Building New Old Houses

Let me state at the beginning that I am an old house snob. I grew up in an 1890’s Victorian house in Darien, Connecticut which was not even considered old by the town’s standards (it was settled in the late 1600’s & the site of many American Revolutionary skirmishes – so 19th century houses were practically thought of as post-modern!)

   The Stephen Mather Homestead (1778)  – Darien CT

The Stephen Mather Homestead (1778) – Darien CT

   The Bates-Scofield House (1736)  – Darien CT

The Bates-Scofield House (1736) – Darien CT

SO with that context, let me say I am a great fan (convert?) to the “new” old house style — building a historic-looking house with new materials — which my husband & I discovered 2 years ago.

The lake in New Hampshire that we go to every summer is picture-perfect, but I never saw the kind of falling down New England house there that I dreamed of… There are some historic houses uptown away from the lake area, but I knew my husband & kids would want to be closer to the water – where the houses tend to be more 1960’s/70s (think ski houses and small fishing camps). While my husband is allergic to dust, I on the other hand would never let any mustiness or rot deter me from a house with great bones (ESPECIALLY a Greek Revival house, just saying)…. So it came as a shock to find a beautiful house on top of a hill overlooking the water that was yes, an old Greek Revival house…needed absolutely NO updating….and FOR SALE!

   The Luella Gregory II house, New London NH

The Luella Gregory II house, New London NH

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Yup, we bought it. Currently renovating the barn so that our teenagers & their friends will have their own space for sleepovers & small “gatherings” (they know I blanche at the word “parties” when it comes to teens)….

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It turns out that the “Luella Gregory” house as it’s called follows the blueprint of an actual historic house (in Massachusetts I believe??). The previous owners had hired the innovative team at Connor Homes in Middlebury Vermont to build this custom home for them & site it perfectly atop the hill.  While I’m very glad I didn’t have to live through the building process, I have since learned how relatively easy it can be for new homeowners – as the Connor team pre-assembles elements of the house & then builds it on site. You pick out the model you like from their catalog and then order the “kit” as they call it….

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You can also adapt the house plans as you wish, knowing that you’re working with an architectural team who really understands the period & details of each house so you don’t make mistakes on scale or ruin the integrity of the original historical design. The results are varied — from salt boxes, to Georgian colonials, to farmhouses — but I think all of them have the kind of simple, unshowy “been there forever” look, don’t you agree??

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The advantages of this approach are numerous – besides the obvious move-in quality. For one, the process is very efficient. Connor has a video on Youtube about standing up another Greek Revival house in just 9 days! And also, instead of living through renovations to update a historic home, you get Connor’s blueprints so the houses are built with modern amenities, improved layout/flow for today’s entertaining style/living needs, and LEED-certified materials if you want, right from the start.

We were so lucky to find this unique house & are grateful to our house’s first owners for their vision & ingenuity. You can find more of these projects here. I can’t wait to get up to NH later this Spring to prepare for our first real summer in the house! Stay tuned….