-----In 2004 we bought a falling-down house and 30 acres. This blog documents our progress-----

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

why the old house can't be the dream house

Greg from Petch House asked an interesting question: Why do we not just make the old house into our dream house?

In fact, this is where I started. Dave was more circumspect - more willing to countenance bulldozing and starting from scratch... which is what everyone suggested, but I refused to consider.

I've always loved old houses, especially wooden ones. I think you can sense when a house is a "good house" just by the feeling you get when you walk through it. This old house has that feeling for me, even though it's a wreck, so I thought it'd be a great "heart" to our dreamhouse if we restored it and built onto it.

But, the agreement Dave & I made was that we'd focus on the dream and not restrict it by insisting we had to incorporate the old house. If it did, great, if not, then we'd just build alongside.

When we got further in terms of working through all the details of the dream with Eric, it became clear we were going to have to make *so* many changes to the old house - making it much bigger, adding a second storey, adding chimneys, playing with the roofline, etc - that it risked swamping it and destroying the charm and character. It was also potentially quite limiting in terms of the design.

So, we've decided to build the dreamhouse from scratch, alongside the old house as if they were neighbouring houses in a village. (We have 30 acres so there's enough space). And separately, to restore the old house to be a cottage fitting to its era, retaining its "face" and keeping it as a distinct structure. This means we can be true-er to the old house's spirit, and it'll be a great guesthouse or something we can rent out if hard up for cash. Now that things have reversed and we're restoring the old house first, it'll also be a lovely place to live during the years we build the dreamhouse.

Lest you think the dreamhouse is a huge modern house... that's not it at all.

Most likely it's only going to have two bedrooms and be quite traditional in terms of the materials & styling. But, it'll include all those quirky things we've imagined. Like unusual seating nooks, a sweeping staircase, an entrance hall with room for a grandfather clock, a tower room, etc etc. (To read the full crazy list click here) and here)

If things go to plan, it won't even be a new house - it'll just be newly assembled. We're aiming for most of it to be made from salvaged materials - leftovers from demolition sites of old houses that Dad comes across; various architectural pieces that I find on Ebay, etc. The goal is to build something that has the soul of an old house, that feels like it could have been there for a century or more, but that fits our dream.

It's hugely ambitious and who knows if we'll ever fully get there. But, it's worth trying for and whatever happens it'll be an interesting experience!


Anonymous said...

It sounds like a wonderful dream. All you need is time and patience to find all the materials!

Greg said...

That makes perfect sense. It will make a great guest house or Mother In-Law unit. I think it is great that you are making the effort to save it. Sadly, most people would not have thought twice about bulldozing it.

Jocelyn said...

That is great you'll be able to live "next door" and watch your house come to life. I suspect by your great taste etc... your new house will be quite special and long-lived as well!

and England has so much more in antiques I think than we do here in the U.S. After all, the country has been around alot longer.