Restoration - how far do you go?

Home improvement Q&A, pictures and news fro Mid Century Modern Homes and Houses(NOT for Real Estate)

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googieagog
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Postby googieagog » Tue Nov 30, 2004 12:28 pm

These guidelines make a lot of sense, but I'm wondering about this one:

3. Each property will be recognized as a physical record of its time, place, and use. Changes that create a false sense of historical development, such as adding conjectural features or elements from other historic properties, will not be undertaken.

My 1952 DIY modernist cottage had Home Depot-ized kitchen, bath and light fixtures throughout when I bought it. I've installed salvaged, rebuilt period light fixtures and I've salvaged 1953 bath fixtures and 1950 kitchen cabinets (from demolition and remuddling projects) for refinishing and installation within the next year. Seems to me that's far better than letting this stuff get crushed and landfilled, and it looks way better than the junk I'm replacing. Does this rule only apply to "important" houses?
Dan

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Chimay
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It's a moot point

Postby Chimay » Tue Nov 30, 2004 2:23 pm

Kind of a moot point in your case, Googie, because properties being maintained and cared for under these guidelines would never been Home Despotized in the first place.

What you're doing is actually in keeping with these regulations. And as it even implies in these guidelines, changes that have not acquired historical significance and are not in keeping with the general style and architecture of the property are not to be preserved.
Last edited by Chimay on Wed Dec 01, 2004 8:22 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Joe
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Postby Joe » Tue Nov 30, 2004 2:43 pm

the guidelines mentioned above are often the difference between Renovation and Restoration. While recycling period stuff is just plain smart, it often cannot fall under the definition of "restoration." Most folks on this board who own mcm homes won't fall under the guidelines when renovating their homes. Most of us are on budget and are DIY'n it. We can try to be responsible, educate our selves and others, and do the best we can.

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Remodel vs. restore

Postby Chimay » Tue Nov 30, 2004 3:18 pm

I don't think many of us are very dogmatic about it, based on the remodels and restorations I've seen on this site and in publications like Atomic Ranch.

In my own place (which is currently in month #3 of a seemingly eternal remodel), we were not interested in creating a static museum exhibit of a house circa 1960, but rather a living home. My personal guidelines have always been "what would the original architects have done today with this place, given modern lifestyles, amenities, building techniques, etc..." It sounds presumptuous to try to claim to know what the original architects were/would be thinking, and it probably is (although I did speak to William Krisel about my place before embarking on my current project).

But I want to try to preserve the character and spirit of my home, much more than preserving the inconveniences and shortcomings of the original construction. You have to remember that at the time, many of these things were built as cheap, mass-produced, and even disposable tract homes. So most of the lighting and plumbing fixtures in them were all very basic, cheap, home depot-like stuff that had (and still has) nothing modern about it. I know I'll disappoint some people on this site when I write this, but I have no intention of restoring or replacing that cheap junk with more of the same. Why would anyone do that, now that there are so many other choices available today that are much more in keeping with the overall style of the house (and also work a lot better!)?.

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Postby Joe » Tue Nov 30, 2004 4:33 pm

ultimately, it's the budget that will drive our decision making. You are right about most stuff out there. I don't think anyone on this board can afford to make their homes a museum. We all have to live in them, raise families, and function. While we can't turn back the clock, it's kind of fun to occasionally identify with that period of time.

Chimay, there's nothing wrong with your approach to fixing up your home. I think most of what we do is react to what others have done to these homes. We react to what the marketplace offers. We want the best design for our dollar. We try to balance our decision making.

For instance, outdoor lighting, I can't find anything, design wise, I want for my home. So I went to eBay and bought someone else's "junk," an aluminum bullet light. It ended up being cheaper than a standard external light and works fine.

If budget wasn't driving our decision making, we would all hire architects to design new homes

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Postby PreserveLA » Wed Dec 01, 2004 8:56 am

News, Information & More at http://www.preservela.com !

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Postby googieagog » Tue Dec 07, 2004 11:33 am

Preserve LA wrote:
"For example, how often have you seen someone take a minimally designed Modern building and completely ruin it by adding shutters, corbells, 6 panel colonial style home-depot doors, and other elements more appropriate to the American Colonial Revival style than anything "modern." "

Don't I know it . My place came complete with hideous vinyl shutters. The prior owner of an mcm down the street stuck on a little peaked roof, held up by plastic columns, over the front door. Yuk.

Now, as for replacing junk with junk . . .

We've waited two years to get ahold of the kitchen I just salvaged. It's from a Better Homes & Gardens modern five doors away. They're custom redwood with canted fronts, roll-out trays and sliding doors, the uppers in ribbed glass. The ceiling light fixtures are ribbed glass also. We took a pass on the tiny Chambers stainless wall oven and killer cooktop, since we're going with a new stainless range (and the owner actually wanted me to pay for them).

