Renovation DIY and old-house restoration, traditional styles, period kitchens, historical decorating, period gardens, from colonial and Victorian through Arts & Crafts and Mid-century Modern: all from Old-House Journal magazine and special-interest titles Old-House Interiors, New Old House, and Early Homes.
When choosing furniture for our homes, we often prioritize durability, craftsmanship, and timeless beauty. In furniture manufacturing, one name stands out for its exceptional quality and rich tradition: the Amish.
Magazine media people are typically forward looking, spotting trends and making predictions. But since history informs the future we are reminiscing too, on the occasion of OLD HOUSE JOURNAL’s 50th anniversary.
Appearing in the 18th-century estate gardens of European aristocrats, an architectural structure known as a folly became all the rage. Typically in the form of a ruined castle, church, or temple, these had no function other than to add romance to the landscape. They are permanent structures in masonry, not cheap to build, which serve no purpose: hence the nomenclature.
A bland old house, once home to musicians who were month-to-month, slowly morphs into a Victorian showcase born of its owners’ imaginations. Built by a handyman, the modest house never had decent finishes, affording the owners a blank slate to create a scheme that one visitor dubbed ‘Vampire Meets British Rock Star’.
William Day Gates, founder of an important terra-cotta tile and pottery company, built his retirement home in 1927. Decades later, it would take a knowledgeable Arts & Crafts collector to save the abandoned house in Illinois. Chicago architect John Eifler helped guide the restoration: “The house is a terra cotta and pottery catalog!” he says.
Architect J. Everett Schram infuses a new family home with centuries-old Creole soul—giving a nod to vernacular traditions and a tip of his hat to 20th-century Louisiana architect A. Hays Town, who embraced reclaimed materials and the look of age.
Early issues of Old-House Journal were full of glossaries. It was necessary to define architecture-related words not in common use during the reign of Modernism. We can’t talk about something without a vocabulary—nor will we care enough to save it. This page excerpts a four-pager published in OHJ’s April 1982 issue. Illustrations are by Leo Blackman, who was then a preservation-studies student at Columbia.
An urgent question from an OHJ staffer: “How hard would it be to get rid of my hideous popcorn ceiling?” (If you don’t remember, this is a heavily textured, spray-on finish, sometimes with glitter, popular from the postwar years through the 1970s.) I looked through our archive and found little encouragement. Then I trolled the internet and YouTube. Still not encouraging but certainly entertaining. Here’s my take on the options.
Culled from readers and editors over the years, here are 10 nuggets to help you renovate and decorate without spending a fortune. Taken together, they suggest both a timeline (plan ahead!) and an approach (listen to the house). Take your time. Seek advice from other renovators, reliable contractors, and a designer who can help you avoid pitfalls.
Stripping paint from woodwork is on the list of most-hated restoration jobs. It’s among the most hazardous, too. Fortunately, you no longer have to strip door casings or painted balusters with such hazardous chemicals as methylene chloride, nor should you blast them with high heat. Recent years have brought gentler methods that are just as effective, safer for DIYers, and easier on the wood itself.