Have You Ever Thought About Restoring an Old House…
As a young couple my husband and I had no money and only a VA loan to purchase our first home. We bought a large four-square house in Buffalo, NY. When we walked in the door and saw the stained glass and oak woodwork we knew we had to have the house. This was in the early 1980s before Bob Vila and old home restoration became popular.
It was not easy to find hardware to compliment the old house charm. We spent Sundays at flea markets and garage sales looking for treasures to polish and use in our home. When we had to replace the copper S-roofs over the stained-glass windows we had numerous contractors tell us to just construct a framed roof and put asphalt shingles on top. This is how those remuddled nightmares found all over upstate New York were born. We finally were able to replace the copper and retain the character of the house. The remuddling advice continued during the restoration but we resisted.
We found great satisfaction in spending the weekend polishing wood and brass, refinishing floors, and bringing the old garden back to life. When we had to relocate and sell our restored house we knew we had to find another home to save. We restored and repaired four more homes, but none of the houses were as grand as our first home.
A Victorian in Peekskill, NY had stained glass and wood on a smaller scale than Buffalo. The door hardware was what drew us in. We never were able to determine why this modest turn of the century home had such beautiful door hardware. The hardware was a combination of copper and brass in a pattern of intertwined flowers and vines. I made sure this was always polished.
A 1920 Dutch Colonial in an early suburban community, meant to resemble an English Village was our next project. The house had modern features like a built-in fur-storage vault (handy for hiding Christmas presents). This house cried out for chintz and not much restoration. From here we departed to the UK for a three-bedroom rental flat in London.
Back home in the US we settled in Irvington, NY and a brick row-house built for the managers of the Burnham factory. This property had been a rental with shag carpets, drop ceilings, and paneling. Demolition was the first step. We found plaster walls, high ceilings, wide plank oak and pine floors and pocket doors. The house was small and well built and fully restored when the kids went to college. Perfect for two people.
I had eyed this old house for years as it slowly decayed. When it came on the real estate market I had to have it. Built in 1854 the house was owned by the same family for over 70 years. It was over 4,000 square feet on almost an acre of land. Wait, you say, “aren’t the kids gone and there are only two of you?”
The prior owners had let a forest grow around the house, painted everything inside a flat white, put plastic over the fireplaces, and not cleaned in many years. This was great news for old house lovers. After all, we were done with our row house project and getting a little bored. It took us about twelve years to put the final touches on this beauty. It had been neglected but not remuddled.
Our children have moved on to find their own restoration projects and of course we are there to help. We have decided to share our masterpiece with others, and you can find us on Airbnb in Irvington, NY.
If you love old homes and history come visit us. I will tell you about some local history and our personal restoration journey.