 at 1:23PM
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I wouldn't buy a house if I didn't like the general style. I love the stone fireplace on this home, and the knotty pine ceiling, but that's about it. It is need of updating in the kitchen and baths, the most expensive areas. You didn't mention what you do like, perhaps location and/or layout. Since these are things you can't change, ( well not easily for layout) they are more important, but general style of a home is right up there in my opinion.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2013 at 1:25PM
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Adding: the house in in a surburban neighborhood in the northeast. The lot is about 4.5 acres. The backyard is large and mostly cleared. The property is surrounded by lightly wooded areas and there are a few other houses around, separated by lightly wooded areas. None of the surrounding houses appear to be built in the same style. Cold winters and warm, humid summers. In my head, this looks like a Vermont/Maine house. We are not in either state.

We like that the house has enough space for our needs
(actually it is over-big), has a sensible finished basement
( have not seen too many of those), is on a semi- private lot and has good outdoor space. It also has ample closet and storage space. Nice hardwood floors. We are *meh* on the kitchens and bathrooms. Functional but not our dream kitchen/baths. The location is good. Great school system. Apart from the silly balcony, the layout is sensible.

This post was edited by wethepeople on Sun, Mar 31, 13 at 14:49

    Bookmark   March 31, 2013 at 1:31PM
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Out west this would be fine. I do think resale in the NE would be an issue. It sounds like they've priced it for what they have into it, which is expensive but limited appeal wood decor, not market. If you can negotiate to what it should be with the kitchen and baths being projects, then it may make sense since it has many other features you like.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2013 at 1:52PM
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The inside looks/feels like ski houses we have rented in VT and NH. In those rental homes all the wood paneling isn't installed for the way it looks, but for durability.

If you bought the house for a good price, will you be updating the baths and kitchen? Paint some of the wood?

If it has been on the market longer than comparables, then you know it will also take you longer to sell it when the time comes.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2013 at 2:11PM
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Thanks for all the thoughts so far.

We would eventually replace the green kitchen countertop and definitely remove the wallpaper border, but not change much else. We would also eventually replace the bathroom vanities but not immediately and maybe not at all. They are ugly but perfectly functional.

We are undecided re: painting the wood. Part of me feels like if you buy this house, you need to embrace the style not try to change it or make it something its not. The other part of me says that painting the wood would be a tremendous improvement.

I think the wood is largely a stylistic, not a functional feature. I The style is not typical for this area. We've seen close to 50 houses and nothing like this so far. The house has been on the market for at least 6 months. It was flat out overpriced initially ( in the 600s) and is just now starting to come into more reasonable prices. I guessed it had been sitting because it was overpriced but maybe as you suggest, the problem was a price/style combo.

This post was edited by wethepeople on Sun, Mar 31, 13 at 14:47

    Bookmark   March 31, 2013 at 2:19PM
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If reselling quickly is a big issue for you then I wouldn't buy this house regardless of whether I liked it or not. It is not the norm (I am not saying that is bad) and many people will reject it for that reason. I think it could well take longer to sell than a more typical house. Of course, it might not if the right buyer walked in or if you set a low price.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2013 at 4:05PM
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Our house that we are in now had a lot of wood in it, that was conflicting in tones and had the same fake rustic feel you describe.
Our situation was a little different in that the house was a foreclosure, so we didn't get to see the inside before bidding, just looked through windows. Other features of the property made the risk worth it to us.
We have a done a ton of painting and that has helped a lot
with the "fake rustic look" by shifting the look to casual traditional.
One option would be to bring a painter by and see what they think can be done to modify the style somewhat.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2013 at 4:13PM
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I live near the Adirondacks so sylistically the place doesn't seem odd to me, except it looks like a bear to heat with those nearly three story tall ceilings. Makes me chilly just looking at it.

Having a dramatic tall foyer (a room that you don't spend any time in) is one thing, but having the same ceiling height in your living room means you'll be sitting there freezing while your ceiling is toasty warm. Combined with a fireplace (hugh net heat loss when burning) and the price of fuel (imported gas or heating oil in CT) and I would pass this one in a heart beat

Just my two cents since you asked.


    Bookmark   March 31, 2013 at 6:25PM
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Lirio.., Thanks for your $.02. I did ask. Yours and everyone else's comments are forcing me to think critically and are exactly the type of feedback I need.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2013 at 6:44PM
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I would think about possibly creating a room on the second floor out of that two storey room. That's both easier and more complicated than it sounds, as it sounds as though you are looking for a transitional home for a few years rather than a long term home that you are willing to invest some money into for better livability. If you aren't really even looking to update the bathrooms, you probably aren't wanting to take on a home improvement project of that magnitude.

