Tour: First Floor!

FIRST-FLOOR-BEFORE

Look at that, I did computer things and made an OK-looking floor plan! It makes the house look so…clean and Sims-like? Into it.

Once I started editing the photos for this post, I quickly realized that putting together a tour for a couple thousand square feet of house is really different than throwing together a few photos of a 500 square foot apartment! As we have a bit more ground to cover, I figured it would be best to split the tour into three posts—the downstairs, the upstairs, and the exterior. The second floor isn’t as big as the first floor (and doesn’t need as much work!), so I promise this is the longest of the three posts! Grab a drink, settle in, try not to get vertigo trying to decipher this photo/word-dump.

entryway2

Because the house was not-so-gracefully split into 2 units at some point (probably the 70s; everyone did crazy stuff in the 70s), some fun and funky modifications were made to the floor plan that we’ll be removing. The first hits you just five feet inside the front door: this huge weird wood-paneled wall with a wood hollow-core door and three weird windows. I can’t WAIT to rip it down. The front doors beyond it (which you can see in the first photo) are pretty and let tons of light in, so I’m really excited to see the entryway immediately brighten up once it comes down.

Due to the era of the house (about 1895), it would have been common for there to have been a vestibule at the entrance. Obviously this one isn’t original, but based on the placement of doors, moldings, and the flooring, I’m almost certain that this house never had a vestibule, so it isn’t something we have to replace. Once through the vestibule, two doors on either side have been blocked off with big sheets of plywood nailed into the door frames. Luckily, the original doors are just waiting on the other side—unluckily, they’re locked! Like most old houses, ours came with an enormous pile of old keys, so I’m hoping one of them works to unlock the doors. I don’t want to try to take the plywood off from the outside because I’d end up wreaking all kinds of havoc on the original moldings, which I’m obviously trying to preserve.

But the stairwell! I love the stairs. I love that they’re big and straight, and I love the handrail and the spindles and I especially love the big chunky newel post at the bottom. It was the first thing I saw and fell in love with when I walked into the house for the first time. I’m still amazed and really happy that after 120 years, nobody ever decided to paint it. The risers still have the hardware for whatever kind of runner was here originally, and the treads have a few layers of paint (which was sloppily applied and got all over the bottom of the spindles—hello tedious restoration task!).

The radiator is a “Rococo” style radiator produced by the American Radiator Company——one of best-selling designs in North America for many years, they were produced from about 1895 to 1920, give or take a few years. The exact same style of radiator is all over the house (with a different, more utilitarian style in the bathrooms and kitchens), and I just love them. Most of them only have a couple layers of paint on them, and all seem to be in good working condition! Knowing around when the radiators were made is a decent indication of the age of the house (which we’re still not sure about), but it’s possible that they were added at some point later on.

That last shot is looking back toward the entry from the bathroom door. The door on the right leads down to the basement (so scary!) and the door on the left is obviously a newer addition and was the entrance to the first floor apartment. It should come down easily enough.

Beyond taking down the walls and un-blocking the doors, we need to restore the walls, paint the radiator, figure out what to do with the stairs (I think I want to strip/refinish the treads), and address the existing terrible drywall job on the ceiling. There isn’t any wiring for a ceiling fixture, so I’d really like to have that installed and put a nice light fixture in here. The only existing light is that little 1920s sconce on the wall in the first picture, which is pretty dim and creepy at night.

downstairsbathroom

You’ve already seen a glimpse of the first floor bathroom, but here it is in all its horrifying glory! Amazingly, these photos are actually phenomenally flattering. It’s really bad.

Based on the fixtures, I’m guessing this bathroom was put in around 1920 or so, and saw some “updates” around the 1960s or 70s. Right now, it’s totally unusable——there’s brown water backed up in the tub (which I’ve since vacuumed out with my fancy new Shop Vac, but the pipe must be clogged because it still doesn’t drain), the toilet tank is broken in a few places and leaks when flushed. Oh yeah, and the door is off the hinges. So there’s that.

I love this bathroom, though. If possible, I want to salvage the sink and the tub, and possibly the medicine cabinet (or at least the mirror part) and a few other little fixtures in the room. The bathroom is super duper small, so I think it’ll be a good maiden voyage into full-on bathroom renovation! I’m sure it’ll be riddled with problems and horrifying discoveries, but I can totally see this bathroom being fresh, clean, and really, really beautiful. If time and budget allow, I’d like to get started on the bathroom soon, but if not, it’s not going anywhere. There’s a functioning bathroom on the second floor, so at minimum we’ll get the pipes draining, put the door back on and try to forget it’s there until we can tackle it!

den

Back at the front of the house, there’s this room. I don’t really know what this room will even be, honestly——I wanted something like a home office/workspace, Max wants it to be more like a casual, cozy den. That door in the top photo is the one covered in plywood on the other side. It’ll be so nice when it’s finally open again!

This room has three nice windows and gets a ton of light. The light fixture in this room is probably the nicest one in the house, and the corner radiator is the craziest/coolest thing I’ve ever seen.

The last photo shows where there was either a fireplace or some kind of wood-burning stove back in the day. At some point, it was removed and the floor was (badly) patched in. On the left, you can see that itty-bitty skinny door, which opens into a little foot-deep closet thing. It’s so quirky and bizarre. I love it.

A note about the wallpaper, since a couple people have asked: it’s actually not wallpaper! These walls were wallpapered (a few times from what I can tell), but this pattern is actually hand-stamped. Every room except the kitchen and bathroom on the first floor have some version of it in different colors and different patterns. In the entryway/hallway and this room, the pattern is done in gold paint which has dulled a lot over the years, but is still pretty awesome.

As to whether we’re keeping the wallpaper, the answer is probably not. Because the house was vacant for about two years and without heat, the freeze-thaw effect caused a lot of the underlying paper to fall away from the plaster underneath, so most of the wallpaper is in really, really bad shape. I’m considering trying to keep one wall of it somewhere, though. It’s clearly not original to the house and clearly outdated (in kind of an amazing way?), but mostly I love that it so clearly demonstrates that somebody really really cared about this house at one point. The walls were obviously a huge labor of love, so I want to find some way to commemorate that as we renovate.

dining-room

The dining room! It’s a great size for a full dining table, which I’m so excited about. I really want to host Thanksgiving for both of our families this year, so there’s a little fire under our asses to try to at least make this room nice before then!

The top photo shows the kitchen entrance on the left and a closet door on the right. The closet was added later (I’m guessing also around the 1920s—it looks like the house underwent a pretty major renovation sometime around then, based on the bathroom and some other stuff), which is pretty obvious since neither the door nor the moldings match the rest of the room. The closet (and the pantry in the kitchen) were formed when a back stairwell was ripped out. Down the line, it’s possible we might rip out this closet, patch in the wall and molding, and extend the pantry to make a huge pantry, with the entrance in the kitchen. If that makes sense. We’ll see.

The second photo shows the same closet door and a window, which faces into the enclosed side porch. To the right of the window is a radiator (it’s under a wood cover, but the radiator underneath is the same fancy kind as the others!), and to the right of that is this cool window bay with an arched entry! The arch and floor in the bay is pretty water-damaged from an earlier roof leak, but I’m hopeful that we can salvage everything with a little TLC.

You can’t see in the photo, but on the left side of the bay is a door, not a window. I thought that this was originally an exterior door leading out to the side porch, but I think perhaps it was added later, after a window was torn out. In any case, later on a wall was added right behind the door to create another small closet. At the very least, I’d like to take down this wall and re-open the door to the side porch. The existing closet is really janky, and we really don’t need a third closet in this room at all.

Kitchenwalk-through

I’ve already posted these images of the kitchen, but here it is again! I’ve been working really hard on it and it already looks SO different. I’ve finally gotten to that point (paint on the walls! OMG!) where I can tell it’s going to be so awesome. Just you wait.

sideporch

Off the kitchen is the entrance to the “side porch,” which is just all kinds of bad. This space was finished really badly, the roof is leaking, and it’s just generally dirty and ugly and terrible and weird. Like the kitchen, a drop ceiling was also installed here (realtor had the tiles removed), and the original beadboard ceiling is right above it!

