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Favorite feature or detail in your old house?

Posted by lavender_lass (My Page) on
Fri, Aug 20, 10 at 15:55

So many of you historic old houses...I was wondering, what is your favorite feature or detail in your old home? Is it a fireplace, a built-in, a window seat, claw foot tub, stained glass window, a particular trim piece? Was it something original to your home, or a restoration piece you added later?

Please share your favorites and any pictures if you have them. It's a great way for those of us, who may have to "add" a little character and charm, to get some ideas :)


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Favorite feature or detail in your old house?

The original tall schoolhouse door. Much to my late father's disappointment I refused to remove it or replace it with a modern door. Even when this room was a complete wreck when I moved in, the first thing I did was pull out the huge nails keeping it shut and flung it open. Every year it sags a little more, every other year I move the hinges accordingly, every year I paint it. (Oh, Dad made the screen door after much begging!ha)

Inside view:

Outside view: it's slightly open because I just walked out of it. Otherwise it shuts tight by means of a big iron hook.


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RE: Favorite feature or detail in your old house?

Pocket shutters on the windows. (Extant)

Jefferson doors on the windows of my former apartment (Hinged panels that swung open beneath the sash so you could walk out to a porch or piazza.(I restored them and the next owners cut them up and nailed them shut again when they replaced the sashes :/ :( >:o


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RE: Favorite feature or detail in your old house?

My 1913 dining room with built in, huge moldings, stained glass windows, and original tin wainscotting:
Photobucket


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RE: Favorite feature or detail in your old house?

Marita- If my dining room looked like that, I'd leave the wall up between the dining room and the kitchen. That's beautiful! Now, you're making me rethink some of my plans. Cute kitty, too :)

Schoolhouse- Neat old door and I love the screened door your father built.

Palimpsest- How frustrating. I bet they looked really nice, after you got them restored.


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RE: Favorite feature or detail in your old house?

Thanks lavenderlass. That photo was taken last winter after I restored the built-in. The upper doors and mirrors were not there when I bought the house, but the lower drawers were intact with their beautiful hardware. I had a carpenter recreate the doors and corbels and replace the mirrors, and I sanded down and repainted the unit (it is oak but had already been painted when I moved in), and cleaned up and restored the hardware. Like many people with a formal dining room, I hardly ever use it but I enjoy having one nice room always clean!


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RE: Favorite feature or detail in your old house?

I'm enjoying the slow progression of our house. I love my dining room for the same reason Marita loves hers. It stays clean.

Here's a link to some house photos. It's a 1912 farmhouse/craftsman and I need to update the pics.

Here is a link that might be useful: Our house


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RE: Favorite feature or detail in your old house?

The Indian shutters in the living room and dining room, the 8 fireplaces, the wood paneling in the den that is 2 to 3 feet wide and 16 feet long (King's wood cause it was stolen from the King!), the patina on all the old wide wood floors, the attic that looks like a barn since it's post and beam construction, the 2 long brick arches in the basement that support all the fireplaces.

Do I have to pick just one?????


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RE: Favorite feature or detail in your old house?

rafor is right. We live in an old house because we love the whole house! :)

Eight fireplaces?? Wow. What is an "Indian" shutter?


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RE: Favorite feature or detail in your old house?

Being a very old Federal farmhouse and probably the first brick structure in our township, our house was built to be functional and not fancy. Half of the beams are hand hewn, you can see the marks of the drawbars and other primitive tools, the others are just logs.

What fascinates me most about the house is how a great deal of thought seems to have been put into the construction to make use of the natural elements. There are hardly any windows with a north or west exposure. Most are to the East or South. This means that when we get storms or hard rains, it hits on the most protected sides of the house. It also means that in winter, when the sun lays low to the southern horizon, the house floods with light. In summer when the sun is overhead, the same rooms are actually dark. The house had eight chimneys, with two fireplaces off each one, and you can see how the fireboxes are offset from the downstairs to the upstairs to accommodate it. The fireplace in the kitchen is the heart of the house. The hearth is 8 feet wide and the brickwork is not covered but just a straight shot to the ceiling. The cooking was done here, and it still had the crane intact.

The interior walls are 18" deep, so the doorways and window sills are also very deep and generous. There is also not one window in the whole house the same dimension. LOL. Why would they need to be if you think about it?

Most of the original door hardware is long gone but the door to the cellar still has the thumb-press mechanism. A few others are old porcelain or fancy metal round knobs, probably added sometime later. When we re-roofed a decade ago, under the old slate we found some of the original wooden shake shingles.


