Fireplaces, floors, basements, bathrooms……
What do you often love about old homes? The patina of a well maintained but old wood floor, the huge, ornate trimwork, a large stone or brick fireplace hearth and mantel. All these things (and more) are appealing to home buyers – young and old alike.
Wood flooring in particular has surged in the last 20 years as the preference of most home buyers with carpet limited to bedrooms or other low-traffic spaces in which shoes are rarely worn. Wood floors are almost always saveable in a major renovation. If you’re lucky enough to have old growth thick plank floors, you could sand those things dozens of times to make them look new again. Even thin strip oak flooring put down decades ago can look beautiful. Changing the layout of a the rooms presents more of a challenge as you then must match the width of the flooring with new pieces to make it all ‘fit.’ After laying down the ‘fill-in’ flooring where walls once stood, you simply sand over all the flooring and stain it to all. Sometimes there’s a difference in grain but this adds instant ‘patina’ and is rarely displeasing (at least in our view!).
Fireplaces are a major problem for a whole house renovation. They often represented the ‘center’ of a cozy living or family room but when the layout must change, you can find yourself with a fireplace now in the center of your new room – which doesn’t work. Wood fireplaces are great for ambience but anyone that has one will tell you it’s a very inefficient way to heat your home and not as important as they once were. We still love them when we can make it work and they are on an outside wall, but, in this case, it just didn’t work so away it went to so we now have a spacious living room visually connected to the dining and kitchen space and configurable to a variety of uses – conversation hub, media room, formal living room, expanded dining room. We have recently become enamored with the wall mounted (vented) gas fireplaces with a stone backing that warms and radiates into the room providing both the ambiance of a flame but with the practicality of heating a room substantially higher than other rooms in the home. We have one in our own home and it’s used a lot more than our wood-burning fireplaces.
What does almost no one like in an old house? It’s hard to recall a ‘charming’ bathroom or basement in an older home. It’s not just styles either: Bathrooms were places in which little time was spent and the idea was to squeeze it all into as little space as possible. Today, new homes will often have master bathrooms larger than the guest bedrooms. And so it goes with our renovation here. From four bedrooms to three with the extra square footage devoted to an expansive walk-in shower and separate soaking tub, and a double sink vanity. Walk in closet? Naturally!
In times past, basements were rarely used for anything other than keeping Christmas decor and old toys. With improvements in materials and insulation, even our cold climates can accommodate walk-out basements and windows that bring in the light to makes these spaces usable for everyday living. The cold concrete floors call for something a bit warmer than a wood floor. After digging out the Bilco Doors that lead down into an old dark family room and insulating the foundation footers, installing a new set of windows and a door leading to a new patio, we installed another product we heartily recommend: Carpet squares from Flor. These things come in an amazing variety and are heavy enough to withstand lots of traffic. They are easy to install and easy to replace – we always buy 6-10 more than needed to cover a space so that a spill or pet accident that doesn’t come up can be fixed buy just pulling up the offending square and replacing it with another. No glue is used as they heavy backing keeps them down and stationary with their particular fasteners. They can be cut to fit making a wall-to-wall look. They are in our own home.