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Where are you on the Purist scale, 10 being the highest?

Posted by sapphire69 (My Page) on
Sun, Jun 3, 12 at 20:44

Hello everyone!

I'm in my first home and it's an 1881 beauty that I am madly in love with! I love decorating almost as much as I love old homes so I've devoured all of the standard magazines for years and mainly watch home shows on TV. It has always pained me when I read about/watch people who buy these period homes and commence to tear down all of the walls and fill it with stainless steel and "clean lines" or add so much on to it that only a third of the square footage is original.

Well, now that I have my own beauty and I've set about making changes, I'm wondering how much of my Purist sensibilities that I've lost. As I read through more and more of the posts on this forum, I would have to say that on a scale from 1 to 10, I'm no more than a 7. I'm basing that number on the following:

1. Virtually all of my remaining woodwork/trim was painted. I started to strip some and ended up just repainting it but I'm having someone else strip the wood in another part of the house.

2. My house does not have central air and I have no intention of installing it. That means practically every room has ceiling fans. The PO had very contemporary tastes so I'm replacing the existing ones but there will still be ceiling fans.

3. I refuse to change out my original windows. Some of the wavy glass was replaced by the PO due to breakage but I will guard what remains with my life.

4. When I bought it, the kitchen space just had a small sink, a couple of small cabinets, a stove and a refrigerator. The first thing I did when I moved in was head straight to Lowe's and get brand new cabinets and appliances. If I'd known then what I know now...

5. The house was used as a double when I bought it; one person lived downstairs and another one upstairs. The person upstairs had a dining room with an adjoining kitchen. The only way into the kitchen was through that dining room. Now that I am using it as a single family, that dining room is my bedroom and I am turning that kitchen into a master bathroom. With a clawfoot tub.

6. I have not removed any walls or any fixtures that were here when I took ownership. The previous owner made a couple of changes to the floor plan that I hope to change back at some point.

7. I have a full bath and a laundry room on the first floor. The PO did that but I'm glad he did!

8. As we all know, these lovely old ladies were not known for their closets and mine is no different. I have 4.5 bedrooms and only two have little closets and my bedroom isn't one of them. I am seriously considering turning the unfinished attic into a walk in closet since the only access is through my master bathroom.

9. I do not have the strong paint colors commonly associated with the era of the home. Each room is a different color but they lean more toward yellows and terra cotta and gold. At least 99% of my furniture is either thrift store or Craiglist vintage with a heavy lean toward French Provincial.

10. I have a very neglected and seriously dilapidated carriage house in my backyard that I fully intend to restore.

So, you see, I feel like there are pluses and minuses along the scale that I hope fall closer to the purist side than not.

How about you?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Where are you on the Purist scale, 10 being the highest?

I'd guess I'm about a seven. I like to have some authentic details, but I also like central heating, central air, electricity, plumbing, Internet, etc. (LOL) And, I'm not against taking out a wall or two, if it opens up the space and still works with the style of the house.

Where I'm more picky is the moldings, window trim, light fixtures, cabinetry, appliances, windows, decor, etc. I think a bathroom or kitchen should look like it was remodeled, but should still fit with the house. If your home is from the 1900s, then a bathroom from the 1920s and a kitchen from the 1930s wouldn't look that out of place. However a 1980s kitchen and a 1970s bathroom...might look a little more jarring! Just my two cents :)


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RE: Where are you on the Purist scale, 10 being the highest?

I would put myself at a 7 as well. Families now are different than they were 100 years ago and as such, a house needs to function differently as well. I'm not against taking walls down to add to the function of the home, but I would absolutely lose my sh*t if anyone even thought about demo-ing original doors, trim, mouldings, cabinetry, or railings.


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RE: Where are you on the Purist scale, 10 being the highest?

great topic!

i'm probably like a 5. i don't care about painted woodwork, so long as the woodwork is there. i'll keep and refinish my windows, but if one is really rotted out, i'll replace it. i would rework a floorplan but i wouldn't tear out plaster unless absolutely critical. if someone wants to use a modern sink and take out the old clawfoot for something more practical, i'm okay with that. i would never put up vinyl siding, but that is because i think it is ugly, not because it is historically inappropriate.


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RE: Where are you on the Purist scale, 10 being the highest?

I'd say I'm about an 8. I'm very purist with windows, doors, hardware, exterior decoration, and other permanent items, and less so with more temporary things like furniture and wall colors. There is wiggle room when it comes to choosing window coverings, but for something like a floor, there's no question about its needing to be historically accurate. I do mix eras a little when it comes to furniture and lighting fixtures, but I always try to mix the "newer" antiques with the Victorian stuff. Of course, the "newer" antiques aren't any newer than 1925 or so, so that helps things blend a bit. :)

We are really fortunate to have an old home that has been coddled and sensitively restored over the years. It has all of the original 1857 windows, doors, hardware, etc. Anything that had to be redone or built was done in a very thoughtful way using old materials. We feel we owe it to the house and to the wonderful previous owners to stay true to its time period as much as possible. The thoughtfulness of the previous owners has inspired us to use the same care, with this house and with any other old house we may have someday.



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RE: Where are you on the Purist scale, 10 being the highest?

Wonderful answers! I feel like I'm losing some of my purist mojo sometimes when I look at these rooms, mainly bathrooms and kitchens and feel like I'm so over the white subway tiles, farmhouse sinks and hex tile/penny rounds. I feel like if I was around back then, I would have done something different just for the sake of being different! However, when I see old homes from the outside, I get a certain expectation of what it looks like on the inside and I try to stay true to that in my own home.