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RE: Favorite feature or detail in your old house?

rafor, in what part of the world is your home(curious about "king's wood" and "indian shutters")? It sounds intriguing. Have you posted pictures here? I'd sure love to see it...


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RE: Favorite feature or detail in your old house?

Indian shutters are like pocket doors that cover the windows. We thought it was for Indian attacks, but it turns out that they were for insulation. Originally the King owned the forests. The only way to get wood was for the King to either gift it to you or to steal it. Seems he only gifted small trees, so if you have really large lumber, you stole it!!! Our house is just south of Concord NH. A few pics are on photobucket. Click on the link.

Here is a link that might be useful: 1780 colonial


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RE: Favorite feature or detail in your old house?

Fabulous house, rafor. Thanks so much for the pics, especially the ones that show how the structure was engineered. If well-heeled people would invest their money in timeless building techniques instead of flamboyant bells and whistles, their new houses would be around to become venerated beauties too.

So if your clapboards are over brick and the walls are 18 inches thick, how many bricks thick are they?


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RE: Favorite feature or detail in your old house?

I do have a question maybe someone here can answer. In one book we found about the area it mentions that our house was the first house built in town with double wall construction. So far none of the workers who have been out to the house has known what that means. Any ideas?

honorbiltkit: don't know if your ? was meant for me or not, but my house doesn't have brick walls. Were you talking to calliope maybe?


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Single wall is sometimes used to ref to an obsolete wood construction method where there are no studs used. It's also called "box" construction (box house). The floor system was first built, usually 2x8 joists and perimeter band for a sill. Always set on piers, because this was a very southern building style. (although it could have been built anywhere a structure needed to go up very fast) Next, rough-cut 1x12's 10' long were spiked into the perimeter sill face, vertically. This made up the framing of the house. A top plate of 2x4 was attached around the top perimeter, to which the rafters would be nailed. Building paper or tarpaper was applied to the exterior, under the horizontal clapboards. Interior partitions were also 1x12 boards, vertical, or perhaps full 1" thick beadboard, set against quarter round stops nailed to the floor, and toe-nailed.
Ceilings would always be t&g stock, either plain or beadboard. To reinforce openings for doors and windows, 2x4 frames were set .
There was no rack bracing beyond what strength was in the spikes attaching the 1x12's to the sills.
I studied these things in college, and the best example I found was a respectable victorian corner cottage plan, complete with bay windows and complex shape and roof system.
The interiors were finished with wallpaper applied over tacked-on muslin cloth, which isolated the paper from wood movement.
If and when the owner prospered, the walls could easily be studded out and the rooms better fitted out, but it was not common to do so, (in my region of study) because the houses were quite comfortable if not completely "respectable".
In this context, where a box construction was considered "single wall" a typical stud construction, with wood on both sides would have been "double wall". I say wood both sides because in some localities plastering was unheard of, and construction called for interior sheathing applied to the studs, and clapboards on the outside, directly on studs. That's what double wall means to me (took me long enough to get there, sorry)
Casey


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RE: Favorite feature or detail in your old house?

If you were asking how many courses of brick my 18 inch walls are, our home is constructed triple course. I was wondering if the references weren't to double course brick construction. Double wall or wyeth would mean there is an interior and an exterior run of brick with an air space between them.

Our house stays amazingly cool in summer and warm in winter or a long time and I suspect it's the triple course brick construction allowing the air spaces between the courses to be insulative.


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RE: Favorite feature or detail in your old house?

What a great thread! I love reading about other peoples' old homes and seeing photos.

I think my favorite part of my 1857 house is the staircase. I love it because it's so typical of the era that the house was built in, and so to me it defines the house. The wood has a gorgeous patina and the banister has such a nice, smooth feeling to it when you go up and down the stairs. You can't help but wonder about all the people who have used that banister over the last 153 years.

We think the original floors are underneath the current circa-1920s wood floor but we're not certain, so it's cool to imagine what it must have looked like by looking at the staircase.

Here is a link that might be useful: The staircase


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RE: Favorite feature or detail in your old house?

It won't let me see the pictures without signing in! I don't know why SnapFish does that.

My favorite feature of our old house are the 10' ceilings and Parlor/Reception Hall. Love it!


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RE: Favorite feature or detail in your old house?

I know :( I never used to have problems posting photos here, but ever since I upgraded my Firefox browser I've had trouble. I can't seem to get the url of any photos for some reason - it links to my entire Snapfish account instead. I can't figure out how to edit my last message to remove the link, either. Sorry, don't mean to be a tease!

