Original Old Home Details – Is it OK to change them?

freaking-out-over-your-paint-colors

 

Hi Everyone,

In case you missed the post on Wednesday, I’m in the process of purchasing a new home in Boston!

Okay, I’m not supposed to give you any deets. However, the listing has been expunged from the internet. The only way you can access it is if you know the address. Of course, that’s a possibility.

 

However, it would be a pretty slim chance that someone would

 

A. know the address

B. be interested in purchasing the home

C. And, be willing to pay more than the house is worth.

D. Ignore the fact that karma is a bitch.

The inspection is happening on Tuesday morning. I don’t anticipate any major issues I had with the last home I was considering purchasing in Northampton, MA.

Another apartment in the building recently sold. There are only five in what was once a single family home, when originally built in 1880.

My new apartment is located in a beautiful area.

 

However, I’m not disclosing the location, just yet. Although I’ve given enough clues that some of you Bostonians have a very good idea where it is.

Also, I’m not using any real estate listing images. I took my own. And, I put them in google images and could not find the apartment. Therefore, I think it’s safe to share a few photos I took last week. I need to do that so that I can discuss my feelings about changing the original old home details.

While the apartment is 100% move-in ready, it is not 100% Laurel-ready.

 

And, I am not going to make the same mistake I made when I purchased my current place.

 

That is, move in and make the changes later.

It’s much more difficult after all of your stuff is in, of course. In addition, I think I always knew that this place was an interim home for me. There is no point in spending a lot of money here. I wouldn’t have gotten it back.

However, this time, I plan to paint and maybe refinish the floors before I actually move in. And, possibly, a few other things.

As for the few other things, there’s a pretty extensive wish list which I’ll talk about in more detail later on.

 

But first, what original old home details can one change, and what should you leave as is?

 

Okay, these days, as we’ve seen over and over, it appears that you can do whatever you like to the interior of an antique building. And, I’ve certainly seen and shared some hideous renovations where some developer or misguided individual stripped a once architectural gem into a bland, cold, soulless dwelling.

 

apartment 1897 sterile - good mantel - no original old home details

Here is a room in a building built in 1897. I love the mantel, but there’s nothing else going on here that lets us know this is a 123-year-old building.

 

Of course, no one lives as people did when these homes were built, mostly in the 19th century.

 

Hell, I just researched this. Did you know that the first flush toilet (water closet) only came to the U.S around 1890?

As for kitchens, well, we know that a 19th-century kitchen looked nothing like our kitchens of today.

Therefore, it makes sense that these 19th-century beauties will be adapted to our 21st century lifestyle.

However, the problem is that sometimes it gets taken too far, with too many walls disappearing. And, the original architectural details eliminated.

 

beacon street apartment back bay - no original old home details
Here’s a good example from this Beacon Street apartment in Boston Back Bay. There’s nothing wrong with the stairwell, except that it doesn’t belong in this house.

OH, and my biggest BEEF???

The ubiquitous kitchen IN the living room.

Not OFF, the living room. That’s okay. But, actually IN the living room, butted up next to one side of the fireplace. Or, as in the case of this place, running along most of the length of the living room.

So bad, so bad.

 

no original old home detailsAbove and below are two examples from Boston apartments in 19th-century buildings in nice neighborhoods.

And, this is just my taste, but please stop painting everything gray.

 

And, also, I know I’m going to get some push-back, but those bright white LED lights make me cringe; especially, in a home that was constructed in 1870!!! (or there, about) Back then, it was candles, whale oil, firelight, kerosene, and later gas was introduced.

I still feel that artificial light should mimic candlelight.

 

Laurel, would you please shut up and show us your new place?

 

Well, not if you talk to me like that!!! ;] Oh, I know. I’d probably be saying the same thing.

However, my point is to be respectful of old buildings. That’s all. I mean, there are plenty of modern places. If one wants a modern home, then go live in one of those.

Okay, here’s a pic of the living room. I’m not saying “my” because it’s not mine– yet.

 

original old home details - Boston brownstone apartment living roomI know. It’s pretty sick, isn’t it? And, yes, south-facing.

That ceiling height is over 13 feet. That’ll do. haha.

 

gloppy trim circa 1880 - original old home details

 

You may recall, I did share a close up of the beautiful moulding detail on the door casings. There is no doubt in my mind that this is the original trim from 1880.

The paint job isn’t the worst I’ve ever seen, but, some of the rosettes are beginning to lose their detail. And other places aren’t as good as they could be.

 

rosette relief - brick building - BostonSpeaking of rosettes. Later, as I was walking around, I noticed a similar motif in a building, nearby.

But, the architectural detail, the soaring ceilings, AND my very own secret garden are what sold me on this place.

secret garden

Plus, two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a proper entry and an ideal location.

I know! Everything on my wish list! (except parking, but I might be giving up my car, any way.)

OH, and the fireplace presumably works since the current owner uses it.

 

And, that’s what I am going to focus on for today.

 

The fireplace surround, but we usually just call it a mantel.

 

Victorian Fireplace - original old home details

I’m pretty sure that it’s original. However, it just doesn’t have the same refinement of the door and window casings, in my opinion. The proportions are off. And, I seriously doubt that the original had a mirror. In addition, there’s just way too much tile. Incidentally, it looks like two different dye lots. I don’t mind it, otherwise. But, there’s too much of it, and the mantel is way too large compared to the firebox.

Remember when we were talking about ideal fireplace mantel proportions?

 

So, while the room can take the size of the mantel, the firebox cannot.