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RE: Where are you on the Purist scale, 10 being the highest?

I think I'm a 7 but my contractor would think I'm a 10 (and nuts). I would not let him throw out anything without my approval. I pulled out the old square nails from flooring not used for 100 years (above the kitchen ceiling) to use in a future art piece. We kept the flooring which will be part of the banquette. We kept the 1910's toilet for a future owner but prefer our new toilet. When a "new" worker started tearing up the brick floor around where the old stove use to be located I cried. In the end we decided to get rid of the uneven brick floor and I think it's easier in the kitchen without it. My contractor took old molding from another house to finish off my bathroom since I did not have enough. We re-purposed every door and molding and would have had knives made if we did not have enough molding to match exactly. DH and I have reglazed all our 6 over 6 windows (over 50 of them). Most are 100 year old replacement windows. We have a few of the 1825 original windows in the attic for a very future project.

We're renovating an 1825 house that in 1917 was converted into a 2 family and we're converting back to a single. I did add modern conveniences like light switches (only 2 in the entire house and now we have a home automation system and over 80 switches/buttons). Many rooms did not have ceiling lights or any other lights and only 1 outlet if we were lucky. I added more including 400A service. I like C/A so added that too. The house use to be heated only by fireplaces. We replumbed and rewired the whole house (some plumbing from the 1860's and most of the electrical when it was invented!). We gutted the baths and kitchens. I think both rooms evolve over time and would never have wanted what was originally there. I like funky sinks and that is my playful area. Like Lavenderlass I don't want something jarring but want modern conveniences. I think I did that within my budget for the kitchen. It's not as period looking as others but kitchens do evolve a lot.

I don't have antiques and we took down all the wallpaper. The walls were never painted and I hate wallpaper - so a skim coat and paint was added to all the walls. Adding wall paper for a future owner is easy. We kept samples of wallpaper that we think was from 1825 and from the 1840/1850's and I will frame it. (It was hidden behind the plumbing stack that the plumber thought was added in the 1860's).

I tried to let the house guide me. I feel I'm a caretaker and the house will still be standing many years after I leave. I would never open up rooms. If I wanted an open concept house then I would find something else. Most contractors (and architects) wanted to open up the rooms and I said no and knocked them off the list.

I'm also working with a historic landscape designer coming up with an 1850's landscape plan for modern living. Yes, we added a pool and because of set backs we couldn't go with a more symmetric design so we're calling it our "pond" with basketball hoop and volleyball net - LOL! We're only using plants found in the Boston area from the 1850's or earlier. I'm not a purist only using the specific strain but the general plant.


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RE: Where are you on the Purist scale, 10 being the highest?

Bostonpam- It sounds beautiful, but I don't think you're a 7...maybe a 9 1/2. And, if you are a 7, I just fell to a 4 or 5 :)

Any pictures of your backyard? I'd especially like to see your 'pond' and the plants you've chosen.


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RE: Where are you on the Purist scale, 10 being the highest?

Lavenderlass I think you're a 7. We're in agreement except for the wall or two and you said it so much more succinctly thank me.

The backyard - we're still in the weed stage except the pool is in use. DH goes out every 2 weeks to dig up or chop down the weed jungle. We're negotiating with a landscaper now and finalizing the plans with the designer. Had preliminary plans for the bidding. Our budget barely allows the backyard this year. Front yard in a year or two (want to finish the guest room suite next year too).


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RE: Where are you on the Purist scale, 10 being the highest?

I agree. If Bostonpam is a 7, I'm relegating myself down to a 3 :(


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RE: Where are you on the Purist scale, 10 being the highest?

Oh, my! We may have to promote Bostonpam to a twelve so that we can hang on to our sevens! I hadn't even thought about period appropriate landscaping!!


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RE: Where are you on the Purist scale, 10 being the highest?

Does it count that I'm trying to stay with roses that would have been around in the 1920s? Of course, not everything else is specifically that era...but I'm going for more of a formal cottage style...if that makes sense! LOL


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RE: Where are you on the Purist scale, 10 being the highest?

The only thing I can say with certainty is that I'm NOT a 10 (in more ways than one, by the way :-)).

All our original windows were gone by the time we bought, replaced by cheap '70s aluminum windows, mostly with fixed panes. We are replacing them one at a time with windows that do not necessarily replicate the originals, but rather that work for our needs today. I'm actually GLAD that the windows are gone as I don't think I"d want to make the compromises required to live with the originals.

I am very picky about original woodwork, but we let almost all the plaster go (all that dated back to 100 years, not in the 50-y-o addition) because it was falling off the walls and ceilings. We live in an earthquake zone.

We try to stay true to the spirit of the house in everything we do, but our priorities are (a) it has to work for us and (b) it can't cost an arm and a leg.

My theory is that anything that has been produced in the past 100 years could quite legitimately an authentically belong in this house. It has been lived in for over 100 years; it hasn't been a time capsule.

So make me a 5, a foot in both camps!

Karin L


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RE: Where are you on the Purist scale, 10 being the highest?

I would say as to architectural esthetics and appearance, a nine, on an intact house.

However, I would have no problem replicating the original appearance with new technology. (although I prefer plaster over drywall). I replicated plaster cornices but in plaster over a styrofoam core, I replicated millwork profiles, some in poplar and some in MDF since it was all originally painted. I think if they were building my 1840 Greek Revival building now, the original builders would have used the latest materials (like they did then).

