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Need help - don't know where to begin

Posted: Fri Oct 16, 2009 9:43 am
by iamfoundinHim
Hi everybody,

I'm new here, and I'm so happy I did find this forum. I did post under another topic, the the webmaster suggested I start a new topic to get more responses (thank you!).

My mom passed away this past January I am currently contemplating restoring my old family home. Here are some pictures to give you an idea of what I'm working with: http://community.webshots.com/album/575108629yoYrYq

This house is in pretty good shape, and I'm really interested in first, when it was actually built (the only information I have from Schuylkill County parcel is "1900" - anything before that time is still 1900 to them), secondly what type of architecture it is (I THINK from what I read maybe Colonial Revival??). I'm trying to figure out the floor plan. It has two front doors - one in the front middle going into a formal sitting area, and a second to the right (has the stain glass sides in my pictures) go into some sort of a sun room (?) which leads into the kitchen. I know when my parents bought the house in 1972 there were small service stairs (I think that's what they're called) in the kitchen, and a dumb waiter in the larger back living room.

Me and my husband were originally planning on building a new home this year, but are seriously thinking of restoring mom's house (which we already own) instead, but I do not wish to do a 'new remodel' but would really like to restore it to it's former beauty. This will need to start ASAP as my SIL wants to buy the house we're living in now. Any information anybody could offer me would be REALLY appreciated. For instance, I don't even know where to start in regards to the type of kitchen this house would have had, and I'd love to know what kind of stove was in the back living area where the chimney is with the stove-pipe hole. Those are the two things that are really intriguing me.

Thanks again,

Trina in NE Pennsylvania (New Ringgold)

Re: Need help - don't know where to begin

Posted: Fri Oct 16, 2009 10:20 am
by wletson
Trina, "welcome to OHW" first of all. Your house is so neat! Very unique character. You'd never get a house with such appeal from a new build. (in my opinion anyway)
iamfoundinHim wrote: I do not wish to do a 'new remodel' but would really like to restore it to it's former beauty
Yup, you've come to the right place for suggestions/ideas/instructions on that sort of thing.
iamfoundinHim wrote:I don't even know where to start
Worry more about the exterior before the interior. Make sure you have a good tight envelope. Good roof, no leaks in the foundation, that sort of thing.

It looks like a pretty large house. Do you need to get everything done before you move in, or could you tackle some of it after you move in?

Tour around this forum, going back through the postings. There are tons of great kitchens posted here.

Re: Need help - don't know where to begin

Posted: Fri Oct 16, 2009 10:29 am
by iamfoundinHim
Hi again,

Well, the good thing is that the house is pretty much already buttoned up. My husband has replaced the roof, and the foundation is quite sound. In fact, currently we hae a tenant living upstairs (he doesn't know he's leaving yet), and we may need to move out of the house we're in as early as the beginning of December.

The renovations will certainly need to be done while we live there, at least the majority. I'm more concerned about the inside at this point because we've already gotten our first taste of snow yesterday. I'd really like to get an alternative heating system in (i.e. pot belly stove, cooking stove, or whatever would've been there in the first place) to save on heating the blustery winters here in PA. I'd also like to re-do the kitchen before moving in, so that's another priority. Don't even know what color cabinets would've been original, or at least how to keep the same 'period look' with a few upgrades.

Yes, the house is HUGE and we're moving from a small house with no basement, so it won't be an issue to have empty rooms when we're living there. We don't have enough 'stuff' to fill half the place! And, I collect & sew on old treadle sewing machines, and I know they'll fit right in with the house, which is really cool.

OH, almost forgot to mention, My husband is a custom-home builder, and my BIL business is custom cabinetry. So, I've got some resources for cheap! :wink:

Re: Need help - don't know where to begin

Posted: Fri Oct 16, 2009 1:23 pm
by wletson
iamfoundinHim wrote:My husband is a custom-home builder, and my BIL business is custom cabinetry.
Oh, you are so sitting pretty with cheap labor, who know what they are doing! :D

If it was pre 1900's, chances are, "originally" the kitchen would have been furnished with individual pieces of furniture. Very simple, utilitarian cabinets, maybe a dry sink, big table... not much or nothing built in. So, whether you really really want to go back to that, I'll leave that up to you (obviously). One place I'd suggest you look for inspiration is the following website.