Given your statements about this being a rather short term home for you, I'd pass this by in favor of something more vanilla. However, since you've been looking for a while and at many home, I think you really need to re-look at your list of wants. If you haven't found a home to satisfy you yet, then something in your expectations is out of line. Especially for a home that it sounds like you only want to spend a couple of years in. A couple of years will pass by VERY quickly, so pare your list down to just the essentials. Or, think longer term and investing more time and money into a property like this one that you maybe can pick up cheaply enough to do some of those improvement projects to.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2013 at 7:46PM
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I would never buy that house for all the reasons stated above. But especially because I hate the style. It does look like a ski house and not something you would expect in CT as a primary residence. No amount of painting would help either. It's just too much (of everything). Not even a low price would help. If this is not your forever home, I would think long and hard before buying it. I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels this way.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2013 at 9:05PM
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I like the house overall. It is disjointed in the wood tones/styles, but that would be easy to remedy with paint. I do like the nice wood paneling in the great room and the stone. I like the exterior and the baths with the exception of the green floor one looks like some counter tops and paint would do it for me to be livable. Of course I'm not in the north east and in my area this style is not the norm.

They may need to discount it to sell, which would just mean you would need to do the same to sell to attract more buyers if it isn't the norm, but if it otherwise is good layout etc. others will also see that.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2013 at 11:39PM
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I'd buy it. The exterior is graceful and I like the interior floor plan. To me, it has good bones.

And then I'd immediately paint all of the interior wood in whites and soft grays, so the paneling reads as an elegant, subtle texture rather than knotty/woody/orange. I'd probably paint the exterior siding, too.

It's a really pretty house, I like it.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2013 at 11:32AM
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I agree with the above, and would take my paint color cues from the pale tones of the stone fireplace. I would paint the exterior, definitely, as well as most of the interior.

You could be talking about $50k of painting, though.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2013 at 11:59AM
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I would never buy the house for the short comings others have pointed out.

In addition, I do not like the exterior at all, the toothpicks sized posts, small windows do not help. The front porch is being squashed in the middle. Interior wise, it reminded me years ago, a neighbor got rid of her be-hated pine knots kitchen cabinets because the chickenpox look finally pushed her over the edge.

Keep looking, spring is here, there will be more houses come on the market.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2013 at 12:15PM
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It is a nice house but not really my style. It reminds me of some of the vacation rentals I've stayed at.

Too much wood and beams. Plus, the fireplace reminds me of a rock climbing wall!

What do the bedrooms and back yard look like?

If it had good outdoor space (nice deck, etc) I could be swayed.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2013 at 12:54PM
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I like rustic house styles, but they look better when framed by heavy foliage. Can't tell on this one because its winter and leaves are off trees.

That roof looks off-color to me....cedar shingles? A green or russet roof would look better.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2013 at 4:08PM
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This would be a great summer lake house or Vermont ski rental. The knotty pine everywhere would have a kitschy appeal in those settings. The soaring ceilings and stone fireplace have an initial wow factor. But to live in all year? I'd hate heating it, and the noise from being open to the upper level would get old, fast. When we built our house in CT I didn't want one of those wide-open entry ways for the same reasons.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2013 at 10:02AM
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It looks like a timber frame house, with tongue and groove ceilings/walls in some rooms. From what i read, this type of house has better thermal and sound insulation than regular stick-built house, which is a plus.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2013 at 9:03PM
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I would pass on this house. The Cons out weigh the Pros at the price point the sellers are asking . The outside would need painting. The roof doesn't match( is the green part for snow and ice?). The kitchen is small and the counters look cheap and are green. In the photo you show looking into the kitchen with the fridge and oven, it looks like it has just been framed. Not that it is bead board paneling. The bathrooms need updating. I'm not a fan of open concept homes or entryways. Wasted space and are hard to keep warm. So those are some of the reasons I would pass on this house. NancyLouise

    Bookmark   April 8, 2013 at 11:38AM
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Thanks everyone for the opinions. Your comments have been very insightful. To answer a few questions:

The roof: I am not sure why the roof is styled that way. The realtor mentioned that the roof was metal but I don't know if that meant the entire roof or just the green bit.

The exterior: We had not at all considered painting the exterior. In fact we probably would not do it. Especially not if the painting total would be $50K. That is not an option. The exterior actually does not look bad close up. I've seen some photos of it in the summer. It is beautifully landscaped. It has a great stone patio and nice back deck. I will see if I can upload a summer photo.

