Open concept is often times an oxymoron for historic homes. It doesn’t mean that some homes could, and should, have spaces reconfigured to be more open, but it also doesn’t necessarily mean they have to. During the early stages of this renovation, I took a friend through the house to see the ‘before’ in all its glory. As we were walking from the dining room to the kitchen he stopped and said, “You need to tear this wall down to get the open concept that everyone wants” (or something along those lines). I stopped dead in my tracks, raised an eyebrow, and said, “Not a chance”. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with tearing out walls and reconfiguring spaces when it works, but it’s got to really work. To me, that certainly wasn’t the case for this house.
When I first visited the house, there were floor to ceiling shelves filled with books against half of the walls because the former owner used it as a study rather than a formal dining room. Once all the books were cleared out and I was able to get a closer look, I found all of the original trim intact. Yes, all of it. So rare. When the bookshelves were installed, they notched out the shelves rather than tearing out or cutting the board-and-batten siding. And in case you don’t know what that is, here’s a little description found on oldhouseonline.com (because I’m no expert either).
Board-and-batten siding is composed of wide planks laid vertically at a height that covers approximately two-thirds of the wall. Narrow strips of wood called battens cover the joints. Capped at the top with a molded plate rail, board-and-batten paneling was a suitably austere alternative to the perceived excesses of Victorian wall coverings.
This house was built in 1920 and the original trim had been preserved for 95 years. So, I didn’t really want to be the one to tear it out – too much guilt there – nor did I want to. Call me crazy, but I felt that keeping the original trim was much more important than creating an open concept. I mean, it’s so pretty. Plus, on the wall leading from the living room to the dining room, the original large French doors were in almost perfect condition and created a great flow. Open concept, old house style.
We began by disassembling the bookshelves and by we I mean my parents took on that task for me. The best part is that the wood shelving was in great condition so I salvaged almost all of it and continue to use it in projects throughout the house. With no major demolition involved, the renovation of the dining and living rooms were pretty simple.
After a little hard work of scraping, sanding, and painting the trim all that was left to do was paint the walls in complimentary colors and decorate with a few of my favorite pieces including the dining room table I grew up eating on. I’m a sucker for anything sentimental. Some call it hoarding, but I like to call it repurposed…..with a great story to tell. My mom finished off the space by making floor to ceiling windows drapes for me out of painter’s cloth for both rooms. Since my ceilings were so high, I couldn’t afford anything that was long enough and I think these look so much better than anything I couldn’t have purchased. And that was pretty much a wrap!