Winchester House
If you drove up to the This Old House TV project house in Winchester, Massachusetts, you'd swear you've been there before. There's a sidewalk on both sides of the street, and if you didn't see a boy on a bicycle flinging newspapers onto porches, it's easy to imagine he'd just been there. It makes you think of 1950s sitcoms like Father Knows Best and Leave It to Beaver, or even of going to visit Grandma.

Although the pale-yellow Colonial Revival was vacant, dated, and well used, you could sense the comfort and joy it provided the families who lived here. Matted paths traversed the wall-to-wall, and fingerprints smudged the woodwork, starting down low from when the kids were young and getting higher as they reached for the lightswitches. At the front of the house are the living room, with its soot-stained fireplace, and a formal dining room. At the rear, behind the dining room, is an outdated kitchen filled with brown cabinets and gold-marbled Formica. On the second floor are four modest bedrooms and two more garret-style rooms on the third floor. If you were to peek out back you'd see a garage that looks like a miniature of the house, along with flower beds and blueberry bushes.

The neighborhood was developed in the 1890s, carved from a parcel of land known as "The Flats," between Winchester's hills and the Aberjona River. According to local historian Ellen Knight, in the 1910s the local newspaper touted the area as the ideal commuter suburb of Boston, a short 15-minute train ride to the southeast. The architecture is diverse — Tudors, Shingle Styles, center-hall Colonials, and bungalows.

The TOH project house was built in 1922, and since then three families have lived in it. New owners Kim Whittemore and Bruce Leasure, recent transplants from Huntsville, Alabama, but native Northeasterners, were excited to be next. "We're really pleased with the home's proportions, the hardwood floors, the sunroom off the living room," said Kim. "It all made us think that it's a happy house." Kim is a certified master gardener, so the outdoor space also held great appeal: "The landscaping was quite tenderly done," she said. "It adds to the good karma."

But before the couple moved into the 2,800-square-foot house with their canine kids — three Labrador retrievers — the TOH crew spent seven months on the project. Years of past repainting meant weeks of paint stripping, inside and out. Both staircases, the grander one in the front hall and the narrow, winding back stair that runs from basement to third floor, needed work. The awkward layout of the master suite begged for rearrangement, and an efficient heating system was needed to replace the behemoth in the basement. Kim wanted a small greenhouse, Bruce wondered about a wine cellar, and both wanted a more modern and comfortable kitchen area. "Very little updating has been done in the past 30 years," said Kim. "Of course, we'll make some changes, but we never want to alter what drew us here the first time we drove up the street."
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