The 10 Most Endangered Features of Midcentury Homes: 2012 report

10 most endangered retro house featuresWhen I first started the blog almost six years ago, I kind of bumped into launching a “campaign” that called attention to the death-by-evil-glee sledgehammering threat to vintage Mamie pink bathrooms. This campaign came together almost as a lark… I started the Save the Pink Bathrooms website, like, to see what would happen. And wouldn’t you know it, there was lots of news media attention to the issue ever since. A whole New York Times story even. As a result: I think the attention really made a difference, shifted the tide of ‘fashion’, and that today, there is significantly greater recognition that there is nothing inherently wrong with the color pink for bathrooms — and by association, vintage green or blue or yellow, etc. — and that original colorful vintage bathrooms in good condition are worth preserving. I think we can declare the campaign victorious, although we still must keep spreading the luv.

Which got me to thinking (which sometimes happens when I take a vacation week, can’t ya see the smoke from Massachusetts): What else now? That is: What are some of the other lovely but kind of still pooh poohed features of midcentury homes that we can shine our spotlight on. I brainstormed and came up with a nice round list of the 10 Most Endangered Features of Midcentury and Vintage Homes. So here is my list, in David Letterman count-down order. I count down to the final item — #1 — as the feature I’m most worried about, based on the criteria: overall cost-value + difficulty replacing, roughly speaking.

jalousie windows#10 Jalousie windows:

Number 10 on our countdown list is jalousie windows. I tend to believe that jalousie windows were used in millions of homes, often in the three-season porch, but sometimes even as main windows — as in Dawn’s house, above. I am no expert on the whole issue of jalousie windows. I need to do more research — and I welcome your help on this. I think there may be super-valid energy-efficiency reasons to replace your jalousie windows if they are the windows in your main living areas.  On the other hand, if you have them in a three-season room, maybe lean toward preserving them rather than replacing them?  I think they are interesting… coolio.

wood paneling#9 Wood paneling:

Wood paneling, along with knotty pine (#3 on my Most-Endangered list) is one of those things that get the scrunched-face “it’s so daaaaaated” complaint from so many folks on home decorating TV shows and in more mainstream design media. But, slap yourself in the face and step back from the ceaseless dictates of current fashion: There is nothing inherently displeasing about natural or finished wood walls, if the paneling is good quality. Au contraire. Our ancestors lived for hundreds of years with wood-paneled walls. It’s only in more recent history that the invention of drywall made smooth, painted walls affordable to the masses. Yes, there is poor quality wood paneling out there, in droves. But there is also plenty of beautiful, quality old paneling worth saving from the dumpster. Above: Wood paneling from States Industries.

tile countertops in kitchen#8 Tile countertops, especially in kitchens:

Tile is durable. Tile resists water. The grout can be cleaned — or use epoxy grout if you’re starting from scratch. Tile countertops have been fashionable in an on-again, off-again fashion from the 1940s on. I think they are charming. Above: Tile counter tops in Karen’s kitchen.

wood kitchen cabinets#7 Wood kitchen cabinets:

1950s and 60s wood kitchen cabinets may not have the keeping-up-with-the-Joneses appeal of brand spanking new (particle-board-laden) wood cabinets today, but they were often — usually? — made just fine. Better, even maybe. If you have ‘em original, heck, they have lasted 50 years and could likely last 50 more. Or forever. New kitchen cabinets are one of the most expensive parts of a kitchen renovation — and way overpriced, I think. And remember: Replacing a ‘dated’ kitchen with an all-new 2012 kitchen means: You now have a dated-2012 kitchen that will be out of date in 10 years, probably less. This marketeering cycle is ceaseless, ridiculous. The wood cabinets that are/were original to 20+ million midcentury modest houses across American likely suit the “unpretentiousness” that runs throughout their entire design… so, why not go with the flow and instead of spending $ thousands on new cabinets, use the money for other stuff, starting with maybe: Ensure you have a solid, 6-months of living expenses emergency fund, pay down credit cards, save for retirement, pay down the mortgage and in general, avoid the terrible stress of debt. Above: Nancy’s original wood kitchen cabinets.