 

And, mantel sizes don’t necessarily change much in size, even in a room with a super tall ceiling. The same goes for the wainscoting.

However, I’d love to change the mantel to something more classical.

So, first, let’s look at some beautiful mantels in other homes built at about the same time.

 

original old home details - Boston apartment 19th century stone fireplace mantel surround

Boston apartment 19th-century stone fireplace mantel surround

 

classical fireplace mantel surround

This is one we saw the other day with the pretty apartment with the kitchen in the living room. I doubt this mantel is the original one, but I love it, just the same.

 

original old home details- via brownstoner - fireplace-history-warmth-mantel-lott-house-1

via Brownstoner

This one’s a bit of a train wreck, but the lines are beautiful.

 

boston brownstone south end-overscale mirror

This is a lovely mantel on a Victorian in the south end. But that mirror is obviously too big and too ornate, as well.

Late 19th Century painted fire surround 1st dibs - 52.37”h 65.36”w 10.63”d
Late 19th Century painted fire surround 1st dibs – 52.37”h 65.36”w 10.63”d

 

carved pine fireplace surrund circa 1910 - Georgian style - via 1st DibsThis one’s my favorite, but it’s just a little too small, I believe.

Also, please check out this post for more fire place mantel inspiration.

As for other changes, in the apartment, I have a pretty extensive wish list.

 

Some elements that I’d like to take care of before moving in are definitely repainting which will require extensive prep-work. And, maybe the floors.

 


I would LOVE to redo the kitchen. But, frankly, I’m thrilled that it has not been renovated. There is nothing worse than a redone kitchen that one hates. And, I dislike most of them, unfortunately.

However, this kitchen is perfectly at least, liveable. The cabinets are painted white, and the counters are off-white Formica. Would it be possible to do a kitchen botox?

 

What’s a kitchen botox, Laurel?

It’s everything but the cabinets.

The only thing is that these cabinets are obviously way too short. Could cabinetry be added over the existing boxes? Yes, but with a kitchen this size, I think it would be best just to start over. Besides, the floor has to go.

Still, I’m not ruling anything out. I am planning on doing a post that discusses both options.

 

So, in wrapping this post discussing some of the original old home details, here’s my take.

 

I’m all for changing some elements if they’re not working for you. Of course, I wouldn’t dream of changing the window casings, wainscoting, divine crown detailing, etc.

However, it’s important to note that just because something’s an old home detail, doesn’t necessarily mean that it was done in the best taste to begin with. Of course, some people might love that mantel, and if you’d like to have it, it’s yours. lol

 

Still, the commonplace practice of gutting antique buildings, full of character and charm and stripping them of all of that, usually doesn’t work for me.

 

There are exceptions. And, for some skilled designers, they can turn an old building into a cool modern space, without it looking like a cookie-cutter sea of gray and icy-cold lighting.

I hope that everyone is doing well and staying healthy.

And, thank you again for all of your sweet, wonderful comments!

 

I just want to close with this message.

 

Despite appearances, change is not as easy for me as it might look. I went through many years of my life, stuck, just like the Intrepid ship. I was stuck in the mud.

 

How did I get unstuck?

 

I left my husband. I am not saying that he was keeping me stuck. But being married to him was.

What I now realize is sometimes all you need to do is change one thing. Just one. If you’re feeling stuck, try to focus on the one thing that is scaring the crap out of you.

That’s the one thing you probably need to change, in order to move forward.

Do not be afraid. Yes, there might be some pain.

At first.

But, if you’re following your heart, the pain won’t kill you. In time, it’ll make you stronger, and you’ll see yourself growing in ways you never dreamed were possible. I’m living proof of that.

 

Photo by Nong Vang on Unsplash

Photo by Nong Vang on Unsplash

That’s my once in a blue-moon pep talk. The next one is October 31, 2020!

Blue moon, that is!

I think we need all of the positive messages of hope at this time in our lives.
But, if it doesn’t ring true for you, that is okay too.

Love to all!!!

PS: Please check out the newly updated HOT SALES!

And, below are some additional fireplace mantel ideas I’ve added.

 

Gil Schafer designed this gorgeous mantel

 

Gil Schafer

 

 

Donny Moylan via Lonny

 

 

 

 

 


I would add more to the back and extend the mantel shelf. And of course, it would be painted white.

5th edition rolodex-post-graphic - November 2018 - A unique shopping guide with hundreds of sources created by Laurel Bern

  • Leslie Stevens - October 11, 2020 - 8:38 PM

    PS I agree with the others who noted that this over mantel is not uncommon from the 1880s onward, and to me it is not so important whether it was added a few decades after–it is worth ‘turning over the stones’ so to speak to think about how to use it and make it work before rejecting it out of hand. And also learning from an expert how sound it is and whether it has been internally altered, what lies behind the current glazed tile, etc. All of that may give clues that can become design fodder. I think that is how Cater and VerVoordt have managed to turn some things others would have rejected into design coups. I do realize that that is not always do-able though, but worth the thinking time. For instance as I noted in my prior remark about splitting up the now glazed tile surround into more than 1 material, both of those designers have used narrower, more contemporary masonry material surrounds in anything from white to charcoal with white casework molding taking up the remaining space, and the floor-level masonry being similar or the same as the narrower surround materials. The poster who suggested crowning molding for kitchen cabs I support also as it ties it into this room for sight lines, and I’d go a step further to replace that floor with a similar or same material as the new narrower masonry surround material. By subtle landscape above the mantel that I noted previously (thinking why not work with this whole wall as a centerpiece, including the mantel you don’t like but by unifying it through color relations and materials), Maggie Grier is an artist that comes to mind.ReplyCancel

