Lesson 13. Experts really do have expertise

When interior design consultant Alexa Hampton insisted that dark floors wouldn't look out of place in our country farmhouse, we blanched. But then we saw the Brazilian cherry in place and realized how well it tied the different parts of the house together. Not only are the floors made of easy-to-install engineered planks with a durable factory-applied finish, they also serve as a perfect backdrop for light-colored architectural details and furniture pieces, like the custom-built barrister bookcases in the library.

Lesson 14. Man-made can be better than the real thing

A 156-year-old house should have heavy wood doors that close with a thud and keep noise from filtering through. Though it certainly would be appropriate to the house's Greek Revival style, a solid-wood six-panel door is expensive and, as anyone living in an old house can tell you, prone to warp, split, and stick as it shrinks and expands with the seasons. The doors at the Carlisle house are made from medium-density fiberboard (MDF), a very stable and hearty compressed-fiber product that feels like solid wood but performs better in changing weather. No splits, no warps, but otherwise indistinguishable from the real thing.

Lesson 15. It's worth the extra effort to save a bit of history

Never mind the fact that the people of Carlisle would have lost a major landmark if we'd torn down the Greek Revival part of the house. We didn't want to do it anyway; it was too special an example of a vernacular style, one worth working to restore.

Problem was that key sections of the frame and a lot of the skin had to be replaced.

Only thing to do was to strip it and gut it but try our hardest to preserve the historic shell and give it back its Greek Revival details.

Materials

Floors: Mannington Mills
Bookcases: New England Woodworking
Doors: TruStile Doors
Mantel: E.H. Taylor Fine Cabinetry
Trim: Spectis Moulders
Gas fireplace: Valor Fireplaces

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