Historic Homes

I feel like everyone has at least one driving vice. Whether it’s speeding, texting and driving, never using the turn signal, or getting too into car dance parties when a good song comes on, everyone has something. My problem? Getting distracted by pretty houses in historic neighborhoods. 🙂


I feel like I should put out a warning right here about how extremely looooong this post is. If you’re not in the mood for a long-winded read, stop now.

I recently found out that there is a yearly Historic Home tour in our area that I never knew about. I’m super excited that it happens every year (and also deeply distraught that I missed all the others, ha!).

I loved trying to pick out what features were original, what came 10, 20,  50 years later, and what was added/updated the most recently. It makes me want to ask this question: What is the difference between restoring and renovating a home? I think people use the terms interchangeably when in reality they are usually completely different things.


image via Manhattan Nest

I love reading Daniel Kanter’s blog, Manhattan Nest for this very reason. He is working on restoring his upper New York home to its completely original state. There are some things that were added to his home decades (if not over a whole century) ago like exterior additions, new windows, different flooring, etc. that many people would argue add character/functionality, but if it’s not truly original he says it’s got to go. He then replaces items with exact replicas of what was there, or at least that are period appropriate if what was originally there is now totally gone/unknown. That is the true definition of restoring a home, and I think it’s highly worth acknowledgement.

ANYWAY. I’ve tried to organize my pictures and thoughts from the local historic home tour into a somewhat understandable flow. This is mostly just for me to review, but regardless, here we go!

First off, this nursery-turned-study. This room was my favorite that I saw. I overheard the owners saying that they used it as a nursery when their children were young, and now use it as a study and reading room. I just loved the overall shape of the sloping roof line, the unique little window, and that there was a “window” up in the top that looked down into the room from the loft upstairs.


Next up, using attic space. I love spaces that use all the roof-lines, instead of making every room a perfect cube from top to bottom. Some of these rooms are more traditional, and others are now much more modern, but I love how each used attic space as livable space.


Next, windows on either side of the middle of a wall. In newer homes you have a window in the middle of the wall, with solid drywall on either side. In many older homes it’s just the opposite. Not only does it make it so you can have art as the focal point between the windows, you also have twice as many windows on each wall. It’s a different way of visually framing the focal points, and one that I think needs to happen more in newer build homes.


Next, bay windows. Bay windows that take up an entire wall are so refreshing. And they are even better when you have leaded glass lights along the top. On this first image they obviously had to replace the old windows, but I’m so glad they put at least one leaded glass  portion in the new design. In the next picture the windows are all original and it is so stunning to have the leaded glass all the way across each window. Even the small side window has it. Also, the wood shutters!


Next, deep set windows. I love how in old stone homes the exterior walls are super thick. You would never notice it if it weren’t for the fact that all the window openings and door thresholds are extremely deep. In a modern house you’re probably talking about 4-6 inches between the interior surface of the wall and the glass of the window. In many stone homes that measurement is more like 15-ish inches. Add on top of that they usually have lovely molding and millwork detailing. It really makes you notice how unexciting most windows are today.


And lastly, at least as far as window are concerned, this little round bird window. How many windows have you seen like that lately in new homes? My guess is none.


Moving on from windows, wooden glass pained doors. I love that many of the homes had exterior doors with huge glass pains. Lately I can’t get enough of wooden doors like this. I think it’s especially inviting on front doors.


Next, door nobs. Sadly one of the first original pieces of old homes to be replaced are the door nobs. On the home tour I saw a lot of now Home Depot/Walmart door nob specials :/, but there were a few left that were true to period. One home where they had to start from the ground up with their restoration/renovation didn’t have original nobs, but you could tell that a lot of effort was put into finding something period appropriate even if it was brand new. The gold one below shows one of them.


This leads me into molding and millwork. In this first image below you can see that this home was renovated with a more modern twist. It’s interesting though because in a lot of ways they also restored  many of the home’s original details. These newel posts are almost exact replicas of the originals, just with an inch or so added to the bottom so that they met current safety/building codes. This was a great example to me of mixing styles, while staying true to each style being brought into the current design. The other images show molding. While I know this home didn’t originally have molding around the light switches (since, hello, no light switches in the 1800s), it is interesting that the light switches were considered in the overall update. Do you just ignore light switches since they aren’t true to the original design but are now needed? Or do you treat them as something that has always been there and is intentional since you have to have them now anyway? Just something interesting to think about.


The above image leads nicely into the next thing I noticed; colorful interiors. Though it’s usually impossible to know what colors an old home originally had, I always find it interesting to see all the paint choices that have taken place over decades/centuries of different owners. I mean, how often do you see mint green door/window trim and lavender crown molding? Also, check out the cool copper pipe trellis-type-thing that is hanging from the ceiling two/three images down. I want one!!!


Next, neutral interiors. There were some lovely gray-white walls with white molding. This is more my personal style, and what I think a lot of these home were more like originally anyway. Though wood trim instead of white is a high possibility as well. One of the homes is now a “museum” of sorts, but the walls are still the original color.


And lastly, the exteriors of the homes.. I love the paint colors on the scallop siding on top of the gable wall in this first pic. The next image shows one of my favorite things. I love when materials that are very organic in nature take on a crisp, symmetrical, and geometric feel. Usually this is more in furniture and art, but this is an architectural example. 🙂


I love the detailing under the eaves of all the homes I saw. All of them had beautiful millwork detailing that brought such charm to an area of the home which is now normally extremely boring and/or overlooked.


And lastly for real this time, I loved this front porch. The mint green ceiling, with red flooring; how the front porches of the next few houses down the street all line up exactly (which you would never notice from the road since all the houses are completely different styles); the leaded glass windows; the Chicago yellow brick with white trim; I was just an extremely relaxing space.


If you’ve read this far I am truly shocked and impressed. You must be procrastinating something biiiiiig time. 😉

Soon I’m going to be posting pics from the recent Parade of Homes in our area, as well as pics of the kitchen I got to help with the lighting and some of the final finishes on. It’s fun to have family friends with a home in the parade, haha. 🙂 Stay tuned!


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