  • Leslie Stevens - October 11, 2020 - 6:59 PM

    I am wondering re the fireplace whether where the mirror is now was a mural or frieze? If so, that suggests perhaps something less competing than the tile surround, and same for whatever gets placed above the mantel on the wall (a mirror would probably have been more common or perhaps a subtle landscape either framed or applied, tho the scale of the columns and the top, final shelf of the mantel actually suggests a temple-type reference so maybe nothing above it was intended? Also remember people where shorter back then, so how it related to their height and the ceiling height was different. If one looks at the lower shelf asa the mantel proper and the upper as a reference to the top of a temple, the proportion issues start to shift somewhat, though the amount of glazed tile is still a problem, see below). Also the wood floor looks patched in front of it, suggesting there may have been more masonry there, which suggests maybe it could be tied in again, once replacing the 2 present types of tile. And to my eye, having the columns with no masonry in front of them, ending in patched wood, looks wrong for a lot of reasons, and would be easily corrected by going back to masonry there, particularly it it ties in somehow with whatever masonry and other other materials replace the glazed tile area. Also the amount of glazed tile here re proportions, may not be original either–there may have been a narrower band of some kind of masonry, glazed or otherwise, closer to the firebox and something else where the remaining glazed tile continues outward, perhaps with some trim work in between. If that was the case, then thinking dimensionally like that again, with the right colors and materials, could create a subtle, layered kind of effect. Your ‘additional mantel ideas’ area has some of these techniques and materials. Darryl Carter comes to mind here for some reason re that kind of layering, but also cuz it’s hard to think of him ditching such a unique piece and not working to correct the proportions some other way. Or VerVoordt. Perhaps I am wrong.ReplyCancel

  • Jennifer Feinstein - October 8, 2020 - 12:30 PM

    OH MY GOSH! Congratulations–that living room is exquisite! You’ll be living in your dream! So happy for you. Also, in your kitchen I’m dreaming of a complete overhaul, cabinets all the way to the ceiling, dark green or black lacquer with the feel of an old world butler’s pantry. And beautiful hardware. And marble. Did you show us someone’s kitchen like that recently? Or was that Quintessence? Mmmmmmmmmm…ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - October 10, 2020 - 9:23 PM

      OMG, you’re reading my mind. The dark green, that is. Well, I should be working on the post, not answering comments. lol!!!ReplyCancel

  • Sue Saline Durtsche - October 7, 2020 - 10:25 PM

    Then go for it! You have great taste.ReplyCancel

  • Paege Johnson - October 7, 2020 - 5:36 PM

    Sooo I just escaped drowning in the pile of drool from swooning over that living room pic!! Blessings on you and your new, safe, happy home. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Sue Saline Durtsche - October 7, 2020 - 1:00 PM

    Have you considered removing the pillars and also the part from the base of the mirror on up and using the pretty “shelf” being supported by the 5 brackets as your mantel? When I cover up the rest (side pillars & mirror) with my hand the scale looks a lot better. The fire boxes were small back then because of keeping a fire going all the time to keep a home warm was very time consuming (energy to cut wood; etc) and drafts that came down the chimney could blow embers around too. The surround was way bigger because of fire danger. It was utilitarian back then so very appropriate for the house. A beautiful room. Remember life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful….Same true of rooms….ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - October 7, 2020 - 9:27 PM

      Yes, I considered all. I very much wish to replace that mantel.ReplyCancel

  • Morgana - October 7, 2020 - 11:36 AM

    So lovely! I’m glad that you are “retiring” those terracotta kitchen tiles. I know what you mean about “proper entry” and that would make a lovely blog article. I hate walking straight into the living room, and whatever happened to coat closets?ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - October 7, 2020 - 9:35 PM

      There is a coat closet, however, it was added later. I can create a coat closet somewhere else. And, then I’ll have a spot for my pretty antique bookcase that’s only 11″ deep So, there will also be more space as the closet butts up against the door.ReplyCancel

  • Gloria - October 7, 2020 - 10:14 AM

    At 82 yo, I say: Before access to fulfillment of dreams/purpose is lost, prayerfully seek wisdom and guidance and get “unstuck” sooner rather than later. (Lovely place…kitchen to match would be nice. Very glad entire fireplace surround is going away).ReplyCancel

  • Judy M. - October 7, 2020 - 7:55 AM

    Your new home is beautiful! Love the architectural details. Your kitchen ideas are elegant and so complimentary to the feel of the place. Love the idea of black and white in that space, cool tile on the floors and maybe consider a big mirror on the blank wall to reflect the light and make the space feel larger. Good luck and have fun with this one!ReplyCancel

  • Maxine - October 7, 2020 - 12:44 AM

    So pleased for you, Laurel! Your new home looks lovely. Sorry, but I even love that mad mantle. Ah, well, a very stern NO is something I hear a lot when it comes to decorating. I’m looking forward to seeing where you take that monster. And the dinky kitchen! Also looking forward to seeing your resolution to that one. Thank you for the Blue Moon. Food for thought.ReplyCancel

  • Toni - October 6, 2020 - 7:50 PM

    Oh Laurel!! The living room!!! The garden!!! Yay for you!!!ReplyCancel

  • Courtney - October 6, 2020 - 10:48 AM

    I am not even halfway through your post and I had to stop and comment. Yes to “please stop painting everything gray!” Especially when it’s indiscriminately used just solely to follow the trend. Where I’m from, a lot of those grays are looking pretty scary in the dead of winter in a place where there are mostly cloudy days. Brrrr!

