(1950s, Dallas home. Williams S. Briggs' revamped the front with a new roof, new paint, new porch, new windows, new gutters and downspouts, new shutters.)

It’s time to dig a little deeper and start exploring how architecture and design influence our everyday lives. Homes are more than just the places we live. Houses become essential parts of our lives, shaping how we feed our families, play with our children, and rest at night. I want to delve into how houses change the way the we live and how we can enjoy our lives and homes more when thoughtful design and construction come to bear.

What am I talking about when I say, “old house”? By my definition, an old house is any home built prior to 1970. It could be any style- Tudor, Mediterranean, French Chateau, Colonial. It could be a home that’s had one owner for 50 years or another that has housed many families. Size doesn’t matter- an old home could be large or small. Location is also irrelevant. Well-kept old houses blend in seamlessly in newly developed neighborhoods.

Old homes offer so many features and oddities to explore. From outdated electrical systems to hidden dumbwaiters, inside each old home is a treasure trove of unique design choices that speak volumes about its prior inhabitants and the time in which the home was built. Rickety attic stairs might lead to a third floor with a vaulted ceiling and gorgeous natural light. A basement might house a root cellar for vegetable storage. New carpeting might be covering gorgeous herringbone hardwood floors. Built-in china cabinets and wall niches offer a place to show and store fine china. 

Why are we charmed by their quirks, eccentricities, crooked doorways, and creaking floors? I think ultimately it comes down to nostalgia. We see an older home and it tugs at our hearts. A home is more than just four walls. A home is a physical representation of some of our most intimate connections and emotions.

In this series, I want to talk about what makes a good old house and how to treat them with the care and respect they deserve. A renovation on an old house can be much more than a rehab project- it can be a restoration. The second article in this series will discuss both the benefits and drawbacks to owning an old home. The third, and final article, in this series will address the various ways that you can handle the personalities and needs of an old house. I hope you’ll join me for this look at old homes and chime in with your own thoughts and experiences. 

William S. Briggs, Architect, PLLC

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