SOMEDAY, probably wayyyyy down the line, I’d really like to restore the porch to be…an actual porch. There’s a porch on the front of the house, too, but it would be so great to be able to do the house justice and make this porch what it’s supposed to be. As it is, there’s really nothing in here worth salvaging (crappy aluminum windows, ugly baseboard heater, gross linoleum), but I’m guessing the original clapboard will be intact under the paneling, which is exciting. Also worth salvaging: weird little light, weird little dog.

livingroom

This is number 11 and 12 on the floor plan. Even though it’s one of the rooms that needs the most work, HOLY COW I’m so excited for it. SO, SO EXCITED.

I used to think this room wasn’t original to the house, but I might have changed my mind. In any case, it’s by far the biggest room in the house and has the only fireplace. The fireplace isn’t functional (I actually think it may never have been wood-burning, but instead had a wood stove in front of it that vented through that black metal grate), but maybe we can change that? Even if we can’t, it’s so pretty. The portrait of the woman on the beach is one of Max’s thrift finds——I just put her there so she wouldn’t get damaged.

This room has seen a number of modifications over the years, including the construction of a closet to the right of the fireplace and the enormous wall of glass doors and windows directly to the left of the mantel. Every single person (Max included) thinks this wall is super cool and thinks it should stay——and while YES, it is really cool, I think it has to go. It isn’t original to the house, and cuts the most amazing  room in the house into two not-super-amazing, awkwardly sized spaces. If/when we go to sell the house, I know that this is going to be the stand-out room that seals the deal for some lucky person, and I don’t want to compromise that because of some weird, semi-pretty addition that someone had installed over the years. At the very least, I’d like to reuse the cute little built-in cabinets in the “sunroom” area somewhere else in the house, and maybe we’ll find a place for some of the doors and windows, too? If not, we’ll sell or donate them to architectural salvage, where hopefully they’ll make someone really happy.

I’m kind of obsessed with the huge windows in this room. I know the photos are totally blown-out (sorry!), but they look out onto the front porch. Obviously the previous owner had intentions of replacing them with those huge aluminum windows sitting in the photo, but I’m so glad it never happened. I think most people would probably replace the windows with either new windows or doors onto the porch, but I can’t really stomach the idea of that. Not every old window is, like, super precious (I guess), but I’ve never seen anything like these——6 over 9 sash windows that are like nine feet tall? Super cool. I wonder how huge those sash weights are!

The other bummer in this room is the floor. Lest you were fooled (you probably weren’t), that’s not a nice parquet floor——that’s ugly 60s or 70s linoleum tile. Unlike the rest of the first floor, I don’t think there’s nice hardwood underneath it, either——just a plywood underlayment over top of the original pine-plank subfloor. I guess the two options are going down to the subfloor and refinishing that, or laying new flooring directly on top of the linoleum. It’ll probably depend on a couple factors, like whether the existing tiles contain asbestos (in which case we’d probably opt to just cover them rather than incur the cost/drama of removing them), and whether we’d be crazy to use the subfloor as a finished floor, what with the heat loss and possibility of creepy-crawlers coming up through the boards from the crawl-space underneath this room.

Also, yeah. A huge antique piano came with the house. I guess we’ll keep it? It’s sort of awesome and the idea of trying to get it back out of the house sounds hard. It’s falling apart a little and woefully out of tune, but there’s obviously no real rush on restoring it…and who couldn’t use a massive old piano? I guess?

ANWAY, this room. Dream with me for a moment. Maybe it needs a herringbone floor? Maybe it needs a coffered ceiling? Maybe it needs new electrical and an amazing light fixture? Maybe it needs to have the radiators re-routed and floor-to-ceiling bookshelves on either side of the fireplace? Maybe I need to come back down to earth?

Maybe. So many maybes. I like maybes.

FIRST-FLOOR-POST-DEMO

For extra credit, I put together this second floor plan, showing how things change a little once we start taking down walls and opening doors and restoring the old layout. It’s going to be crazy.

House
Tagged:

171 Comments

  1. That fireplace and those windows are everything. I also wouldn’t dare replace them. I’m so excited about all the reno you’ve got coming up!

  2. OMG. SUCH GOOD BONES. I mean, you are going to make serious magic happen up in here. I cannot wait to read all about it! Godspeed!

  3. i am so. excited.

  4. Phew! I made it to the end of the post… And i loved every second of it. I had to keep scrolling up to the layout to double check where I was in the house. I am so excited to watch this all unfold for you and your family in the coming months. Your taste is impeccable and I know you’re going to make this home spectacular.

  5. Hey wait, I agreed with you about the wall o’ windows & doors! So did Evan. Get rid of it all!

    And check you out with your fancy floor plans. Teach me?

    • You’re right, I forgot!!

      You’d cry if you saw the remedial photoshop/third party app hack-job that went into that floor plan. Like actual tears.

  6. I initially thought you were out of your mind for wanting to get rid of that awesome wall of windows, but with that and the closet gone the fireplace is going to be a focal point again and it’s going to look amazing. You’ve got some great vision.

  7. Go the wall of bookshelves around the fireplace! That would look amazing as you walk into the room – it’s such a large wall and it just make perfect sense. Can you build shelving around the radiators?

  8. Omg your house is goddamn huge.

    • I have a feeling that the pictures make it look bigger than it is (they always do!), but yeah——it’s not small, that’s for sure. We almost didn’t go through with it because I got intimidated about the size, but Max kept reminding me that it isn’t THAT big (it’s about 2300 square feet, according to the listing), and that the size is what makes it such a steal (and, hopefully, a good investment)——EVEN in the Kingston market, people spend at least as much if not much more on houses that are smaller, on less land, without as many original features, etc.

      I think part of the reason it seems really big is also because it doesn’t have tons of rooms. Often, houses this age and size would have a lot of small, awkward little rooms, but this house instead has a few pretty large rooms. It’s one of the things that really drew me to it, and I think one of the reasons it’s going to not only be a great restoration, but also hopefully stay the same way for another hundred years. I don’t know why anybody would want to really radically alter the layout, and that’s really nice not only for us, but also for the prospect of re-sale down the line.

      • No, absolutely I meant it as a good thing! Steal of a deal for you guys, and your points all make sense.

  9. OMG. I am SO SO excited to see what you do with this space!

  10. Your house is amazing! If you ever want a roommate, let me know haha.

  11. So much potential! I love it. And I agree, rip all the superfluous stuff out of the living-room-to-be.

    I noticed that some of the details in your house match an 1850 house that was featured in this month’s This Old House Magazine. The molding around the doors and the baseboards is exactly the same. I also see details in your that I recognize from other 1850s houses I’ve seen upstate. I wonder if yours was built around then (with later additions)?

    • Yeah, I wonder the same things! I think most houses in our neighborhood were built later, but ours lacks the same Victorian details of the other houses, and it’s on a larger piece of land with a totally different layout. I’ll need to figure this out! Thanks for the tip about This Old House——I’ll try to find a copy. I should really start subscribing…

  12. i agree with removing the wall of windows. when i was looking at the photos, i thought, why would anyone put those windows so close to that fireplace…what a shame. now i get they were added later. also, i could see some amazing french doors opening into both/either the dining or living rooms.

    amazing house with amazing light!

    • Thanks, I agree about that wall! The biggest shame is that the edge of the marble mantel was CUT to install the wall——bad call, owners of the past!

      Because so much of the house is original (or at least very old!), I don’t really want to open up walls or change doorways or anything if I don’t have to. If you look at the floor plan, one of the things that I love about the house is the symmetry——how the doors are placed in the rooms, how they line up with each other across the hallway, etc. It’s all very neat and ordered, and it feels really nice when you’re moving around in the house. Even if larger entrances to the dining/living rooms would be nice (I’ll admit, they would!), I don’t want to disrupt that aspect of the architecture, even leaving aside all the challenges of altering existing walls.

      • Thank you so much for not altering the original floor plan, but restoring it! I see so many old flats and houses here in Sweden being altered (read mangled) by opening up the walls between kitchens/dining rooms/living rooms and I never understand why. Why buy an unaltered original 20s/30s flat and destroy it’s character? But I should not rant in your comments. :)

        I agree with you on the wall of windows, it chops up that beautiful space, and should be removed. Here is a little herringbone floor inspiration: http://www.flickr.com/photos/citikas/8655454036/in/set-72157630555365444. Original 1938 oak floor in my little funkis flat in Stockholm. Nothing beats real wood as flooring, I love every little creak it makes.

        All your plans sound awesome, and you and Max are going to make this house sing. Thank you!

