restoring an italianate/gothic victorian

Some of my favorite shows include Property Ladder and Flip This House. A friend is renovating a gorgeous painted lady in Fairfield, and I’ve been fascinated by his tales of progress and lack of progress and what he’d do differently for several years now (he and his wife are living in the house as they re-do it. I guess you could call him a slow flipper, since this is the current of several houses he’s restored over the last 40 years or so).

And we live in an old, old house that we’re working on (at about the rate of ten square feet per year ... nah, that’s not fair. We created our office out of what was Stanley’s mother’s sewing room, which was created out of a porch that was enclosed ... and the downstairs bathroom has new wallpaper and lighting fixtures ... and good parts of our bedroom and upstairs hallway have been painted ... ) and that we have plans for finishing. We just need to seriously make the time to do it and hope no more health problems blow our plans out of the water (we were going to replace the columns on the porch last summer—really we were!)

My point is renovations and restorations are fascinating to us. But I doubt I could ever do it professionally, whether as a flipper or someone who does a restoration in the hopes of selling it to someone who will love it (around here, restoration/flips are seldom worth the effort—the nouveau riche tend to buy up old houses and demolish them so they can put up huge, ugly homes that cost more to heat and cool that I make in a year). It’s just so much work for someplace you have to let go. I think I’d become too attached. I think it’s too much work. And if we did something like that, we’d never finish Squirrel Half Acre.

But we know someone who is restoring a huge Italianate/Gothic Victorian. He’s my brother-in-law’s brother-in-law (is there a better noun for this relationship?) Bruce and his wife, Melanie (my brother-in-law’s sister) renovated their own house and that process bit Bruce and infected him. So he formed a renovation company and bought a big old house in North Attleborough, Massachusetts. You can read all about it on his website: Below, on the top, is the exterior c. July 2007. On the bottom, as of the end of October, after it was cleaned up and painted. There are loads of notes and before and during photos on Bruce’s site.


It was divided into four apartments and Bruce it turning it back into a single-family home. I might have kept one apartment and merged the rest just so whomever buys it could rent out an apartment to pay at least part of the mortgage or use it as an in-law or au pair apartment. Hopefully, when we go up to Massachusetts for Thanksgiving, we’ll get a chance to go over there as see it and then I’ll ask Bruce why he didn’t (and probably a hundred other questions). I’m dying to see it—I love Eastlake and a lot of the trim and posts and carving are Eastlake. What’s interesting about this house is that the turret is an add-on. I’m not sure if I like it or not—I keep expecting to see Morticia Addams in the doorway. Stanley loves it. The side house (carriage house?) used to have an ornate porch, and there used to be a garage. But I’m more interested in the interior anyway. I wonder if there is any original wallpaper that’s been uncovered? Yep, I think we’ll have to go see it if Bruce has time to show it to us. I know what he spent on the house—I just wonder what the renovation budget is and what unexpected things have some up (like they always seem to do on the shows we watch) and hope he’ll be able to make lots of money when he sells it. And how he’ll be able to bear to sell it. If we did something like this, I’d worry so much about it being a folly that I don’t think I could really enjoy the process—especially in this softening housing market. But I don’t know what the market is like in N. Attleborough (or even in Massachusetts) especially for period restorations and high-end housing. I wonder what the kitchen will be like—all the shows insist on granite counters and stainless steel appliances, but that certainly wouldn’t be a Victorian kitchen (I loathe granite counters and stainless steel appliances) but you have to put in something that people will buy ... that must be an interesting thing to figure out. Gotta go see this. Bruce’s site is pretty interesting—lots of information. Even the Houdini stuff, which has nothing to do with the house!

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