We searched salvage yards, antique stores, and architectural surplus stores for over a year while working with our client to design this project. They had been saving for this project for a decade and planning for years. Their house is an eclectic mix of antiques, family heirlooms, and items from their world travels. The original house was barley 1,000 square foot, had no closets, and lacked any space for entertaining. Since they host family functions, Thanksgiving morning started by moving the living room furniture to the front porch to make room for the dinner tables! The new plan would add on 2,000 square foot to this 1895 historic home.
Historical preservation was a huge concern; sitting just outside of the local historic district. The foundation was covered with artificial brick that matched the existing foundation. We ordered the faux slate roof a month in advance, had a coppersmith make beautiful valleys and caps, and used the 100-year-old snow catchers from the back of the home on the front of the new addition. We removed the long ago discontinued siding from the side of the house and re-used it on the front of the new addition. When that was finished, we installed fully functional 150-year-old lightning rods with glass balls hooked up to a new copper grounding electrode. Ben Franklin would be proud!
The focal point of the project was a 33-foot tall Victorian turret. And it had to be done right. Since it is vertical, it needed some horizontal lines. Today, people install vinyl siding with corner posts, or worse yet, fake stone. Since the old house had burgundy accents, we chose matching cement shakes for the turret. In true Victorian fashion, we built out the area between the windows with a flared skirt. Going against the manufacture’s recommendations to use corner posts, we cut compound miters with a diamond blade to fit the shakes around all the corners. It took forever! At the top, we framed an octagonal witches hat for the roof, complete with an antique copper finial.
The entire turret was built around 150-year-old stained glass windows. We purchased a matching set from a defunct church in the coal regions. We had the triple-paned windows custom made to fit the stained glass, and that dictated the width of the turret. LED’s illuminate the stained glass at night. It is a show stopper. Since the house is on a busy street, people often stop to look at the house especially at night.
Reproduction locksets fit in the standard bore of a modern door and still matched the time-consuming mortised lockets in the old home. We reproduced all the trim work and pediment heads above the doors. We even built a window seat that creates a cozy spot that most new homes lack. The fireplace marble was custom made around an antique cast iron parlor heater from a brownstone in Brooklyn. The new addition connected at the kitchen, and it was reconfigured using cabinets our clients bought five years ago, fearing they would be discontinued by the time they were needed. We even used old cast iron floor grates for the heating registers.
The second floor contains the master suite. We had the framers recess the headboard in the wall. Afterwards, we put a backlit map of the world in the inset. As modern as this all seems, the map is an antique as it shows the steamship routes from 1890. We used the clients’ antique steamer trunks that came over with her great great-grandparents from Hungary as nightstands. Since the old home had no closets, we made up for it with a huge walk-in containing a 10-foot-long island capped by reclaimed barn-wood from the family farm.
The master salon contains a laundry area, breakfast bar, balcony, a huge shower for two, double vanities, and a private commode. We designed a spot for an apothecary cabinet from the USS Pennsylvania that was given to the clients by a family friend. It anchors the color scheme for the room and throws some history into this modern space.
That’s what this whole project was about, creating an addition for a modern family but making it feel a hundred years old. Who says nobody builds old houses anymore?