      • I so agree with maintaining as much original as possible. I just bought a 1930s art nouveau apartment that hadn’t been touched since at least the 60s and when I was visiting pre-buying I heard most people talking about ripping stuff out and changing the lay-out and all I could think was “I have to save this place”… now my plan is to manage to restore it maintaining as many features as I can – not easy getting contractors that I need for some of the big stuff to understand that!

      • yep, i totally get keeping the integrity of the house’s original architecture intact as much as possible. i bought a house that was built in 1906 and there were some changes made that i just don’t understand. the house was completely opened up on the main floor, which i love because it is so open, but it does make it hard to truly understand the history of the space. decorating open spaces is also a challenge. :)

        you might find that your town has done some historical surveys of your neighborhood. i discovered after moving in that each house in my neighborhood was surveyed. i learned a lot of interesting things about my house by reviewing the research already done. have fun with that – it is still my favorite part about owning an old home!

  13. p.s. i used an online floor plan website called floorplanner.com. it worked really well and no tears were shed. :)

  14. Exciting! Go to the local historical society and see what you find. My husband’s great grandmother was born in Kingston in 1860, so I think they have a lot of plans available. As you said, Kingston was settled and a large town centuries ago. I think it was a river port for stuff up and down the Hudson. There were a lot of quarries around there also. Town Hall or the County Clerk’s office will probably have the original plans to your house, and later changes. There are probably several houses in the area that are twins to yours.
    I think there must have been an original set of doors right inside the outside doors. Many old houses were conscious of the costs of heating. The pantry idea is good. The bigger the pantry, the less cabinets you need which are expensive.I think you need a big island in the middle because you have tons of doors in the kitchen. But it is typical of the period. Sneak down in the basement and see if there are a pair of “set tubs.” They are a set of soapstone sinks for washing the clothes. All houses of that period had them. My grandfather’s were in the kitchen. Visit your town dump. You can find all sorts of things there, like toilets. Some people might dump period bathroom fixtures there also. Good luck! Ann
    You can also get a nearly free energy audit by a state wide non-profit. They can check the entire house for air leaks and they usually caulk several windows and give you free light bulbs. They can teach you how to caulk around the windows and window frames to prevent heat loss.

    • Yes, I definitely plan to spend time tracking down some history, there just hasn’t been time yet!

      There isn’t a sink in the basement, but it looks like there maybe was at one time.

      I’ll look into the energy audit! Thanks!

  15. I am so jealous of your new house! It has a lot of work that needs to be done, but it will be so beautiful!

    I vote for the room to be an office, especially when you combine the living room and sun room, you won’t really need a second den.

    • That’s how I feel——I don’t like “formal living rooms,” so I’m not sure why we’d need both. MAYBE if we get a TV, because we wouldn’t want that in the big room, but even then…the other room isn’t THAT big, so I think it’s better suited to be workspace.

      • It’s nice to have an office right off the entry. If you have clients visiting, it’s more professional feeling than walking through the residence to a back office (even such an amazing residence as this will be.) Also, you can see folks approaching and get to the front door quickly … so polished and businesslike!

      • How about a library? A room devoted just to reading seems such an indulgence, but hey, you have the space for it. And it somehow feels right for a house of this vintage.

  16. Wow!
    Looks like it has the potential to become an amazing house.
    I love how the living room looks post-demo in your floor plan. So big, and symmetrical. Hope all your dreams come true.
    Good luck with everything. I’m looking forward to the next post already.

  17. As a longtime reader and huge admirer of your style, I’m so pumped for you guys!! Just one thought, and I have no idea if it’s reasonable but… having the laundry room on the second floor is so much nicer than having it on the first. I’ve lived in both scenarios and it’s a major difference and something I’ve heard buyers look for. It makes for more reno, but what if you used the closet/pantry to expand the kitchen and made the laundry room into your pantry? I have NO IDEA if that would work structurally whatsoever, but laundry on the second floor is a huge win ;)

    • Thank you, Jen! I have the EXACT same thought all the time——removing that pantry/closet, enlarging the kitchen, turning the laundry room into a pantry…and then I get stuck. I LOVE the idea of having laundry on the second floor (honestly, for us, having a washing machine at all is like going to a spa…imagine how it’ll be when we have a dryer! But I totally hear ya about future buyers), but I don’t know where to put it! It’ll make more sense when I post the second floor layout, but that laundry room space is only on the first floor (it’s an addition), so it isn’t like we can just move it up one floor. There’s a small weird closet thing on the second floor that might work (I’d have to measure, but in any case it would require completely re-routing all the plumbing and moving it to the middle of the house), but beyond that, it’s really just bedrooms! But yeah…I like the way you think :)

      • Sounds like a plan for when you make the big kitchen renovation in a few years?

      • You could always install a laundry chute from the second floor to the first! Problem solved.

      • I thought there was a kitchen on the 2nd floor that you plan to change to a bedroom? So there must be plumbing up there? I wonder if there is anyway to work a laundry into there.

  18. Looks like you guys have tons of work ahead! Exciting!

    I’m kinddd of intrigued by the creepy basement?

  19. My boyfriend and I are really considering taking on a similar venture.

    If you contact a stone fabricator they can reshape the mantel using an “ogee” blade and make it symmetrical again fairly easily. At the very least get them out for a quote. It will probably only be a couple hundred bucks for the major piece of beautiful marble deliciousness in your place. I second the idea of putting the laundry in the current pantry and making the laundry room into a super swank pantry with windows (if the machines will fit). The good news is that having an unfinished basement means rerouting the plumbing is fairly inexpensive for major space gain!

    Look forward to everything to come!

  20. Long term, you might want to think about a patio/outdoor seating and eating area where the legend is on your floor plans. I’ll leave it to you to decide how to best connect it to the kitchen/living room.

    Also, it seems obvious to me that the kitchen sink is in the wrong place. It should be against the wall that separates the kitchen from the bathroom and laundry room. That’s where the plumbing is, it would make a much better work triangle, and the sink wouldn’t be crowded into a tiny space. You’d lose having a window over the sink, though.

    Just my 2 cents. Great bones of a house! So many possibilities! I cannot wait to see what you do with it.

    • Yep, thought of that for the outdoors! What I’d REALLY like to do is tear down the mudroom and reduce it a lot in size (it’s about 9’x10′, which is so silly), and then built some kind of patio area in that space and the space to the right of it, extending to the edge of the laundry room. But that’s…quite an endeavor.

      Yeah, the sink thing…I like having the window there, but there certainly might be a better option. The kitchen layout could obviously stand to be improved, but that’s a longgggg time off. It’s not an enormous room, so it’s totally workable for now to not have a classic working triangle. Someday, it’ll be awesome.

  21. Wow, so much work to do! I’m so excited to see what happens next. I know you plan on getting historical information on the house. Were the previous owners (or the family – I believe you said it was an estate sale) able to tell you about who lived there? I love that information.

    I love all of you planning. I would be terrified. It looks really creepy right now and (since I’m afraid of the dark) I’d be totally scared to stay there at night. I can imagine the noises it makes! You have some serious vision! I can see it!

    • All I really know is that the last owners of the house were a couple who bought it in 1973 for a dollar——which I’m assuming means it was a family transaction (and not from the city demolition list or anything), and that the wife had a life estate on the house. I know that she died in 2007 and the husband died in 2011, but according to neighbors, they mostly kept to themselves. They didn’t have any kids, so I believe the estate was either siblings or more distant relatives——I certainly never met them, and apparently they were all elderly. Anyway, I don’t know how long the family owned the house before the 1973 transaction! I’m guessing a long time, if only based on how few renovations seem to have occurred over the years.

      I’ll post more details as I find them out! Hopefully I can turn up some more in research. :)

      • One of my dreams is to buy an old, old, house and renovate/restore/update it – literally making it into my dream home. But a house like this, like yours, would literally cost a bajillion dollars in Toronto. Yes, a bajillion. This home is perfect and is so lucky you found it. You and Max are going to do it justice. Big time. I selfishly hope that when you have time, you’ll do some research on the house – I find that perhaps the most interesting…it’s age. It would be amazing to know who lived there and that kind of info. So so cool. Excited for you and Max!

      • PS: You can find that kind of information through your county assessor’s office! I think depending on the county, you can find it out online (but only transaction dates and prices, so when the home was turned over to a new neighbor) but you can go into the office itself and find who bought it from who, when, and for how much. Then you can find out how many owners it had :)

      • Yes, we’ve actually done that part!

