Thoughts about Home: Part Two

Continued from Part One*

Part Two: The Physical Location – How Do You Make a Place Your Home? 

When you own a house, you have the right to change whatever you’d like. This is assuming you aren’t breaking any zoning ordinances or design review standards, of course. And to quell the rumor: if you have a house listed in the National Register of Historic Places, you are only required to follow state and federal review if you are receiving state or federal permits or money. A listing does not dictate your every move with your house. Still, you should respect the historic integrity of your house and community. But, aside from that, let’s talk about making a place a home in terms of the tangible elements.

How do homeowners begin to make their mark? Paint is the first and easiest answer. Gwynn lives in Northern California and though she rents, she plans to immediately paint when she does own a house. A fresh coat of paint does wonders. Removing wall to wall carpets is an easy (albeit annoying) task that can immediately change the look of your house.

When we own a place, often the best way to go about making a place your home is by living in it for a while and getting to know it, as Jim suggests: “I prefer to buy a place I can live in for several years as is, while I get to know it and form plans for how to make it more mine. In this case, I have been slowly taking up the carpets so I can live on the hardwood floors that lurk beneath, and I remodeled the bathroom, but that’s it over the six years I’ve been here.”

Jane (Vermont) sees her house as an on-going project, too: “I am removing the vinyl siding, replacing the ‘lifetime replacement windows’….insulating as I go. Maybe some day I will get to the kitchen. We’ve done the basics: roof, plumbing, electrical, heating.”

Yet, if you rent, what can you do? Most landlords allow you to paint in reasonable colors. Nothing neon or black (probably not even pink). White is a good option to make everything look fresh and clean. Colors add life to apartments. Some landlords are kind enough to upgrade appliances or door locks. Others landlord will let you do work, as long as they do not have to pay for it.

My experience has been the latter: my landlords are happy to allow me to paint or make minor repairs on my own dime. I’ll always paint because the standard beige/off-white apartment wall color is too blasé for me. If I’m going to live in a place for a year or more, I’ll gladly invest in a few cans of paint and hours of my time (and I love to paint). My biggest endeavor to date is a drop ceiling removal (which is another story, but one that was done out of sheer necessity. My pet peeve is a drop ceiling – a filthy, mismatched, aesthetically unpleasing one at that).

And for those who cannot do any painting? Our stuff – furniture, linens, artwork makes all the difference, of course. Dave (NYC) writes, “Moving into a house or apartment is part of the process too, arranging furniture and kitchen gear makes the place our home.” Lani writes, “I live in Chiang Mai Thailand, a growing mid-sized city, in an apartment that I rent. Since I move frequently, I feel like the first thing I want to change is the wall color! I wish I could but never can. Nevertheless, I almost always manage to make where ever I live more like home.”

We all seem to be on similar wavelengths: clean up the place. Paint if we can. Lovingly arrange our belongings. And if we own our homes, then take on one project at a time. For those who are renters and crazy enough to take on projects for the goodwill of the house, I’d like to hear your stories.

Anything we missed?

——–

*Hiatus to due to holiday distractions. Thanks for your patience. 

Preservation Pop Quiz

Which windows are original? What other modifications have been made to this house?

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Add your thoughts in the comments.

What Color is Your House?

Brattleboro, VT

Brattleboro, VT.

Before we get started talking about paint colors, let’s get one thing straight: historic preservation is not about telling you what color to paint your building. Really. While some colors are more historically appropriate than others (in restoration work, paint might be important), but paint is reversible.

Yet, despite its temporal nature, paint color is an important decision for many of us, whether painting a room or the exterior of our homes and other buildings. So feel free to offer up your opinion. How do you choose? Are there some colors that you think are more house appropriate than others? Are there colors that are more popular than others in your region? Often color speaks to the architectural style and era. For examples, Greek Revival buildings are often painted white while the Queen Anne style is known for many, varied color patterns.

Brattleboro, VT. Shingle style.

Brattleboro, VT.

Do you have a favorite house color? Do you prefer light palettes or dark palettes? What crazy paint patterns have you seen? Have you ever seen a house painted black?

Preservation Photos #166

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Ready for winter in Bellows Falls, Vermont. The good smell of a wood stove is unmistakable. Piles of chopped, stacked wood is common in this cold climate.

Abandoned Vermont: Weathersfield House

Some abandoned houses are more striking than others, so obviously beautiful that you cannot help but stop and gaze for a while. Others make less of a statement to a passerby, but have a story to tell all the same. And sometimes you come across a house with an odd feeling about it. This house in Weathersfield felt that way to me.

Weathersfield, VT

The side of house – part of the roof has collapsed in the ell.

Cornice returns, intact paired brackets and pilasters accompanied by a large antenna.

An abandoned children’s picnic table makes this story seem even sadder. Also note the detailed porch posts, ending at the bay window on the main block of the house.

Wood windows remain, appearing some shade of green.

