ON THE HOUSE: Houses of a Certain Age
As a card-carrying member of Home Renovators Anonymous, I eye the Tuesday morning lineup of new real estate listings in town.
By Robin Jovanovich
As a card-carrying member of Home Renovators Anonymous, I eye the Tuesday morning lineup of new real estate listings in town. As the weather warms and open house season begins in earnest, I tell my husband: “I’ll be right back, darling.” He knows where I’m headed and barely raises an eyebrow at this stage of our marriage. In fact, he likes a home remodeling challenge as much as me, but he’d like to be able to live somewhere else while it’s going on.
One night last fall, I awoke after a wonderful dream. There we were, sitting comfortably by a fireplace in our kitchen and I was rocking a baby. The trouble was we hadn’t had a fireplace in a kitchen — or an infant — since 1980, when our second son was born and we were living in a brownstone in Manhattan.
I was more chipper than ever that crisp fall morning remembering those seemingly carefree days, wanting to share them with the father of my children. But, when he (the non-morning member of the family) shuffled down for breakfast, he reached for the coffee and the Wall Street Journal. He took his fair time responding to my chatter about fireplaces, babies, and all the really terrific kitchens we had created (unlike the one he was trying to enjoy his coffee in).
He finally raised his large and handsome head. “You can’t be serious. We’ve remodeled this kitchen twice in 10 years, and there is no third time.” He returned to his reading.
Meanwhile, after zipping through the New York Times, I got out the measuring tape and started taking photos of the charming study — with the fireplace — that adjoined the kitchen, which, by the way, had no good place for a kitchen table.
I put a call into architect Paul Benowitz, who has talked me out of a few harebrained expansion plans, and supported me on the ones that have made our 200-year-old Colonial much more livable over the years.
The big question wasn’t whether I could convince my long-suffering spouse to get with the plan, but how we would support this old house without that wall separating the kitchen from the study and where we could build a new staircase to get to the back of the house?
Luckily, there are good architects, like Paul, out there. And good contractors, like Chris Fitzgerald, who know where to start chopping, stick to your schedule as much as their own, and like a clean remodeling project at the end of the workday.
While having everything from the closets, mudroom, family room, and study piled in two rooms didn’t make life easily navigable for two months, it sure gave us a chance to deaccession a few things.
The creaky, narrow back stairs in the kitchen are a thing of the past. We now dash up to our bedroom by the wide, carpeted stairs just up from the mudroom. By taking out the old stairs, there was another bonus, our bedroom got slightly bigger and sunnier, as the old hall window is now in our bedroom. And now, our dog can watch the gulls soaring over the marina and the ever-changing drama of the winter light, from the antique bench under the window.
I have a fireplace in my kitchen now. We eat most of our meals at a long, oval tin table I found in an antique shop in Georgetown. The chairs need recovering and the rug a good cleaning. The only thing missing is grandchildren.