It often is possible to turn the over-decorated house into a thing of beauty
ANNE ELIZABETH WILSONSeptember151927
Re-modelling the Old House
The Home Beautiful
It often is possible to turn the over-decorated house into a thing of beauty
ANNE ELIZABETH WILSON
THERE is a problem faced by many women in Canada, which it has for some time been the task of The Home Beautiful to investigate—the making livable and practical for present-day life of the house of out-of-date design, but good sound construction. There are innumerable such houses all over Canada, and our mail is constantly bringing us requests from readers for the solution of one dilemma or another in connection with them. The chief problems are ugly exteriors, most often in the Victorian gimcrackery style; cut-up rooms and inconvenient kitchens and, although most people do not know what it is about the rooms that make them look unattractive, a whole scheme hoplessly out of scale. That was one of the greatest weaknesses of building both without and within, during the last century. In fact, the curse was on Canadian architecture up to about fifteen years ago, when, at last, building fell more into the hands of accredited architects and less into the contract-net of the commercial builder.
Living Room Problems
IN REPLANNING or alteration for comfort and beauty it seems most reasonable to begin from the inside, for it is within, that the lack of both comfort and beauty, most greatly affects us. A letter from a correspondent furnishes a clue to a typical living-room problem. ‘Our living room,’ writes a reader, ‘is really large old-fashioned double parlors which we have papered and decorated as nearly alike as possible to use as one room. Each room is about fourteen by fifteen feet and the large arch between only just out about two feet from each side wall.
‘Just now our big problem is rugs. If we use large rugs, would it not mean one in each room, thus accenting the division between the two rooms? We have nice polished oak floors—so would it not be suitable to use scatter rugs? One rug about seven feet six inches by four feet six inches has been suggested for each room, with a number of smaller ones around.
Would this be a good plan?
I am trying so hard to make an architecturalhj unpromising house homelike.’
Counteracting the Arch
"LJERE is a very common interior problem —the old-fashioned arch of the double living room, often filligreed and overornamented—t he two
small rooms, rather than one large and inviting room. Our correspondent has chosen one method of lessening the unpleasing effect of division, by decorating the rooms as nearly alike as possible. The suggestion that scatter rugs be used at random in the two rooms and bridging the gap between, by breaking the tell-tale line of imaginary division
is another solution for dispelling the impression of separation. The third and most drastic method, is, of course, the removal of the arch, where the rooms are so designed that their throwing together will not disclose any incongruity. One factor which often makes this difficult is the presence of two fireplaces. Here, even though one be closed up, the other which remains is still inevitably in an awkward position in the room. Moreover it is an expensive and bothersome matter to instal a new chimney flue for a fireplace at centre. One way out of the difficulty is to close up both fireplaces and retain a central mantel for an electric grate. This requires no flue, and is exceedingly clean and pleasant. In districts where waterpower is available, it is also not expensive.
And speaking of fireplaces—most of the coal grates in old houses are very much out of scale with the great high rooms in which they stand. Small, low and usually unbeautiful—little holes in the wall—they violate all the traditions we have come to associate with fireplaces. To bring them into the picture is not so difficult as might be imagined. It is very effectively accomplished by making the opening appear larger by setting around with tiles or dark stone, and carrying the mantel around that outline. Such a treatment is shown in the photograph which illustrates this article.
The floors of an old house are just as likely to be good, especially in downstairs rooms, as poor. If they are of hardwood, and have been kept clean through the years, they will be a factor in giving the house an appearance of
modernity, for all-over rugs will not be necessary. Where the floors are painted and the expense of having them relaid in hardwood is not advisable, then the most satisfactory solution for a formal room is one large broadloom carpet which will hide blemishes. Board floors that are cracked or show large seams may be filled with putty and painted in colors to suit the rocm. In this process lacquers are recommended for they furnish a more durable surface. Either clear lacquer over stain or lacquer in color may be applied. Black and gray are goodlivingroom or dining room shades, and bedrooms may be made very gay with yellow, light gray, lavender, light green or bright blue.