    It is sad when someone decides to renovate and blindly erases all character and connection to the soul of the building. It should be illegal.ReplyCancel

  • usvintagewood - October 6, 2020 - 5:43 AM

    I love the mantel on a Victorian in the south end. I agree with you the mirror is too big but the wall and the flooring are amazing. How I wish I could design my home just like that.ReplyCancel

  • Donna Oliphint - October 5, 2020 - 10:03 PM

    Congratulations! It looks PERFECT for you!ReplyCancel

  • Pegg Pavlock - October 5, 2020 - 9:35 PM

    Congratulations! Just in time for the holidays. Can’t wait for your future posts. Happiness in your new home.ReplyCancel

  • Julia Park - October 5, 2020 - 9:11 PM

    It’s beautiful! So excited to see what you do with it.ReplyCancel

  • Sandy - October 5, 2020 - 6:27 PM
  • Terry - October 5, 2020 - 4:57 PM

    Power to YOU for figuring out what’s wrong – and making a change. Love your new digs – especially the high ceilings and a working FP. BUT …. that kitchen has got to go 🙁 Does not speak “Laurel” in any way, shape or form IMHO. If it’s in your timeframe & budget – make this change, too ! Blessings & Stay Safe 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Cassia Wyner - October 5, 2020 - 2:52 PM

    Laurel, I agree with you on the mantel. It’s pretty, but just too big (the rest of the trim is gorgeous!). There are two great places to source salvage mantels in Boston:

    https://www.bostonbuildingresources.com/

    and

    https://www.restorationresources.com/.

    They can even take the old one off your hands. Of course in NE we’re surrounded by salvage places. For the cabinets in your kitchen, my advice is to live with them for a bit before you decide to just add Botox. From the photos in your blog it doesn’t look like they have maximized storage space or have pullouts, etc, and it won’t take you long to figure out what works. I’m excited for you — a big adventure! Boston is great. Enjoy the change.ReplyCancel

  • Jodi Swartz - October 5, 2020 - 2:10 PM

    Laurel, Welcome to Boston! Your home looks amazing, and I look forward to your posts after your renovation. I own a kitchen design firm…and have many contacts and contractors in my tool belt, should you be looking for local professionals. I’m sure you are all set. Having personally been in the same boat as you (hell, I think I coined the word ‘wasband’ from you)…showing up and moving forward has been my mantra every waking day. Good luck!ReplyCancel

  • Betty Benesi - October 5, 2020 - 1:43 PM

    I have had a lot of older homes and I am always appalled at what happens to older buildings. In the little town where I live, we have a lot of cute Victorians. Unfortuantely, they are just envelopes for a modern house. All character has been erased. To me the older homes often reflect a more cozy and intimate lifestyle where people actually use what they have and sit at a table for dinner and talk. The kitchen is boring and probably needs new appliances, maybe get a soap stone countertop. In any case, enjoy your journey!ReplyCancel

  • Donna - October 5, 2020 - 1:26 PM

    My Father bought an Italianate house in early 70’s. It was owned by the son of the original family and didn’t even have indoor plumbing! It had a beautiful bay window like yours. My mother loved plants and made good use of all the sunlight! After she died ,he lowered the ceilings and put up cheap blinds , paneling and carpeting. I could have cried and so sad every time I see it.ReplyCancel

  • Madeline Menendez - October 5, 2020 - 1:13 PM

    Congratulations on almost owning that beauty. Can’t wait to see your footprint on it. My mom passed almost 5 yrs ago and with all the traffic now in Miami I decided to sell my much newer home in Kendall and buy my sister out and live in hers. I’ve been putting my footprint on it slowly but surely and have some much appreciated income rentals too. I should share some of the current dilemmas I have with you to see your take on them actually. I agree with your final comment. I too took a leap of faith 10 yrs ago and separated from a husband who I felt did not want to move forward as a family and didn’t support me when I wanted to. It was the best decision I ever made and even though it was tough raising my two young boys alone, I assure you our lives were enriched by my actions. I’m sad he never supported me or his sons and they don’t have any relations with him but that was his choice not ours! I just took another leap of faith and started a personal blog too. It’s going great thusfar!ReplyCancel

  • Leah from Chicago - October 5, 2020 - 12:46 PM

    Congratulations on finding a new home Laurel!! Great post – as usual! And a huge thank you for the last bit on getting unstuck. It was something I needed to read and take action on. Wishing you all the best as you begin this next adventure! Looking forward to seeing how it all comes together!!ReplyCancel

  • Rosella - October 5, 2020 - 12:43 PM

    Thank you for sharing photos of the apartment. It looks beautiful. That living room😍. The deco on that building exterior reminded me of a William Morris design which I love. But my heart dropped when you said the floor has to go in the kitchen! I figured you’d do it but as I have a similar terra-cotta floor in my kitchen, I was hoping to hear you had a solution. I cannot pull ours. Hubby nixed that.
    Good luck and much happiness.ReplyCancel

  • Deb M. - October 5, 2020 - 12:22 PM

    I love the new home and all of its glorious original detail that you found! Great find! I wish you the best there.

    Thank you for your comment on gray paint. Oh my, it drives me crazy to see everything painted gray, i.e., walls, doors and trim, kitchen cabinets, etc. Oh and don’t get me started on the popular trend of the “open concept” living space where you have the kitchen, dining room, and living room all together. I truly hate it! In my opinion, most of the houses being built today are soul less. They have absolutely no character. I apologize for the rant, you definitely touched on a couple of things that I am quite passionate about.

