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Disappearing vintage archetecture and decorating

Discussion in 'Your Vintage Home' started by MikeKardec, Feb 1, 2017.

  1. MikeKardec

    MikeKardec Practically Family

    My old house needs work and so, before I commit to the significant expense of upgrading, I've been casually stopping in at open houses in my general neighborhood. When I moved in 20 years ago there were homes built between the '20s and the '50s sporting their original fixtures and architectural details all over Los Angeles. Now, very few. Some of this is the problem I am facing, the hardware, plumbing, electrical, finally hit the outside limit of its design. Rust never sleeps. Entropy rules.

    The second issue is that when people remodel and upgrade they don't stay with the original look of the house. It's cheaper (by a lot) if you don't and many seem to actually fight the way the entire house looks when they redo a kitchen or bath ... a badly added bedroom can be a catastrophe but, these days, square footage rules.

    Third, and most irritating, is the fad of not listing a house until it is superficially perfect, brightly painted, all the hardware looking new (even if that means it's cheap), floors treated somehow, often low grade wall to wall carpeting. And the there's the "staged" furniture; slick looking cr*p brought in to help the new buyer "envision" what it looks like furnished. I'm thinking this is an LA thing but I'm not sure. Personally, I'd rather not have any remodeling done both because I don't want to feel I'm paying for someone else's taste (or lack of it) and because I'm sure they are trashing a look I'd appreciate. I like a house that is empty and shows it's wear and tear even if that means I have to fix it.

    I'll probably stay where I am do the work and bite the bullet. My house was built in '38 and I'm only the second owner. No one sprayed cottage cheese on the ceilings in the '60s, hung macrame wall paper in the '70s, or tiled the floors in 14" faux marble in the '90s. I've done work to it but have been very careful to maintain its original look, it's not trying to be "vintage-y" but I'd never stray off theme so to speak. I just hate putting more into the house than the neighborhood will let me take out when I finally do sell.

    How do you-all feel about the older homes that are hitting the market?
  2. When I bought my house it, along with most others surrounding it, had been maintained with aesthetic indifference. Most (including mine) were unimaginative white inside and out, most had suffered at the hands of some carpenter following orders to add a room, replace doors, windows and cabinets, enclose or remove the front porch or cut off roof eaves. It is a very tidy section of town and seen to be a desirable place to live, but the houses had, for the most part, lost their mojo.

    When I first began the project of painting the house (inside and out), people started to ask me what I was doing; the colors were too wild, why was I doing that? The house looks like it was in a fire, they said. A few offered "tips" on improving the color scheme, others offered advice (and even services) tearing out the built-ins. There are built-in book cases flanking a built-in desk in the den, built-in china closets with pass-through in the dining room and built-in nook with glass-fronted cupboards in the kitchen. The woodwork that had survived unpainted since 1911 would, in their opinion, HAVE to be painted to brighten the rooms, which needed brightening up with a new coat of even whiter white paint.

    I did none of that. I can't say I had a grand vision, but I know what I like and I knew it did not involve tearing out the original stuff and painting everything whiter. I followed my instincts and the house, though not perfect and with projects not finished, reflects my intention and goals.

    Right next door is another house, built about 15 years after mine, that was recently sold after the second owner(!) died. The buyers, in their 50s, rattled on at length about how delighted they were with the untouched 1926 house. After painting the exterior, they proceeded to gut the interior to the studs, reconfigure the floor plan and sheet rock the whole thing. Then came the obligatory brilliant white on everything. Gone was every single detail the house once had. The great mint green tiles with matching sink, tub and toilet in the bathroom, the sunny butter yellow tile in the kitchen, the natural wood finish on woodwork throughout the house... all were gone. In the dumpster. The only original detail left inside is the fireplace tile which, in contrast with the stark room color, looks like an ill-advised short cut to avoid the expense of replacing it.

    I can assure you beyond any reasonable doubt the neighbors' house enjoys a tremendously elevated position on the market (it isn't currently for sale, but like all houses it will be) and people who see it rave about how BEAUTIFUL it now is.

    I recognize it as being a nice space, but it has been stripped of its 90 year patina. Its charm has been murdered. It is sterile and indifferent. It has no character, no voice.

    And, like it or not, it will be only a matter of time until the same thing happens to my house.

    EDIT: I forgot to say, after applying the original dark colors to the exterior of the house (five colors), it started a snowball effect. As they changed hands, Craftsman bungalows around the neighborhood started sporting new versions of original color schemes and some of them are pretty darn good! Others a little less so, but we have to give credit and encouragement where and when it's due! Over all, the complexion of the neighborhood has evolved to a much more restful, thoughtful color palette. It has turned into a "my town" version of "Bungalow Heaven". There will always be more to do, but outreach and good example works.
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2017
    tweedydon and vitanola like this.
  3. ⇧ as many here know, about two years ago, we bought a coop in a 1928 apartment house with 60 units.