In terms of decor, not a purist. The entire inside of this building was painted some pretty dark colors probably to mask soot and city dirt, and 1840s wallpaper was often either garish or oppressive, depending. (Although period French Scenics are awesome)

I think a kitchen and bath can be anything that is compatible with the house or clearly post dates the house while still being compatible, because technology changes: I am not interested in using a basement cookstove set in a fireplace or in using a privy.

What I Don't agree with is additions done in Different historical styles that are not compatible, not a natural or chronological progression, or are clearly Retrograde. (An Edwardian-looking modern kitchen in a mid century house) It doesn't need to be a mid-century kitchen either, but it shouldn't reference something from Before the time the house was built.


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RE: Where are you on the Purist scale, 10 being the highest?

Not sure, maybe a 7?

The exterior of the house, I have tried hard not to change much although I had to replace the windows, as the prior owner neglected the house so severely the 30 years he lived here that they were too far gone to save (and, the town I live in was actually demanding this from me as part of a TCO as well). I couldn't afford all wood, so my compromise was to have wood inside to keep the feel of the interior of the home correct (being as there is so much original woodwork). The exterior of the home, is stucco - not wood. The windows I chose kept the existing frame and trim and I picked a "Terratone" finish for the exterior, which eventually picked up the paint color that was recently applied to the stucco - so it matches nicely and blends in effectively. We also went with the same style of window, which was a very simple one over one.

I've had people suggest putting up siding on the house - I'd NEVER consider doing this. The stucco adds to the charm of the home; it's a sort of Craftsman/Victorian mishmash foursquare - built in 1915.

As for the interior, no walls have been moved, although it was suggested. I felt the house was too small, and I wanted the separateness of rooms - not one large space downstairs for instance (I actually enjoy working in the kitchen without people watching over me). We have not taken down any of the original plaster walls either other than one room which had to be done because of the many layers of wallpaper/paneling which had ruined them. New paint colors, are not traditional, but not out of character either. The kitchen was completely redone but I tried to keep it feeling like the house; not glitzy modern cabinets - they are quartersawn oak with no fancy trim. I do have very good appliances, however, and we added a sliding door to the back wall to replace a wall window to gain access to the back yard area. We also moved the powder room entry from the bathroom, switched it around to enter from a butler's pantry instead, which made more sense.

The house interior trim (chestnut) had been left unpainted downstairs but was not in good condition. Instead of going through the bother of stripping, etc. we had our painter apply a gel stain which made it all even in color. We're happy with the result. Upstairs, was another story. It had been painted many layers of a horrid glossy brown, maybe even lead paint. We decided to have this painted over again, another brown but a better tone, flat. MUCH better.

The main bathroom is from the 1940's or so. Very kitchy, black and lilac tiles, we like it but unfortunately it's falling apart. We had to replace the toilet and re-do the shower already, kept those in the style of the room but the entire room really needs to be re-done. I don't have the money right now, and the room works, it isn't like any of the essential are dying on us, so that's for the future. When we get around to it, it will be done in a style complimentary to the house.

The basement is unfinished, I can't ever see spending money on that. Nor is the attic. Considering the a/c unit is housed up there, it's doubtful we'll ever do much with it; perhaps down the road we could finish it off into better storage but that's about it. There's only 2 of us living here, and we have enough bedrooms so we don't really need anymore living space. Let someone else down the road worry about that stuff lol.

Our 2 car garage is detached, original, serves it's purpose and nothing more. There is a port cochere which was turned into a small patio, very nice but we can't make use of it right now as the side door leading to the living room is ruined, boarded up and we haven't found a decent replacement yet that meets our requirements. Let alone, it's going to be a fortune to replace because it's a custom size - as have all our doors and windows.

We added a/c, it had to be done for comfort but we were sensitive about running the ductwork. Its very unobtrusive and we didn't lose much space from closets doing so (which of course, we could ill afford being as the closets are so small to begin with). Was well worth the expense.

All electrical/plumbing was upgraded per city codes. Of course.

Fireplace, original, untouched including a lovely frieze that was inserted into it who knows when.

We relandscaped also - again, prior owner neglected everything. This helps the appearance of the home a lot!

Anyway, considering the amount of work that has been done on the house, hen you walk in, it still looks like the home it was in 1915 for the most part. Lots of original details still remain, and unless they had to be removed, they were kept.


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RE: Where are you on the Purist scale, 10 being the highest?

Interesting thread. I guess I'm about a 7. I love our original moldings and details... and we've tried to make decisions that best suit the house's true style. (We spent a ridiculous amount of money to have a handrail and spindles replicated-- part of the third-floor handrail was "updated" in the sixties... ARG!)

But we've also done things that are completely out of character for the house... we combined a tiny bedroom with our master and turned it into a monster closet. Victorian? No. Amazingly convenient? Yes. And we have a laundry on the second floor. We didn't put it there, but I love it.

We've mostly been lucky with the house's relative authenticity... but it's suffered the effects of 120 years of other people's taste. All our woodwork is painted, and we never considered stripping it. The house needed so much other work, and we're doing it all ourselves, that stripping several miles worth of trim, molding, spindles, sills... was impractical.

I really love the Victorian aesthetic, so in a lot of ways, decorating the house isn't so much trying to stay true to it, but rather using what I love anyway.

Here is a link that might be useful: Our 1890 Victorian


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RE: Where are you on the Purist scale, 10 being the highest?

I'm probably an 8.5, bordering on 9.

I live in c 1855 house without central heat - and have no plan to install any, even though I live in northern NY near the Adirondacks.