The front porch is rather small and narrow. It is not a sitting porch.

The bedrooms: Adequate in size. Nice closet space. Nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing to write home about.

So after much thought we ruled the house out based on the style, the wood and the huge ceilings. The comments here were really helpful. Unfortunately, since I last posted and today we have seen several more wholly unsatisfactory houses. The other homes are lacking either in location or value for money. Yes, more homes are coming on the market but they are priced as if our market has already rebounded ( it has not) and most either need work or have undesirable locales. The location is the one thing we will not budge on.

So now we are thinking of ruling this house back in because it is one of the few houses we've seen that has both a good location and layout. We are going to have some professionals take a look and give a guesstimate regarding the degree of work improvements will require. We are thinking of painting the wood ( I hate saying it) and lowering the family room ceiling. The kitchen and bathroom upgrades would be eventualities.

This post was edited by wethepeople on Mon, Apr 8, 13 at 21:42

    Bookmark   April 8, 2013 at 9:33PM
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Rustic homes are often stained more so than painted, or they look less rustic and more "odd." These stains have sealant in them to help protect and waterproof the wood. They are also expensive. The really good ones dry to am hard finish and can cost up to $60 a gallon.

That roof really bugs me. If those are "natural" cedar shakes, it explains the light color. But again, those are high maintenance. I'd replace them with a nice architectural high profile composite.

Get your insurance company to provide an estimate of annual insurance. Between cedar shaked shingles and wood siding, the cost may be higher than you think.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2013 at 9:42PM
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Roof: I just came across something that listed the roof as asphalt. So maybe that is the roofing material but I will have to check with the realtor to be sure. Good idea on the insurance quote. I had not thought about that.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2013 at 10:05PM
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Here are some photos of the exterior and a better kitchen photo:

    Bookmark   April 8, 2013 at 10:27PM
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Ok, NOW we are talking. See what a difference full foliage makes?

Sure, interior needs some updates, but what a gorgeous backyard! And close-up, roof looks very good. Not my ideal color choice, but you can update it later.

Negotiate with seller on painting allowance, and get that house inspected vs. wood-boring insects, and I'd buy it!

    Bookmark   April 8, 2013 at 11:25PM
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I really like this house, but maybe it's because I'm originally from California. It seems like it should fit to me, as it looks like it's on a nicely wooded lots on acreage.
Sure, it needs a little bit of updating, but it's move-in ready if you can tackle the renovations later.
That said, I wouldn't buy it unless I was planning to stay several years. If the location (re: school district) is good, I think there will always be a market for it. It will be tough if you already have a bunch of furnishings that you are in love with that clashes with the style.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2013 at 9:45AM
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I love the house! You need to get a good price for improvements though. Exterior could be stunning with a different roof color. I think the kitchen is cute minus wallpaper and counter. Don't feel bad about painting some of the wood and cabinets.

What really matters is what you think. What does your gut tell you? You could give a low ball offer and see what happens.

I have been looking for 6 months for a home as well and un derstand your frustration. I disagree with the person who said 6 months is too long to be looking. Not in this market where nice homes are few and far in between!

Good luck with your decision. Curious as to what you decide.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2013 at 9:32PM
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I don't know how much to offer to counter the updates that need to be done. Especially to correct the dated look of some of the wood. Above all, I want to make the great room appear more uniform. And tht is perhaps a big job. I dont know why so many different types of wood were put in the same room. Does anyone have any idea of the type of wood that is on the walls near the kitchen , on the sides of the chimney and the walls surrounding the window in the great room? I think that wood in particular will be difficult to modify.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2013 at 10:00PM
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My guess is that the different types of wood were used precisely because of their different colors and textures. Someone who loves natural wood would use these instead of paint to emphasize features (like the consoles and bookshelves on either side of the bookcase and the trim around doors, walls and ceiling) versus fading into the background (the wide beadboard "wall" wood). Then the knotty pine ceiling adds a third texture. It is decorating, but using only the color and texture of natural wood. See "marquetry" below to see how it is used in artwork.

If I were buying this house and wanted to cut down on the wood look, I would paint the "wall" boards a warm vanilla cream. Given that the ceilings are so high, I would probably put up with them, though the knotty pine is not my favorite look. I would find myself there gazing at the knots and trying to find constellations, as the ancients did in the night sky! For you, I would suggest that you pick the item that you hate the most (be it walls or ceiling), decide what color to paint it, then chose a second item to change. I would not paint the woodwork trim that is throughout the house unless you absolutely hate it. That is a whole lot of painting to do!

