Wednesday, April 23, 2014

New Life in an Old House

I don't really know what made me do it. I'm too old for this. It's not even in my town of choice.

On the other hand, the old house spoke to me. A modified Queen Anne in the Uptown neighborhood of Kingston, NY, a small city I've grown to like after my year in New Paltz, getting the lay of the land. My daughter liked the house, although she looked askance at my recurring tendency to kick over the traces and buy houses that would challenge, conflict, and possibly confound me as I slide not all that gracefully into old age.

The inspector looked it over. He's also a pushover for old homes, but his report contained warnings and a little verbal finger-wagging about the things that could be lurking in the walls and corners he wasn't allowed to uncover. His prose got to me: "There is no such thing as a perfect home or an inspector who discovers every defect during a one-time visit to a property. Nonetheless this historic home is considered a masterpiece of architecture and construction that should serve you well. With some work this home could be brought back to its original glory."

Can any amongst you resist that siren call? I have bought and sold many houses, and have an affinity to older ones that embrace and beg for attention. Working on them adds a dimension to life, and my life is sadly void of dimensions these days. I'm thinking about appropriate colors, arrangement of my furniture in the rooms--and the long-term challenge of bringing the kitchen and bathroom up to date while maintaining the character of the house.


I'll start as slowly as I can, repairing the porch as the inspector suggested, and engaging a contractor to advise and price out the various repairs that are needed and the outset of the journey. I can keep the exterior colors while I decide over time if I want to change them. I never cared for the "Painted Lady" style, but I know it's appropriate to the period of this house (built 1890) and it's crazy popular in this area. Where I grew up such houses were solid white and that always feels more comfortable for me. But there are some things I'll have to concede to the house from the start.

The dining room
There is the matter of the dining room chandelier, clearly a recent purchase and not entirely to my taste. It's out of scale for the room, overly ornate, but it's there and for now I don't mind it. When I have some money to spare I'll provide the house with a gentler and less pretentious ornament. But that's a minor matter in the great scheme of things, about which you are going to learn more and more (or should I say blow-by-blow) as I move forward. For now, I'm starting to pack.

13 comments:

  1. Good bones.

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  2. Always liked houses with nice porches! This is a charming house.

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  3. Looks like a nice solid place to me. I can see why you fell in love with it.

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  4. The chandelier is going to find a better home.

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  5. Enjoying your blog--these homes are spectacular! I can't wait to see what you do with this new one.

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  6. Well Mary Lois--you certainly do not let any moss grow under your feet! And I think your timing is perfect. Spring is exploding all around us--2 seasons of temperate weather for all that work! Trick is the say the words This Old House with respect & affection (like all good relationships--). ps. I like the ext color & the floors look beautiful.

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  7. Great light, great floors, more space for friends and family– What else is there to want? Does it by chance have a kitchen too? Oh, MAN!

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  8. Actually, Mary, that painted lady look is so suited to that house...I love the picture frame wainscoting...Can't wait to see what other charming treasures it has! I envy you.

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  9. I think she was born to be a painted lady, Viola. I'm not thinking about changing that. But I shall do some painting on the interior!

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  10. Linda Horne SmallApril 25, 2014 at 1:42 PM

    Such is the life of homeowners! Repairs always! Paint later. Hooray for your courage in taking on an old lady who needs a facelift. Glad she found you!

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  11. This is absolutely lovely, ML. What a find!!!!! I look forward to watching you fix it up.

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  12. Looks gorgeous! Is there any local-history resource that could give you an idea of the original color schemes used in that neighborhood? Also, I can't help thinking that you must have some spiritual connection to the DIY Network's "Rehab Addict", Nicole Curtis (http://www.diynetwork.com/rehab-addict/show/index.html)

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  13. I've just discovered Nicole, Mike. She does much of the work herself. I like to supervise.

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