  22. A detail for way, way, way, way down the road…. you can get the left side of the marble mantle shelf recut to match the contour of the other side. From the picture it looks like there is a fair amount of overhang on the right side so it might still look the appropriate size.

    Then again, years ago during one of our various renovations my husband came up with a rule. It applies when you think something is a huge eyesore… usually someone else’s improvement or some renovation that you were responsible for that went haywire such as not being present when you’ve hired someone to do some carpentry (our carpenter got very creative when left alone.) Here’s the rule…If you walk past the offending flaw more than three times without noticing it again there is no need to fix it.

    good luck with your new house! It looks like it will be wonderful.

  23. OMG,so much information. I love it! The floorplans are super helpful. I always draw mine in Illustrator. I think it’s easier to draw to scale that way. Also, “drawing” in photoshop requires too many layers and shapes. As a student you should be able to buy the Educational version of the Adobe Suite pretty cheaply. They are full versions. Totally worth it, as they are really expensive later.

    Anyway, I’m definitely on your side with the glass wall. Its lovely in some ways, sort of French loft-y, but those doors take up too much space and it’s awkward next to the fireplace. You can build shelves around radiators, but since the floor isn’t precious in there, I’d go with the re-route option you are thinking of. Also, lots of old houses like that had butler’s pantry’s between the kitchens and dining rooms. I can’t tell if your pantry situation could become that. It looks really narrow.

    I also fully support restoring the side porch to an outdoor porch. How nice would it be to be able to pop out the door and sit outside with breakfast in the morning?

    Finally, I can’t wait until you dig into the history. Who lived here? What did they do?

  24. wow. looks so amazing and i agree about the bathroom having so much potential and the window-doors in the living room def need to go even though they are pretty doors. can’t wait to see what you guys do with this house :)

  25. Love love love this house and the potential that you see! I’m glad you can tell that at one point you can tell that someone once really loved it as well. The only thing that is scary to me is the electrical wiring, but I guess you had it checked?
    Cant’ wait to see all you do with this place!

    • Yes, we had an electrical inspection prior to buying. We’re making some immediate upgrades, but for the most part everything is OK. The electrician just recommended replacing wiring as we go room by room, basically, but nothing seems to post an immediate hazard or anything. Knock on wood!

  26. So much potential! (That dividing wall of windows kills me…it’s like they just started from one side and oops…the room was a little bit narrower than they thought?)

    Anyhow, this house is lucky to have you two…I know you’ll do amazing things!

  27. When I got to the picture of the marble fireplace I gasped audibly. The place is amazing, I would totally do what you are doing if I could :) Can’t wait to see it unfold!

  28. Every part of that house is gold. The light fittings are all super cute, the moldings are beautiful, even the terrible glass wall is nice. I noticed a fabulous black stereo console in one of the photos, hope thats staying! With that huge loungeroom, surely that littl-er room would be a nice office. Before you get around to making the enclosed porch an unenclosed porch, it could make a delightful gallery space. Someone else said this too, but it applies here too, you’ve really given me the house buying bug! One last thing, do your dogs play with eachover? If so, they’ll probably run through all the rooms and up and down the hall, and that’s super cute.

  29. Nothing would keep me and a sledge hammer away from that front entry paneled wall – it will make such a difference. The living room is great – it will be amazing when all those extras get ripped out. I’m kind of surprised there were no windows on the fireplace wall. I am confused about the side porch. It was original to the house? I guess I’ll have to wait to see the outside.

    • I *think* what might have happened is that the kitchen was a early addition, and the side porch was probably added then, along with the doorway leading to it from the dining room. That’s my bet. Hopefully I can find some old pictures of the house or dig up the original plans or something to confirm!

  30. Oh goody, goody, goody, goody! We’re giddy here. As it is, I couldn’t wait for each and every post! And now? I’ll be checking in daily for the latest!

  31. It’s going to be fun, watching the restoration – such beautiful light in so many of the rooms… and when you open them up? I can’t wait!

  32. SHUT UP with that fireplace! So gorgeous!

  33. When I read that you and Max had bought a house, I decided to re-read some vintage MN posts when you were moving into your 1st and current apartments. In “The New Nest,” I found this gem:

    “I’m toying with the idea of just putting a grand piano in the middle of the room, hanging a gaudy chandelier, and roping off the room with polite signs that say ‘for looking only.'”

    Daniel. THIS. IS. YOUR. CHANCE.

    Maybe it’s not a Grand, but clean that sucker up and do something nice with it.

  34. With the potential den/office, why not make it another bedroom. I’m sure there are a bunch upstairs, but one more bedroom is nice, and could still be used as a den/office. If you turn the closet in the dining room to face the other way and combine it with the weird closet that already exists, I think you would have a huge, lovely closet. Who needs a closet in the dining room anyway. You could use/decorate the room however you want, but for resale purposes, if it had a large closet, it would count as a bedroom. Main floor bedrooms can be quite popular, especially for people (like my mom) who have mobility issues and don’t like to use stairs.

    • We’ve thought about making that room a bedroom, but given that there are 3 (maybe 4) bedrooms upstairs, we really don’t need another one at all (especially with future sofas and air mattresses!). That closet in the dining room is original, so it stays, and it’s only about 18″ deep anyway, so it really wouldn’t work to put clothes in or anything. And it can’t be combined with the other teensy closet because there’s a big brick chimney running between them! :)

  35. Wow, that house is so lucky you found it! It really has great bones, and despite all the crazy changes made to it, some really amazing features are still intact! I can’t wait to see what you do with it!!

    Also, those exterior windows are amazing, don’t you dare replace them! We have an old 1925 house with drafty double hung windows, and we had a company that came out, removed them, took them out to their trailer/shop, removed the glass, replaced it with double-paned glass, then reinstalled them right back where they came from. You really can’t tell the difference in looks, but the temp and sound insulation is an amazing difference. Obviously that is about 1 million steps down the road for you, but just so you know it exists! The best part is that our painted shut windows actually open like double hung windows are supposed to. From the top and the bottom!!

    • Wow! That’s crazy/amazing. Good on you for not just replacing them!

      I LOVE the old windows in our house——don’t worry, they’re staying! We’re one of the few houses around that never replaced with aluminum, which makes me really happy. All of them open, and almost all of them still have their sash cords intact, and there are only a few broken panes in the whole house——otherwise, it’s all old and wavy and beautiful. I have a *little* experience restoring sash windows, so I’m looking forward to repairing and restoring where necessary as I go. I’m sure it’ll be fun…for like 5 minutes, haha. We also have storm windows on every window, and while kind of unsightly, they do keep the noise down and hopefully help with the draftiness issue.

  36. daniel! it’s amazing! i’m so excited to see it come together.

  37. WOW! I love the new floor plan! I’m quite excited to be along for this reno after reading the previous ones.

    The bathroom horrifies me. Horrifies me!

  38. Those radiators are fucking amazing!! But the lady on the painting is seriously creepy. Aren’t you afraid she’s gonna break out of the painting and come after you with a knife in the middle of the night?

  39. What is that? Are u buying new apt? wtf??

  40. my god, there’s a LOT of work!! Good luck, wish u a lot of patience with that :)

  41. Gorgeous and challenging. I love the wall of windows – just not there location. It would be amazing if you could remove them and reuse them somewhere else in the house.

  42. I know that you know that you have unearthed a gem here. Weirdly excited to be able to follow along. So: Please don’t come back down to earth. Just keep flying.

  43. WOW – STUNNING!!! X

  44. I can see the potential and as a reader I’m exited to follow along your renovations! But I see loads of work coming and I’m not sure I would like to be in your shoes… ;) (Specially when you tackle that bathroom…)
    Anyway, the house is great! I’m glad I read so many great blogs like yours and now I can see potential and someday I will buy a house for a dime and convert it into a great place :):)
    Agree with the glass doors in the living room, they make no sense there on top of that amazing fireplace.
    What came to my mind while reading the post was insulation… You bought it in winter so I think it is ok, but it seems like a really chilly place… I’ve live in beautiful old houses with beautiful old windows where it was freezing cold…
    I can’t wait to read about your renovations! Congratulations!!

