February 2, 2009
Another original detail of our house which had been removed when it was converted to a rooming house in the 1940s was the Victorian stained glass windows. Sadly there were none when we bought the place―not over the three over-sized front parlor windows, not over the two equally high rear parlor windows, not separating the center parlor from the hallway, not in the small pocket door, and not over the main staircase covering the skylight. In this last area, a very simple stained glass window that was typical for that time had been installed and was needing some TLC, as you can see.
If our budget allowed, Kevin and I would have indulged our romantic weakness for the detailed design of the turn of the last century and commissioned an ornate, reproduction stained glass window for the large skylight (there is a smaller, square skylight in the top floor bathroom).
Fortunately, Michael Streaman, our experienced and very practical general contractor, again offered his sage advice―replace the filthy and worn 40's window panes in the existing window frame with frosted glass to maximize the natural light in the hallway. Then, Kevin came up with a brilliantly simple plan of painting a grape vine on the backside of the glass using just black paint to personalize and add visual interest to the window without blocking the light. Our tenants upstairs also will enjoy viewing their very own grape vine through the bathroom skylight. Behold, the gorgeous revitalized hallway window!
(14) CommentsComment on this Blog
You couldn't have cleaned the glass that was in the photo? I know it is not truly victorian - but I find it interesting and closer to period than the frosted glass.
Karen & Kevin:
Sometimes budget constraints open up opportunities like this one. The grapevine and leaves painted on the back of the frosted glass evoke the feeling of etched glass in a way, which is very much Victorian. I like the personal touch.
(a different Tom)
As noted in another eroier post, we live in the twin to this house. We have the exact same skylight over our stairwell.
I agree with Tom #1. If you were worried about cost, why not just clean that glass, maybe re-puddy the frame, and you have a beautiful antique stained glass skylight. I hope you didn't throw it away. The etched glass is nice but doesn't fit the style of the house and looks replaced and new.
Yikes - this really doesn't seem to fit the style of the house. I agree with June - I hope you kept the old one.
Did you consult a designer or historic architect on some of your choices? I am suprised by this skylight, the choice of the spiral staircase, and the powder room tile. While all nice - they are three different styles and don't seem to me to be very sensative to your turn of the century house.
Old House Lover,
Historic Architect? Are they building a museum?
Dude, chill out. They didn't want the tenement glass so he drew a piece of art on a new one.
Historically correct? I think back in the day they used to do something like art on glass. What was it called? Staircase? Did you read the rest of the blogs? It's from the twenties. 15 years off to me is still in the times. Power room floor?
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think again, back in the day, they used to do something like this. What was that called again? Mosaic?
I think it is great what they are doing. I think we all have a little green monster. I do too, but I have to say hats off to you guys. Don't listen to the negative. It is all good.
Old House Lover #1, I totally agree with you. There are so few old houses with any details left in NYC that they should all be treated with care and consideration of their past glory. There is tons of information about how these houses were built, decorated and used in the turn of the century, and although times, technology and living styles have changed, there are some things that don't necessarily have to change - take the skylight - the old one they had was a much better match if they are trying to maintain the Victorian look, the new one doesn't match the house and it's certainly not Victorian and not a piece of art! The original stained glass was stunning - no doubt about it! And lover #2, stand corrected on the powder room. Most houses of this style (solid middle class) had only one bathroom for the whole house, no powder rooms or guest bathrooms. The tile floors were very utilitarian (not mosaic) and although the size of the tile is accurate to the times, it would not be that decorative. It would be all white with a few black ones evenly spaced thoughout (as they have said on one of the TOH episodes) I don't think their decorative choices are in the "Victorian" spirit at all, their parlor floor looks especially modern and chopped up now -which I think diminishes the details the did keep.
Maybe you'll say I should chill out too, but it's difficult to for me to watch a Victorian house get updated with modern details. How would it have hurt, for instance, to make the kitchen cabinets out of maple to match the rear parlor woodwork? Or to restore the marble sinks in the dressing rooms? Or to find out that the houses on the block have one large master bedroom undivided by a wall?
We have read your comments and hope that it was satisfying for you to express your personal opinions about our design decisions. We feel fortunate that we were free to design our home exactly to our desires and needs--preserving almost all of the cherished original detail and updating where necessary for our family.
Frankly, your narrow viewpoint does an injustice to the generous spirit of our house and the architect who originally built it. When we stumbled upon it, we were in awe of its beauty and strength despite its old age and multiple uses throughout the years. The fact that the house was so perfectly able to adapt to the needs of society--as a one family house in 1904, as a rooming house in the Post-War years, and now as an updated, carefully restored 3-family home during a period of skyrocketing real estate prices in NYC--is a testament to its greatness and adaptability. It shall remain standing, offering shelter and inspiration to everyone who enters it, without judgment or dogmatism. We love our house and all of its history. Change is a necessary part of life.
FYI, our house has been calendared by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, and when it is formally approved, LPC will have jurisdiction ONLY over the exterior of the house that is visible from the street.
I guess she told you! You go girl!
I love you guys that think your judgment has any validity.
Let me get this right, because there was only one bathroom one hundred years ago, you think they are only allowed to have one? I must say, that is stupid. Should they put an out house in the back yard?
Listen, you need a BIG chill out! If you are disturbed by watching people who are very conscious of all the details, meticulous rebuilding and preserving their beautiful home for their family, then I say to you, June, don't watch!
I must say again, I think they are doing a great job! By the way, the show's name is "This Old House" not "This Old Museum".
Old house lover too..
When you decide to allow the world watch you renovate your home on TV - you should certainly be prepared for the commentary and opinion that will follow. Old House Lover too, you are the one that needs to chill out. That said - you will likely let me have it too, becuase I don't at all agree with severl of the design decisions and agree with that they are not appropriate...
Karen: Your passion for your house is heart warming, and your attention to detail is obvious. Congratulations on an excellent renovation! My husband and I live down the block from you and we have been working on our house for years – it’s certainly a labor of love. But, a historically sensitive renovation necessitates a certain narrowness of focus and I understand it’s not for everyone. We also had to remove the bathroom shell tiles and much of the field tile so our contractor could shore up the side of the house. Many contractors told us that it was impossible to remove, replace, and restore them. But after many bleeding knuckles, the bathroom is completely restored. The tiles were re-installed along with an original china tub, sink and toilet. The process wasn’t easy. We’ve also added two more full baths and a half bath to the house, using period salvaged materials and spent less money than it would have cost for new ones.
My point in this forum is to provide insight to those who are interested in executing as historically accurate a renovation OR restoration as possible. Like you, it is my belief that the more one can understand the motivation behind the original architecture the better. Then the changes that modern living requires can flow in harmony with the Victorian charm.
Thank you for letting us into your home, I appreciate it!