I have a few rooms that are not electrified, and no intention of wiring them. (The building inspector, visiting on another matter, mentioned in passing that I should be sure to install wall sockets as per code - he was totally flummoxed when I reported there was no service - and none planned - to that part of the house.)

The house has had running water for less than 50 years, so there's no hurry, I guess.

OTOH, I have no compunction about swapping around room functions to suit myself as long as the changes are reasonably reversible: changing out windows is a no-no, but putting a hole through the floor to get water to a new sink is OK by me; tearing out walls to "open the place up" is taboo but I had no problem installing a cell-phone tower repeater on the roof to finally get internet that didn't come over my dial-up connection.

This summer I'm taking some slates off the roof to install a high CFM vent fan for my fancy-shmancy pro-style range, but I'm not tearing out the chimney that served the wood-fired cookstove, either (though I did give it a stainless steel liner 25 years ago as we used it for a long time.)

Fortunately for me since I loathe most of the Victorian aesthetic tastes, this house was built "old-fashioned" by a about two decades even when it was new, so it has many original Greek Revival details long after they would have been considered hopelessly dated in contemporary circles.

Tradition has it that this particular family built substantial houses as wedding presents for their children. Mine appears to have been built for a man who wed the first time when he was a little bit more than 50 - he lived at home before that. His bride was nearly 30 years younger and from all appearances his Mother and Father not only paid for the construction but chose what they thought was appropriate decor-wise. I have often wondered what the young bride thought about her wedding "present". I put the present part in quotes because even though it was built for them, Ma and Pa didn't actually fork over the deed for another 30 years. The young bride probably had more graciousness than I think I could have mustered. Maybe she did stand up for modernism. Locally this style, but not age, of the house would normally have been heated with open hearths but there are none - right from the start it was heated with free standing cast-iron stoves; cooking and hot water were done that way, too. Perhaps she put her teensy foot down (I have pictures of her and she was tiny) and insisted on it, even though in the groom's parents' house they continued to use open hearths for another 15 years. Good for her!

L.


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RE: Where are you on the Purist scale, 10 being the highest?

Liriodendron, you're a ten! I'm in upstate NY and my house was built in 1881 and even though I refuse to put in central air, a furnace was a must (PO put it in)! And I'm hoping to put a wood-burning insert with a blower into the original fireplace. But I would love to see pictures of some of those original details! They must be gorgeous!

Palimpsest, I love your take on evolving asthetics!

Victoriaelizabeth, do you have pictures of your handrail and spindles? Mine were removed long before I got there and the PO put up just 2x4s with ugly straight spindles so I'm looking for someone who can make something more appropriate for me.


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RE: Where are you on the Purist scale, 10 being the highest?

Where do I rate... gosh, I would hope to be an 8, but fear I may be a 7.

My 1908 foursquare (pictured in two threads) retained many of its original features--and I would never consider changing any of them--and I have been careful in doing repairs to use period pieces rather than reproductions (can't afford repro high prices).

The only things I have allowed modern technology to enter are in plumbing and electrical repairs. When I built my kitchen cabinets with the original doors, I used pvc for the drains (ran it into the cast iron vent/drain) and braided connections to the copper pipes. I have had to replace a couple outlets over the years with new ones, and replaced one switch with an identical modern push-button one. My wiring is a mix--modern lines in the basement to the circuit breakers, but once I'm at a light fixture, it is the two wire kind. About half of my outlets are modern, some being surface mounted, the rest are in floor old ones.

It nearly killed me to cut off a small piece of my kitchen molding's backband to put in my sink as it overlapped the trim by about two inches--I went so far as to recess part of the cabinet end to avoid cutting any of the window sill or other molding, so I am finding pieces of cat food in there when my cats have their dinner. :)

I decorate to the period of the house, give or take twenty years--although my tv resides in a cabinet in the parlor...and my computer sits on a desk from the '20s in the small front bedroom. My renovations are done to restore the house to its original state--since I'm not a big kitchen gadget fan, I don't need a modern chef's palace, and with my pantry cabinets as well, I am not really short on storage for what items I do have. I have two 30s mixers, a toaster from the 40-50s? and a 30s percolator I use for tea...my newish blender (a present) went into the pantry storage when I moved in, and hasn't seen daylight since!


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RE: Where are you on the Purist scale, 10 being the highest?

In my mind I think of myself as an 11; in reality, I let a lot of things slide, but my intentions are good.
Casey


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RE: Where are you on the Purist scale, 10 being the highest?

I'm maybe a "5" ... we're going to restore what is restorable, such as the wood floors, but the plumbing has to be modern.

The wood stove is on a tacky beige tile platform when it should be on a flat hearth with period tile.

I may tart it up with period details. It has the flat woodwork that was usually fancied up into "Craftsman" detailing. Emphasizing the doorways with plinth blocks, bullseye corner blocks, and backband moldings would be easy and stay in period.

Replacing the frilly elaborate ceiling fans with something plainer and remote controlled ... maybe make the LR/DR opening a bit taller so the SO doesn't concuss himself.

But no wall moving, no gutting (can't gut an adobe house, all the walls are load-bearing)


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RE: Where are you on the Purist scale, 10 being the highest?

Wow. The more of these I read, the more my self-appointed seven looks like a four or five.


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RE: Where are you on the Purist scale, 10 being the highest?

After reading about rooms not wired for electricity, I was going to downgrade myself to somewhere on the negative side of the purist scale...

