Thursday, May 8, 2008

Home, sweet (old) home

A view of the old farmhouse and dairy barn

Old houses are much more interesting than new ones. Not convenient, but interesting. I have a secrete passage. Really. The attic was once used as a sleeping place for hired farm hands. It had a steep stairway down through the mud room and outside. Over the years, the mud room became a pantry/laundry room and the stairway was closed up at both ends. Now it’s just a hidden but handy hole in the house to run wiring and plumbing though. Still, it is a passage and it is a secret (except from various cable guys, electricians, and the like).

Old houses often have rooms whose original purpose is questionable. A larger, ground floor room, which may have been a bedroom, is now a den. The smaller room connected has become my library. Nothing grand as libraries go, no tufted leather chairs, no oriental carpets, just bookcases and my collection of books—gardening books, bird books, cook books and of course mysteries.

I call the old mud room a butler’s pantry. No butler of course but I like the sound of that name.

Two upstairs bedrooms have very small closets. One upstairs bedroom has no closet. That’s what I mean by ‘not convenient’. People a hundred years ago didn’t have many clothes, thus no need for wasted closet space. An old wardrobe I refinished looks great in the third bedroom. The living room and the dining room both have closets. I’m sure there was a reason for that.

Old houses have wonderful moldings and woodwork. Back in the day, wood was cheap and skilled labor plentiful. Huge old windows are beautiful and leak frigid air with every wind gust. The lath and plaster walls are thick and soundproof. Hanging a picture on plaster walls is tricky. Repairing plaster is a lost art form.

You can’t get parts for old houses. If a faucet leaks, you may end up replacing everything between it and the well pump. What were they thinking when they built cellar stairs the width of ladder rungs? Why is every light switch located on the wall farthest from the doorways?

The movie ‘Money Pit” is my life.