This old home is enough


I appreciate the readers who followed along with the saga of our kitchen remodel. We are nearing the end(ish) of the project and I’m still overjoyed each day just to have a sink with running hot and cold water in the room again.

Living in a 110-plus year-old-house means that people do ask me from time to time if we have kept the renovation “authentic?” I am told often of the amazing retro gas ranges available these days (we don’t have natural gas here by the way).

I know that reproduction ice boxes are available once again. I also know that you will pry my amazing self-cleaning and timed cook range out of my cold, dead kitchen.

Further, I chose the biggest stainless steel refrigerator Sears could deliver to stand in this old kitchen. Seeing the footprint of the original “ice box” during the renovation was eye-opening.

It was apparently tiny and placed near the back door for ice hauled in. (Rural farm property).

The sink was on the other side of the room and built-in cabinetry was in yet another room, a butler’s pantry nearby. I like to think that had the option existed 110 years ago, the original cooks in my home would have wanted state-of-the-art over “quaint.”

Surely they would have had the sense to take the giant shiny magic cold box had it been an option at the time? I am not concerned with creating a truly “authentic” c. 1904 kitchen.

I’m making lasagna and cereal here, not reservations for daily tours.

Good enough

Magazines, televisions and the arch nemesis of the non-crafty, Pinterest, have all taken a toll on people who want to have a “good enough home.” When we chose to renovate, we didn’t take down a single wall. We left the size (small, with walls!)

We put in better quality cabinetry but otherwise didn’t get too carried away. Our counters are — gasp — Formica. I’ve managed to feed family, friends and gain too much weight myself in this old kitchen.

You don’t need a ballroom-sized kitchen to cook and granite doesn’t make anything taste better. On that note owning an old and fairly grand(ish) home can be quite an undertaking and responsibility.

I see much discussion and derision among old house aficionados that if an old home is not renovated to “original.”

Yet I firmly believe that the original builders of our old houses, (having followed the trends of their time) would have gladly embraced many of the modern options of today had they been available.

Our former Butler’s Pantry was turned into a first-floor bathroom and laundry room by prior owners. I appreciate that convenience every day.

Going modern

We have added a backyard deck, a firepit and at one time a swimming pool to a house that was designed to have none of those things.

The servants’ attic became a playroom turned media room. Our daughter’s original art tile bedroom fireplace, a thing of true beauty, has been covered with stuffed animals, dried dance corsages and trophies for 18 years.

I apologize for none of it. I have always found it wise to remember that not every old house owner signed up to be a museum curator. Clean and stabilized is better than perfection in my opinion.

While I aim for sympathetic renovation and I would not personally want to see our original red oak woodwork painted, I’m not going to tar and feather people who do what they wish to their own old houses.

I’m also a huge fan of air conditioning, ample electrical outlets and windows that don t rattle when the wind blows. Although the latter does have such a wonderfully eerie impact on the mood on dark and stormy nights.

The children we raised here are now young adults and it melts my heart how they and their friends have so many wonderful memories of our old home. These memories include chilled drinks, ample Internet and an extra bathroom when necessary.

We are also the best house, hands down, for ghost stories. In short, we made memories here — not a museum.


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