  45. Hi Daniel; What an amazing amount of wonderful space. For my two cents, I agree with you about taking the wall out of the living room, it makes everything a bit akward in that space. I agree with Max that it is a great wall. The thought that creeped up on me was, why not place the wall between the dining room and the “Den” and take out the existing wall -it looks to be about the right size? It would give you some extra mouldings and doors to work with in other places, it would make the baywindow in the diningroom seem less “cramped in a corner” and more in proportion with the surrounding space and it would really open the place up in a way that befits the house. I love the idea of preserving parts of the stenciling. I would try to at least have a functional toilet on the ground floor, otherwise all your Thanks-giving dinner guests will have to walk upstairs all the time when they need a toilet. Anyhow, that’s it. You guys must be super-excited, I would be in your place. Have fun!!!

  46. P.S. I used to live in Concord Mass. in a really old house when we revisited there (I was still a child) was a boy my age living in our house. He led us around and we looked in the barn/ garage behind the house, in the cellar of the barn we found really old newspapers, I remember ad’s with couches for 7 dollars the papers were in pristine shape as well. I think they were pre-war (WW 2). Maybe you will find things like that in your cellar. If you decide to put new flooring in the living room I would consider putting some insulation underneath the flooring.

  47. Hi Daniel,
    I’m so happy for both of you and excited to read new posts.
    As a matter of fact, my parents bought a very (and vacant for twenty years…) old house (medieval parts, though most of it is 18th century) with weird things (but no weird closet!). Your blog is a big source of inspiration (and gives me hope – really.).
    Thank you !

  48. Eeee!! I’m so excited to read this post! I can’t wait to watch the transformation. That house is an incredible find. I want to come help!

  49. Wow! This house is amazing! A crap-ton of work, but amazing! Can’t wait to see what you do with it!

  50. so excite!!!

    i am totally with you, lose the glass wall and open up that wonderful room. can hardly wait to see what you do next!

  51. I am so excited to see what you do with the house.
    I remember helping my dad work on the old windows in our house growing up. He tried to make it fun saying maybe someone hid a treasure in place of the weights…I was always excited to start a new window…never found a treasure but it was fun to help him.

    Here’s my dream floor…http://www.lonny.com/magazine/December+2012/lKVdxMSe5hM/1#43
    I’m going to try this dark stain in my living room.

  52. Even the way it is now, gross out bathroom and all, I think it’s really beautiful. Very exciting.

  53. I have never commented on a blog post before in my life but I just have to say…Eeeeeekkkkk!! What a fantastic find, this house is amazing and you will no doubt make it absolutely stunning! All the little extras you get as well like the radiators (love!), quirky light fixtures – can’t wait to see the transformation! Good Luck with it all!

  54. I am so so jealous that A) you had the balls to look at that house and take the plunge and B) you found a nice house with a larger downstairs and smaller upstairs. All the older/larger homes we looked at that had decent sized living areas also had like 5/6 bedrooms upstairs. That’s at least 2 more bedrooms than we’d ever need.

    I absolutely agree with you about the glass wall. It’s super nice but it cuts up the room and makes the fireplace placement totally awkward. Speaking of the fireplace my aunt had a pellet stove installed inside her fireplace, kind of like this: http://tinyurl.com/pvvmjlb You can do it with a wood or gas stove too. It would kill me not to reuse that glass elsewhere though… maybe leading into a walk-in closet, or maybe if you decided you do want a vestibule in the entry you could salvage some of it somehow? I don’t know. Feeling the urge to toss out my crazy ideas.

    We re-routed a radiator, moved it about to another wall and it was about $300 for the plumber to do it 4 years ago, so it definitely can be done cost effectively. Bookshelves would be awesome! I am so so excited to see what you end up doing to your new home!

  55. Oh forgot to add I am on team max though for a den instead of a workspace, but that’s just my weird thing that I feel like an office/workshop is more of a personal space and I prefer all of the downstairs to be like one huge open space for visitors.

  56. It has graceful, comfortable proportions–it will be magnificent. Please put the upstairs bathroom on a short list, though. We had a bathroom with formica in the shower and had wet moldy walls underneath.

  57. As someone already commented, that house is really lucky to have you guys! I’m so pleased to hear you talk about so much restoration and handling the house and its history with so much respect. Sadly, so many people want to put their own stamp on a place, and to me that just ends up looking ‘designed’ and completely lacking in spirit – either past, present, or future.

    I’m with you Daniel on the removal of the glass wall, though. It doesn’t add anything to the house and cuts into that amazing fireplace and the space.

    HOWEVER . . .

    I’m with Max on the den idea. It will be so nice to have a wee sitting room! So cosy with TV, desk, books, copies of Architectural Digest and Wallpaper*. And so nice to have a formal sitting room, too (for those who don’t want to watch American football after Thanksgiving dinner – you might have to set out some folding chairs).

    I love the staircase, and the bannister. I once visited a period house that had a similar one, and it had a plain dark-chocolate brown carpet, and it was beautiful – really rich and refined and showed off the architectural detail perfectly.

    I’m really looking forward to seeing how everything evolves.

  58. My heart is actually broken after reading this because I’m now utterly in love with your house and know I can never have it!

    It’s. So. Beautiful! You guys have defintely made the right choice and this is going to be an breathtaking place once it’s had some love.

    I hate you slightly, but goddamn I can’t wait to see what comes next.

  59. Is it possible the house originally ended about where the bathroom ends on the bottom floor? That would make it much more symmetrical, which would seem to make sense given the interior layout. If so it looks like the door from the dining room onto the porch could have been a window. THough if so, I don’t know where the kitchen used to be :)

    • Yes, I think that’s exactly how it was! I think the kitchen was probably in the basement, originally?

      • I agree with this reader that the little bay in the dining room was likely 3 windows, and it’s more likely that the house ended at the edge of the kitchen/pantry because there appears to be a fire-place/wall there — which might have been where the original stove was (probably one of those nifty wood burning cookers/ovens).

        I suggest that the side porch was probably just an open-air porch, likely with a door from the dining and the kitchen — there are a lot of houses here that have that on the side of the house. And if that side faces south, it was likely the kitchen garden access.

        My sister’s house is 1910, and her home is shaped similarly, with the same side porch but open to the yard. It’s covered (it actually has a little balcony porch above it that connects to a bedroom — and both are original to the building. It faces south, and that’s the side where they have their kitchen garden — which was also indicated in the historical records.

        Their kitchen, btw, is also odd — it currently has an island and unused wall, and they plan on just making a galley kitchen out of it.

        For the glass doors/etc — perhaps you can use them as a follie in the back yard somehow?

  60. UGHHHH, I’m so jealous of this house! This is basically my dream house – disgusting bathroom and all (just imagine how GOOD it is going to feel to rip all out all the gross, make it beautiful, and compare the pictures!). The floors and windows and moldings and faux wallpaper – everything is so beautiful. The only thing that isn’t making me throw a toddler-style tantrum is the fact that y’all own it, and I know you won’t rip out the beautiful details in favor of some horrid IKEA-style monstrosity (don’t get me wrong – I like some of that stuff, but there’s a time and a place :) And it doesn’t belong in this house! Ha!).

    Anyway, I can’t wait to see more of this house, as well as follow your progress as you make it amazing.

  61. I’m a huge fan of restoration, but don’t forget that life in the 1850’s was very different from today, and may have called for a very different type of space than what works best today. For example, such a large and gracious household might have had a cook, and so it would have been appropriate to have the kitchen rather isolated, but when you’re hosting guests yourself, you don’t really want to be cut off from them.
    I agree with you that the window wall is totally in the wrong place, and the right hand side is kind of messed up/badly detailed, but like Max, I kind of love it, too. It’s such an unusual feature! Personally, if it were me, and depending on which walls are structural, I would make the laundry room a laundry/pantry, or I would move the laundry into the mud room, and I would bust out the wall and closets between the dining room and the kitchen, replacing all or part of it with the window wall from the living room. then, I would have a big island on the kitchen side, maybe containing the sink.
    I think you’ll be able to tell what’s original from the architectural details, differences in floor slopes, and from the structure underneath in the basement. If the chimneys coming through the dining room and kitchen are the same, it would seem to me that they were built at the same time. Your kitchen feels really awkward to me, with the bump-out chimney wall behind the stove. It’s possible that there was originally a coal stove inset into the chimney, which might mean that you could do a smaller version of this: http://tinyurl.com/ph6xoow and be able to align everything on that wall, which would allow you to improve the flow and functionality of the room.
    Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if the kitchen is in its original place, and the mudroom was originally a scullery. This would have been a common layout for the time period.
    I can’t wait to see the upstairs!