    I love reading your blog, and look forward to reading more about your new home.ReplyCancel

  • Leslie - October 5, 2020 - 12:07 PM

    Dear Laurel, What a joy to see you achieve this beautiful new stage of life. You are so down to earth and relatable making us feel like we can improve our homes and our lives. I’ve learned so much from you dear lady and take to heart your message which is quite deep but again you make it seem doable. You are a wonderful mentor in many ways.ReplyCancel

  • Emilie - October 5, 2020 - 12:06 PM

    Thank you for your words of wisdom, and your beautiful home to be looks extraordinary!! A real dream!! You deserve it all.ReplyCancel

  • Maggie - October 5, 2020 - 11:42 AM

    Oh what a magnificent living room and it suits you so well. That secret garden is absolutely delightful. You will be so happy living there.ReplyCancel

  • Meredith - October 5, 2020 - 11:34 AM

    Congratulations on your beautiful new home! So nice of you to share photos. I just found your website and it is a godsend! You have beautiful taste and finally I have found advice that I can relate to! I am enjoying reading your posts and am learning a lot!

    Appreciatively,
    MeredithReplyCancel

  • Gayle Morgan - October 5, 2020 - 11:25 AM

    Laurel,

    I’d be curious about the mantels/fireplaces in the other apartments in the building. Would be interesting to see if someone has an untampered with original. I’d bet your neighbors would be happy to let you have a peak.

    So glad for you,
    GayleReplyCancel

  • Jenny - October 5, 2020 - 11:25 AM

    So happy for you to have found this beautiful place. That living room is going to make you smile! I was looking forward to your being in Northampton since I live nearby but it DID seem a little quiet for you, as you said. Boston will be lots of fun. Enjoy!ReplyCancel

  • Vela Tomba - October 5, 2020 - 11:13 AM

    Love it! So excited for you and for us– to see the process!! Can’t wait!!ReplyCancel

  • SHERYL - October 5, 2020 - 11:08 AM

    Not that you need anyone’s suggestions or comments Laurel…
    Nice looking place with great improvement ideas. I agree with you in regard to the fireplace tiles and the kitchen. Go gettem’ Girlfriend.ReplyCancel

  • Emily - October 5, 2020 - 11:02 AM

    Oh, Laurel. It’s sublime. I am so pleased for you. I know that whatever changes you make, they will be well thought out and result in an even more beautiful and inspired space. So looking forward to accompanying you on this journey.ReplyCancel

  • Tina - October 5, 2020 - 11:00 AM

    So many things you said in this post resonate, from cold cookie-cutter replacing vintage quality to “There is nothing worse than a redone kitchen that one hates. And, I dislike most of them, unfortunately.” But your parting message is one I totally relate to. Here’s to getting “un-stuck!”ReplyCancel

  • Terri - October 5, 2020 - 10:53 AM

    P.S. It looked great with the Bradbury & Bradbury William Morris wallpaper. We had the Willow pattern with the gold leaves in the green. The glow from the reflection of the flame would glisten on the wallpaper.
    Great memories!ReplyCancel

  • Michi - October 5, 2020 - 10:50 AM

    Hi Laurel,
    I literally gasped when I saw your living room! You have found such a beautiful new home. I am so happy for you! I am looking forward to seeing what you do with it.
    I truly admire how candid you are. It is such a fine balance given so many people read your blog. You seem to have the perfect sense of balance in terms of how much to share, what to share and when to share it. I am guessing this is why you are such a good decorator/designer? The same principles are inherent in your work, balance, integrity and inspiration. Good luck in this next chapter!ReplyCancel

  • Pam - October 5, 2020 - 10:48 AM

    Lauren, your once-in-a-blue-moon pep talk brought a tear to my eye. I don’t even need a change now, but I did once, and your sweet, gentle advice is so true. Doing one thing we fear is a big thing, and those of us who have done it and become happy on the other side — well, we do need to share that with folks!

    Now if you would just please move into this gorgeous apartment already so we can watch what you do with it! I love your classic taste. But why is that perfect mantle too small?

    Thank you again !!!ReplyCancel

  • Terri - October 5, 2020 - 10:48 AM

    Hello! It looks as if the top has been removed, I think that’s why it looks off. I had a mantel very similar in my 1903 Colonial Revival home in Pennsylvania. It was quarter sawed oak, never been painted, had a beautiful oak color. It also had the asbestos grille we removed it and replaced it with a beautiful 1920s’ solid brass stove with footed legs that set proudly onto the hearth and would heart up the downstairs. It was lovely!ReplyCancel

  • Carmen - October 5, 2020 - 10:36 AM

    Laurel,
    I have been following you for several years now. I enjoy your blog very much and you always bring a smile to my face. I can totally relate to your comments about feeling stuck. Your new home is lovely and I look forward to seeing the changes you will be making in your new place.ReplyCancel

  • Janet R - October 5, 2020 - 10:10 AM

    Thank you so much for giving us a peek! I am so excited for you. I can’t wait to see what changes you make, especially to that rather odd mantel. If that were my kitchen floor, I might live with it and consider a lovely soft blue green for the cabinets, but then the white appliances wouldn’t work. Is there room for a library ladder so cupboards or shelves could go up higher?ReplyCancel

  • Maggie - October 5, 2020 - 8:54 AM

    Laurel, I have been following and loving your posts for quite a while, but have never commented. I must today, because I am absolutely in love with your new apartment. The living room is to die for. I wish you the very best of luck. Thanks too, for the pep talk. It was much needed today.ReplyCancel

  • Kathy - October 5, 2020 - 3:16 AM

    I agree with some of the comments that the columns could be a later addition, and the firebox was probably altered, as was the hearth.