pam with vintage wallpaper#6 Vintage wallpaper:

If you are new owner of an old home, please please please don’t rip out the vintage wallpaper. Not right away, at least. The old wallpaper may shock you initially. But once you dive into this website, and see other rooms full of the vintage-originals, you may start feeling the wallpaper luv. Vintage paper often had precious designs, and it was printed with rich, vibrant inks — lots of the wallpaper I see today just does not have the same printing quality, not at cheap prices, at least. Reflecting both its quality but also its increasing rarity, vintage wallpaper today also is quite valuable — $100 a roll or more if you try to buy New Old Stock today! I have always heard dissenters say, “Oh, wallpaper is so personal” — which is what can make it hard for Incoming Owner to like Outgoing Owner’s wallpaper choice. I understand this, for sure. But, when it comes to the original vintage wallpaper in a 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s or 70s house, golly, I usually always like it what I see. The stuff had amazing character. Live with it a while, give it a chance, before you start strippin’. Above: I love vintage wallpaper, ‘most all of it. I put 300 squares of it, 18 different design, on my office walls!

vintage laminate#5 Original laminate counter tops:

I put original laminate counter tops significantly higher on the Endangered List than tile counter tops, because the vintage laminate patterns so often found in original 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and even 1980s kitchen are impossible to replicate today. (On the other hand, you can get 4″ ceramic tile and bullnose in nice colors today, to replicate a vintage tile counter top.)  When it comes to vintage Formica and other laminate patterns, except for some boomerangs, mother of pearl and dogbones, charming decorative designs are simply not available. In fact, we are besieged by low-chroma, greiged out colors of laminate today, almost everywhere we turn. It is so drab and depressing: Resist the Greige Nation, I say!

Also, and this is IMPORTANT: The way back time machine laminate was better made, I believe. It was almost indestructible. It is awesome stuff. I do not have hard data proof of this. But I am sure. Don’t rip out your vintage laminate if it’s still in good shape. At least not until you live with it, and you are sure it’s time for it to go. Above: My vintage Textolite samples — which make us eat our hearts out!

house with awnings#4 Awnings:

Our parents and grandparents and great grandparents and so forth did not have window air conditioners or central air conditioners. Instead, they depended on window treatments — and often, awnings — to help control indoor air temperatures. Golly, if you are lucky enough to buy an old house with functional awnings — metal even? extra yay! — well, golly, you are lucky. Because you get temperature control for FREE. Hey, you should be able to sell carbon credits to the EU! Original awnings are not ugly — you read it here! Moreover, they are comfort-enhancing, money-saving, environmentally-smart features. (Note: I am not saying that putting up new awnings would necessarily cut  carbon overall — the cost/benefit would have to be analyzed. But, if you have ‘em already, that’s sunk carbon, embodied energy, done deal, you’re preventing heat from entering your house, leverage the fact.) Above: I have several stories about awnings including 12 places to buy awnings today.

knotty pine kitchen#3 Knotty pine paneling:

knotty pine websiteWith so many first-time home buyers finding their way into old homes, I think I’m seeing increasing chatter about knotty pine and what to think of it. Right now, knotty pine is like pink bathrooms were five years ago: Original vintage knotty pine is in great danger from folks who are not getting enough information about the history of this material and aesthetic to make their own decisions whether to love it, or not. To me, knotty pine is a sentimental, wonderful wall finish. Totally cozy. In particular, I love Pickwick Pine, which I believe ws the most popular paneling style in midcentury America. If the knotty pine is the original 1940s or 1950s stuff, the wood is likely really good — old growth good, maybe even. No need to paint it just because it’s not today’s fashion. I’m telling you — just like pink bathrooms — it will be a benefit to your vintage house, down the road, if it still has its original knotty pine den or bedroom or whatever. Oh yes, read more on my website, KnottyIsNice.com. Above: Eartha Kitsch’s world famous knotty pine kitchen (which just recently underwent a gawdawful plumbing surgery, ugh, our thoughts our with you, EK.)

