How Your House Can Look Like a Page from TOH
1 reader + 7 issues of This Old House magazine = a new house with old-house charm
Ever since she was a little girl, living in a bungalow with a claw-foot tub, glass doorknobs, and handsome woodwork, Lynn Schmitz of Jefferson City, Missouri, has had a soft spot for period homes. She and her husband, Dan, dreamed of buying a turn-of-the-century farmhouse, yet after looking at several, they couldn't find one with the right features, in the right neighborhood, at the right price.
"We decided to build from scratch, but the last thing I wanted was a generic-looking house without any character," she says. So as plans got underway, the builder's staff interior designer, Angie Zimmermann, showed Lynn some copies of This Old House. It was, as they say, the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Together, Lynn and Angie tore out pictures, drafted designs, and with the help of a talented carpenter and a cabinetmaker, brought the ideas Lynn loved in our pages to life. Here, how they tailored each published project to give Lynn's new home the vintage appeal she'd always wanted.
"Sitting Pretty," December 2009
Window seats provide a place to perch or relax (even snooze) and add style to any room in the house, often with the bonus of built-in storage.
Next, see how Lynn put her own spin on our inspirational window seats.
"Our daughter Molly wanted a window seat that looked out over our yard," says Lynn. The one Lynn and Angie conceived incorporates beadboard below the seat, like the project in our story, but in the form of cabinet doors so that Molly can store craft supplies inside. The 7-foot-long seat was made from birch plywood, painted to match the bedroom's trim, and finished with a colorful cushion and throw pillows. "Built-in seating is a traditional old-house touch," says Angie. "It emphasizes the room's architecture and acts as a handsome focal point."
Shown: Molly Schmitz kicks back on her bedroom window seat with her dog, Skylar.
"Paint a Floor," June 2009
Refinishing floors not in your budget? You can update the space with paint. Recently, This Old House senior technical editor Mark Powers created a light checked pattern in his own home, using beige and white to warm up cool blue walls. He'll show how a little measuring and a couple of coats of durable floor paint can add a little personality to a room for a small price.
Check out Lynn's take on the painted floor next.
Lynn had always liked the look of painted wood floors, a tradition that goes back centuries, but it was the combination of a classic checkerboard pattern paired with step-by-step information that inspired her to try this at home.
"Angie and I came up with the idea of making an 'area rug' in the entry," says Lynn. Angie sketched a design featuring 9¾-inch squares framed by a border, done in russet red and cream to match the palette of the adjacent living room.
The paint was applied directly onto Lynn's prefinished, hand-scraped hardwood floors. First the boards were sanded, primed, and sanded again to help the paint adhere; once dry, the painted "rug" was sanded again, coated with a semitransparent stain, and varnished to give it an aged patina. "It's a real conversation piece," says Lynn. "And it even hides a little bit of wear and tear on the floor."
Some women set out to decorate with a capital D, while others gently nudge their homes toward a natural reflection of who they are. "I enjoy the process," says jewelry designer Sara Weinstock, who subscribes to the go-with-the-flow approach in furnishing her Malibu, California, house. Three years ago, faced with the empty rooms of her Colonial Revival, she began with a headboard in tufted blue silk and a sofa and armchairs handed down by her mother. She gave the latter new life with off-white upholstery and used the former as inspiration for a palette of watery blues, soft greens, and warm corals. Adding pieces bit by bit, she assembled a seemingly effortless, updated traditional look in every part of her home. That look would inspire Lynn to create the look in her kitchen, too.
Meanwhile, what's old is new again with the opaque glass globes that once hung from classroom, library, courthouse, and kitchen ceilings back in the 1920s. With their clean, utilitarian lines and practical light-diffusing shades, hard-working schoolhouse lights were a popular choice anywhere good task and ambient light was needed. See how Lynn used the handsome fixtures in her space.
Lynn's kitchen isn't exactly a dead ringer for the one she liked in our March 2010 issue. But the story led her to the right materials, fixtures, and finishes: a farmhouse sink, bridge faucet, marble backsplash, dark wood island countertop, and pendant lights (she opted for schoolhouse-style versions after seeing them in our Shopping column).