I did post photos of the staircase in this forum post from a few months ago, before I had problems posting photos. The photos are linked in the 5th and 6th messages down. Kind of a pain - sorry.

Here is a link that might be useful: Staircase photos, scroll down a little...


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RE: Favorite feature or detail in your old house?

Oh that is just beautiful JLC!


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What a fantastic thread! All the beautiful homes!

Like calliope, I've been most impressed with how well-planned the home is. Before we purchased, I'd been reading a lot of passive solar, and getting frustrated when house shopping that nothing used even a basic element like orientation of the house! This home is amazing with the south-facing windows and the overhang and the living/dining/kitchen on the south side. We moved in Jan, so we were getting lot of sun, and I worried about the summer, but figured we'd be able to somehow extend the overhang or put in a pergola, but none of it was necessary. It's fantastic! Also, though the home is 1912, there were never any fireplaces. It's always been radiant heat. At first we were a little disappointed since fireplaces are beautiful, but now I'm just so impressed with their ingenuity!

Everything here is half-finished. I kind of figure it's better to get all the mess out of the way at once. So please ignore the half-done projects. The staircase and porch are my favorites, though :-)
staircase
porch


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RE: Favorite feature or detail in your old house?

rafor - fabulous house. I love it.

jlc - equally fabulous staircase.

My school has double frame walls, there is space between the exterior and interior walls (forget the width). Originally all walls and ceiling had horsehair plaster and lath. My uncle nailed wallboard over most of it. He "housified" the building, running a partition right across the center of it. He made rooms in one half, a workshop and garage for his auto in the other.


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RE: Favorite feature or detail in your old house?

Thanks for the compliments!! I can't take too much credit as we only bought it a few month ago. Every room is wallpapered, some not to my taste. But I think if I paint the walls, the plaster might show off more of it's curves!!! The only room we re-did was the downstairs bath for my parents. It was awful. I also took down the wallpaper (mostly, still have a little left around windows) in the kitchen and painted a soft yellow.

A porch: that is one thing I don't have and it wouldn't fit on the colonial if I added one. But not to worry, I'm planning on a porch on the back of my glass house that we're building :)


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RE: Favorite feature or detail in your old house?

This IS a good thread. Nice houses! My favorite thing about my 1908 cottage is the proportions of the rooms and beautiful trim work, which I restored. I especially love the picture rail; it is so convenient. I also love my enclosed front porch.

Diane
Photobucket


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RE: Favorite feature or detail in your old house?

The features that drew me to my house were the room sizes; no small cut-up rooms, they are all very spacious boxes. I really like the staircase and the second floor stair hall, because it's so open; the attic stairs rise from a bedroom.

My two favorite details are my own projects, installing a piece of "gingerbread" I made back in like 1984, and the 1884 kitchen door I got off ebay.

Living room & foyer

My New Back Door

Casey


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I am absolutely drooling over these photos. Everyone has such an amazing old home! And sombreuil, that is one heck of an eBay find. It's gorgeous!


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RE: Favorite feature or detail in your old house?

My favorite kind of thread - lots of amazing pictures!!
@ schoolhouse, way to go on saving that door! It is irreplacable. The screen is adorable on it, too!
@ marita, your dining room is beautiful ~ looks like a magazine cover! The huge moldings are like nothing I have seen before.
@ goldust your farmhouse is so lovely ~ I love the pictures!
@ rafor I am speechless! The arches in the basement to the rafters in the attic and everything in between. What a treasure you have there!
@ jlc and cookingofjoy, you staircases are really fun. I have a soft spot for old stairways.
@ powermuffin, you did an amazing job with your trim. And your floors look beautiful too!
@ sombreuil, your gingerbread work is amazing! Very nice, and I agree that your door is the e-bay find of a lifetime. Gorgeous! Did you have to build the frame to suit, or were you lucky enough to have the door fit?

I agree that I couldn't pick just one favorite thing of my house. I love the entire house, top to bottom. But I will attatch a few picks of my favorites. We have had to do very little restoration on the interior of our home; no painted woodwork and the walls are all amazingly intact. It is a 1904 Queen Anne style with a wrap-around front porch including a turrett (sp?) on the porch roof. The porch is one of my favorite features. It was restored last summer to (as close as we could achieve) it's original state. The original porch was all there, we just had to replace a lot of damaged structure.
THe house has only 1 fireplace. When we bought the house it was a single mantle. In the basement, wrapped in plastic, was a second matching mantle and post that matched the bottom. A second post was part of a fern stand that sat next to the fireplace and fortunately the owners left it there for us; She explained that it had "always been there" and she was not going to move it. They owned the house for 40 years! I hope to be able to add pics of all these features.
I hope you enjoy the pictures as much as I have enjoyed all of yours!!


