OHJ August 2020

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Editor's Note: Patina keeps it real

“Can you tell me who made/where I can buy that lamp/wallpaper/carpet/tassel?” is the most common sort of question readers ask us. However diligent we are, someone will zero in on a coveted item of unknown provenance in one of the photos. We ask homeowners and architects to supply source lists, but sometimes furnishings are antique, vintage, or passed-down.

In this issue, one visit is to a 1912 house in St. Paul. The hands-on owners, Rich and Shirley Erstad, sent along an illustrated spreadsheet of purchases made over the years as they restored the house and corrected previous remodeling. Quite impressive! They are indefatigable hunters of authenticity, and it shows in their beautiful home.

Among their vintage scores: a glass towel rod, mirrored switch-plates, a Bakelite doorbell, a satin-glass lampshade with painted pink flowers, a combination gas/electric sconce, and a ca. 1910 kitchen pendant lamp. The list of hardware bits runs into the dozens. But those are just the details. They also bought 19th-century doors (on craigslist); a huge, wall-hung, salvaged 1920s kitchen sink; and appliances dating to the late 1920s. Which still work! There’s a 1906 Edison cylinder phonograph that plays old songs and recordings of Teddy Roosevelt. A 1920s Victrola in the dining room, Rich says, “really belts out the sound.”

Here’s something the Erstads wrote to me: “You have to like patina, with an old house. ‘New’ looks out of place. Salvaged doors have dings, light fixtures are tarnished. That’s what makes it look like it’s always been here.”

That’s such an important point. If most things are a bit worn, they begin to blend. And what a relief not to have to worry about the first scratch.

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~ Patricia Poore, Editorial Director of Old House Journal


Look below to see stories from this issue.

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