Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The New Old House - Getting the Details Right

We love old houses.  And we love restoring them.  But this house was a unique challenge for us, because it was completely gutted when we bought it.

First floor starting point
There really wasn't much to restore.  No walls, no doors, no hardware, just a shell of a building.  So our goal was to give it old house charm, even though we didn't have original material to work with.

How did we do it?  We tried to focus on the character of the house in key areas:

1) Architecture and Style

This house was built in 1906 and we wanted to capture that style as we enlarged the house.  That meant we copied the gambrel roofline as we added the garage/master suite.

What does that mean on the interior?  Well, we have lots of funky angles (we like to call them charm!), that are the result of the gambrel roofline.  As one of our contractors said the other day - 'this sure doesn't look like a new house! No one would create these complicated angles!'.
2) Antique Elements

Original ceiling.....not much to look at early in the project!
Even though there is a lot of new in this house, we wanted to have some antique elements, to connect it with its 1906 roots.  One thing we were excited about, was the original bead board ceiling.  Sure, it was overspanned (needing new structural support) and some of the joists had major damage - but that could all be fixed.  And it adds unique cottage character to the first floor.

But saving this ceiling was a challenge!  It meant lots of creative plumbing and electrical work and 2 full weeks of carpentry, to integrate the new load carrying beams with the old ceiling system

But the finished product, made it all worth it.  We wrapped the new beams with lumber reclaimed from the house and finished the rest of the ceiling in crisp white paint.  It has a real 'wow' factor as you walk in the front door.
And to make it even better?  The most exciting bit of history we found in the house was a 1906 stud, with the name of the original homeowner - Soule - and the landowner - Captail Willard.  We made it into a plaque and mounted it on one of the reclaimed lumber beams.  How cool is that?
Another antique element was a big job.  Since we were adding a new fireplace, we needed a mantle to frame it.  I found this Eastlake style mantle and knew it would be perfect for the living room.  It took a lot of work to remove the many layers of paint, that were covering up some of the beautiful carvings.  But look at how gorgeous it is now!  Our amazing carpenters modified the mantle to fit the space and added beautiful bookcases on either side.

3) Hardware

It probably sounds silly to obsess about doorknobs.  But it made me crazy that we didn't have old fashioned doorknobs for the house.  So imagine how excited I was to discover these replicas from Nostalgic Warehouse.
They had a huge number of choices, but I finally settled on this simple long plate, with an oval crystal knob.  Aren't they fantastic??!

The other element that really gives a house antique character is the lighting.  I spent countless hours, trying to find just the right lights for this house.  I wanted something traditional, but with a nautical flair, given our coastal Maine location.  This Circa 1900 Steamliner flush mount is a reproduction of a turn of the century ocean liner fixture, from Restoration Hardware.

They also had this reproduction nautical light that I put in the 'boys' bedroom.  It's fabulous in a room with a tall ceiling!

But my favorite is this nautical light for the dining room.  It's part of the Ralph Lauren Montauk line for Circa Lighting - and I absolutely love it!

What do you do in a dark hallway, with lots of funky angles?  Add a nautical sconce of course!  This one from Restoration Hardware is gorgeous, but they've since discontinued this line.  Such a shame - their nautical style lights are so nice!
And let's not forget bathroom fixtures, when you're looking for old house styling.  Carrera marble countertops and these gorgeous faucets from Watermark (made in Brooklyn) are perfect! 

But in my experience, while people love antique style, they still want modern amenities.  So we have an open floor plan, vs a lot of small rooms.  We have a modern kitchen, with new, energy saving appliances.

We have modern bathrooms - but have integrated classic materials like marble floors and insets.  So a great blend of old and new.

And we're pretty pleased with the outcome.  It has that old house character, with new house amenities.  As we finish up the last details, this house is feeling more like a home every day.  With a lot of new antique charm!!!

Door Knobs - Nostalgic Warehouse
Lighting - Restoration Hardware 
Master Bath Fixtures - Watermark
Bridge Faucet - Wayfair Charleston Faucet
Ralph Lauren Pendant - Circa Lighting


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  1. The house looks incredible. You're making South Portland even more beautiful one house at a time!

  2. Looks so good! Makes me wish I could drop everything and move up north!


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