Shown: Homeowner Lynn Schmitz, left, and interior designer Angie Zimmermann pored over plans, tore out pages from This Old House, and sketched designs for the projects Lynn liked. "We altered each one to suit the house and meet my family's needs," says Lynn.
"Build a Mudroom Bench," September 2009
Messy wetness that can warp hardwood floors and stain your best entry rugs. Short of forcing your family to disrobe on the front stoop, your best bet is to create a stopping area just inside the door where everyone can leave the weather behind.
This Old House senior technical editor Mark Powers shows how to create the perfect catchall, complete with an open top shelf, coat hooks, and flip-top bench storage. This handsome entry hall built-in, made of plywood, shelf panels, and layered moldings, is sure to make your house more welcoming, even while protecting it from wear and tear.
Now, see how Lynn recreated the mudroom must in her home.
The Schmitz family usually comes into the house through the garage, a convenient spot to shed outerwear. "For an area that's private like this, an open storage unit keeps everyone's gear organized without having to reach into a dark closet," says Angie.
Lynn's mudroom bench features a beadboard back and a row of hooks, like the one in our story. But she skipped the top shelf and added deep storage drawers with bin pulls in lieu of a flip-top seat.
To contrast with the adjacent pale walls, the birch bench got a base coat of red paint and a top coat of black paint that was wiped away in spots to reveal hints of red beneath. "This piece of furniture has saved me so much cleanup time. No one tracks in dirt anymore!" says Lynn. The bench even has extra cubbies and cupboard space on the back side for kids Molly, Ethan, and Libby.
"Screened-In Pantry," September 2009
Make the outdoorsy vibe of summer linger year-round. A wood screen door can shield a pantry that needs to be somewhat—but not totally—hidden from view. Here, an aqua door gives this kitchen the casual air of a porch while concealing the pantry.
See Lynn's adaptation of our Home Solutions idea next.
Three years before building her house, Lynn had picked up a couple of vintage-style screen doors at a home center for $15 apiece. "I knew I wanted to use them, but I wasn't sure how," she says.
When she saw this story, she pointed to the page and told Angie, "Here's my answer." The door got a coat of stain and new hardware, and the pantry's opening was simply built to fit. "It gives the kitchen a casual, outdoorsy feel," says Angie. "Plus you can easily glance right in and see if you're running low on anything." The second screen door was installed in a bedroom closet for 3-year-old Libby, as an added touch of whimsy in her room.
"Dressed-up Laundry Room," April 2009
Today's main-floor laundry rooms are much more convenient—and stylish—than their basement-dwelling forebears. This one combines elements of the adjacent kitchen and butler's pantry: the same Shaker-style cabinets, here given a coat of deep green paint; a pale Carrara countertop; gleaming black-and-white marble flooring; and a pair of unexpected storage-seat stools. The beadboard backsplash adds another classic touch—and hides the dryer vent and water hookup.
See how this space inspired Lynn's laundry room.
"The color of the cabinets, the paint on the walls, the black-and-white flooring—it's all straight from the story," says Angie. While that's true of the paint colors, the look-alike checkerboard flooring in Lynn's laundry room isn't the vinyl tile we'd shown but, rather, durable sheet flooring made of vinyl and fiberglass, with a foam cushioning layer for extra comfort and warmth.
Lynn chose a glass entry door and adopted the room's galley-style layout, too, but went a step further and made the space more functional by adding a closet bar next to the washer and dryer for hanging drip-dry clothing.
Above the laundry machines, instead of putting in beadboard and open shelving with baskets, she installed custom cabinets overhead to keep supplies fully out of sight. A separate cabinet and drawer conceal handy features like a laundry chute and a pull-out ironing board. "This room was the first one I knew I wanted to copy almost exactly from the magazine," says Lynn. "And even though our house is finished, we're still building projects from your pages." Glad to be of service, Lynn.