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Choose materials and fixtures that mimic the originals but perform better

Everyone likes to be able to save original features, like floors and windows. But when they're too far gone, as the rotting floorboards in the D.C. project house were—or just gone altogether, as the windows were—it's better to start from scratch.

Luckily, window and floor manufacturers will still make their products in styles similar to those that were popular 125 years ago. For the D.C. project house, which is a classic urban Italianate, that means arched one-over-one windows and strip oak flooring. But these days, they don't make them like they used to. They make them even better.

The dual-paned windows from Eagle are much more efficient than originals with single panes would be, keeping air-conditioning in during summer and cold gusts out during winter. They also block ultraviolet rays and tilt in for cleaning—modern features on old-style fixtures.

The flooring, prefinished oak from Durawood, is solid wood—as it would have been in the 19th century. But unlike the unfinished oak the original builders would have used, which has to be sanded and coated with three layers of finish, this stuff is ready to walk on as soon as it's installed and comes with a 25-year warranty.

Even the linoleum, from Forbo, that covers the kitchen floor has a modern twist: cork backing for cushioning and a snap-together assembly that allowed installers to finish the kitchen in mere hours. Yet another product that recalls the beauty of the past but brings the convenience of the present to the project.

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