This Old House

This Old House

This Old House


I love old houses. I love the way they look. I love the way they feel. I love the particular challenges of updating them without losing style or character. Old houses are the world I live in by preference and by personal geography. I will be happy to tell you everything wonderful about an older home (or even your older home) to your heart’s content.


So I have a bias. It’s a bias that allows for blind spots and enables me to live without certain features or conveniences considered standard for newly built homes. I don’t need gargantuan walk-in closets, a multi-car garage or, you know, a poop room. I feel totally confident in telling you that a 1926 bungalow will probably never accommodate a swimming-pool sized garden tub and walk-in shower that would accommodate your dinner club. I am certain that while your turn of century federalist is quiet spacious at a whoppin’ 5k square feet, that space where the help once did the laundry might work for a quaint wine cellar but not a playroom for both your children and those of your entire Junior League Provisional Class. Listen, I truly like your 1963 suburban ranch, but you want the bells and whistles of your GF’s got in her plastic coated siding home in a millennium keeping-up-with-the Jones’ neighborhood, including that Houzz worthy home theatre. Back up a dump truck load of moo-la and we can make that happen.


Okay, this is not about me, this is about you.


You live in an older home and truth be known, you don’t love it. It’s okay, your secret is safe with me. In fact, the longer you stay in it, the more it frustrates you. You maybe bought it already planning to fix it up—and maybe you have—but it’s not enough. It was in a neighborhood you always dreamed of living, your husband’s mother picked it out before you found your voice, or damnit – you changed your mind. The bathrooms are still too small. The bedrooms aren’t big enough. The kitchen still doesn’t have enough storage or enough space for all your appliances. Youfear the wiring, struggle with the plumbing, the windows, and you wish you could “Shut The Front Door!” You worry about the wonky floors, ancient foundation, wobbly walls, the green stuff on this bricks outside the basement door. Is that a lichen? Is that mold? You’re frustrated that the heating system is inefficient. You’re uncomfortable with the air conditioning. You really wish there were space in the back for a HGTV-worthy outdoor space with an al fresco dining room with a pizza oven, a seating area where four porch swings surrounding a fire pit, and a artisan-tile swimming pool with an adjacent oh-la-la hot tub. I hear ya!


And you? You really want a new house.


But no, you say. It’s been your dream to live in this Spanish Revival cottage or Queen Anne Victorian since you were a little girl. You really love the butler’s pantry and one of the clawfoot tubs, wavy glass windows and the wrap around front porch. Certainly you could just pull down a few walls, leave the foot print just a wee-bit wider and for that dreamy addition, frame in the sleeping porch, sacrifice a bedroom or two for a larger master bath and slide drop in a treadmill, bowflex and kettle bell gym on the patio.


And while I might rather (respectfully) decline to do your renovation, I push through the fear and start my “come to Jesus conversation.” Tip toeing. Because you don’t want a renovation.  You want a new house.  There’s nothing wrong with that, by the way. Some people—many people—love new houses. It will make you happier and less anxious. You may well spend less money over time than you will trying to get your old house to match the picture in your mind. You can’t ever really turn a 1909 house into a 2009 house, no matter how hard you try. And I’m not sure you’d want to. You can do a lot with a renovation, but I look at it kind of like teaching your grandmother how to use the internet. You may get her comfortable with email, you may even get her a Facebook account, but your Nana is probably never going to prefer high speed internet communication, much less design websites and she’s certainly not going to work for Google. And that’s a thing you just have to accept.


There are limits to what can be done and more importantly there are limits to what should be done It’s far easier to build add an arts and crafts façade to new construction than it is to cram a 2001 tract mansion inside an arts and crafts house. I try not to judge folks for choosing what makes them most comfortable. Recently I saw a thought provoking bumper sticker on a car in front of me and then the same message popped up again in my Facebook Newsfeed. “If you don’t like where you are, move. You are not a tree.” As the title of the hit show implies, Love It or List It. At the end of the day, it is your home.





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