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RE: Favorite feature or detail in your old house?

mrsrichards; I searched several months to find a door 34" wide and 83" tall, the original size in that opening. Not a common or standard size nowadays.
All I had to do was strip the paint and refinish, and find the hardware to match it in decorative value.
Casey


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RE: Favorite feature or detail in your old house?

This is a great thread & a joy to read; everyone's houses are lovely. I was making a list of my favs but realized that most are definately NOT photo worthy in their 'as found' state that only a mother could love.

The 1858 heart pine floors are worthy
Photobucket

My staircase is unrestored & is a project for the future or a future owner, but it's sound except for the railing. Considering the house is a late Greek Revival, the geometric half-turn stair is amazingly light & graceful. My favorite part is the area where the direction changes. Note the way the side edge of the top tread curves to accent the shape of the well. Inside the well, all the trim follows half moon shape. Also note the lovely 2x4 that someone used to replace some of the spindles.
Photobucket Photobucket

I think my absolute favorite is the way everything is perfectly scaled. Simple yet Bold was the very appropriate motto for Greek Revivals & there's always that spacious, grand feeling even in the not-so-grand houses.


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I am loving this thread. I wish I could take a photo of my favorite things, but its the breeze we get through the house.

Built in about 1903, ours was originally a summer home for a wealthy family and the layout of the windows provides one of the most amazing tornadoes of breeze right up through the house from the basement (when the door is propped open, to the third floor. Its astounding.

Now, I need to have a chat with our local weathermen and request some days when its cool enough to open the windows (3 months of more than 90 degree days this summer)


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RE: Favorite feature or detail in your old house?

I love the fleur-de-lis corner moulding details in the living room and dining rooms, the large baseboard mouldings (I just wish they were not painted!), the front door with the manual doorbell (only the key is there, the bell is gone :-( ),the basement stairs that look like they were hand hewn from a log, and the gleaming hardwood floors (even with their burn marks and dings).Oh, and the trim around all the doorways and the little closet in the dining room,which I'm guessing was intended to hold the silver and linens? So many projects,though, to bring her back to the way she was intended to be, but a labor of love!

Here is a link that might be useful: kindred_NY


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RE: Favorite feature or detail in your old house?

And I forgot the teeny-tiny railings upstairs around the stairway the we fondly refer to as "the tripping hazard".lol. They are 23" high. I can add pics if anyone would like to see.


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RE: Favorite feature or detail in your old house?

Front door with twist doorbell. So cool!

the twist style doorbell on the front door

fleur-de-lis in the dining and living rooms

guess I should have dusted before taking pics! :-)


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RE: Favorite feature or detail in your old house?

My favorite features in our house are the bathrooms--two tiled art deco bathrooms, with the original 1930s sinks (and original tub, in one; the other is a tiled shower). One is tiled in pink and blue, the other in (this sounds weird but it works) peach and burgundy. Will post photos later if I can figure out how.


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*If* anyone wants to see pictures?! LOL, of coarse ~ pictures are always welcome ;) Kindred I love your door ~ have you looked through any of the salvage sites to see if there is a ringer that would work to replace the bell? I was looking for a latch for our back door and it seems like there may be something similar out there. Just a thought.

ideagirl2, the origial tile bathrooms are the BEST!


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RE: Favorite feature or detail in your old house?

I don't think I could pick one favorite thing about my home... I would say in general my favorite thing would be all the wood work.. I also love all the ornate radiators in the house... The main sitting room is all done in birds eye maple.. all the trim,the fire place,and the pocket door... Here is a link to pictures is you're interested...
http://s1081.photobucket.com/albums/j341/ambersandsean/house/


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RE: Favorite feature or detail in your old house?

Wow, Amber... Looked at the pics, and I can't pick a favorite thing in your home either! The window seat/bench built in competes with that staircase! The whole place makes me wonder how many storage units you have, lol! (Not ONE bit of clutter? At all, anywhere?). :-)

I can't pick a favorite, but I've been griping about this old house so much lately that it seems time to focus on the "good".

One thing - and probably not even original - is the side porch. Its enclosed, the lower 1/2 is verticle 6"(ish) boards, above that windows. But no glass, that's the odd part. There are wood frames in place, very simple & no place for glass..and inside those are moveable wood "frames" that slide up/down. Up is closed, & frame settles into a space to secure it. I "plastic" the permanent frames in fall (yikes, gotta re-do that!) & have planned to staple screen to the inner up or down frames. Anyone else have this? I did take photo's, when I painted this summer, I'll try to get DH to help me post them.
Oh, GAWD - raining HARD now, & wind! (Is that hail??)!!!
NOOOOO!! (Roof/attic situation). Sigh.