    Brent Hull is the master of traditional moldings and if you could get his advice, it would be top-notch.

    I would consider just modifying the mantel and removing the columns. The basic form is quite simple and once you modify the firebox, the proportions are typical of the late Victorian period, and the height works well with your lovely tall ceilings. It might be worth looking into getting an 1880s shallow firebox as well–it could have been a Rumsford style (tall and shallow wood-burning) or coal (small and shallow with grate).

    The original tile was probably imported from England and had a shiny glaze. England still makes coal style fireboxes with iron surrounds and tile insert that could look more in proportion with your fireplace, and it is possible some molding was removed at some point. Worth checking out.

    The more neoclassical style mantels you posted were not typical of the time and I think will look too short for such a room. Overmantels were very common in the 1880s, and I think it could look fantastic with some of your accessories reflected in it, not to mention candlelight in the evening.

    Congratulations on your lovely new home and I hope the buying process goes smoothly. What a new adventure!ReplyCancel

  • Kathy Cutforth - October 5, 2020 - 2:52 AM

    That is possible, but it is also possible that the mantel was modified, not replaced. Overmantles with mirrors and columns were common in the 1880s, and the woodwork probably wasn’t painted.

    The tile could possibly be original–most fireplace tile at the time was imported from England and was handmade with glossy glaze. It is too variable to be modern machine-made tile I think, but it is hard to tell from a photo. Most tile was solid or variegated, either flat or molded, but ornamental tile was available too. It would look a lot better with stained wood.

    The hearth has been replaced. The large columns could have been added to the original mantel and the firebox could have been modified and probably had wider molding to define it, which could have been removed, and possibly a wide and shallow firebox for coal.

    I would have an expert look at it before making a final decision and take a look at the inserts made with tiles in the English tradition. Neoclassical was out of style in the 1880s, but certain elements, such as columns, never went away.

    Mantles are a really important defining characteristic, even they are not original, and I think you could work with it, or at least modify it to be more circa 1880 and in better proportion with new tile and a fireplace insert and some styling.

    Here is a link to a 1880 house with many similar fireplaces minus the large columns, but with smaller ones:

    https://www.oldhousedreams.com/2011/12/05/1880-queen-anne-earl-park-in-87550/.

    https://www.oldfireplaces.co.uk/product/289ws-1880-antique-victorian-pine-fire-surround/
    https://www.oldhouseonline.com/interiors-and-decor/history-of-the-fireplaceReplyCancel

  • Sheree L - October 4, 2020 - 9:40 PM

    I’m seriously swooning over the pic of the living room, Laurel! Those windows, mouldings, and floor are amazingly beautiful. I’m so excited to see what the future holds for you. And I appreciate your words about change.ReplyCancel

  • Moira - October 4, 2020 - 9:06 PM

    Oh my goodness I love it, love it, love it. Well done with all your searching and patience not to mention pain. I agree about the mantel and the tiles. Can’t wait to see what you do with the kitchen. Best of luck with everything.ReplyCancel

  • Gail - October 4, 2020 - 8:59 PM

    Oh it’s just LOVELY!! I can’t wait to see more and to share in the journey of your updates and your decorating. Congrats. It’s a brave move. Exciting and scary all at once I’m sure. Deep breaths. Sending love and positivity.ReplyCancel

  • Miller - October 4, 2020 - 8:57 PM

    Boston with a condominium in a home built in 1880 – 13′ ceilings, gorgeous living room, private garden … you scored, Laurel! You will put the icing on this cake!ReplyCancel

  • LindaSharp - October 4, 2020 - 8:09 PM

    Best wishes for your new apartment. It is so charming and I am so looking forward to seeing more and following along with your renovations. I think your pictures are stunning – especially your drop dead, gorgeous living room!ReplyCancel

  • Marsha - October 4, 2020 - 7:14 PM

    It could be an apartment condo. I own and live in one.ReplyCancel

  • Vivian Luce - October 4, 2020 - 6:44 PM

    All the very best in your new home in Boston. Hope you will show pics of before and after you put your delightful touches to make it your home.ReplyCancel

  • Elizabeth Greene - October 4, 2020 - 6:29 PM

    Hi Laurel, Architectural historian here: Your living room mantel with mirror & tall columns is really Colonial Revival in style & proportion, & a bit later than the 1880 date of your building, most likely from 1900s-1920s. Consider that the wainscoting may also be later than 1880 (though still very handsome). But the hearth tiles look the same vintage as your kitchen floor tiles! And the floor indicates the original extent of the hearth. You could research what an appropriate mantel would look like at the library of Historic New England: they have a spectacular collection of historic photos of New England buildings, and much is online: https://www.historicnewengland.org/explore/collections-access/architecture/ . Their HQ is on Otis Street in Boston. Lovely apartment, how nice that you’ve found it!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - October 4, 2020 - 6:35 PM

      Thank you so much, Elizabeth for your professional assessment. I have no doubt that you are correct on all counts.ReplyCancel

  • Sandy - October 4, 2020 - 5:28 PM

    Fingers crossed your dream home becomes a reality! Can’t wait to see what you do with it, particularly the kitchen. Mine is similar in proportion: rather small, too short uppers with a tall ceiling. Been struggling with how much further to go up without making it seem like the cabinets are closing in on you. Best of luck and thanks for sharing!ReplyCancel

