Who knew?

palimpsestJuly 10, 2012

Inside this seemingly innocent, historically-certified house...

Lurks this interior, complete with wire and plaster fake fireplace (I recognize it from another house)

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    Bookmark   July 10, 2012 at 11:49PM
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Actually the hat with silk flowers and the storm door with surrey motif, could prepare you a bit, I suppose.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2012 at 11:56PM
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    Bookmark   July 11, 2012 at 12:08AM
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Lori A. Sawaya

Actually the hat with silk flowers and the storm door with surrey motif, could prepare you a bit, I suppose.

You mean because the hat is off center? ;)

    Bookmark   July 11, 2012 at 1:08AM
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Oh, but I like the....the....oh, never mind.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2012 at 1:17AM
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The carpet over the baseboards is still popular in some areas.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2012 at 6:49AM
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Baseboard carpet: Not only is it "popular" it is the NEW way they are doing institutional installations, it appears. The school where I teach, our local hospital all are remodeling and using this technique. They are making taller/wider "baseboards" but the look is there! I think the radiator covers are darling.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2012 at 7:33AM
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That makes me want to cry. I often get similar (but not quite as gruesome) surprises looking at historic real estate in my area. Can't judge a book by its cover, that's for sure.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2012 at 7:55AM
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We have so many wonderful old homes in my neighborhood, both large and small. Once in a while I go to the estate sales, most are homes of elderly which have passed on and they lived in them from the time they were built. I can say that the majority have nothing done on the inside and look a great deal like your photos. Often wonder if they were happy in their homes or just didn't not have the resources to change.

There are also renters which do nothing of value. Is this for sale? Hopefully someone will see the beauty possible and bring it back to life. I would be curious and look up owner history, which I did with my old home. It tells a great deal about the transistions during it's lifetime.

One thing I found while painting the interior of my house is at one time it was entirely robin egg blue. Every wall, trim, doors...nothing was spared. Would have been difficult to see beyond what is now.

Loving your posts.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2012 at 9:22AM
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The great thing about a house like that is that if you have the vision, the time, and the resources, you can pay a nice low price for something no one else would touch, and then turn it into what it ought to be.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2012 at 10:02AM
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The price is pretty low for the area, but that means over $300K. The possible good that exists in this situation is that there are layers covering what could be some original fabric.

The tendency now is to completely shell the interior except for a few elements like the floors, and rewire, insulate, do HVAC and drywall as if it is a new house. If it is not done with a modicum of sensitivity it LOOKS like a new house. If it IS done with just a modicum of sensitivity, it can look like a facsimile house. Very few people will try to save and restore.

More on this in a few minutes.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2012 at 10:17AM
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Historically accurate period piece -- circa 1973 ;)

    Bookmark   July 11, 2012 at 10:25AM
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So true Bronwynsmom; the house has so much potential! As Pal noted, one hopes it ends up with owners who are not only financially equipped but also attuned to and smitten with the character of the house. Finding contractors on the same page could prove challenging and no doubt more costly as well.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2012 at 11:17AM
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Relevant to the discussion is this house, one I offered on that for 190 years of it's 200 year existence was owned by two people. I offered on it, and my offer was not accepted.

The house has some odd quirks because no plumbing (save a toilet in the basement) was added to the original front part of the house, ever. The bath and kitchen are in an addition to the side of the stairwell, which also contains some plumbing. The front, under some newer surface treatments is intact 1810.

I apologize for the size of the pictures. This is the intact federal period stairwell. The stairs are a little steep, the bathroom door straddles two steps at the turn, and there is a toilet cantilevered in the landing of the third floor. This is all very strange, but it had Minimal impact on the original house.

The steps are steep, the hallways are under 36" in width, and the bathroom situation is odd.

This house now has a notice of demolition on it. Not the whole house, but the entire back where the stairwell is will be removed. If you change the bath or kitchen, you have to change the stairs, if you change the stairs, you have to make them code compliant, if you make them code compliant you need to demolish the whole thing to do so.

On the one hand, living with the single bath on the stair landing is not something I would have done either, but I would not have embraced a plan that required the partial demolition of such an intact house.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2012 at 11:20AM
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I went with husband to his cardiologist this morning and saw for the first time in my life carpeted baseboards. It was all new to match the new carpet. What an odd thing to do. Anyway, for some reason I keep thinking of dirty, smelly once white tube socks with the black striped bands along the top.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2012 at 1:28PM
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That is a commercial glue-down solution to use one less material, since the other option in that environment would be rubber base. Using the strip of bound carpet means the next time you recarpet, you don't have to worry about the existing rubber base matching.

In this house and others I've seen, it's just stapled onto the existing baseboards. I have also seen "pathways" of different colored carpet cut in to the floor and other fancy designs.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2012 at 1:41PM
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While I agree it's always a dreadful choice for anything historic, what bothers me even more is when I watch an episode of House Hunters International filmed in Paris and I see a 17th century apartment redone in the style of the 1970s.

Almost brings me to tears.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2012 at 2:46PM
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At the risk of inviting many of you to take me harshly to task, I think there's a limit to how closely you must cleave to historic accuracy when renovating an interior for actual living in.

Smaller city houses built in the Federal period are famously uncomfortable - low ceilings, stair treads too small for modern feet, leaky windows, and cramped, labyrinthine room arrangements - never mind the issues of plumbing, wiring, and HVAC.

Restoration for a house of historic significance, open to the public perhaps, yes indeed. But for living in, I believe in strict architectural controls for the exteriors in historic neighborhoods, and sensitive, appropriate, but modern renovation for the interiors.

After all, Monticello was a modern wonder in its day...

    Bookmark   July 11, 2012 at 4:42PM
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I agree completely when talking about a typical federal two-story or trinity. One of the criteria in my latest house search was straight stairs, and at my price point you would be surprised how limiting that one criterion is. This is how my new house ended up being from 1963 and not 1840.

The houses I published though are not particularly small for the era. The first floor of the house with the weird plumbing was nine feet, the second story ten, the third eight, and the attic about 6.6, with a deep seven + basement. It was very vertical.

It was also front room , back room the whole way up.

A sensitive remodel could lower the ceiling on the second floor to get new HVAC and plumbing to both the second and third floors, and the attic and first could then be handled adjacent to the fireplaces (there were places for eight).

The new stairs will make the house smaller and I don't doubt that the house will end up with weird soffits and chases all over the place to accommodate new systems.

If a house is completely stripped or altered on its interior anyway, I say fine...because sometimes it's best NOT to create an inferior facsimile of history, but this house was intact 1810 in form (if not surface, always) and there would be ways to keep it so and still live in it in 2012.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2012 at 5:44PM
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