However-- last night I drove by a Victorian in my neighborhood. It's been decaying for a long time now, and someone finally bought it and is THROWING money at it. Literally, the construction there rivals a brand new house.

Their newest project seems to be outfitting the gorgeous three-story turret with some type of faux-stone siding???!! Three whole floors of it. As though the new owners have somehow mistaken their lovely home for a medieval castle.

I don't think everyone needs to be a purist, but I am really mystified by this development.

*Sapphire-- I hear you about the ugly straight spindles. That's what we had too. The only photos I have uploaded are HERE and HERE. (Scroll down to second photo.) Neither shows the replacements we had made, but you can see the original railing and spindles and what we needed to have replicated.

I'll say that the duplicates turned out perfectly. They're really an exact replica, and no one would notice the difference. We used a guy that specializes in this kind of thing in our area (outside of Philadelphia) and he did a great job. If your handrail is in a place that's really visible, I think it makes a huge difference. Ours was on the third floor, and not really visible from any other area, but we were finishing the space into an office/potential master suite, so to us it was worth it to do the right finishing touches.


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RE: Where are you on the Purist scale, 10 being the highest?

I'm probably a 5. Maybe a 6 if I'm feeling generous, but more like a 3 compared to some!

I have a 1918 typical Chicago bungalow. Thankfully it came with the original trim, doors, windows (for the most part), etc.

The trim is all painted and I will repaint rather than strip. The doors and windows are stained, but the stain looks terrible and I may end up painting them as well. The windows could use a full restoration, but I frankly can't put the crazy money into that, so we'll just hobble along. Similarly, I'd love more period-appropriate storms (mine are those awful aluminum triple track ones), but that will have to wait, too, and I may only end up doing the front-facing windows. The floors are original and need to be refinished, but I definitely want to save them and keep the stain the same. I still need to strip the walls and have them repaired and repainted; I will definitely try to save the plaster but probably won't use period appropriate colors. I have a ton of Stickley (classic and more modern pieces), mixed in with more transitional pieces.

I also need to replace a ton of ugly overhead lighting, but will probably mix Craftsman and transitional pieces. And I kind of want a ceiling fan (!) in my reading/dog room.

I have no desire to "open up" the walls, and in fact I really don't like it when people do that in bungalows, though I guess I understand it. And, if I do the attic expansion, I will probably end up with too many little rooms on the first floor. :)

Sadly, the original stained/leaded glass windows were replaced by glass brick (!!!!), and I'd love to replace those some day.

I have no compunction about adding outlets, overhead lighting and cable outlets (though the house isn't scattered with TVs). Central heat and A/C were added by the PO and I'm very thankful! I love my remote-start gas fireplaces, too.

The kitchen was redone in the late 90s/early 00s and looks it (builder grade maple and granite). It drives me crazy, but funnily enough, it's one of the spaces people compliment the most! I'd like to do a few cost-effective updates there to blend it in better, but I don't have any desire to gut and replace, however much I'd love gorgeous Shaker style cabinetry.

The basement is fully finished and not at all period appropriate, but I'm not going to attempt that. The basement windows are glass brick and I hate them (especially the ones in the front of the house), but I'll keep them for safety (and, frankly, cost) reasons.

I'd love to eventually build out the unfinished attic with a master suite (with big closets!). I'd like to keep the finishes coherent with the first floor, but definitely want the modern amentities. I'll be careful to maintain the architectural integrity of the front view as best I can. No big box on top of my bungalow! :)


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RE: Where are you on the Purist scale, 10 being the highest?

I'm probably only really a 5 or a 6. Buildings are living things, and some change is inevitable. The changes can either be positive or negative. Our current remodel involved stripping the back corner of the house down to the studs and starting from scratch, however there had been probably 3 previous remodels there anyway.

In the back the old back porch and the pantry were combined into a laundry room many decades ago, and we're now turning them into a breakfast room. However, we are enlarging the doorway between the dining room and the kitchen, which I do feel a little bad about. The woodwork is all original stain, and so the dining room is dark. The larger opening (which will now match the opening between the dining room and the entryway) will help with the light (my wife would probably paint the wainscot, but I absolutely forbid it).

In an ideal world I would have continued the fir flooring into the kitchen and new breakfast room (the old flooring under two other layers had to go due to asbestos glue on it), but fir is pretty soft for a kitchen (especially the new stuff), so we're going with maple instead.

All the trim in the new room will be VG fir like the trim in the rest of the house, but I can't bring myself to stain it the same dark stain. It will be left natural. Any altered trim in existing rooms will be stained to match.

Finally, because I needed to add some walls for relocating the laundry room, I had to tear out the old plaster walls and cove ceiling in the kitchen (about half the walls I stripped were the original plaster and the other half already sheetrock, but the ceiling was original). If I had found a good plasterer I would have been tempted to redo them the same way, but instead I recreated the exact same design using flexible sheetrock.

As far as kitchen design, recreating a 1909 kitchen is only for fanatics in my opinion. I actually have the original plans, which consisted of a gas stove with attached water heater and a sink with pine drainboards to the side. There presumably was a kitchen table and then the pantry which no longer exists. Since whatever I did was going to look nothing like an actual 1909 kitchen I felt free to do a design which to modern eyes looks compatible with the rest of the house (bringing in design elements from other rooms). How successfully we've done remains to be seen (and probably can only be judged by other people a couple decades from now).

The upstairs was originally an attic. It has a fairly modern feel, so I can do just about anything there.


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RE: Where are you on the Purist scale, 10 being the highest?

