These (Lovely, Old) Walls: {pretty, happy, funny, real} (Vol. 5)

We live in a very special house.

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It’s a big (five bedroom, 4.5 bath, lots of sq. ft.), beautiful (turret, porches, tall ceilings), old Victorian. The central portion of the house was built in 1859 and the two side sections were built in the late 1880’s, when the house underwent an extensive renovation that included a circular central staircase, most of the seven fireplaces, and big single-pane windows (a new innovation at the time).

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Or, we think that’s how it went. The house did not come with any coherent written record of its history, so my husband, true-to-form, researched the heck out of it. He looked through old deeds and plats and news sources (it’s amazing what you can find online), closely examined the house’s architectural clues, and wrote up a history of his own.

Brennan learned that two of the home’s first owners were former Confederate soldiers (and in at least one of those situations, the house was technically owned by the soldier’s wife, because in the years after the war, Confederates feared that their properties would be confiscated). Other owners of the home were local businessmen – a banker, a furniture store owner, a factory owner – who had the misfortune to live in a town that seemed to be always burning down. The property changed hands a lot until the 1930’s, when the factory owner bought it and did another renovation. His family lived in the house for over 50 years, until a high-energy, work-horse of a couple bought it and did another extensive renovation – by themselves.

The couple brought the plumbing and electrical systems inside (they’d previously been attached to the exterior of the house) and modernized them. They stripped layer upon layer of wallpaper, getting down to the plaster (where they found two signatures from a worker on the 1880’s renovation.) They modernized the kitchen and the bathrooms. They enlarged the basement. They refinished most of the floors. They added a sprinkler system. They built patios and a massive garage. They re-routed the (very steep) driveway.

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We were fortunate enough to buy the house from them. When we came to the house, it was in great shape for its age. There were just a few things left to fix and then any other changes we made would be because of our tastes, not because of any inherent problem. Beyond the convenience of that situation, the couple was so nice. We were coming off of two failed home-buying experiences, in which we’d wasted several months, plus money. We were getting discouraged. (Or at least I was – my husband was probably fine. He’s not the kind who is easily discouraged.)

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Brennan did refinish these floors himself — such hard work!

The couple could not have made it easier on us. They were kind and fair and honest and open. Everything fell into place easily, which was such a blessing after all we’d been through with the other properties. I really felt the Holy Spirit at work. After four years of looking and two failed attempts at buying – two tortuous experiences of trying to fit square pegs into round holes – we were finally where we were supposed to be. We were home.

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That said – and as much as I love the house – I still feel awkward about it. My husband and I both grew up in very modest homes. (Brennan once even shared a bedroom with all five of his brothers.) But this house? It’s anything but modest. Neither of us could ever have imagined living in anything like it. Probably, most people would never seriously consider doing so.

It’s just that we love old houses. We love their beauty, their character, their solid construction. We love their stories. We knew that we wanted to be part of one and that we wanted an old-house experience for our children. We also knew that we wanted one large enough to accommodate a growing (who-knows-how-large) family. And this one ended up fitting us perfectly.

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As an old-house lover, I’ve always enjoyed my opportunities to visit old homes. (Which is why I’m writing this post at all. I thought some of you might enjoy such glimpses as much as I do.) I’ve seen lots of beautiful homes, but my favorites have always been those that are lived in and loved. I think big, grand houses should be full of life. That’s what we’re doing with ours.

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Enter {pretty, happy, funny, real}.

(Sorry to have taken so long to get here, Like Mother, Like Daughter readers!) Here are a few {pretty, happy, funny, real} things about living in this lovely old house:

{pretty}

Oh, there are just so many pretty things to choose from. Here are some of my favorites:

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{happy}

There’s also so much that makes me happy about the house, though I suspect the things that make me happy would be meaningless to others. There are deep window sills, there are wide hallways, there’s a catch-all room for all the laundry and the wrapping and the crafts and the junk, and there is storage galore. The floor-to-ceiling cupboard accessible from both the dining room and the butler’s pantry makes me especially happy.

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{funny}

There are just so many funny things about having small children in an old home. I love the juxtaposition between 120-year-old windows and dinosaurs, crystal chandeliers and play kitchens, lovely fireplaces and toy tractors, a koi pond with a fountain and a Cozy Coupe. I could go on…

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{real}

Of course we also have some real considerations to make with daring boys in this place. We had to get creative about baby gates. We’re holding off putting the boys into what will eventually (I think) be their big-boy bedroom, because it’s aaalll the way at the top of that staircase. We’re not yet confident that they can refrain from trying to climb over the bannister. And also, all these wood floors! I think our boys are probably the only toddlers who know not to drag things on the wood floor, lest they damage it.

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I hope you enjoyed this little tour of our home. Have a lovely end of your week, and be sure to stop by Like Mother, Like Daughter for more {pretty, happy, funny, real.}

10 thoughts on “These (Lovely, Old) Walls: {pretty, happy, funny, real} (Vol. 5)

  1. Julie, you are living my dream. Your house is fantastic! Rich in history, built-ins, and…a spiral staircase?! (Do your boys ever try to slide down it? I know I’d be tempted.) Also, that porch- swoon! Our town has a section of historic homes and I’d love to own one someday, except I never want to move again so I’m hoping one day there will be house tours or something. 😉

    • Thank you! Thankfully, they have not yet tried to slide down the bannister. We’re trying to impress upon them that it’s not something to be messed with! I’ve always, always wanted to own an old home (and Brennan has wanted to for some time), so we feel very grateful to get to live out that dream!

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