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RE: Favorite feature or detail in your old house?

y ks_toolgirl

Well it looks like there is no clutter in the pictures, but some of those pictures are actually pictures of the house from when the last owner lived in it (who was an interior decorator) and the others I made sure to move the clutter out of the way before taking pictures... Right now there is defiantly alittle clutter because we're just moving in lol But there is a lot of storage space in the house.

I've always wanted an enclosed porch, so I could sit "outside" and read without dealing with bugs! lol Hope you can post some pictures!


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RE: Favorite feature or detail in your old house?

Amber, beautiful pics!
toolgirl, I would love to see pics of the porch,too!
Mrsrichards, I've searched for hours to find a bell. No luck.That would make me giggle like a schoolgirl to find one,though! I'll try to take some pics of the upstairs railing. I've considered trying to somehow raise the height without losing the charm of the woodwork, maybe by using dowels to try and connect the posts to new wood. We'll see...


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@ amber89 ~ your home is beautiful! I love the horizontal stripe wall paper in the diningroom. I don't believe I have seen that before ~ and the entryway is beautiful... all very nice. Thanks for sharing your pictures!

@kindred, bummer on the bell. You never know, when you are *not* looking maybe you will stumble across one. Just don't stumble by that railing, lol.

As for porches; I adore my porches however they are open to all elements... bugs, snow, wind, leaves, neighbors.... ;)


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RE: Favorite feature or detail in your old house?

I love this thread too! So many beautiful homes!

Amber, I just took a look at your photos... such a terrific home! I liked all your bay/alcove windows, your fireplaces and your stairs best! I'd love to see some pics of the exterior. Looks like you have a victorian?

Our home is modest compared to many here, but I love the victorian door hardware, and we have a twist doorbell too. The bell is still there but it makes a clacking sound more than a ring most of the time. Needs new inside parts! I also love our heart pine floors, wood work and porch. Maybe I'll post some pics later, just for fun.

Hope others will post more photos. I love looking!

Cheers, -Kim


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RE: Favorite feature or detail in your old house?

We have a twist doorbell, but it's something that DH installed a few years ago. I like it so much better than an electric one.

There are a lot of things that I love about our house, but I would have to say that my favorite would be all of the T&G car siding that we have in our kitchen. It was buried under cracked and sagging lath and plaster that DH and I tore out ourselves and it covers everything--ceiling, walls, wainscoting. We sanded and painted and it turned out beautiful.

I also like that every stick of wood in our house is yellow poplar which makes it not so attractive to bugs. :)


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RE: Favorite feature or detail in your old house?

Ok... IF this works, this is interior of one of the porch windows - the darker green frame is the part that slides up.

Photobucket


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House pic w/side porch

I can't believe that worked! :-)
This is the house, with view of side porch. (Please excuse the messy yard, I was preparing to paint the front porch floor so porch things were all in yard!).
Any idea what kind of house it is, btw?
Photobucket


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RE: Favorite feature or detail in your old house?

Toolgirl, what an adorable home! Sorry, I have no idea what kind, but so cute!


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RE: Favorite feature or detail in your old house?

kindred, I found a bell for my front entry on ebay...had to get the paint off, but it's really nice--antique bronze.
My favorite part of my house--I'd have to say the woodwork, and the original pendant lights--entry has a double, parlor and dining room have four surrounding a central dome, kitchen has a bee-hive shape, and pantry has a double.
Will get pics sometime when the clutter is cleared away. :)


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RE: Favorite feature or detail in your old house?

Thanks for the hint. I haven't found one yet, but I'll have to keep looking. I'm looking forward to seeing pics of your home!


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RE: Favorite feature or detail in your old house?

Okay I think I have finally decided on one of my most favorite things about my 230 year old house. I'm sitting here at my computer right in front of the window watching the trees blowing in the really strong winds we are having right now. Everything outside is blowing like crazy and yet not a creak or a groan or any movement whatsoever in my house! New stick built houses sway and creak during high winds. This old beauty just stands strong and proud. Love it!!!

Photobucket


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RE: Favorite feature or detail in your old house?

@rafor, that is such a great feature!! Although our home is much younger than yours at the adolescent age of 106 ;) If the kids are fretting over an impending storm I remind them that this old gal has stood for 100+ years and should stand another 100+! I sometimes like to venture up to the attic during a good storm, the best observation point in the neighborhood, lol!


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