I have 10 taste and an 8 pocketbook.


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RE: Where are you on the Purist scale, 10 being the highest?

Jim's witticism makes a good point, and that is perhaps the important thing to say about purism is that it requires compromise. Cost is only one form of this.

The degree to which you have family members, resale, or time constraints, for example, to consider will also limit how purely you can recreate a home's original era.

You can select historical inconveniences or decor compromises (like my problems with window coverings), for yourself, but it is hard to impose these on others!

Our decision to keep the original floors where most people would have replaced them in a heartbeat has put a couple of very big splinters in our son's foot, for instance. And the foot of a visiting friend of his.

Karin L


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RE: Where are you on the Purist scale, 10 being the highest?

Sapphire- I'm with you...the more I read, the lower my number drops! I think I'm at about a 4 right now (LOL)

I'm changing my floor plan all around and I think it will look great when I'm done, but nothing like it does now. It's a little farmhouse that has been changed a few times already, so none of the rooms are being used as they were originally intended. I mean, who wants a master bedroom the size of a closet? Literally, it was an 8' x 11' alcove, off the living room...

So, our goal is to make it look like it might have been a cottage/farmhouse that was added on to, over time. It's mainly a one and a half story, with some one story additions, which gives it a bit of a rambling feel. We've also tried to make it feel like many of the rooms were set up this way from the beginning...or added on as the house grew with the family.

Did I mention I like moldings, trims, lighting and other historic details? Hopefully I'm still at a 4 on the purist scale! We also hope to keep the original hardwood floors in the 1950s addition...and reuse some of the old porch windows in the new porch area :)


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RE: Where are you on the Purist scale, 10 being the highest?

I'm a 0. Nothing is sacred to me. If it's ugly or inappropriate, it goes. My 1917 house was ruined long before we bought it. I can't make it worse. I can recreate anything with plywood or other modern building materials. When I finish remodeling, it will have clear VG fir trim and not plainsawn painted fir. The lath and plaster will be gone and the walls will finally have insulation in them and enough wiring to use more than a lamp per room. The plumbing will not spit out rust and crud anymore, or leak. The floors will be level and smooth and the windows will not let the heat of summer in or the warmth of winter out. The roof will not leak and the siding will not crack. And the house will look as nice as the day it was built.


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RE: Where are you on the Purist scale, 10 being the highest?

Depends on the house. If I had a Frank Lloyd Wright house (ah, to dream), it would be a 10. With my '64 ranch, it's more like a 3.


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RE: Where are you on the Purist scale, 10 being the highest?

Sounds like just about every level is represented! It certainly comes down to personal tastes but I still cringe when I see people reduce a beautiful old home down to a shell. Personally, when I imagine the effort that must have gone into creating the elements of my home way back when, I just can't tear it out. Even when they had to cut out a section of my floor to install the plumbing for my bathroom, they put it back once the plumbing was in. I feel like these things have lasted over a hundred years so they must have done something right!

However, when it comes to decorating, that's kind of a different story. I still don't understand people who decorate old homes with an ultramodern aesthetic but I also don't think it's a requirement that everything be from year your house was built. I've never been one to "decorate by the numbers" and I know that even if I'd been around back then, my style would have been a little different. As such, as I'm putting together this bathroom, it will have a vintage flair but won't have all of the typical vintage bathroom features. I have also decided to go ahead with turning part of my attic into a closet but even though walk in closets are a more contemporary convention, it will also be done with a vintage flair.

One thing is for sure, I'm not getting comfortable at any spot on the scale because with each idea I come up with, it moves me either lower or higher than I thought I was!


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RE: Where are you on the Purist scale, 10 being the highest?

Sapphire- This is what I would do, if I had a big space to turn into a walk-in closet :)

From Fairy tale cottage


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RE: Where are you on the Purist scale, 10 being the highest?

Sapphire, although I am at the low extreme, I too cringe when people gut a beautiful old home, especially for the wrong reasons, but sometimes there is no choice.

My 1600 sf house has beautiful bones: Large windows, arched entryways, nicely proportioned rooms, walk-in closets in the two upstairs bedrooms, etc., but nearly 100 years of none or simply misguided maintenance has taken its toll: The iron plumbing and knob and tube wiring are original, with a badly done electrical panel upgrade after a small fire in the basement; no insulation; three layers of roofing; three layers of siding; W/W carpet over glued down laminate over fir flooring; and the worst 1968 kitchen remodel in history. In my case, a complete gut is necessary to fix all this. Oh, one more thing, it has a really nice brick fireplace with about 40 coats of paint on it. Still don't know how I'm going to clean that off.

I do respect the style of our house and that will not change at the fundamental level. I love the proportions and the location is as nice as it comes, but I need to get down to the bones to fix the house. It needs a major rebuild. I'm just not going to replace everything with materials that cause more trouble than they are worth. Lath and plaster in such an active earthquake zone as I live simply does not work well. My walls look like spider webs in some rooms. Putting on another wood shingle roof is simply not feasible anymore (and I know this very well based on my family history). The water supply lines will be replaced with pex most likely, and all the wall and attic insulation will be polyiso foam. Baseboards and flooring and moldings and wall treatments are the easy part. That's just frills, here one day and gone with the next fad.

Sometimes you just have to move forward with a house. Building practices are always improving. The problem with today's houses is not the methods behind how they are built but that true craftsmen are few and far between. What makes me really cringe is how roughly modern houses are thrown together while the methods for building them are far superior to what they used "back then."