steel kitchen cabinets#2 Steel kitchen cabinets:

You know I love vintage steel kitchen cabinets. I have them in my kitchen. My five-year hunt for my 1963 Genevas is what led me to start this blog… and led me, after four more years, to make a full time living from it. We now have 300,000 unique visitors every month. Yes: 300,000 a month! Oh, I digress with my little bootie dance. STEEL. Do you know what steel is? It’s what they make cars out of etc. etc. Crikey, if you have steel kitchen cabinets, you are Set For Life. Note: I am thinking, that if I did not buy the aqua cabinets that made their way into my kitchen, they would have ended up in a landfill in Staten Island. I kid you not. Above: A 1948 St. Charles steel kitchen from my A Short History of Steel Kitchen Cabinets.

original windows#1 Original windows:

Okay, windows are not a super sexy topic. But they make #1 on my list because Americans have been fed a bunch of baloney that they need to replace their windows to (1) save on their fuel bills and (2) that new windows are ‘better for the environment.’ I advise to PLAY THE SKEPTIC and ask anyone trying to sell you new windows using the save-money-save-environment pitch to: SHOW ME THE DATA. Ask for a third-party validated cradle-to-cradle Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to back up any environmental claims. Ask for a financial payback calculation regarding the money claims — and be sure to calculate in replacement costs if/when the new windows themselves need to be replaced in 20 years.

Most all the research I have ever read indicates: New windows will likely cost more to purchase and install than you will ever save in improved fuel bills. Also, even in the absence of an LCA: If new windows end up costing more, I posit that new windows also are not good for the environment – they are bad for the environment. This is because: Money is a pretty darn good proxy for carbon — meaning: Every time you make money, and every time you spend money, you are fueling consumption, which causes economic activity that emits more carbon. Using my logic, the only energy efficiency steps that really make net improvements to carbon emissions are those that have a demonstrated financial payback. Insulation usually pays you back pretty fast in terms of recouping what you spent in saved energy costs. But other fancier technologies usually don’t. Or don’t, yet, at current costs unless there are significant taxpayer-funded incentives. Want to approach improving the energy efficiency of your home in a no-baloney way: Consult the Energy Efficiency Pyramid (windows: now dead last in the things-to-do list!)

Note, my discussion is in regard to reducing carbon dioxide equivalents, not other environmental concerns or public policy reasons, which may prove to be valid reasons to make a change… and, I don’t have comprehensive data to validate my theory  per se. Another note: New windows may well improve your “comfort” level, helping to eliminate drafts and such (although you can likely accomplish this with storm windows and/or Window Quilts or other serious window treatments.  And, there may be very valid safety issues: Old windows may not feature tempered glass — and old windows may be painted with lead paint — consult with a professional on these issues. All this said: From my experience seeing advertisements and the like, I think I keep seeing replacement windows that are being sold with the spiel that they will “save money” and “help the environment.” It is these two claims I question: MAKE THEM SHOW YOU THE DATA.

On top of all this, new windows are getting a reputation for failing after 20 years. I don’t really understand the complaints. But if they are true: Then you need new windows. Which will lead to more spending — obliterated “savings” — and more manufacturing/consumption/greenhouse gases.

Conditions may differ house-to-house, so it’s critical to do your own research on this issue with Eyes Wide Open. If leaky windows are an issue, some more cost-effective ideas may include: (1) Caulk, (2) Window Quilts, (3) Exterior storms. Be skeptical, do lots of research that taps smart professionals, and demand data.

Above: My longer story discussing why you should consider keeping your original windows.

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Comments

  1. says

    Holy cow! How in the world did I miss this post last year? WOW. Those are my windows up there! What I thought were Jalousie but apparently are Awning windows!!! (I did have jalousie on my door, and as another reader mentioned, the entire glass fell out and broke one day so we had to replace the door. I totally miss that door) VERY unsafe…

    Awning windows! Who knew??

    Well, we did end up replacing our windows. All 21 of them. OY!