    We bought because we love the style, architecture, layouts, details of apartments from that period and the apartment we bought had many of those original details and (amazingly) the original floor plan (98%) in tact.

    We did what we call a restoration where we kept every single original detail we could, used a paint scheme from the era, put back many details that had been taken out and, where no other option existed, tried to recreate (in one bathroom and the kitchen) a style and design that was consistent with the era. We found a company that actually makes subway tiles from the original specs.

    Here's the thing. We were able to restore many features (tiles, moldings, radiators, doors, door and light fixtures, medicine cabinets, etc.) for free (!) because everyone else who renovates in the building throws all those things out. The super had kept a lot of those items as he was (we have a new super now) a big fan of the original details and the few apartments that were being renovated around the time ours was, were also ripping out "the old stuff" and were glad if we'd take it off their hands.

    And just like Studebaker Driver, we regularly hear from other owners in the building how much they value the original architecture and details, but so far, everyone who has said that, has ripped most of those details out and done a modern or contemporary renovation. They might keep a small detail (literally, a single one like a door or intercom) - and will point to it with pride - meanwhile, they ripped out the other 99% of the details that were original to 1928. And, also like SB, most (not all) of the apartments are then painted white head to toe.

    You pay your money, you buy your apartment so, within the rules of the coop and NY law, you are and should be free to renovate as you want. I will defend anyone's rights to do so, but it breaks my heart to see all this irreplaceable architecture thrown away to make another modern-looking apartment. I so wish those who wanted a modern apartment would just buy in a more modern building.
    tweedydon likes this.
  4. MikeKardec

    MikeKardec Practically Family

    I've been very lucky. I've rented a post war tract house that was unchanged since 1947, a basement apartment in Beverly Hills in a building built in 1930 that was about as big as a volleyball court but was only one room, a townhouse at Park LaBrea ca 1941, then back to BH for a HUGE upstairs flat from 1923 with plaster molded panels on every wall ... when they sold the building I bought my current house which was almost unchanged, as were all the other places. My current house even had a "telephone room," a special booth or tiny office where the sole phone was housed.

    I'm still waiting for permits and bids ... scary, but it'll tell me how much I can actually do.
  5. Stearmen

    Stearmen I'll Lock Up

    From what I can see, my Queen Anne survived with most of it's original details until the last owner, she took away a lot of the inside charm! She changed all the windows, took out five doors, a lot of trim, made the butler pantry into the stairs to go to the basement, and a little pet peeve of mine, she concreted over the coal scuttle man hole cover! I understand updating the kitchen, and bathrooms, especially when there was no indoor bath when it was built, but the rest?
  6. MikeKardec

    MikeKardec Practically Family

    I always try to put something back when I take something away. If I do proceed with the planned remodel a number of the none too wonderful but still original windows will have to be updated per code (I was hoping to just reconfigure the old ones), on the other hand I will put in the old push button light switches and cast HVAC gratings. A bit "old time" for a house like mine but still classic and classy nonetheless.
  7. 1930artdeco

    1930artdeco A-List Customer

    I am trying hard to keep my kitchen as close to something akin to the 40's when my house was built. However, budget may over ride some decisions and I am planning to move and sell next year. So I have to keep an eye on that part of the market. That being said I am installing a 40's wedgewood and counter top that looks like marble (it is quartz). I wanted to install a period looking range hood, but at 2300 it is out of my price range. So I am trying to keep it as close as possible within my budget.

  8. MikeKardec

    MikeKardec Practically Family

    A year is nothing, I hate to say it but if your going to sell why do anything?
  9. Paisley

    Paisley I'll Lock Up

    I saw my old house on Zillow. The investor who bought it tore out the doors, tore down a wall, put on a deck (on a house with two porches) and added a fireplace (there's no good way to lay out furniture around it). They tore out all the landscaping--roses, flowers, bushes that did well in the Colorado climate. They painted the outside gray and the inside chalk white. I sat down and cried.

    What did they get for all their trouble? $5000 more for the house than they paid for it.
  10. Paisley

    Paisley I'll Lock Up

    I also saw the big ugly duplex a different investor built after they tore down my neighbor's cute little bungalow and tore out all of that landscaping. It's been for sale for over a year--in a hot market.
  11. I was lucky when I first bought my house -- the same couple had lived in it from 1936 to 1985, and did very very very little to it. The people who got it after them covered the walls in cheap plywood paneling and hideous brown shag carpet, both of which were in a burn pile before the sun set the day the deal closed.
  12. 1930artdeco

    1930artdeco A-List Customer

    Lizzie that was my house. I had the same hideous brown carpet and cheap paneling in the kitchen. The rest of the house had the good stuff-put up in the 50's. The kitchen is coming along nicely and I think will look good with that period flavor. Not to mention the 1940's wedgewood that is going in.


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