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The Allure of an Antique Home

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Westchester is a county rich with history. Perhaps no where do we see this more than in our homes. From Dutch estates built in the 1600’s to the pre-revolutionary 17 century colonials and painted Victorians of the 1800’s right on through to craftsman bungalows, every era has been marked by a style of house. While it’s probably true that a new house will need less attention, at least at first, there is nothing that can replace the sense of being part of the grand continuum of history.
We all understand what motivates the majority of architects and designers today; they are looking to create a home that many people will want. What it may lack in uniqueness it makes up for in amenities and convenience. While no one denies that a home must meet the basic needs of modern families, there can be a need that is more… esoteric than the basic of shelter. That need can be a feeling of connection to the past, a sense that one is a steward of a home that has withstood the test of time and met the needs of generations before us.
We do know that the treasured details in older homes are very difficult and expensive to replicate today. Moldings these days tend to be made of a plastic composite not carved wood or sculpted plaster. Plaster walls with lath behind them can be a pain to alter but their soundproof characteristics are unmatched. Windows framed inside and out and on the back as well as the front of a house provide architectural interest and are rarely found in new homes. Victorians are graced further by leaded glass windows, multiple gables, shingle patterns and carved details that speak exuberantly but are often too expensive to emulate today. And the wide plank floors of early colonials? Not seen today.

Contemporary buyers are often looking for certain things – open concept, granite countertops, double sinks, whole house climate regulation, etc – that are rarely found in antique homes. But there are fixes. Modern convenience and historic character are not mutually exclusive. I have seen many houses where forward thinking owners have blended the old with the new to create the best of both worlds. How about a 270 year old colonial with a state of the art rainfall shower in the master bath? Or a 125 year old farm house with radiant heat, central air and a super modern chef’s kitchen?
We are often trapped in the ideas of what things should be like today and forget that generations lived happily and differently than we do now. We can make older spaces work for how we live now without compromising either the space or how we live. It just takes some imagination. Life well lived need not be lived in a cookie cutter home!

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