    And after our first winter with the NEW windows, I fear you are correct. We did not notice much difference at all in our engergy cost. I am very disappointed. I still dont know how I feel about this 9 months later. I miss my awning windows…Ahhh Regrets!

    Not having central air they were GREAT to get airflow going. The casements are okay…I just really miss my windows!

    One pro: SOUND. These new windows are WAY quieter. Inside. And out. I have had several neighbors tell me they cant hear my dogs anymore.

    An unexpected con: I have BEAUTIFUL Italian marble window sills in all my windows. DEEP. I used to be able to put things there. With the new windows thickness, my 6 inch sills are reduced down to 3 inches. Never even thought about that, but I miss seeing ALL of my sills.

    On an upnote we did recycle our aluminum windows AND we gave our neighbor, also an original owner, several extra cranks and hardware sets for HER Awning/Jalousie windows…I do belive she is now the last one in our neighborhood with these types of windows…

    All others have been replaced…Endangered indeed!

    • says

      Awning windows — if you still have those that you replaced or know where i can find them, I am trying to restore a 3-season room and the windows may be beyond repair. Thanks!

      • pam kueber says

        I think that awning windows are pretty standard issue… ? If you mean Jalousie, use our search box — we have several sources for those.

        • Jim@ctsny.net says

          I have the same windows as the set in the picture (#10) except mine have four panes each and I have six sets altogether in the “Florida room”. All the sources I’ve seen are the frameless sort. Here’s a link to a pic: https://www.dropbox.com/s/u9qjoe47abx3v8s/2014-06-21%2011.56.59.jpg

          https://www.dropbox.com/s/hjvuqd6n06gdn8v/2014-06-21%2011.45.58.jpg

          These awning windows make a lot of sense for this room, which was designed as an exterior space but they added the windows probably after the first nor’easter or winter. They offer a reasonable break from wind and rain but a low profile when fully open. They can stay open in all but the coldest months and extreme weather because, unlike casements, they ddon’t let much rain in and are less stressed by winds. These ones, after 60+ years service, need serious restoration or replacement in kind. f I cannot do that, I might switch to sliders. Thx

  2. Karine says

    Hi:
    Our home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida (build in 1953) has many original cool details… We are preserving one of these details thinking that it probably is there for a good reason, but we have NO IDEA which…..The windows are set about 6″ into the walls towards the outer part of the house. On the left and right sides of the wide living room windows, in the walls forming the window casings, there is a groove starting from the base of the windowsills (almost touching the old original tile windowsills), going straight up to about 4 inches from the top edge of the casings. The grooves stand parallel to the windows, 5″ away from the glass closer to the inside part of the walls. They are about 1/3″ deed into the wall and about 2/16″ wide. Does anyone know what these are for? Sorry for the confusing explanation… I hope I am making sense! :-)…. Anyone?

        • Karine says

          By the way, thank you Uncle Atom for trying to help us figure out what these grooves are. For new readers, please see my question above from Nov. 2nd. I would really love it if someone could enlighten us on the window “grooves”! Thanks again!

          • Marie says

            I am not sure, but could this have been for the ropes used to open the windows that I have seen in older homes? The ropes eventually would wear out and need to be replaced and they were wonderful when they worked right. Opening a window with them is effortless.

  3. Jeanette Taylor says

    I am buying a 1950 home. Most windows are replaced, but Florida room has awning windows in good working order. There are 2 jalousie doors in this house. Glass panes are topped with metal mesh (probably security and privacy) and a screen. My inspector says they are an invitation to break-in and theft. These people were trusting as there is only the doorknob lock on both of these doors. I need advice on whether to replace for safety…they are in perfect condition.
    My dad was a GE dealer for many years. Their home will soon be on the market with the full set of GE metal cabinets in wood-tone brown. It had the appliances, but finally all were replaced with almond color. Everyone who looks at house plans on replacing. After reading this, I will encourage new owner to at least give these to a charity who can resell. They are sturdy and beautiful…very “Jetson” looking.

    • pam kueber says

      Jeanette, to answer questions related to safety, I recommend you get your own properly licensed professional to help you assess the situation.