Then the walls: it has been found that stout cottoning of old plaster walls after all paper has been removed, not only strengthens the old surface, but furnishes an excellent new one for panelling effects. When the walls are painted, moulding may be laid in balanced panels at small expense, and the effect is charming. Against this background side-bracket lighting fixtures finish the general harmony. One of the misfortunes of the old schemes was the lack of relation between the lighting fixtures and the room. Notice in the accompanying photograph, the correct proportions for side lights.
Kitchens, Bathrooms and Plumbing
ARCHITECTS state that the first matter of import■T*ance in the complete renovation of an old house is the plumbing. Where are additional bathrooms to be placed? How is the size of the usually unnecessarily large kitchen to be cut down? And so on? It may be best, of course, but it is not always financially possible, to tear out old plumbing and instal new; yet is quite within the scope of any pocket book which is to face the costs of renovating at all, to have the existing system carefully overhauled. The necessity of such work can readily be realized when one considers the potential ruination possible to a newly decorated room by just one burst pipe or leaking washer.
Re-Arranging the Old Kitchen
ADDITIONAL bathTN rooms must be located as nearly as possible above one another or in conjunction with kitchen or pantry plumbing to reduce the number of stacks.
The old kitchen itself presents more study in re-arrangement and condensation than the rest of the house put together. Almost all kitchens over ten years old are antiquated from the point of view of convenience. Usually the first step in bringing them up to modern standards is to make them smaller. One third of many of the kitchens I
I have seen in old houses, would be ample ! space for an efficient arrangement. The j resulting left-over space may be converted j into a pantry with breakfast alcove, an upstairs laundry, a light and airy preserve and storage closet, or even an extra bedroom or sewing room. If there is a maid, this is a better location for her than the cold attic. It could also be very pleasantly
turned over to her for a sitting room, provided she had a comfortable upstairs room.
With pencil and paper, proceed to analyze the space in your kitchen, grouping all necessary units in as compact order as possible. Consider windows, and whether by raising one here, removing, or letting in another there, you can better co-ordinate the use of the various pieces of kitchen equipment. For instance, by cutting a pass cupboard through into the dining room, with shelves deep enough to hold china in ordinary use between meals, you make for ease in table setting, serving and clearing. By the same token, if the sink and drainboard are beside the pass
cupboard, steps are saved in putting away dishes as washed and dried. The ice box can possibly be brought just inside the back door, so as to avoid tracking by the iceman, with the kitchen table, vegetable and flour bins—preferably bin drawers— nearby, so that food preparation may be facilitated and carried on in one quarter? Another pass closet for deliveries may be cut on the outside wall. Many of the modern kitchens are simply developed along one wall—with only the stove and perhaps a table, cupboards or a chair on the other. Every movement is conserved.
Remodelling Old Exteriors
'THE most common type of ‘old house’ L in Canada, is the typical gable affair built from fifty to twenty-five years ago. It seems to present the most hopeless sort of architecture to adapt to anything like a
passable scheme. Yet some most attractive effects can be obtained with rough cast stucco and frequently a half timber treatment. A recently effected transformation in a house of this kind is shown in the sketches accompanying.
There is the well-known ‘vestibule’ house of not so long ago, which lends itself very well to remodelling. Usually
this boasts a single front gable or a plain board roof peaked at either end. An amazing improvement in appearance is often effected in this type, by replacing the vestibule with a fine corniced doorway, introducing interesting shutters or lintels above the windows and replacing the ordinary large window-sashes with small panes—perhaps six to a sash. Something approaching the beautiful Georgian simplicity is accomplished by these few alterations.
Gracious houses often have been ruined by alteration in the past—and only require restoration to their original plans to regain their earlier dignity. The latter part of the last century was prodigiously
given to porches, wings, eyebrow windows and other excrescences which totally disguised the exquisite and simple lines of many a delightful old dwelling.
I remember the story of one house in which not only handsome fireplaces, but whole rooms were discovered under the débris of Victorian remodelling—and the succession of six families of occupants was traced by corresponding layers of paint and àdditions of pergolas, trellises, subversive snuggeries and ‘dens’! So it is more than possible that many cases of ‘remodelling’ are little more than rehabilitation where the general plan of the house itself is concerned—and if one can but sense the original spirit of a house beneath accumulated disfigurement—the battle cf turning unwieldy and unsightly establishments into lovable dwellings is half won.
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