Wednesday, October 5, 2011

An Old Fashioned House

Cottage Garden With, Colourful Flower Beds Direlton, Scotland, UK

I saw a picture of a lovely, old Victorian cottage. It was being sold in a nice area, here in Vermont. However, the price was so high, it made me sad. Why? Because it was packed with modern updates. There were stainless steel appliances, a "granite chef's kitchen," and "Quakermaid oak cabinets." But wait. . it gets worse. . . there is a "new Kohler bathroom." All these modern, high-end touches, make the price prohibitive for lower middle class families. If the house had just been left in its "old fashioned" state, with basic repairs, a little paint and some cleaning, it would have been absolutely charming! It would have been affordable to a low-income family, who would have been thrilled to own it.

People, in these days, forget that creativity and hard work are what make an inexpensive home lovely and valuable.

I remember watching a home- and- garden program. Viewers toured the home of an elderly woman who wanted to sell it. As the kitchen came into view, I saw the most beautiful cabinets I had ever seen! These were painted a sage color and the owner had stenciled delicate vines to make a subtle trim around the edges. There were tiny hints of pale colored flowers. It looked lovely! However, the realtor advised the owner to replace those cabinets, saying that buyers today want modern, neutral fixtures. While that is generally true, something is being lost in our culture, when old fashioned houses are being replaced with modern, elegant features which is only affordable to dual-income career couples and the upper class.

Mr. White and I have a 3 story colonial house. It is 150 years old. We had some visitors come by in our first year here. They were retired, wealthy relatives. They looked around and said it would cost us a fortune to update this place. They shook their heads and said we had a lot of work to do. I cannot comprehend that mind-set. Why would I modernize this charming old house? Why would I not cherish it as the "museum" that it is? I love my large drafty rooms and my large, old windows. I love the old chimney and the homemade "Yankee" * kitchen cabinets. The charm of this house is that it is affordable, lovely, and vintage. . .  This is truly an old fashioned house. I can only hope that there are still many more out there.

Mrs. White

* The term "Yankee" implies New England ingenuity, by making do with what we have while using  little or no money.

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Sherri B. said...

Even though 'new' kitchens are pretty, sometimes there is not much thought about the function and layout. There is something to be said about the way Grandma could move through her kitchen with ease. xo

joyce said...

It's hard to modernize a specific type of period house without compromising the integrity of the architecture and style. Still, I suppose if the homeowners entertain a lot or enjoy cooking, they want new, modern appliances and equipment.

Often improvements such as the one you described drive the price too high for the neighborhood. The seller has to take a hit.

I own a very small, modest 1/2 duplex. When I had the kitchen remodeled two years ago - down to the studs - I had to be careful I didn't "over do" for the house itself and the neighborhood. I opted for mid-price point white appliances, simple walnut cabinets, and Wilsonart HD laminate instead of granite. All are neutral colors, but I splurged on a glass and "tin" tile backsplash. I love my kitchen. It's just right.

As for the beautiful stenciled cabinets you saw on HGTV, they do sound lovely. But I agree with the agent that the house would show better if the cabinets were neutral. I watch HGTV all the time and that seems to be a given - decor and paint should be neutral in order to appeal to a larger sector of buyers.

Laura in AZ said...

Thanks for this post, Mrs. White. I couldn't agree with you more.
My house is 61 years old, which is ancient as far as houses go here in Phoenix, AZ. It's got low (8ft) ceilings, arched doorways, tiled bathroom walls and old fashioned windows that have to be "cranked" with a handle to open and close them. All of these features are considered undesirable by modern home-buyers in my area, but I love them!
I stay home during the day and get a lot of sales calls from companies trying to convince me that I need to "update" my windows, cabinets, flooring, bathroom fixtures, etc and I politely decline because , like you, I love my old fashioned house . My home is cozy , charming and colorful and I wouldn't trade it for granite and stainless steel even if those "improvements" were offered for free.
Have a great day in your old fashioned house!

Laura in AZ

Anonymous said...

I prefer the charm of an older house to the "cookie cutter" look of the new.. I would love to see pics of your lovely 150 year old home.

joyce said...

I'm a lover of small houses, and in fact, live in one. I ran across this poem and it reminds me of a charming little cottage or a cozy bungalow.

by Florence Bone

God send us a little home
To come back to, when we roam.
Low walls and fluted tiles
Wide windows, a view for miles.
Red firelight and deep chairs
Small white beds upstairs
Great talk in little nooks
Dim colors, rows of books.
One picture on each wall,
not many things at all.
God, send us a little ground
Tall trees stand round.
Homely flowers in brown sod
and Overhead, thy stars, O God.
God bless thee, when winds blow
Our home and all we know.

susieloulou said...

Love this post! I moved into an 80-year-old (small, run-down!) Craftsman home with gorgeous wood floors and my aunt's first comment was "If you carpet it, these rooms will look bigger." Gah! Charm was all we had! LOL

Anonymous said...

We too live in an old farmhouse, over 100 years old. We couldn't ever update it if we wanted, but try to fix up structural problems and leaky roof areas, etc. We have LOTS of colors here! My kitchen is marigold yellow, my window sills are red, and the trim is pale green ... wouldn't sell! My husband is currently painting my windowsills in the livingroom 'Braided Raffia' (kinda dark goldish-marigoldish colored) which is the color he just painted the inside of the livingroom door...and the outside will be painted 'Spiced Cider' (dark brownish rust color). I love color more and more the older I get.

When I think of people who disparage our old crooked farmhouse, I think of how solid and full of character it is. And how we couldn't build a house today to match this place. It would cost way too much!!

Marnie said...

My husband and I, along with seven of our nine kids moved into a Civil War era farm house. People gasped at the thought of "big, old and ugly". We moved from a "modern" 3 bedroom to this seven plus bedroom home with only wood stoves and no air conditioning. The house itself lends itself to a slower, more deliberate lifestyle. Just what our homeschooling family needed: all those lessons on responsibility and gratitude. I wouldn't go "modern" if it was laid on a brushed stainless steel platter!

Janet said...

I love old houses and would rather have an old fix-me-up any day over a brand new house! I would love to see more pictures of your little palace.:)

Joyce, I love that poem.:)

Anonymous said...

The people that buy already over priced homes then feel they 'must' redo it all are living to pay off the house ...not living not live IN it! They are like slaves to their own homes. Very sad. The home is the people in it. A comfortable place...a haven for the family...not to be made only a show place. Sarah

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