  • nicole rivlin - October 4, 2020 - 5:10 PM

    not real congrats yet…but so happy for you. I love Boston, we used to live in Lexington and ride our bikes down Mass Av for a coffee or brunch at the Harvard Cafe and Bookstore, I am in Austin now but Boston has a piece of my heart. I know you will be happy there esp with those windows!!ReplyCancel

  • Lilli - October 4, 2020 - 4:19 PM

    Congrats on finding the apt you want, Laurel. It looks lovely. I just bought an 1850 sea Captain’s house way Downeast, and I’m looking forward to putting my touch on it. Like your place, exquisite mouldings, high ceilings and those windows! I’m hoping to use my hand-embroidered panels for lower half of windows. Right now, just going to hang something to keep out the cold. Oh, and pumpkin pine floors in LR and DR. Den is former “summer kitchen.”
    Wanted to suggest you keep your car for a bit. If you’re worried re parking rates, maybe your son could park it near him. There are so many beautiful places around you. Once you leave Boston for day trips, you’ll want a car. Enjoy your new home!ReplyCancel

  • Pamela Turner - October 4, 2020 - 4:15 PM

    Every element of the living room is stunning. The secret garden seems perfect. It offers a private place for fresh air and nature with a border that offers an area for greenery/flowers without intensive maintenance. I’m imagining an “un-kitchen” when you decide it’s time to make changes🙂.ReplyCancel

  • Sande - October 4, 2020 - 3:31 PM

    I’m new to your blog, reading the comments to try and ‘catch up’. When I got to that glorious, tall ceilinged, light filled room I was instantly covered with chills. Then the magical garden space……
    Seriously, who needs a kitchen?ReplyCancel

  • Nancy - October 4, 2020 - 3:17 PM

    This apartment is beautiful!! I Love the living room. You’re right about the fireplace surround but I’m sure you’ll change it to look perfect. Same with the kitchen after you Laurelize it.
    I’m so happy for you and can’t wait to see what you do with it.ReplyCancel

  • Lisa D. - October 4, 2020 - 3:09 PM

    Your apartment is just gorgeous – beautiful building exterior, beautiful living room, and that secret garden is to die for! Congratulations, Laurel.ReplyCancel

  • Dolores Pap - October 4, 2020 - 2:40 PM

    I’m just so happy for you!
    The new apartment is just beyond beautiful! Keeping my fingers crossed that all goes well with the home inspection.

    xoxoReplyCancel

  • Parnassus - October 4, 2020 - 2:36 PM

    Hello Laurel, I have seen many late Victorian fireplace surrounds similar to the one you show, but I have to admit that it is a particularly inelegant one. The tiles are really a mess, both in proportion and the way they were installed. I would look for evidence that the fireplace is no longer first edition, then you would not feel so bad if you have to ‘alter’ it. Even your reflection in the mirror looks dismayed while photographing this apparition.
    –JimReplyCancel

  • Shandon - October 4, 2020 - 2:30 PM

    Botox for kitchen: get a crown mold for the cabinets, and if possible, stain the floor black. Just embrace the little old lady for a few years.

    Find a wonderful old mantelpiece. See if you can remove the darker tiles and replace with your lighter ones to go into a reduced-sized surround. I think the lighter ones are mellow and lovely! Maybe something happened to the original ones over the fire box and someone tried to match them for a repair. If you use the mellow ones, they will make whatever mantelpiece you choose appear original.ReplyCancel

  • Jane - October 4, 2020 - 2:23 PM

    Congratulations on your new almost home! I’m truly excited for you and all the changes and exciting new things coming to your life!ReplyCancel

  • Heather - October 4, 2020 - 1:27 PM

    Laurel, I love the pictures of your future apartment and I know you will make it even more gorgeous. One thing concerns me though. What do you think the current owners think when they read your comments about what is wrong and what you want to change, and then the hundreds of comments your readers make. This was their home and they may have loved everything about it. I have to be honest and say it feels a little insensitive, unless this is an estate sale and the owners are no longer with us. I hope that’s the case!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - October 4, 2020 - 3:01 PM

      Hi Heather,

      I doubt the owner is reading my blog, but if she is, I would welcome her to rip my home apart as she sees fit. There’s plenty wrong with it. My guess is that when she moved in the kitchen cabinets were oak and she painted them. So, if anything, she made a huge number of improvements. Obviously, I love the place or I wouldn’t be trying to buy it!

      I can’t control what other people say. The comments have gotten away from me. But, I always encourage a respectful critique of inanimate objects. People are off-limits on this blog. To each his own!ReplyCancel

  • Lizzy - October 4, 2020 - 1:27 PM

    All of the molding in the living room is gorgeous. I do have one question, though. If you are calling this an apartment, wouldn’t that mean you are just renting, thus making any big changes a waste of money?ReplyCancel

  • Kim - October 4, 2020 - 1:22 PM

    Soaring 13’ ceilings with that fabulous molding! And nice floors to boot. Lovely.

    The fireplace looks like fireplaces in old houses around here from 1905-1915. Those columns and tile relate to St. Louis houses of that era.

    The Victorian house where I grew up out on the prairie in Iowa had hand carved floral corner blocks over the doorways. That was pretty fancy for those times and places.

