For years now, I’ve had preservation friends from social media; but, it was only about two years ago that I started to meet my “social media” friends in “real life”. I love making the world smaller and meeting friends who are doing inspiring work. Enter a new series to Preservation in Pink: Five Questions With. In this series, I’ll be talking with colleagues, social media friends, and others I admire to learn some tricks of the trade, hear their stories, and introduce you to more preservationists.
Introducing the second interview: Deb Cohen!Deb is a rising star in the Instagram/historic preservation crowd. She is creator of The Front Door Project Instagram account and blog of the same name. As with most social media finds, I cannot remember how I first came across Deb’s gorgeous architectural gallery, but I’m so glad I did. Wanting to know Deb’s story and how she emerged on the preservation scene, I am thrilled that Deb agreed to answer five questions for Preservation in Pink readers. And as a coffee lover, Deb fits right in with this crowd. Read the interview below.
- Deb, you are new (to me) on the historic preservation scene. Are you actually new to it? If so, where have you been hiding?
I am a lifelong lover of historic architecture, and grew up in an older Victorian home, but I am new to the historic preservation scene. My background is actually in finance, and I have worked for various insurance companies for over twenty years since receiving my accounting degree from the College of William & Mary. I have always appreciated historic architecture and as I look back on my life I realize many of my choices have been influenced by the look and feel of my environment.
My parents taught me the importance of maintaining original woodwork and about the value of antiques. I was drawn to William & Mary largely due to the old feel of the campus which is even more enhanced by its location next to Colonial Williamsburg, and one of the reasons my husband and I chose West Hartford as our home was because of its older architecture. I insisted that we live in an older home because newer homes just “don’t have the same charm”.
Until the last couple of years, my life was so busy with family and career that I lost sight of what I was really interested in. Through the photography I started in the spring of 2014 I have developed a passion for historic architecture and preservation. I became a member of the Historic Commission in town last year, and have become a voice in town advocating for the preservation of our incredible architectural history. I only wish I could turn back time and choose Historic Preservation as my major in college!
2. For people who don’t know about The Front Door Project, would you tell them about how its origins.
I started taking photos of doors in the spring of 2014 as a way to occupy my time as I walked the neighborhoods of my hometown. My teenage daughter had an Instagram account focusing on preppy fashion and she had so much fun sharing ideas with other people that I decided to open one of my own to share my door photos.
Much to my surprise, people started to follow along which encouraged me to walk in new areas to find new material. I called it a “project” because it was really a project in terms of my self-improvement! To get more exercise, get outside more often and develop a new interest. I’m happy to say I have been able to do all of those things and more and am flattered and thrilled that so many people enjoy following along.
3. After studying doors for a while, what can you say about them and replacement doors v. original doors?
[A bad replacement door] hurts my heart a little bit! More than any other part of the home, the entry says so much about the home’s character and history and even a little something about the owners, I think. When an original door is replaced with something that doesn’t suit the home it dramatically alters its appearance and makes things look off-kilter.
And, ever since I started this project many people have “come out of the closet” as door lovers as well, and quite a number of people have told me that they have started noticing interesting doors and homes too!
I think people notice if others have paid some time and attention to their door to highlight it as a welcoming point of entry into their home. It could be a unique color, a beautiful pots of flowers, a wreath or any combination of details that make an entry noticeable.
4. What advice can you give to people who are nervous about taking pictures of people’s houses? Have you had any bad encounters?
Unless you are on private property, legally there is nothing to stop someone from photographing your home. I take my photos from the street or sidewalk for the most part, unless I have permission from the owner.
Having said that, with the exception of one individual, no one has ever asked me not to take a photo of his/her home. People are always flattered once I explain that I admire their home and use the photographs to provide inspiration to others!
On the one occasion that I was asked not to take a photograph, I didn’t. I don’t want to make people uncomfortable and certainly respect their wishes in that regard, even though I’m legally within my rights.
5. The best part of The Front Door Project is:
That’s a tough question! There is so much I love about it. But I think the best part would have to be the community, whether it be fellow old house lovers, people passionate about home decor or those of us that just love to see pretty things and interact with one another.
I also love how it has opened other people’s eyes to historic preservation and an appreciation of our older architecture. In fact, I had one follower tag me in a photo of her new house recently, an older home. She said that I inspired her and her husband to purchase an older home for their first house. That’s pretty cool!
Thank you, Deb. You are inspiring! (And choosing just a few photos for this post was not an easy decision!) Keep up the beautiful work and welcome to the historic preservation world. Now, let’s go for a cup of coffee.