Archives for category: Old house solutions

The time-worn way of zipping up a house when you tire of the look is to redecorate — move the furniture around, replace the curtains, or change the paint colors.

Why not approach it from a different angle and add some unusual architectural elements? There are a myriad of online sources available to purchase new pilasters, columns, doors, fireplace surrounds, mantels, etc. They are all fine but without professionally distressing them they still look, well . . . . new. There is nothing like vintage items to bring depth and layers to a house. An architectural salvage yard is just the ticket to find that one-of-a-kind feature that stands apart and tells a story.

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit three such establishments in New England. If you desire quirky architectural object d’art, the eye candy that these places provide is almost better than a trip to a museum. And, even better, you can buy the stuff you fall in love with. Try that at the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Louvre. Most of the objects have been removed from houses that are to be torn down or remodeled. Re-purposing them for another life keeps beautiful things out of the landfill and is “green” to boot. You will feel down right self righteous bringing home one of these treasures to grace your home.

Here are a few items that you will never find duplicated by a neighbor who shops at Target.

“Warm Ye in Friendship” mantel detail

Classical beefcake


“Dark Shadows” doors

Curvaceous corbel

Corinthian kitsch

Electric blue

Links to some New England salvage yards:  Restoration Resources, Nor’East Architectural Salvage, and Architectural Salvage, Inc.

Click on any photo to enlarge.


Great old time inventions are sometimes the simplest and the best for solving modern day problems. These zinc numbered tacks for the organization of storm windows and screens are a shining example.

Simple solutionTrying to keep track of a slew of storms and screens, all of varying sizes and shapes, for the twice yearly changeout on a large hundred year old house is a daunting task. This numbering system makes the job much less odious. These little unobtrusive gems get attached in three spots. One on the inside of the window frame in an inconspicuous spot, one on the storm window, and one on the screen. No more guessing about which screen or storm goes where while juggling the cumbersome piece in your hand. The original screens and storms had Roman numerals incised into the frames, but not only did they all not match up to the existing windows, they did not correspond to any markings on the window frames. The time had arrived for a new system.Easy numbers

Climbing ladders to accomplish the change out also was a system that needed to be updated. I devised a plan that would enable the storms and screens to be swapped out from the inside of the house. The storm or screen is slotted into a groove on the top of the outside of the window frame, the bottom pulled toward you from the inside and then latched down into place with a lever. Gone are the days of wrestling with the two story ladder and the feel of scaling Mount Everest with a large and heavy storm window in one hand and groping for a handhold with the other. Add the possibility of a gust of wind to catch the storm window and send it flying out of your hand and the task seemed fraught with peril. Now all of the change out can be accomplished from the safety of the inside of the house.

Why not just replace all of the windows with new ones to avoid all this you ask? The desire to keep the old European style windows which open inward, and add so much to the charm of the house, over ruled. Have you ever looked at a recently remodeled old house and thought, something just does not look right about it? It is usually the new windows that are wrong for the period of the house. We wanted to avoid that.

Trotting out an old invention for a solution to a problem on an old house just felt right.