  62. be still my heart, room 11-12 has me fluttering my hands in excitement. i cannot wait to see what you do with this place.

  63. A few things (because I took notes as I read your post) (yes, I’m a freak like that).

    1. Your house is amazing. But you already know this. It’s going to be SO FUN to watch you bring it back.

    2. Cat’s paw – it’s a tool to remove the nails without mangling things. That way you can get the plywood off without damaging anything or finding the keys. Win-win.

    3. My house has pretty much the same newel post! Yours looks like it’s in better condition. Awesome.

    4. I kind of love the not-wallpaper in the office/den. So Wes Andersony

    5. LiquidWood & WoodEpox to salvage/rebuild your water damaged arch (assuming the arch is wood). I’ve been using it on my stoop and it’s a lifesaver. Probably the most expensive product of it’s kind on the market but hands-down the best. I’ve tried a couple. This one wins.

    6. Your fireplace may have been coal heat. Mine look like that. If it’s the same, the fireplace wouldn’t have a floor in it and the heat would vent vertically up through the chimney from the basement. The black gate would act as a heat register like floor ones do in a modern forced air system.

    7. Live with the wall for a while before ripping it out. I was going to rip out a wall and, after living through multiple seasons in the place, am really REALLY glad I didn’t. It would have opened things up but it’s there for a reason. Or you live with it and decide ripping it out is absolutely the way to go. Yes, it’s kind of weird & awkward but the old bi-fold French doors are kind of amazing.

    8. Asbestos – yes, you have to be careful but you’d be amazed (at least in Jersey) what homeowners can do to their own homes. Contractors & landlords have to adhere to different standards. For owner-occupied homes where the homeowners is doing it themselves – things quickly become “recommendations” instead of “requirements”. At least this is my experience with lead paint. I didn’t have any asbestos.

    9. The floors I had refinished in my place are the original pine plank subfloor. There’s nothing but joists underneath them. They’re def not as hard as an oak floor would be but I like the dings & holes. Just call it character.

    Have fun!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Thank you for all the recommendations, Carrie!

      I think you’re totally right about the fireplace. The wall behind the grate is plastered over except for a circular hole, which I guess was probably a vent? But there’s also no basement under that section of the house, so that’s why I thought there was probably some kind of wood/coal-burning stove directly on the floor in front of it? I don’t know!

      I think I’ve lived with the wall long enough, honestly! It’s going to stay for a while longer just because this room isn’t super high on the priority list, but I can’t see deciding to keep it. If it were an original wall, I’d agonize long and hard and forever and never do it, but I don’t really feel that way about this. I’m ruthless!

      Yeah, I think NY and NJ are probably about the same with Asbestos. Totally a-OK for homeowners to rip it out of their houses. If we do any of that, we’ll be VERY CAREFUL and follow professional guidelines and whatnot, but after all the research I’ve done (tons), it sounds like professional abatement is a TON of money and pretty unnecessary.

      And yes, the floors! I love (love!) pine plank subfloor as flooring, and I don’t mind the softness thing at all. I don’t want a floor that looks new. I’m more concerned about a) ripping out what’s there and what we’ll discover underneath and b) losing a bunch of heat in the winter. But we’ll see. I’ll at least get the tiles tested, as that will bear on our decision.

  64. Wowwwww… thank you so much for the tour! That post looks like it took forever to write, but it really sets the stage for the miraculous before and after comparison! you guys are amazing!

  65. I am slightly jealous of the antique piano left behind… who is it by? As long as the soundboard isn’t cracked (lift the bottom panel of the piano to see), it’s probably worth restoring, though it can be expensive to do! No rush, though… it’s unlikely to fall apart that much more in the next few years.

    Great tour! I will have fun watching what you do to this place!

  66. I think I have the answer to your den/office debate: it’s a LIBRARY. See how wordsmithing alone can change the entire dynamic of a room? Plus your house is old and regal enough that it is totally possible it was a library at one time. :)

    • I’ve been thinking about that, too! I like the idea of using the long wall for floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, especially since it would cover the part where the molding is missing and the part of the floor with the lousy patch-job. Also, it doesn’t require moving radiators. :)

      • A library! Omg, of course! A little home within your home for the many, many books that you and Max have collected (/hoarded). And you could move that vintage piano in there, toss in a bar cart and a couple scrumptious arm chairs and you’ve got yourself a fucking fancy reading room. AHH. Can’t. Even. Deal. So many possibilities.

    • YES! a library. great suggestion.

  67. Wow

    I am really looking forward to see what you guys will do with this amazing house. I hate to use the P-word but there definitely is a lot of potential there.

    Have you heard of Jotul wood burners? In Europe I know you can find them secondhand and they would work really well with you mantel I think.

    Congratulations on the house!!

  68. Echoing everyone else’s superlatives here …

    One thought: How about a double-door entry from the new 1 into the new 3? Such a grand room begs for a wide portal.

    • There’s no way to make that happen! There’s a set of stairs in the way!

      • Oh, looked to me like there’s enough wall space behind the stairwell.

        Since you’re keeping two single doors into the living room, how about changing the one near the entry to a left-hand swing? Ushers you into the room more elegantly and keeps the door-symmetry.

  69. Awesome, a giant post full of pictures and plans. Can’t wait to see the kitchen improvements.

    And yes, eff that wall of windows. By itself, it’s kind of cool, even though I hate the sort of mottled glass panes, but why squeeze the fireplace like that?

    In the dining room, did someone wallpaper/hand-stamp the pipes in the corner? That’s dedication.

  70. I AM SO EXCITED! Seriously, I can’t wait for more posts. And if you and D16 Anna could just hurry up and finish decorating & renovating your many houses and apartments my place could use some work. :)

  71. Thanks for the tour! Very exciting. The house is beautiful, yada yada / it will be amazing / good bones / lovely original details / ad nauseum. Also – giant room is giant. (And I love the piano idea. You could host ballroom dance parties, haha.) :)

    This is making me feel very confusing feelings: on the one hand, I want to break out in hives on your behalf because of all the work ahead of you. On the other, it makes me want to actually write about (and continue) my renovation plans. CURSE YOU! Can’t wait to see the rest!

  72. If you’re into gardening then you could use the window wall to build a green house or tomato house! Cp.: http://newlookfloralrochester.com/about-the-greenhouse-2/attachment/100_0317-5/ Since it’s an indoors wall I have no idea how it’d keep up outdoors, though.

  73. i too am SO stupidly excited about this reno.
    i am really jealous too. we just finished building a new house and i’m already feeling the itch to buy something just like this and bring it back to life. unfortunately, my husband is not so keen. i guess i’ll just have to live vicariously through you & max.
    yay..so excited…

    jo

  74. I’m so excited for your house, it is lucky to have you and your loving/obsessive care! I agree with your re the great room, it wants to be one awesome space not two less awesome spaces. And love the fancy digital plans you busted out.

  75. coming out of lurking here just to tell you how ridiculously excited I am about your house and all the future projects and the resulting fat blog posts!! you guys are gonna do an awesome job on this house

  76. I am so incredibly jealous!! I wish we had houses like this in Australia :( Any houses here older than about 1940 is usually stone and solid brick walls, and awfully expensive. You are literally living my dream.

  77. Hand stamped!?!

    Mind blown.

    I can’t wait for the second floor!

  78. I have to be honest. I look at all of your photos and all I can think is…

    “OMFG YOUR HOUSE IS AMAZING!” I see exactly what you see in it. We’re so excited for you and what you get to do over the coming days, weeks, months, years. Few people really and truly have that innate ability to look at something and see what it will eventually be while still having the sense to keep what it was and what was original fabric of the home. We had that happen when we bought our house. Friends and family couldn’t “see” the house the way we could. Our house was bad to them, but not to us. It’s great to see that you get it too.

    I actually had several people contact us today and say “Did you see Manhattan Nest today? I think you guys are kindred spirits.”

    We have a ton of great resources for historically accurate items that would probably fit well in your home. Our house, at 1885ish, has a similar but far more modest feel when it comes to molding and other architectural items. We’re definitely quite jealous of your newel post, that’s for sure. Anyhow, the one great resource that springs to mind has to do with molding. If you’re looking for a match to your historic moldings, check out Mad River Woodworks out in California. If they don’t have what you need, they’ll custom grind a knife for a really reasonable price.