As a bonus, I also scored from that house a truckload of redwood t&g siding/paneling which a friend who owns a Paul Schweiker house might take to use in his restoration.

The bath fixtures I salvaged are American Standard in jade green and for the most part pristine, with contrasting terra-cotta colored porcelan towl racks, soap holders, TP holder & toothbrush rack. They match the original color scheme of my house. The house they're from had four bathrooms, and it seems this one didn't get used much.

I doubt I could find better at any price, even if I could afford it. But really I'm going this route because I stumbled into some decent finds. Restoration and installation are still down the road, and I know what a treat that will be, as I did similar projects in my previous 1957 tract ranch.

Vintage moderns with appropriate present-day updates are a much more sane solution, and if done professionally will turn out better than what I'm doing. Perhaps I've just bumped my head a few too many times...

Dan

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SDR
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Goody

Postby SDR » Tue Dec 07, 2004 11:47 am

Dan -- Sounds like you lucked out big-time! Well done. The colors sound great to me.

I've been thinking about color. It seems to me that, if an original surface has been painted -- say, a ceiling that was originally wood -- and it would be too much labor / cost to strip and refinish, the next best thing would be to paint in a color closely matching what was there originally. Not to "fake it" -- no wood-graining, etc -- but just to recover the original effect as much as possible. No? What do you think?

SDR

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neutra

Postby room5 » Tue Dec 07, 2004 12:22 pm

Friends of mine live in one of the Neutra's in your neighborhood and they have the exact same fireplace in their living room. It looked odd to me when I first saw it-very un-Neutra but the thread to the other remodel has the same thing. It's possible one neighbor followed another's idea. It seemed too overpowering for the room - Maybe you should ring doorbells and check out the other houses. Thomas Hines also wrote a Neutra biog and there is an exterior shot of the house in that publication. Good luck.
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Postby modernhopeful » Tue Dec 07, 2004 1:20 pm

Wow.. interesting tip, Room5 - I haven't really been able to see any of the homes except for the one next door. A bit of social anxiety will make doorbell ringing a challenge :-)

I've been staring at the fireplace a lot lately, and I keep thinking that it's possible to strip it down to something smaller and make it look more like my neighbors (simple brick on the lower half and plaster from there to the ceiling.) Maybe this spring I'll get someone out to look at it and give me their suggestions.

I really appreciate the amount of new information I've found since this thread started, and the clarifications about the "false sense of history" concept. Initially I interpreted it as "you should do anything except something that would blend in" and that didn't sit well with me.

An overarching thought of mine is why people feel compelled not to appreciate or respect modern architecture. This little street has homes so horribly modified into other things - and yet you can go a block in either direction and find streets where almost everything looks more like it did 60 years ago. How come those stucco houses with a little decorative detail haven't been modified into Cape Cods or Spanish Haciendas?

In the Art & Architecture article about my street, it says "This subdivision ... has pioneered over the over-conservative restrictions of present procedures and the result will undoubtedly last longer and more easily conform to the post war world." I guess it's how you define "conform," but why so much change? Is it that the average consumer can't readily "see" the benefit of proportion and design put into room layout so they begin to peck away at it until it turns into just an ordinary 'house'? Or is it just that people can't understand why the place is so plain and the human response is to add decorative treatments?

All around me in LA I see (mostly commercial, because of the streets I drive) beautiful and misunderstood modern buildings. Were the modernists wrong?

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Postby googieagog » Tue Dec 07, 2004 2:13 pm

Thanks, SDR. The current issue Atomic Ranch shows a May house where they sandblasted paint off the ceiling beams and t&g. Owner says it altered the texture of the wood, but in the photos it looks great.
If that kind of project is out of the question, painting them a wood tone sounds like a good solution. As long as it looks like what it is - paint - then it's not dishonest. It's what I had to do for the cedar siding on my place. At least now it's close to the original color and value, if not the original surface.
Dan

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Postby Joe » Tue Dec 07, 2004 2:51 pm

Modernhopeful: the new Alan Hess book, "The Ranch House" Progressive Builders-Neutra homes, pages 48-49. His source for that reference was the book "Blueprints For Modern Living: History and Legacy of the Case Study Houses."

Hess says your home's design was "rare in Neutra's career"

kinda cool!

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SDR
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Neutra fireplace / chimney

Postby SDR » Tue Dec 07, 2004 4:15 pm


modernhopeful
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Postby modernhopeful » Wed Dec 08, 2004 5:16 pm

Wow! I'm a' gonna go broke buying books!

I can't wait to see all these. Oddly enough, one of the three books was designed by a professor of mine, from way back when. But that didn't stop me from buying it ;-)


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