The old and the new

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Kym Seabolt's porch

A House is made of bricks and beams.

A Home is made of love and dreams.

Dear Old House Snobs:

I get it. I do. You adore original old houses. Museum quality restoration is your thing.

When it comes to any old house you love original everything. Lighting. Woodwork. Trim. Flooring. Shutters.

Where can you find a coal stove? Water pump? Washstand? What variety of rose was en vogue in 1892?

Even the shrubs should be historically accurate. You want that one. Nothing irritates you more than those DIY home shows that upgrade, update and change everything.

If you have to see one more wall of painted brick or shiplap you might just scream. I was one of you once.

I sniffed at “unsympathetic” additions and wondered why more people didn’t embrace period style (or sized) ice boxes. Why would you convert that second sitting parlor into a den? Did you really need that porch turned mudroom?

Then I live in our old house for a few years. We added some children — and their soccer cleats and snacks.

The kitchen that could house the hangar-sized refrigerator was much appreciated. We added some dogs — and their muddy paws.

The mud room was a gem. We kept the maid stair but added coat hooks along one side.

I’ve yet to see a maid here, but I can always use another place to hang coats.

Our house once had a Butler’s Pantry and a Butler’s pantry is a pretty cool room to have. We are sans butler here, however, so the previous owners converted that space to a laundry room and second bath.

I am eternally grateful. If we ever have a butler again, I guess he can have a kitchen cabinet or something.

Siding

We purchased the house already covered in vinyl siding. Purists insist on removing the siding to expose the original wood and paint it all again. To this, I say, over my dead body.

I have spent two decades happily not having to paint this house, and I fully intend to enjoy another two more, God willing.

The seemingly 7 acres of porch and trim are enough excitement for this girl.

We priced “authentic” shutters (real wood that really shuts! Who cares if we would ever shut them. It’s authentic!).

We also priced minivans and college educations. We bought the vinyl shutters. We can’t shut them. We have never wanted to. It works.

We converted our authentic, state-of-the-art (for 1935) orchard warehouse into a useful barn for a family. Granted a family that can use over 6,000 square feet of space.

We have never regretted the big doors we added to the back to accommodate a boat and a camper.

The children made plenty of memories in that space. We feel pretty good about the changes. It’s been a few decades since we needed to process fruit.

There is a push among the lovers of old houses to designate every home over 80 or so years old museum status. They sniff at the DIYers and home shows that rework aging structures for modern families.

To this I say, please, for the sake of our nation’s aging housing stock, get over yourself. While certain places of historical significance deserve protection — I would prefer not to see an open concept kitchen at Monticello — plenty of middle-class American homes of all ages do well to adapt to new lifestyles.

Better they adapt to new lifestyles than remain original and waste away.

Open

While I am not personally a fan of an overly open concept I know it’s the way things are. I personally prefer a little wall space between my guests and any dirty dishes in the sink, but you do you and your home your way.

If you want to watch a few hundred episodes of DIY programming on television and take out walls and shiplap all the things, I do not judge.

Your house, your rules. We went from purists, who sniffed at any hint of nonauthentic decor, to a family with a pool deck attached to a 100-year-old house.

We enjoyed the heck out of that pool — and the swingset that was also not original. Our children made memories, and I have no regrets.

So today we live in a circa 1904 home with original porch and leaded glass, a mudroom addition, treated wood porch steps (oh the horror!) and a barn that is enjoying new life from its orchard hustling roots.

It’s a lot old-fashioned with a heaping helping of modern upgrades. There is a beauty in embracing the timeless charm of a classic older home, be it a bungalow or a mansion.

There is also a beauty in allowing old houses to evolve into homes that are lived in, laughed in, and loved for an entirely new generation.

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Warm, witty and just a wee bit warped, Kymberly Foster Seabolt is a native of Kent, Ohio, who survived childhood exposure to disco and grew up to marry and move to the country. Her column weaves her special brand of humor with poignant, entertaining, and honest portrayals of parenting, marriage, and real life. She currently lives in northeastern Ohio with her husband, two children, two dogs, two cats, and numerous dust bunnies who wish to remain nameless.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Haha, so true! My dear Grandfather, who enjoyed life (albeit a tough one) to the fullest for just a pinch under 100 years, would tell me, “ You know the best thing about the good old days? THEY’RE GONE!” He lived those hard days and wouldn’t trade them for the newer things in life. Illustrated in another quote: “One of the happiest days in my life was when they took the horses out of the field and put them under the hood of a tractor!” I believe I can relate….

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