One Saturday last summer, a couple stopped by the house and introduced themselves. Their son had owned the house back in 1997 when he was attending the University of Missouri and they were curious about what the house looked like now. As we walked through the house they explained some of the changes that had been made but until they sent us the photos, it was hard to visualize.
Although 1997 doesn’t seem that long ago, it’s clear from the photos that it was prior to any major remodeling and so gives us a good sense of what the house originally looked like. As we suspected, most of the major changes happened in 2000.
We knew we had lost a tree in the backyard, as did the house next door. This wasn’t surprising since everyone moves into a new neighborhood at the same time and starts planting trees. In fact, every time major windstorm hits, a few trees in our neighborhood come down so we know they’re getting to the end of their life span.
The shrubs along the north side of the house, although adding a nice bit of green to the driveway side, were removed. The basement had been shored up at some point and we suspect eliminating a landscaped bed helped tremendously when it came to standing water issues in the basement.
Most notable is the color of the house. We had assumed the pale mint green was a holdover from the 1950’s but it appears that the former owners painted over the beige in favor of the green. (Although why is still a question—it wasn’t really a popular color in 2000.) Also notable is the chimney. Although it suggests a fireplace, there’s simply no indication that the house ever had one. A more likely explanation is that the vents were surrounded by a brick facade that was later removed and replaced with new metal vents.
It’s also clear that most of the older architectural elements of the house were removed and replaced with unremarkable, off-the-shelf parts. The windows appear to be original and while we’re sure they were drafty, they were a bit more charming. If they were similar to our next door neighbors, they had outer storm windows that could be removed in summer.
The front door—from what we can tell—looks like a traditional Craftsman door with upper windows and a dental, similar to other homes on our street. It was replaced with a fiberglass door that doesn’t really fit the bungalow look. We’re in the process of finding a more traditional door but I wish they had saved us all the effort.
It’s unclear why the siding was added in the gables but we did find a couple of rotting boards when we pulled it down the vinyl to replace it with shingles. The stairs were replaced as well and the fact they had also rotted through by the time we came along, made our decision to use Hardie Board shingles and treated lumber a smart one.
Finally, the porch uprights made much more sense then the current ones and they match several other houses on the block. We’ve also been considering replacing the uprights with the more traditional tapered columns you see on so many Craftsman bungalows—or, more likely, simply installing a wood surround on the current uprights. So now I’m torn between remaining true to our original house and an architectural feature that clearly says “bungalow.”
The back view was even more interesting. We’d always wondered why part of the back was wood siding and part was stucco and now we see why. A sun porch had been removed and now it’s merely a covered patio. Apparently, 4 college boys lived in this house in the late 1990’s and one called this back porch his bedroom. The extension on the back that gave us our office and dining area clearly happened long before this.
The garage was not rebuilt (that we could tell from the condition of the wood slates under the vinyl siding) but the car park was transformed into a screened in porch it was clearly the best renovation decision that was made.
The hydrangea is beautiful against the house but when we redid the patio, we were very aware of the water problem and decided to keep the landscaping away from the foundation. I have pink David Austin roses along the screen in porch instead and we’ve just purchased another River Birch to give us a little more shade. Looks like the spot we picked is just about where its predecessor was.
Looking over the before and after photos, I can’t help but wish we had gotten to the house a little sooner. There was obviously plenty of work that needed to be done but we may have been able to salvage a little more of the house’s original character. That said, I think we’ve done a pretty good job of bringing back a little bit of the charm and we’re excited to have more of a road map.
We finally made a decision on the porch columns and went with the original design. The old photos really helped convince us how appropriate the style was for our house and the neighborhood as a whole.