What was it about this house that felt eerie or sad? Further gazing revealed that this house falls into the category of those abandoned houses that are simply trashed to pieces, broken and vandalized for no purpose, and essentially left for ruin. A look inside any window could tell you that. And this house had been stripped of its aluminum siding, revealing metallic insulation beneath and clapboards in great condition. Someone methodically removed all of the metal on this house, as if they were leaving on bad terms or knew no one was coming back for the house.

clapboards

almost all stripped, except for a few pieces here and there.

Just a glimpse through the window of the completely trashed house.

What do you make of places like this? Do they strike you the same way? Interestingly enough, this house probably looks much better without its aluminum siding, thereby elevating its visible potential. Thoughts?

Frosty Windows in the Bungalow

A few of the windows in our house turn frosty on extremely cold days. The ice is on the storm window some on the interior window, too.

Look familiar? That’s quite typical for my house, now.  I remember some icy windows in my parents’ house, too. To combat the ice, every winter my parents would blow dry the plastic over the large metal frame picture window in our 1957 ranch house. While we would lose our windowsills for the winter and the cats would sometimes scratch holes in the plastic, my parents assumed it beat the alternative of having icy window panes. It made sense to me. About 10 years ago, they replaced some of the windows, including that old picture window (with larger double hung windows).  After that, I didn’t see frosted windows or plastic over windows until this winter in our bungalow.

The 1-over-1 wood frame windows in this house are all original, glass included. They are in good condition (some TLC needed such as the sash cords) and I love them. Unfortunately, 16 of the 19 original 2-over-2 wood storms have been replaced with metal triple track storm windows. Perhaps they were cheaper or considered more efficient at the time, but those metal storms are a pain. The windows get stuck in the tracks and some of them hurt my fingers when I try to slide the windows up or down.

However, these metal storms are better than nothing. I say this based on accidental winter experiments and casual observations about my house so far.

(1) The windows that have metal storms with the glass down (screen up) are icy on the exterior rather than the interior (mostly) (see picture above).

(2) The windows that have the metals storms with the screen down (meaning I haven’t slid the glass down yet) are icy on the interior wood frame window (seen in the picture below).

(3) The windows with the metal storms that aren’t set in the tracks properly allow for a bit of ice on the interior window.

(4) With the metal storms set properly, these windows do not feel drafty.

(5) As for the wood storms? Two of those windows do not open, and if they did, would open to the enclosed front porch, so they are completely ice free. As for the functional wood storm? It is the one window in the house that does not allow any moisture or ice on the interior wood window and barely collects  ice on the exterior storm.

Not as bad in this window. Notice that the screen is down. Ice has not formed on the inside yet, but at night it will.

What’s the point of sharing all this? We are attempting to study the energy/moisture/air flow in our house this winter in order to assess heating bills and weatherization measures that we may need to take for later in the winter or next year. Vinny and I are in favor of the original windows, always, but we understand that some might need to be covered that hair-dryer-blown plastic sheet. That’s okay – it certainly is cheap enough. For now, we’re making observations like those listed above and we’ll see how it changes throughout the winter — and how it changes once our furnace is replaced (no central heat in Vermont in January – ah, another story for another day!) What are your best weatherization tips?

On a different note, I like the look of the wintry, frosted, icy windows – it certainly is winter in Vermont!

Abandoned Vermont: Rockingham House

Seen in the greater town of Rockingham, Vermont: an absolutely beautiful, seemingly abandoned house. I don’t know anything about this house, but I couldn’t stop staring at it, even from a distance. It’s breathtaking.

Beautifully isolated. The windows are right under the cornice, which dates the house back about 200 years. Amazing.

The front door.

Front door knob.

Note the wood storm windows still hanging, missing the glass panes.

Storm window, wood clapboards, brick foundation.

Rusted farm equipment surrounding the house.

Side of the house, with a view of the rear wing.

A rear window is 12/12, whereas most of the others are 6/6.

View from the rear of the house.

A view into the house through a window; someone cared enough to work on it fairly recently.

This is one of the houses that I truly love for its beauty and intrigue. It ranks as one of my favorites.

Midnight Pumpkins

It might as well be midnight, as we are the people who carve pumpkins on Halloween night rather than for Halloween night. Still festive, though.

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Haunted house pumpkin!

My artistic skills are nonexistent, so this is my best attempt at carving a house without a pumpkin carving knife. The style of this house? Vernacular, of course! I don’t think the house is any better than my flamingo jack-o-lantern from 2008.

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Miss Bizzy Bee in pumpkin form!

Vinny, however, has skills that make mine look pathetic. He carved Izzy, whom you’ve met many times here on PiP. While Vinny was carving, Izzy sat on the chair to watch and pose. No joke!

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Izzy is bigger than the house!

Now, I realized after the fact that my pumpkin looks like the house is on fire. That is not what I was going for; I intended a spooky, crooked house. Better luck next year?

Hope you had a happy Halloween!