No, it obviously isn't period correct, but gives the impression of having the right "look".

A woodstove is a great idea. Someone here may be able to point you in the right direction on that one. (I live a bit far away to give you much insight for what would have been existing in Pennsylvania at that time) Again, period correct may be one consideration, but amount of heat you're expecting will also have to come into play. Something that "looks" right might be the answer again.

I noticed the sewing machines in your photo album. What do you sew?

Re: Need help - don't know where to begin

Posted: Fri Oct 16, 2009 4:52 pm
by iamfoundinHim
Thanks for the great link! I really like the 'look' of the kitchens, even if they're not "totally" period-correct. The feeling's still there (much better than the 80s look it currently has).

I'm SO into the historical significance of this house that I actually went to the courthouse today and looked up the old deed. There were many (and I say it again MANY) people named Charles Hoppes who lived in West Penn Township, so I printed a few off deeds and figure I could figure it out better at home and go back again soon. I did get the preious one before my parents bought the house from 1928.

Me and my husband went back to the house and laid out the kitchen today, too. That's where your link will come in handy! It really gives me a vision of what I can do there. It certainly is nice to have woodworkers in the family. They pretty much will work for pizza (and maybe a beverage now and then).

I think this project is so important to me because I grew up in this house and to be honest I did not have many really great memories there - I kinda feel like my feelings do it a disservice, and if I can restore it and make it into something I love, it would be an all-in-all good thing. To be honest, my first reaction to moving back was 'no way!", but I'm really trying to make it into a house filled with love and attention to detail. Yeah, call me weird. ha ha The research is at least starting to make me become emotionally attached.

As for sewing, I love to quilt on the old treadles and hand cranks. I think they'd fit in perfectly with this house. :) I think I was born in the wrong time period.

Hoping someone out there can point me in the right direction for the wood stove. It's starting to get chilly here, and I've got some shopping to do! I'm also looking for advice of what kind of floor to put in the kitchen.


Re: Need help - don't know where to begin

Posted: Fri Oct 16, 2009 5:09 pm
by Mury
Too bad the search link is not working right now. There are so many great kitchen pics on this forum. If your house was built around 1900, the kitchen would have been what most people today would consider impractical and pretty much out of the question. You might want to choose a later time period to follow that will allow you more counterspace. Great link above to david smith's stuff! Also check out http://www.antiquehomestyle.com/inside/ ... /index.htm and http://www.antiquehomestyle.com/inside/ ... /index.htm The webmaster hangs around here sometimes too, so you can ask her some questions maybe.

Re: Need help - don't know where to begin

Posted: Fri Oct 16, 2009 7:57 pm
by S Melissa
Welcome to the fun! Great house. I'd guess from looking at your pics that the turn of the century is probably close - given the woodwork on the inside - anywhere from 1890-1910 I'd say. Few of us can get an exact date for our houses or get exact pure style information on them - as they've usually been modified in some way - and maybe were added to or extracted from during the original building design.

I do wonder of the porch/brick is original. My thought was probably a wrap around porch probably was on there - like a folk victorian style - ( http://architecture.about.com/od/period ... torian.htm ) that was bricked in and that slooping porch roof was added at some moment of creativeness.

Also we usually strongly suggest that you live in the house for a bit to get a feel for it and what it needs - rushing in to finish things before December - well - that's a lot of work between now and then and will likely cause you to make decisions you'll later regret. If you have a tenant upstairs - move in there - work on the downstairs - get it done - move down there - then finish the upstairs. Just a suggestion - but it might pay off big time.