  4. David says

    It’s been a while since I commented on this thread, but I had a recent experience that seems to fit the theme pretty well. I have a few extra pieces of mid century furniture that I am looking to sell and since there is growing demand here in the DC area, I decided to check with a few local consignment shops and see what I could do. The two pieces that I have are a credenza and a matching china hutch. I was surprised by the consistent responses about the china hutch. Absolutely no one wants them anymore. One dealer seemed more interested in my house and asked if it had a mid century living room with a fireplace. I told him yes and he said that the china hutch is more valuable as firewood than furniture and I should at least get that much use out of it. It’s a beautiful piece and I felt insulted as though he just told me my child was ugly, stupid and should be dropped on someones doorstep. The more time I spent looking for fifth, sixth and seventh opinions, I kept coming up with more of the same. The reality is that no one has an available wall or need for a china cabinet anymore. Using a dining room for entertaining dinner guests, serving Sunday dinners or holiday parties just doesn’t fit into the ultra-casual culture of today’s family dynamic. As I thought about that, I realized that in the last ten years of friends’ weddings, I have yet to see one couple include china on their registry. In fact, a recent one included a request for an Xbox 360, but I digress. Then it occurred to me that it isn’t simply the china hutch or the china that has become extinct; the actual dining room itself has become extinct. In fact, if you’re shopping for homes in an older neighborhood and have digested enough hours of HGTV, you too will become programmed to look at that wall and, in a Pavlovian response, realize with contempt for the builder that it’s the first thing that must go. I know this from experience because I bought a 1960′s rancher and had all these great plans to grab a sledge hammer and turn my separate entry hall, kitchen, dining room and living room into one massive space when you walk in the front door. Instead of rooms, It would have areas or “zones” decorated with whatever they told me was hot that year. I watched many DIY episodes teaching me that this is the only logical and tasteful thing to do. Seeing young couples on TV convulse at the appearance of vintage modern architecture and watch the episode’s transformation from mid-mod to 19th Century Tuscan or French Country almost reinforced the notion that I needed to gut my space if I wanted to have a home to be proud of. So I moved in and a sudden budget change meant postponing these ambitions. What I discovered over time, is that our home is not only functional, but actually perfect, as is. The architect wasn’t really a moron after all and the family that had to “deal with” this brick veneer dinosaur for nearly 50 years really cherished it and lived quite comfortably. I love my family dearly, but there are times we all need our space, not just “zones” in the same big room. We truly love this house as it is and we USE our dining room. Many friends have questioned the logic of having a dining room since we also use the table in our eat-in kitchen (E-I-K: another feature on the brink of extinction). It has made perfect sense to us as we use the dining room for most dinners but all other meals and snacking in the kitchen. Don’t get me wrong, dinner around the dining room table is not a hugely formal affair, but it does provide the best venue for teaching the children proper table etiquette. I just wish I could impress it on so many young homebuyers to just pause before diving into a demo. Sometimes a demo, or at least some type of modification, is necessary, but I strongly recommend waiting. If I hadn’t, I would have spent many thousands of dollars on a reno that would not only disrespect the design of the house but also require an ongoing investment to keep up with the current trend.
    Thanks for letting me share this novel!

      • Kathy says

        Cheers for David. Frugality is the best form of historic preservation! Doesn’t make good TV though. Even “This Old House” has been into smash and replace lately.

        Karine, without pictures, I’m wondering if the old grooves are for interior storm windows or some type of shutter window treatment. Can you track down some old timers in the neighborhood or previous owners to give you a clue?

    • Xefi Rah says

      I agree. The open concept has gone too far for my tastes. I had the architect do a built-in dining hutch just like the one my husband’s family had in their 1950′s home. Our house doesn’t have a formal dining area; we eat a dining area outside the kitchen.

    • Laurie says

      WOW David! I cannot believe someone considered a china cabinet more valuable as firewood!
      LOVE mine. A dining room without a china cabinet looks just sad and naked to me.
      I also see it as a decorative tool. Love to dress it up during the holidays. The top gets draped in garland too.