My wife and I have found a really nice house that is built well and properly designed which I need to make comfortable again. I just will not do it in lieu of 100 years of progress in construction technology. I guess that makes me a bipolar purist :)


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RE: Where are you on the Purist scale, 10 being the highest?

I'm a 1 or 2. I love my old house, but I'm old too. It had no AC when built, it does now. The walkway between the home and garage is recently built but before I purchased the home, but I will not tear it out.
I am definitely a fan of beautifully and faithfully restored older homes, but I'm also happy with mine the way it is.


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RE: Where are you on the Purist scale, 10 being the highest?

What makes me really cringe is how roughly modern houses are thrown together while the methods for building them are far superior to what they used "back then."

That's EXACTLY what I keep saying! It doesn't seem to make sense that, with the tools and methods that we have available today, the homes that are built aren't lasting half as long.

Lavender lass, I certainly would do something like that if I had the space! A couple of the early contractors (who didn't get the work) tried hard to persuade me to take out the wall between my room and the next one, seal up that room's door and make my bedroom a giant room with a walk in closet at the back. I'm one of those strange birds that doesn't live in my bedroom so I don't need much more room than the bed requires so I didn't do it. And, after having to sift through loads of stuff and moving more loads of stuff to my house, I have become one of the strange birds that is not the least bit interested in storing a bunch of stuff which is why I have decided to use the attic space for a closet. However, with the sharp angles up there, it will have considerably less room than the picture you posted!!


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RE: Where are you on the Purist scale, 10 being the highest?

Sapphire, I understand what you are saying but most homes built nowadays will last a long time. The foundations, framing, and mechanical are world's better than homes of old. The problem lies with the finish work, which is usually pretty sloppy or simply cheap. I curse the day the tube of cheap latex caulking was put on the market, so I am just as frustrated as you about the visible aspects of most modern homes.

Perhaps now the trend will slowly start to swing again towards quality finish work and less "house." In that respect, I will wholeheartedly join the Purist movement. The good thing is that anyone can do finish work. It is not too physically demanding.


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RE: Where are you on the Purist scale, 10 being the highest?

7/8ish?

The house we just sold was from the 20's. The gorgeous chestnut woodwork had been painted over. I did strip some, hope the new owners continue to restore that aspect of the house.

We did add air conditioning--other than the unit out back, it takes nothing away from the interior traditional look of hte house.

I did have to redo the kitchen. When we bought there was 18" of counterspace, hardly any storage, and one of those old sinks with the tin base, double bowl sink, two drainboards. I put in traditional-looking oak cabinets, increased the storage, moved the sink to a corner sink (which gave me about 8' of useable counter space!).

Now, Windows. When we sold 2 months ago, we still had the old, original double-hung wooden windows with wooden storm and screen windows that have to be switched out every spring and fall. I live in a very populated area, and have watched as we drive around--those old windows are few and far between. I've only been able to find maybe a half-dozen other houses for many towns around, that have them.

We've tried to stick with very traditional-looking lighting. No wall to wall carpet for us--we like the look of the old wood floor.

One thing we did change? There are 9 little casement windows in the house--3 in the living room, 3 in the dining room, and one in each of 3 bedroom closets. They open out on side hinges. The windows themselves have one large central panel, little (4"?) square pieces of glass in each corner, and longer rectangles at the sides, top and bottom. We DID replace the regular window glass in those. The central pane is a frosted, bubbled glass, the corner pieces are straw gold and the rectangles are a light green. It actually makes the house look more traditional, and stands out from the other similar ones on the street.

As to your wavy glass--if you go to a good stained glass studio, you should be able to get something similar to replace it if ever needed. I'd highly recommend that--it makes all the difference in the world for a house to have appropriate traditional windows.

Actually, the traditional look of our house was one of big reasons why it sold in 6 weeks when we listed--it really appealed, and surprisingly, appealed to a lot of YOUNGER lookers!

Now our 'new' house is a 50's rancher. Luckily, it's never been updated, so I'm having great fun tracking down 50's retro stuff for it (found a place that makes those great formica and stainless kitchen sets--can't wait to order one!). It's a different look than we had in the last place, but so nice that I've got a great start because all the previous owners just left things be.


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RE: Where are you on the Purist scale, 10 being the highest?

Great thread!!!!! I'm just outside of Albany, NY and have owned this 1871 Victorian farmhouse for 9 years (my husband's grandfather's house which we bought back from a subsequent owner). She's pretty big--3200sf on the two main levels and a full basement and full attic as well.

If we weren't both on teacher's salaries with three young kids, I would be an 11. Or a 12. Or just off the charts!
Unfortunately, my "purist" sensibilities have to be knocked back a bit mainly due to cost and practicality. I would say I'm a 6-7 with our current budget and lifestyle.

EXTERIOR: Still has 46 ORIGINAL windows (and one new wood bay window in kitchen) but 1950's aluminum siding over top of original wood siding with scalloping on the eaves. No original shutters left, which were on every window from an 1940's photo we have. 1950's aluminum exterior storms over original windows. One section of original front porch railing remains and will be replicated when we redo front porch.

KITCHEN: I designed and gutted the 1930's kitchen that was in place but "updated" in the 50's and some in the early 80's--so I felt no sorrow at tearing out the robin's egg blue flecked Formica counters, drop ceiling, peel & stick tile, etc. Drooled at people's 100K kitchen renos over on the kitchens board, but settled for a complete, modern reno with stainless appliances (an Aga would be nice, but $$), full-overlay white doors (wanted inset, painted), Brazilian Cherry floors (wanted reclaimed southern yellow heartpine), and soapstone counters and a giant farmhouse sink (both exactly what I wanted). The kitchen looks like it fits and works well for our busy family.

