Editor's Letter: Try not to destroy anything.
All things go from fabulous to reviled and then back again. (Consider mini-skirts, beards, and woodstoves.) When I got interested in restoration around 1980, it was partly in reaction to what I saw in our brownstone neighborhood’s dumpsters: irreplaceable walnut pocket doors, cast-brass hardware, chunks of ornamental plaster. Back-to-the-city urban homesteaders loved the idea of a row house in a walkable neighborhood, but they’d been too indoctrinated by Modernism to abide Victoriana—especially elements coated in a century of dirt and needing repair. “Dreary Old House Becomes a Bright Contemporary” was a typical headline. But then along came the Victorian Revival and a generation of restorers who knew their Renaissance from their Eastlake and had the rooms to prove it. The Arts & Crafts Revival ensued, and more recently a love affair with Mid-century Modern. Cycles, alas, tend to repeat.
Just a few years ago a book titled Brooklyn Modern celebrated the borough’s “astounding rebirth . . . and young people interested in creating their own sense of space . . . renovating brownstones”—often by tearing walls down to brick and painting everything white. “We’ve come full circle,” I sighed.
True old-house people, however, have never been trendy. We want the history as much as the raw space. Whether our interiors are period, eclectic, or painted out as a backdrop for modern art, we try to be good stewards, knowing we are just passing through. We strive to keep our intrusions reversible. Both house tours in this issue prove the point. The 1924 Tudor recently had an architect-led update—but original tiled fireplaces and the builder’s design intent are intact. The Upstate New York house, built in 1820 and added to in 1876, was not unscathed; the current owner saved remaining features and filled it with early 19th-century antiques. Both houses are ready for the next hundred years.
~Patricia Poore, Editorial Director of Old House Journal
Look below to see stories from this issue.