      Love my kitchenette as well. I live next to a school bus stop. My little boy is a bus rider. Can’t count the times other boys show up in the winter wanting to wait here, and magically….. just in time for breakfast. LOL My kitchen table gets plenty of use.

      Do not understand people. The open concept is horrid to me. Looks ugly and sterile.

      Wondering if the china cabinet disdain is a cultural thing. I’m from the South where we still prize our inherited china. And we like to show it off too! What better place than a pretty cabinet!

      I even have a few georgious Russian plates in mine, to show off my other heritage.

  5. Michelle says

    I have one den, one playroom, and an entire upstairs (2 bedrooms, hallway, and stairs) in knotty pine paneling and I wouldn’t trade it for the world!!! I do have a Mamie pink with green tile board bathroom that is in desperate need of change because of the lack of storage and age. Not to mention, the room has gotten the western sun for over 50 years and the pink fixtures are more peach now! My parents had done renovations over the years (my grandparents built the house), but nothing has been completely changed. The den has a red tile floor (it has a white border). The kitchen has the original wood cabinets and one counter of white formica with green shot through it. It looks like the picture above. Up until the early 90s, the original porcelain sink was still in the house, but they did put in a stainless with butcher block counters. I will be making changes, but will be keeping as much of the original feel/pieces as I can. I told my hubby not too long ago that if the bathroom had been the blue that my Aunt had, I would NEVER change it!! I do love my 1950s house and hope that anyone who has a chance will love one too!!

  6. Jacki Anderson says

    I’ve lived in our 1965 ranch since 1996. The “knotty pine” is what made me fall in love with this house. Both my kitchen and den have beautiful knotty pine and my kitchen lamintate counter tops are original. While I did have to totally re-do my small master bath due to water damage under the floors, and a somewhat never finished shower stall, the main hall bath has all the original tile on the floor, counters, and up the walls, and original wallpaper. My only concern is that one of the sinks (double sink counter) has some cracks/rust damage that gradually gets worse and the way the sinks are set below the counter with small tiles framing them – if I have to replace the sink the whole counter-top/tile will have to go too! I’m hoping I can find replacement tile to match if I ever get to that point. Recently, my daughter, in a house cleaning/painting mood, attempted to talk me into “brightening” up the kitchen by painting the knotty pine, but I cannot bring myself to do it. She’s almost 21 and I’m hoping she’ll be out of college, working full-time and on her own soon, so me and my knotty-pine can live happily ever-after. Whether my daughter likes it or not!!

  7. Alan says

    I have a house built in 1954 and am the second owner.i replaced most of my windows 5 years ago. They were the old awning type windows very inefficient energy wise , I may have not seen a savings in bills but I can cool the house quicker and keep it warmer in winter I don’t feel the wind blowing thru the cracks. Plus the hard wear was breaking down.
    The orgial wod cabinets are still here and we are trying to get rid of smell from the wood.
    The Florida room ceiling is tounge and groove wood, down the stret from me that is finished that way.
    And these houses can survive a fire and just need cleaning and som new rafters.

  8. Morgan says

    We have another original endangered feature in our new (old) house: push button light switches!!! Our 1961 house is almost entirely original. There is something satisfying of turning a light on or off and hearing that click on the basement switchboard. Love it!

  9. Xefi Rah says

    Original windows must be replaced in order to get a mortgage in many markets- Low-emission glass must replace the old and the metal post-war frames do not insulate. That said, the replacements should be glazed to match the original windows. It irks me to see ‘colonial pane’ windows in a modern ‘picture window’ or Chicago window opening.
    Park Forest, IL is where I first had metal cabinets. They get bent and no longer close!!! Replacing them with wood is fine *but* I like to keep the ‘feel’ of metal by painting or staining mid-century- styled wood cabinets. It is awful to see 70′s style ‘Mediterranean’ panels in a lovely ranch-style home!!!

    • pam kueber says

      I’ve had my steel cabinets for quite a few years now without one ding or bend; both the doors and the drawers are doubled-up steel…. I guess if you ran into the door while it was open, that would be a problem — but that would be a problem with wood, too.