    Alright, done comment rambling. We’ll surely be back here rather often.

  79. Amazing! Love it! Congrats to you and Max! Lots of work ahead but this house is lucky to have you as the restorers! Looking forward to each and every exciting post. Reminds me of the book An Affair with a House, an 1840 restoration also on the East Coast. Can’t wait for you to fill that entryway with beautiful light!

  80. Since your new home was built in the late Victorian era it’s very likely that the small room closest to the entry was the visiting or receiving room. The Room where the lady of the house would receive visitors. The room with the fireplace most likely a study or library where the men would go after a formal dinner.

    Wonderful home.

  81. Oh my god, Daniel, it’s perfect. I’m so happy that this house ended up in the hands of people who will respect its provenance. Congratulations to you and Max.

  82. THANKS for taking all the time and effort to share your thoughts and plans on the house here in such detail. Your post-floor-plan is really spelling “relief and back to the roots” – looks so much more “homy”.
    The only thing I wondered is the left side and all these strange entries and connections to the patio. Any plans and ideas how to sort this apart from what you described already?

  83. wow! this is going to be so amazing! I really like the glass partition wall in the big living room, but upon further thought, it might be better for the room to remove it. maybe this is a crazy idea, but perhaps it can be re-purposed to build a greenhouse in the garden?

  84. I think that when you rip out that wood paneled wall in the hall you will very quickly find out why it was put in: namely, cooooooold. Most people who have houses of that period here in England either have to keep some kind of vestibule wall or get a really thick velvet curtain to go across the whole door to try to insulate it. Yes it makes it dark, but houses of the period would have been like that – that’s why they have the high transom window.

    I lived in an 1820s house in upstate NY for 6 years with no vestibule or other insulation around the door and by God it was cold on the first floor!

  85. I am so glad you guys are brave. That horrifying bathroom would have sent me running. But those windows, arched doorway and bay window are to die for! You cannot work on this house fast enough for me. I absolutely cannot wait to see what beautiful things you do with this neglected house.

  86. This is the best thing that has ever happened to me as a faithful reader! It’s amazing and take out the wall of windows… you are totally right, the 2 spaces are awkward sizes if you don’t. You never mentioned but I was wondering… does it stink? Mine does and I would really like to know how to get rid of the funk.

  87. Of course, off the charts exciting. Even better all the huge looking forward to progress posts!

  88. When you mentioned that you were thinking about herringbone floors for the big living room, i immediately thought of Holly Becker’s (Decor8/HausMaus) floors in her apartment. especially the first picture in that link before they are oiled. I don’t know if you can keep that look and still protect the wood, but I love that ashy oak look.

    I love that your restoration plan sounds like something I would do – respect the original design of the house but make it in to what you want to live in. I agree with the other commentators about turning the front parlor into a library – and you can still put the piano in there – and you can get a smoking jacket for when you’re reading in the evening.

  89. This just gets more and more awesome. So many lovely details. I agree wholeheartedly about the wall in the main room, rip that sucker out and keep the blocks for something else. Why anyone would want to bifurcate such a cool space is beyond me.

    I don’t know if anyone has suggested this yet, but if the wallpaper isn’t salvageable on the walls as such, could you perhaps take a piece and frame it somewhere? That way, you could honor the house…and not have to deal with a whole wall of the stuff.

    Can’t wait to see what kind of beauty this house will be.

  90. That glass wall and the room it divides seems a bit Royal Tenenbaums-y to me.

  91. I really appreciate the fact that you are restoring the house to its original layout and keeping true to its previous (spatial) charms. I also love that you are going to make it your own! Ah, so excited for what’s to come.

    I’m also waiting with anticipation to see what you’ll do with the garden. Do you have an interest in landscaping as well as interior and architectural design? What style are you thinking of going with for the outside?

  92. The new house project is rather exciting. I think you should keep the vestibule. It will be excellent for keeping out the cold and also rather a dignified way to enter the house! I’m sure you can get it looking spiffy, some coathooks and tiles perhaps? Also the entry area beyond that will be delightfully free of coats, boots and mess. Ahhh how wonderful it will be. Am I living vicariously through your project? Why, yes, I am.

  93. Wow wow wow!! I’m hanging on every word/picture. I can totally see your vision — can’t wait to follow along!

  94. Amazing! I am going to enjoy living vicariously through you, Daniel. Looking forward to each and every post xx

  95. Envy! So much envy! I’m sure it’s gonna be gorgeous…Can’t wait to see it.

    I would add a window in the kitchen though.

  96. wow -what does mom think of all this?

  97. 1. You’re awesome for tackling this house. It has phenomenal bones and I love your vision.
    2. It may be the only other house I’ve seen on the interwebs that makes our firehouse redo look like a manageable task. If you ever need to commiserate, feel free to reach out :)

  98. I love your new house! So many great old details – fireplace is wonderful, very good woodwork, floors. Thanks for posting the floor plan. So many people jump into renovating and don’t do a floor plan – I can’t imagine. I also appreciate your attempting to save some things – bath room. I read a blog called Big Old Houses – this man also writes for the New York Social Diary – anyway, he loves old, old bath rooms and he has posted some really good photos -great inspiration. I cannot wait to see what you will do with this great old house – so fun!

  99. I’m betting that wall of windows is already gone ;) Also wondering if there is an all-black-wall, all-white-woodwork room in the plan?! Congrats on your new home! Oh and you may be able to shine a flashlight from basement between the rafters up into kitchen to see if you have flooring above the subfloor and underneath the plywood.

  100. Another thought…the marble fireplace surround may have originally been in the small front room? Where the trim is missing in front of the small closet/jut-out area. This room may have been the parlor, used for receiving guests, and “making an impression” with fancy stoofs and heat. It looks as if, with all the closets, that at some point it was used as a bedroom

  101. Wow this is fantastic, Daniel! Do you know when the house was divided up into apartments? I’m curious how long it existed as a single family residence before all the crappy plywood was added. I do historic paint color analysis and it’s great when you actually have original moldings because you can figure out when something like that crazy/awesome wall o’ windows was added based on the paint colors. The textured glass panes in there are fab (and can be really difficult to find, so a salvage company is going to love you), but you’re right it looks super awkward especially on the right side by the fireplace where it was cut down to fit.

    Can’t wait to follow along with your process!

  102. Hi I’ve enjoyed your blog so much over the past year, but this is my first comment. I first came across it when you won Apartment Therapy’s Small Cool contest, and I didn’t sleep for 24 hours reading every.single.blog.post. Congratulations on the new place! When i saw that you bought a house I actually started to sweat with excitement. I’m super pumped to see what yall do with such inspiring bones. I live vicariously through the amazing bloggers who’s love of architecture and vision of what could be, rescue and restore and revive. Thank you for taking us through your design process in this labor of love. You may already be familiar with victoriaelizabethbarnes.com but just in case, I thought you might get a kick out of her 1890’s labor of love. Yippy I’m so excited!

  103. Wow, amazing. Amazing old house, amazing that you guys found it, amazing that you’ll restore it to its former glory, maybe even better. I’m really excited for you. Reading this post was actually moving for me – something about making something once-beautiful beautiful again? You guys are awesome.

    This looks like quite the project, but it’s not hard to see that someone with your sense of style (and enough craziness* to attemp it!) will do amazing things here. I can’t wait to see the progress. I’ll be checking in.

    *in a good way

  104. Daniel- I am along for the ride! I can’t wait to see how you work this out. I have been checking out your blog for about 6 months and really LOVE it.
    I bought an old and original house to fix up and restore and I have really struggled with the motivation to keep going. The house is old, as in built just after The Great Depression. It has a lot of cool Art Deco fixtures and details and was only remodeled once in the 50’s.
    Anyway, I am inspired by your work and your detailed sharing of the joys and trials.
    Thanks!

