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Thursday, April 26, 2007

restoration and renovation

A lot of the housebloggers I know are restoring their houses, not renovating them. If you don't know the difference, generally speaking, restoring means that you are trying to make the house look like it did when it was new -- which was usually quite a long time ago -- and renovating means that you're just plain changing it. There's no definite division -- a lot of renovators try to keep the historic touches that make their houses unique, and a lot of restorers put in modern amenities like central heat and modern kitchens -- but you can usually put yourself into one category or another for the most part.

We definitely fall into the 'renovator' category. We talked about it when we first bought this place; it was built in 1920, has some historic bungalow charm -- we could go the restoration route. But over the years, Don's family made so many bizarre changes that it's hard to find the bones of the house anymore -- and we really didn't want to anyway. We discovered that we were more committed to making the house a place that suited our tastes than we were to restoring the house with historic accuracy. The big factor there, of course, is that our tastes and lifestyle just don't match the house's original architecture. Neither did Don's family's, apparently, since they changed it around so much. So we decided to create an open floor plan, replace the hardwood floors, take out the funky old windows, and generally just change everything around.

There's one place, however, where we both mysteriously found ourselves in full-on restoration mode: the staircase. Neither of us wanted to bring it up -- we each assumed the other wanted to replace it, to renovate it and make it new. There's nothing truly remarkable about it -- the rail is solid wood with layer upon layer of paint on it, and the newel post, when we moved in, was a simple straight column made of thin, cheap wood. But when we took off the outer casing of the column, we discovered the original post underneath -- falling apart, almost utterly destroyed, but still recognizable. And it's perfect!

We both love the look -- the clean lines with classic bungalow charm, simple structure and geometric shapes. But the post isn't salvageable (seriously, pieces fall off of it when you touch it). So we'll rebuild what we have to and save the rest. Don's dad will build us an exact replica of the post in his shop, while I strip all the paint off of the stairs and railing and pull out the staples (!) that were used to hold the old carpeting in. We'll buff and sand and stain and polish, and when we're done we'll have the staircase that our house deserves -- beautiful, original, lived-in, and just right for us.


jeannie said...

Holy smoke! That's gorgeous!

Summer said...

YEA! That is a GORGEOUS post. I'm glad you'll be able to recreate it! Our house is a gutted and renovated rowhouse, but they were able to use the original flooring and the banister and it makes me so happy to see the chips and years of paint and stain and such.