      A requirement to replace windows to get a mortgage? I’ve never heard of that… Can you tell me where, I’d like to check into that.

  10. Maureen Bajeyt says

    We had to replace the windows when we bought our house. All but one were not original to the house and about as sturdy as tin foil – one wouldn’t close completely. However, we did replace one original window – a huge picture window. It’s too hot where I live to have a large window that doesn’t open, so it was replaced by a smaller picture window that has two flanking casement windows, and they are vinyl. I know it’s considered a cardinal sin of MCM remodeling – but vinyl was less expensive than wood for us.

  11. Shannon Hudson says

    Ok. I had medal awning and have replaced them with black and white cloth awnings. My new front door is mid century. I need ideas for a fence to go in the front yard.

  12. Alan Crawford says

    There is a difference between awning type windows which are what are shown. And jealousies which are thinner and narrower.

  13. Julie says

    Love this article! I grew up in a house built in 1958; my parents were the second owners, buying in 1964. It had the pink bathroom, large formal DR, an entire wall of bulit-in wooden bookshelves, fieldstone fireplaces in the LR and basement ‘rumpus room’, knotty pine basement walls, wood kitchen cabinets, closets galore, gorgeous hardwood floors preserved by decades of carpeting, and a basement ‘laundry room’ that ran the entire length of the house. Two other wonderful ‘oddities’ were a door between the LR and kitchen that could slide closed between the walls, and a laundry chute– these made life a little easier and we loved them. Mom had to sell last year, and it truly broke my heart to think what must have been done by the buyers in the way of ‘improvement’– I haven’t been able to drive by it since her last day there. Your article and the comments have given me hope that perhaps the new owners might retain and grow to love some of the ‘dated’ features of our beloved ex-home.

  14. Scott says

    This article was fun to read (but aren’t they all here in RetroRenovationland? :-) ) and made me feel really good as 10, 7, 5, and 4 apply to my house.

    10. I have the original Jalousie windows in the basement. They close snugly and even here in Central Ohio the basement does not get super cold in the winter. Located on 3 sides of the house means great cross-ventilation so opening them for about 3-4 hours a nice day means instantly spring-fresh basement.

    7. Original honey-colored wood cabinets retained. The uppers are spotless, the lowers show some wear but are nice enough that I can’t imagine getting rid of them.

    5. While not original, I replaced my 1990s drab gray countertops with Stop Red Formica.

    4. My original front and back porch awnings were dented all to heck so I replaced them with new ones plus added two new ones over the front windows which dressed up my little Modest immensely.

    • pam kueber says

      Sounds great, Scott. I am doing another story on awnings in the near future — I’d love to see photos your modest refreshed! Send me an email if you’re game! Thanks!

  15. Carol says

    Keep old wood windows in good shape. My mom has the original divided pane wood windows from 1967. The bath window was large and in very bad shape on the inside due to moisture. I spent the better part of a week restoring the inside of the window. I used porch paint from Home Depot after making repairs. It was beautiful and when Mom came back from a trip she was so estatic, I thought she would cry. That was exactly 10 years ago and it looks as good as the day I finished it. It was definitely worth the work. You will freeze in the winter without storm windows. I know this from experience because one broke. That room was cold! With storm windows, nice and cozy and energy efficient. Mom has great energy bills and has a full basement with no insulation in the ceiling. She is by no means losing heat from the windows. All of the other windows are stained wood and still look great.

  16. Kristi says

    Yeah, it was a pretty nifty little house. The old lady who lived there used to have the coolest yard sales. Then it was for sale forever and finally bought by one of those “We Buy Houses!” investment companies. They’ve been working on it for about as long as we’ve been working on ours. They had an open house last weekend (because the house is for sale again) and I went just to see what it was like. It was pretty inside, but just what you’d expect; new everything, builder fixtures, nothing unique. I don’t know what the house looked like before or what shape it was in, but now it looks like…every other house you see in every decorating magazine. (and will be “dated” in 10 years just like everything else)

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