Renovating 250+ year-old home

Before Renovation

Before Renovation

After Renovation

After Renovation

Our first project was our own home in Amenia, NY.  This house was offered as a “tear-down,” given its considerable design problems, e.g. 6’6″ ceilings in most rooms, 6′ door openings, windows placed below eye-sight, no storage spaces, a main entry door that hit the bathroom door when it was open, a staircase that required one to duck to avoid hitting one’s head, and a failing cesspool.  With a lot of energy and creativity, we transformed this disaster into a valuable home at minimal costs, using 65% recycled materials.

Recycled materials used

Exterior: removed and recycled aluminum siding (which was apparently second hand to begin with and in terrible shape). Added colored stucco for thermal properties and low maintenance.

Kitchen: 50% of cherry cabinets reused and resized from residential demolition.

Staircase: Oak stair treads from commercial demolition. Old pine treads were later reused as a tabletop in the landing/office nook. Stringers made from 2 x 12s from commercial demolition. Back of treads made with panel scraps from commercial construction site. Molding trims purchased new.  Banister and railings made from a cedar tree that had to be cut down to make way for a new driveway.

Bad Design Before

Hall: We removed the front wall of the house and enclosed the porch. This was the biggest change, which gave us a hall way to get from one room to another and allowed us to move our staircase so that we didn’t hit our heads on the landing ceiling. It also gave us a big bright area with 18′ ceilings, something we needed in this house, which ceilings were all under 7′ when we bought it. We added timbers to support landing and staircase. Timbers were reclaimed from commercial demolition site.

After raising the ceilings and adding triangle windows

2nd Bedroom: We raised the ceilings in this room, which were at about 6’5″. We used cherry wood seconds on the floor, floor moldings and window trims at $1 per square foot, stuff the industry throws away. It’s a rustic look that goes well with the rest of the house. We used stain and tung oil finish. Light fixture reused from demolition site. Closets made from pine, purchased new.

Master Bedroom: Here again we used cherry wood seconds on the floor, floor moldings and window trims at $1 per square foot. Dresser drawer top made from scrap maple flooring. Drawers made from 50% new 50% scrap pine. Closet rod reused stair banister, reused hardware. In this room we raised the ceilings, recycling the sheetrock and exposed the heavy timber. Light fixtures second hand.

Bathroom Before

Bathroom After

Bathroom After

Bathroom: We enlarged the bathroom by taking over some space that had been unused under the old staircase and from a pantry that was not well placed. The additional 2 x 20 SF area gave us room for a private toilet area (not shown in these pics) and lots more storage. We also opened up the back wall of the bathroom to add a bay window bathtub area. This gives us a lot of warm sunshine in the winter and the overhangs are just long enough to shade in the summer. The sink cabinet was made by refinishing a $100 antique side-board. We used stone tile for thermal properties (purchased new), easy maintenance at less than $2 per square foot.

On our first day of demolition, we uncovered this hidden ceiling and realized the house was not built in 1930, as advertized, but in the mid 1700s.

Living room: Removed sheetrock ceiling which covered heavy timbers. We removed 4 leaky 1930s windows. (Reused these later on the garage/workshop.) Replaced with 3 vinyl double pane windows that were taken from a demolition site. Added French doors (purchased new) on South side for solar gain. Installed new parquet floor. We were in a hurry to get a floor down, and this one snapped into place in 3 days.

Livingroom After Renovation

The price was right, less than $2 a square foot and the oak pieces are made from industry scrap, so we weren’t destroying trees. Ideally, we would have preferred stone tile for the thermal properties or wood without a poly finish. Floor moldings were made from 100% scrap from construction site dumpsters.

Garage/workshop: Interior walls made from “art” (sheets of painted plywood that wer rescued from SoHo dumpster). Windows reused from house demolition. Solar heater made from salvaged skylights.




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