Monday, July 28, 2014

Preserving / Adding Historic Character

Our first apartment as newlyweds had a cinderblock walls and half-size windows, as it was sunken into the ground.  It was a new-build: small, poorly ventilated (the fire alarms went off if we used a wok, the bathroom was always humid), and had but one tiny closet to share. I think the large fridge was the only thing to like about that apartment.

When we first moved to Evanston, we moved into the most gorgeous, historic apartment anyone could ask for.  It was huge and spacious, with 17 large windows, tall ceilings, wainscoting, mirrored French doors, original doors and knobs, and it was one block from the lake.  It was a perfect example of untouched historic character, but the kitchen was dated, the bathroom was in disrepair, and lead paint flaked onto windowsills and corners.  I also wasn't quite sure that I trusted the roof of the building, but we were on first floor.  I don't know that I would have bought that apartment as a condo, although beautiful, it really showed its age in some expensive areas.

Now we have a historic house that's been kept in good repair throughout the years.  Part of that "good repair" entails some design elements that I would not have chosen, and that I wish were a little less "budget" and a bit more in keeping with the style of the house, but that's why we're here!  Here is an estimated timeline of when things were "fixed" in the house:

1919: House is built

1920's: Front porch is walled in to create a front sunroom on both floors
              Seems a bit early, but either that or they found some 1920s windows somewhere.

1950's: Pastel tile is added to the walls of both kitchens.  
              Radiator covers are added
              Literally everything is painted aqua, I uncover this paint color everywhere

1970's: Massive renovations are done in 70's (unfortunately).
              -Vinyl tile is added to both bathrooms
              -Vinyl tile is added over kitchen hardwood (thank goodness they put a layer of    plywood between)
              -Rust-colored shag carpeting! long gone by the time we moved in, found traces
              -Caned ceiling fans, everywhere
              -Back porch is enclosed with dark wood paneling
              -Kitchen cabinets are replaced / added

2011: Downstairs is made limited-mobility accessible:
              -1919 swinging door between kitchen and dining room is removed
              -Pantry shelves are cut out downstairs to inset fridge

2013: Rowhouses are sold en masse to a developer who fixes them up for individual sale
              -Original bedroom doors on both floors are replaced with hollow-core
              -Walls are given an expert skim coat and painted with a sprayer
              -Floors don't fare well with the paint sprayer, new cheap carpet installed
              -Electric line from city to house is re-done
              -Sink vanities are replaced
              -One closet door is replaced with a folding closet door
              
We got a few good things and a lot of nasty things out of the years of other owners and inhabitants.  I like the radiator covers for certain rooms, and I really appreciate the awesome state of our lovely walls, with the historic molding still maintained in most rooms.  But there's a lot to reverse, hopefully with the help of some architectural reclamation projects!


  1. Rip up tile on kitchen walls (check) and re-plaster
  2. Remove carpeting and refinish hardwood (one floor down, one to re-finish)
  3. Replace kitchen cabinets (soon!)
  4. Rebuild downstairs pantry
  5. Move upstairs swinging door to downstairs
  6. Replace hollow core bedroom doors with salvaged, solid wood doors with nice knobs
  7. Replace oddball folding closet door
  8. Put a fireplace mantel (non-functioning for now) back into living room
A nice article I've been referencing on adding historic character here.
              -Use old doors and knobs
              -Open up shelves
              -Use vintage hardware on cabinets in kitchen and bath
              -Crown molding
              -Antique-inspired plumbing fixtures and lighting
              -Roller shades and curtains instead of blinds
              -Beadboard to cover ceilings
              -Replace plastic lightswitch plates
              

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