WOODWORK: Have not TOUCHED the floor to ceiling built-ins in the dining room. And no other owner ever has either--other than to gently refinish. Crown jewel of our big, old house. Original wainscoting is still perfect--will put in new wallpaper (in this room ONLY--otherwise, wallpaper is my arch-enemy!) Still has 100% original trim, 6-panel solid doors, and flooring (except kitchen). Downstairs trim/doors have never been painted. Upstairs was white when we bought it. (secretly, I wish it was ALL painted when we bought it--hubby would never consider painting trim downstairs, but the white upstairs looks so fresh/clean with bright room colors!) floors are all original (southern yellow heartpine and quartersawn oak).

--Put in central A/C upstairs only--installed in attic with minimal distruption to house--just 1-2 grilles in each room. Oh well. I LOVE it! Best update we've done :)
--No major changes to the blueprint of the house since it was built--open concept would have been nice, but now that my kids are 4, 7, 9, it's not as necessary as when they were little babies. Only changes were when the house got indoor plumbing!
--Gutted one horrible 1950's bathroom and tried to make some aspects look "period" while on a budget--saved on fiberglass tub but got basketweave tile. Relatively cheap vanity/mirror from Lowe's but refinished original cast iron radiator.
--90% of the house still has the original plaster walls.
--Have all of the original Italian marble fireplaces, but have not broken through to make them workable again (simply due to $$$).
--Took the 6th bedroom (which is the smallest and has no closet) and made it into a 2nd floor laundry room with front-load washer/dryer. No regrets here either!!

I like to remember that this house was never built as a museum and it's not in a super-trendy historic district--it was clearly just a big, comfy home for one of the first families in this area. I try to imagine what "improvements" the people that lived here 140 years ago would be ok with--don't want to anger the ghosts, but I have to make it "liveable" for our family and this generation.

Am I still a 6 or 7???

-Sarah


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RE: Where are you on the Purist scale, 10 being the highest?

Great thread!!!!! I'm just outside of Albany, NY and have owned this 1871 Victorian farmhouse for 9 years (my husband's grandfather's house which we bought back from a subsequent owner). She's pretty big--3200sf on the two main levels and a full basement and full attic as well.

If we weren't both on teacher's salaries with three young kids, I would be an 11. Or a 12. Or just off the charts!
Unfortunately, my "purist" sensibilities have to be knocked back a bit mainly due to cost and practicality. I would say I'm a 6-7 with our current budget and lifestyle.

EXTERIOR: Still has 46 ORIGINAL windows (and one new wood bay window in kitchen) but 1950's aluminum siding over top of original wood siding with scalloping on the eaves. No original shutters left, which were on every window from an 1940's photo we have. 1950's aluminum exterior storms over original windows. One section of original front porch railing remains and will be replicated when we redo front porch.

KITCHEN: I designed and gutted the 1930's kitchen that was in place but "updated" in the 50's and some in the early 80's--so I felt no sorrow at tearing out the robin's egg blue flecked Formica counters, drop ceiling, peel & stick tile, etc. Drooled at people's 100K kitchen renos over on the kitchens board, but settled for a complete, modern reno with stainless appliances (an Aga would be nice, but $$), full-overlay white doors (wanted inset, painted), Brazilian Cherry floors (wanted reclaimed southern yellow heartpine), and soapstone counters and a giant farmhouse sink (both exactly what I wanted). The kitchen looks like it fits and works well for our busy family.

WOODWORK: Have not TOUCHED the floor to ceiling built-ins in the dining room. And no other owner ever has either--other than to gently refinish. Crown jewel of our big, old house. Original wainscoting is still perfect--will put in new wallpaper (in this room ONLY--otherwise, wallpaper is my arch-enemy!) Still has 100% original trim, 6-panel solid doors, and flooring (except kitchen). Downstairs trim/doors have never been painted. Upstairs was white when we bought it. (secretly, I wish it was ALL painted when we bought it--hubby would never consider painting trim downstairs, but the white upstairs looks so fresh/clean with bright room colors!) floors are all original (southern yellow heartpine and quartersawn oak).

--Put in central A/C upstairs only--installed in attic with minimal distruption to house--just 1-2 grilles in each room. Oh well. I LOVE it! Best update we've done :)
--No major changes to the blueprint of the house since it was built--open concept would have been nice, but now that my kids are 4, 7, 9, it's not as necessary as when they were little babies. Only changes were when the house got indoor plumbing!
--Gutted one horrible 1950's bathroom and tried to make some aspects look "period" while on a budget--saved on fiberglass tub but got basketweave tile. Relatively cheap vanity/mirror from Lowe's but refinished original cast iron radiator.
--90% of the house still has the original plaster walls.
--Have all of the original Italian marble fireplaces, but have not broken through to make them workable again (simply due to $$$).
--Took the 6th bedroom (which is the smallest and has no closet) and made it into a 2nd floor laundry room with front-load washer/dryer. No regrets here either!!

I like to remember that this house was never built as a museum and it's not in a super-trendy historic district--it was clearly just a big, comfy home for one of the first families in this area. I try to imagine what "improvements" the people that lived here 140 years ago would be ok with--don't want to anger the ghosts, but I have to make it "liveable" for our family and this generation.

Am I still a 6 or 7???

-Sarah


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