Do look at the links to antiquehomestyle - she's got good information there. Here's some other kitchens to think about:


Also, do a lot of reading here and at Old House Journal. Both will provide lots of resources and references and answers.
As for heat. It's purely up to you as to how "original" you want to be - but most of us here have modern heating systems (we might still have the old radiators)- but modern boiler/furnaces and AC in our house. Good insulation in the attic, storm windows, in the walls - all that will help to stave off frostbite. That's up to you - but it isn't what I'd recommend. Your house's future relies on it adapting to modern times - while maintaining the historic character and as much original fabric as possible - but no one expects you to live as tho it was 1900. The folks in the 1900's didn't want to live that way either - which is why they worked their tails off to develop the modern comforts we have today! :D
Finally - maybe some of the folks here reading this will give you some of their kitchens to look at - here's mine:

Re: Need help - don't know where to begin

Posted: Fri Oct 16, 2009 8:27 pm
by iamfoundinHim
Melisssa, your kitchen is gorgeous!! Funny thing is that I was 'surfing' the older posts and found it about 10 minutes before your post and showed it to my husband because I loved it. What a beauty!

OK, would the kitchen cabinets in my house fall under 'victorian', 'early american', or something else? From everything I read, I'm guessing that painted cabinets were 'in style' in the early 1900s, and tile on the floors? Also, the kitchen area has a little area surrounded by windows. Would this be a small breakfast nook? What would they have put on the inside porch off the kitchen? I think instead of a modern island I'd like to find an old farm table for my workspace.

So many decision, yes, I know. I lived in the house so long (even after I got married my husband moved in, and we only moved into our current house 8 years ago), it feels almost like I never left. We're planning on kicking out the tennant since we've now got two small children and there's just not enough room for all of us downstairs. I guess our first priority is the kitchen (to be started and hopefully mostly completed before we move in). As for the other rooms, we can do one at a time. We have decided we're probably putting in an updated & a LOT more efficient propane heating system. It originally was coal, then converted to oil. There's an old room down in the basement where they stored the coal. I played down there all the time when I was a kid.

I'm enjoying the 'walk through the past' when leafing through the old pictures of me as a kid, although I'm kinda now looking thorugh the people and trying to see the house instead. ;)

Thanks for the advice. I really really really appreciate it, and look forward to hearing from other people who know what theyr'e doing - unlike me. :)

Re: Need help - don't know where to begin

Posted: Sat Oct 17, 2009 9:11 pm
by S Melissa
Thank you!
Victorian kitchens were pretty bleak to say the least. Today we need to have a hybrid of what was to what we now expect from a kitchen. They were mostly a comglomeration of furnishings and a big cook stove and not very efficient or friendly to use. My kitchen used to look a bit like y our current kitchen does. I built that kitchen in 1978 and it served me well for a long time. When it was time to re-do - I worked with a designer who helped me with the layout and I picked out the cabinets and the color (which is a creamy yellow) with a sea green granite. I wanted something that functioned well and incorporated some furnishings I have in the kitchen - a corner cupboard and a Hoosier cabinet. The doors incorporate those forms in their bars and stiles and panels. I love my kitchen - and it is a joy to cook in - when that happens these days! Think thru this carefully - you have one chance to do it right for about 15-20 yrs - so choose wisely your layout and your cabinet arrangements - doors/drawers/uppers/lowers/islands/garbage/sinks/etc. It isn't easy to make a good kitchcen unless you really KNOW kitchens. My SIL has a beautiful kitchen - it's horrible to work in - you have to be an olympic athlete to manage it is so poorly laid out. Shame - it's beautiful.

You can do anything you want. You can have painted, natural wood, a combo of both (which is done all the time) or two different colors (also done all the time). Go to HD and get some kitchen magazines - take a look at them - there's lots to get inspired by.

It's likely the windowed alcove had a small breakfast table in it. On the other hand you could put a couple of nice cozy chairs in that alcove for a place to read and visit while you work in the kitchen - kids, husband, friends, mom etc. A cozy sitting place in the kitchen was often in farm houses. The porch - hard to know. On our porch is where the dog bowls are, over the years muddy shoes and boots, wet socks (from trips to the creek by the boys and their friends), coats and a small pantry for the stuff I don't have room for - recyclling bins and the salt bucket for the steps. Stuff. It's a mess - but it's the back porch. So what. You'll figure out your back porch - or the kids and dog will! Worry about other things - that will evolve in time.