I would also get rid of the two-storey great room for heating reasons. Luckily, the windows and other fixtures look well-placed to do this. An architect is needed to decide where the load will be carried, but otherwise, it looks like an easy job for a wall-building and dry-walling crew. You then end up with a huge family/game/office/bed room above, which will have walls and a door (or two) and will not have to be heated unless you find a need for it. Save that beautiful wooden railing! Can you use marine varnish on it and use it on the deck in the back? What is above the kitchen? Would it benefit from being enlarged by adding a ceiling to the breakfast nook?

Here is a link that might be useful: marquetry

    Bookmark   April 13, 2013 at 2:17PM
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An update:
We had some professionals give an assessment on the great room. As it turns out, the paneling on the walls is basic plywood. As a result, we have no problem taking it off or painting it. If we take it off we will drywall, which will help lighten the room. ( I am flabbergasted that someone would use plywood for the walls in this house). We will probably leave the ceiling wood alone. For now. Over time, we may think about adding a room over the great room. We turned the heat on and the room achieved a fairly comfortable temperature without too much effort, which was a surprise- so maybe that wont have to correct that right way. The wood railings are nice, and the other trim, although orange can survive for now. Thanks to everyone for the advice. . I'll post an update soon.

This post was edited by wethepeople on Sun, Apr 14, 13 at 20:31

    Bookmark   April 14, 2013 at 8:14PM
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wethepeople, despite all that knotty pine, I think the house has tremendous potential, as well as great charm in the exterior. I'm posting a link to the island summer house remodeled by designer Sarah Richardson. Though the interior of the summer house is mostly knotty pine boards and plywood, the use of whitewash over much of the surface lightened the place up amazingly. She also used paint in some rooms and left darker wood in other areas. What a tough choice for you! At the right price, I'd buy that western lodge in a heartbeat.

Here is a link that might be useful: Tour Sarah's Summer House

    Bookmark   April 16, 2013 at 11:57AM
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I agree, the foliage makes a huge difference! It looks like a completely different house. Go with your gut. You can always make updates (to your liking) in time. But, you have to be able to live with the house in the meantime.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2013 at 12:10PM
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Plywood was likely used because original owners ran out of money. Would also explain roof, kitchen and bathroom finishes.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2013 at 6:46AM
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Thanks for the suggestions and comments and probookie, thanks for the link. That summer house is lovely.

Unfortunately someone else made an offer on th house. I guess they did not have the same degee of angst about the property.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2013 at 11:59AM
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wethepeople, I'm not sure if I should express condolences or not. Obviously, you put a lot of thought/time into this decision but ultimately, someone else made an offer that fell instantly in love with it.

We've all been there, done that. Take solace in the fact that if it wasn't meant to be, it wasn't meant to be. You are at least better informed about what you DO want and that knowledge should help you to focus in like a laser beam on only those properties that meet your wants/needs.

Good luck finding your perfect home.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2013 at 4:04PM
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We actually submitted an offer but it was low. Seller invited us to adjust our price upward to outbid the other seller. We declined. We did not like it enough to get into a bidding war.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2013 at 6:39PM
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Sophie Wheeler

I think it's a good lesson learned. For a lot of reasons. If you don't love a home's bones enough to want to change a few things about it to suit your personal taste, then a home isn't for you.

Also, I'd rethink your criteria and the % of that criteria you are mandating to exist in your search. You state that you are only going to live in the home a fairly short period of time, yet do not at all want to deviate from your list of wants. That makes sense if this is a home that you will spend your life in for a long period. Who would want to spend that much money for less square footage for instance than you really needed if you planned on living it it for 10 years or longer. But anyone can "live with" some shortcomings for a much shorter time frame. People live in very cramped quarters while building their dream home for instance, even if that build takes two years.

Re-evaluate your list of musts. Otherwise, you will be living in your current home much longer than you actually anticipated.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 1:58PM
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Well we,ve found another house. Very different from the first one but not as tough to embrace. The first house was better built, though. Oh well, I guess you can't have it all.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 10:46PM
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Suzi AKA DesertDance Zone 9b

I'm in Southern California, and we recently purchased a home high on a hillside. There are two pine groves down the hill on the property, and I really am fighting hard to remodel with lots of stone and knotty pine. The area feels like a vacation all the time, and I guess I'm ready for that!

Different strokes... Go figure!

Good luck with your new home!

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 10:32AM
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