  105. Back again. I don’t think the house ended before the kitchen. I think the bathroom and the laundry were connected at some point. My grandparents had an 1880’s home in Worcester that had a marble bathroom with no tub that was original. All old big houses had square kitchens. The center was usually filled with a large work table. And there were usually soapstone tubs stuck on the wall for laundry. I can’t imagine any kitchen in the basement, during those times. I lived in a Victorian house in western Mass when I was little that had a summer kitchen on the back with a built in outhouse. I think your mudroom, if original could have been a summer kitchen. I would re-work the laundry and bathroom into one room. Put in a nice tiled shower., not necessarily a bathtub. The pantry could go on the laundry room wall closest to the kitchen sink. Your good dishes and serving pieces can be stored in the dining room closets. Join Freecycle! you never know what people might be giving away. A period type buffer or server would be perfect for the dining room, especially if it was over sized. Check out your plantings this summer so you can add things in the fall. People give away plants and shrubs all the time. Ann

  106. I’m chiming in as another well-wisher on this inspiring and (wonderfully) epic project!

    Do you know about underfloor insulation? There are various types, it’s easy to self-install and will allow you to treat your floor surfaces in any aesthetic manner you please.

    So so good, and please update us… we want more.

  107. Until you’ve made it through a first winter with that vestibule, I wouldn’t rip it out. The useful of such a space for dumping boots, hanging leashes, etc. combined with the ability to block that whooosh of cold air every time you open the door is not a bad concept. Vestibules have a purpose. This one could use some improvement, but ripping it out may not be the right answer.

    • Maybe the glass French doors with their sidelights and top of glass panes could be modified to work as a vestibule wall or some heavy drapes hung in the winter like they used to do. Because you’re right, in old drafty homes vestibules are great, they just don’t have to be so ugly!

  108. I’m in love with it! Can’t wait to see what you guys do with it!

  109. Daniel, I am so excited to see this project happen and I love how important the original structure is to you. I’m the same. I work for Virginia’s historic preservation office and I deal with individual property records every day. Sometimes the record’s are skimpy but other times we luck out and may even have large scale architectural plans or historic photos included. All state SHPOs are different but the resources used to discover property histories are the same. If you know what documents (deeds, mutual insurance forms, tax records, etc.) will help you do this, then it’s much easier to find them. So, our office put together this handy publication for home owners tracking down their home’s history. I hope it will help you track down the same kind of records in New York’s system. Good luck!

  110. OMGEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE
    I don’t know you and I don’t even talk on the comments that much, but I have been reading your blog for a while, and I am SOOOOOOO excited for you that I almost started crying, and I don’t even have PMS. And I can’t wait to see what you do with this beauty.

    Maybe this has been addressed- I don’t have an opinion on the wall of glass – yeah it is cool but I can also see where it would be nice to have one big room. But I don’t think you have to take everything back to 100% authentic either. I mean . .. did they even have electricity when this house was built? Personally I think there can be a good balance between the old and the new to create a comfortable, modern home with traditional charm.

    Last, as I look at this I am reminded of an apartment I lived in when I was young. It was in a “Victorian Mansion,” as the landlord called it. This so-called mansion had been tragically divided in much the same way as yours. And it had just as much 70s stuff in it. Actually, my neighbors had beautiful stained glass windows and a fireplace, but my place was tiny, barely a 1-bedroom, and ALL THE WALLS WERE COVERED IN 70’S FAUX WOOD PANELING, EVEN THE DOORS. Seriously, if people came over who had never been there, they couldn’t figure out how to get out. :D

    Good luck and we’ll all be waiting with baited breath to see what you do with it.

  111. p.s. definitely keep the piano . . . and eventually get it diagnosed. I imagine this as a beautiful family home and every family home needs a piano. :D

  112. You’re…you’re removing that amazing glass wall and doors?

    I need a divoRSS.

  113. FYI – that “extra” paneled wall with the many windows at your entrance probably was built to serve 2 purposes. First, the age of your house would indicate you have no insulation. The front entrance lets in a ton of light! And cold too. Brrrrrr. Second, and closely related to the first, if they built it to keep the cold out, they had to do something to let the light back in. Hence, all the windows. I suspect the 2 side windows in the cave-making wall were added after the top window.

    • Yes, I definitely know that the vestibule was probably built for heat! We have to take it out because it’s just soooo ugly, and there isn’t a lot we can do to make that any better. We’ll probably re-evaluate after a winter in the house and see if it would make sense to put something else in, though. I wouldn’t be opposed to a vestibule if the interior door/surroundings were made mostly of salvaged, age-appropriate components, but this wall just can’t stay!

  114. This house is a GEM!!

  115. Daniel,

    So glad that you decided you needed some fuel for your fire and found such an amazing space! It sounds like a great location & I look forward to reading your posts as always. I haven’t read through all 152 comments above me but I did want to mention something about the two dark poche spots in your plan. I may be telling you something obvious that you already know but I am fairly certain that they are chimneys. In the front room where you note that the floor was different is likely where a stone hearth existed and in the back where the stove is you are likely to find a brick chimney behind that wall as well. We had two in our house and even though we were staring right at them we were still surprised to see them when we tore down the plaster. I dont know what you see when you open the door that goes into the bump out in the front first floor room but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a very shallow closet only. Last thing is that I would be careful when taking down the wall that separates the two units on the first floor (the one right under the stair opening) because there may have been a wall there originally helping to support the header that the stair hangs on… might be worth a check in the basement to see if there is a wall there or if there are larger piers on either side of that hallway under where the stair spans… that stair is not light by any means and it would bear on the side walls if not a wall directly underneath it! Best of luck – hope that I haven’t wasted your time telling you things that you already know & looking forward to reading about the adventure.

    We have taken a pause on our own blog because we had a baby about 6 months ago – one word of advice – as you know with dogs.. dependents take time; so get all the hard work done now!

    colleen

    • Thanks, Colleen! Yes——we know there are chimneys there. They’re still intact and visible from the outside, and they also extend down to the basement.

      Congrats on your baby!! Your house looks so wonderful! :)

  116. I love, love, love your home Daniel & Max! It’s going to look amazing and I cannot wait to follow your journey through restoring it!

    Also, since you mentioned peeling back layers of poorly applied paint, I’d recommend Peel Away 7 Paint Remover another blog I follow who is restoring a 1914 American Foursquare Craftsman home uses it EVERYWHERE. She removed aluminum siding from her home and proceeded to strip, repair, sand, replace where needed, and prime/paint the entire thing and used Peel Away for it. She’s also used it inside, too.

    Congratulations again!

  117. don’t know if anyone mentioned it already, but i think that the side porch might’ve been a butler’s pantry… my friend has an old house in Catskill with a very similar passage from the kitchen to the dining room. i am sure whatever you do with it, it will be great. so happy to hear you are trying to respect the history of the house as much as possible. best wishes.

  118. Those are amazing windows! So jealous – our original windows are gone and were replaced with crappy vinyl ones that are already falling apart. If they are in poor condition, I think you can actually have them restored, so that they are more energy efficient. I think old windows are misunderstood…

  119. I think the fireplace was added later (or moved from the other room), not the wall of windows. See the way the fireplace wall is over the top of the windows?

  120. Hi, I’m new to your blog, but I am in love with your house! I’m an Arcitect and love rehab projects. I have one suggestion on the floor plan…have you considered making the existing laundry room into a bulter’s pantry and moving the washer and dryer to the mud room? A walk in pantry with open shelves would give you tons of kitchen storage! And the laundry re-location wouldn’t take much work.
    I can’t wait to watch your progress. Thanks for blogging!

    • Thanks, Joanna! We have thought about doing something like that, but there’s no real rush since we already have a pantry in the kitchen (and tons of cabinets, at least by our Brooklyn standards!). The mudroom is a really horrible space that all needs to be redone right now anyway, and it also doesn’t have a heat source, so I don’t think moving plumbing out there is a great plan…but maybe someday. I think we’re still trying to figure out what we want out of the mudroom space long-term. Honestly, I want to demolish it and rebuild it about 1/3rd of the size…

  121. Beautiful. I’d say based on the window and door surrounds in the dining room, the mantel in this room, and the newel post, your house is either Italianate or a Greek Revival-Italianiate transition hybrid. It was built in the mid-19th century. So, could be 1840s 50s…if pure Italianate could be 1860s-1870s…speaking generally.

  122. The awkward quasi pretty wall in the living room must die. I realize I am coming late to the party, but it must go. It’s nice, but in the wrong place. It tosses your fireplace into part of the house where you won’t use/ enjoy/ notice it.

  123. A thought for future (endless) renovation: why not turn the study into a downstairs bedroom and create a downstairs apartment you can rent out to weekenders? That way, you could turn your living room into an enormous kitchen, which is what that room would like to be, I think.

Comments are now closed for this article.

Back to Top