    God I love old houses. I just bought a condo in a 93 year old building. It had windows with weights, plaster walls, original and pristine bathroom tile on floor and wall. Has been well cared for. I just marvel at the heft of those windows, they make me feel like I’m home. My own 1885 city house and country 1941 cottage have drywall and new windows. Not the same, they are not the same. 🙁

    My ownReplyCancel

  • Earlene Millier - October 4, 2020 - 1:04 PM

    Agree, the mantel is pretty bad. Would it be possible to remove the upper mantel, mirror, and front columns, and leave the rest in place? I think it would be OK then. I am no old house expert but I think that “mirror in the mantel” idea came along later. It might be a bad makeover to the original mantel.ReplyCancel

  • Madonna - October 4, 2020 - 12:55 PM

    Geez, Laurel, you’ve committed yourself to many weekends getting that awful paint off your trim, but I’m sure it will be worth it. Once you’ve moved in you should invite friends and family over for a scrape off old paint and pizza night. Hey, it could be fun with the right people and music!

    Your comment about changing one thing is very wise. I look at it this way. Take an old, empty Coke bottle and write your issues on tiny pieces of paper. Fold each one up and put every one into the bottle. Turn the bottle upside down and you’ll find each one of those issues will stay inside the bottle. Try to fish out just one to work on and others will fall out, too. That’s what prevents people from working on one issue–they are all connected because they are all YOUR issues! The truth is you can’t just change one thing–everything in related.

    To put the analogy in something you are very familiar with, take that couple whose refrigerator finally died. They trot out and find another fridge they like even better, drag it home and find it doesn’t fit! What do they do? They usually end up remodeling the ENTIRE kitchen! Same thing, really.

    You were brave to leave a relationship that likely wasn’t working very well for either of you. You faced the unknown and conquered it to make a very nice life for yourself. We’re all proud of you.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - October 4, 2020 - 3:03 PM

      Oh no. I’m not touching a thing. I will hire a professional; at least for the big stuff.ReplyCancel

  • Char - October 4, 2020 - 12:49 PM

    I’m so excited for what’s to come with your ideas to make that stunning apartment yours. So far, I love what you’ve shown us. Congratulations!!ReplyCancel

  • Olivia - October 4, 2020 - 12:45 PM

    Your new home is awesome! Waiting breathlessly to see the changes you make. Thanks for sharing your “stuck” story to which many of us can relate to.ReplyCancel

  • Genevieve - October 4, 2020 - 12:41 PM

    Hi Laurel,

    From the pictures you’ve posted it looks like a very nice apartment!

    Love the private backyard 👌

    I like the living room and you’re right for the fireplace: proportions are off. Way off. It looks like a second mantle with the pillars was added to the first one… (Like Russian dolls)… Maybe to try to beef it up for the space and the ceiling height (?)

    The kitchen has got to go. All of it. Now 🙂 Those cabinet doors just scream 1980’s vibe… Or you could just replace the doors with some white shaker style doors.

    I hope the inspection goes well in Tuesday!

    Genevieve 🌈ReplyCancel

  • Dee - October 4, 2020 - 12:30 PM

    Hi Laurel,
    Congratulations on your new home! Boston is great, historic, beautiful. Can’t wait to see the gorgeousness you add to your new digs. Best of luck in all you do.ReplyCancel

  • Harriet Gilmer - October 4, 2020 - 12:16 PM

    What a beautiful place! The photo of the Living Room windows, trim, and ceiling is jaw-dropping. Re the mantel…is it possible the lower mantel shelf is original and the rest is all embellishment? If so, maybe that portion would still work with new vertical side panels? Those tiles! Pattern is bad enough, but the different dye lots make it impossible. I am looking forward to following your refurbishment and adventures!ReplyCancel

  • Marsha Stopa - October 4, 2020 - 12:08 PM

    I gasped as I scrolled down and the photograph of your living room with the high ceilings and windows came into view! You have finally found your element. So freaking excited for you! As several people pointed out, the fireplace has been modified. The good news is given that it’s Boston there are a lot of historical references and resources you can check. Not that you would necessarily want to return it to the original but you could get more information about what’s behind that tile for any changes you want to make. As far as the kitchen, I look forward to the post comparing the detox to the reno. My guess is the plain Jane kitchen will wear on you quickly compared to all of the classical beauty in the rest of the house. Huge congratulations!ReplyCancel

  • Sue - October 4, 2020 - 12:00 PM

    Wow! So cool!ReplyCancel

  • Debra M - October 4, 2020 - 11:51 AM

    Laurel, the place is beautiful! I am so happy for you. The secret garden is delightful and will be so relaxing. You can work out there during the summer months! Thank you for allowing us to follow you on this journey. Best wishes!ReplyCancel

  • Jen - October 4, 2020 - 11:36 AM

    It looks just beautiful. As a Boston native who moved away and, sadly, has not been able to return, I am envious! But, I am also so excited for you to live in such a wonderful city. Boston is charming, safe, and smart. The college students make it young and vibrant, the history makes it interesting, and the North End makes it delicious! Thank you for sharing your journey with us.ReplyCancel

  • Téa - October 4, 2020 - 11:35 AM

    So EXCITED for you!! Praying for a flawless inspection on Tuesday!!!!ReplyCancel

  • Janet - October 4, 2020 - 11:21 AM

    Your living room is breath-takingly beautiful. I think the mantel has already been monkeyed with so that makes you free to replace it. I think the tall columns and upper shelf have been added. I think the original was more like this https://www.rubylane.com/item/455677-NFPM190-RW/Antique-Quarter-Sawn-Oak-Fireplace-Mantel. Those marble ones look great.
    I just moved into an old tavern that needs a lot of rehab and I hold onto to your posts (old and new) for inspirations. There is always something beautiful.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - October 4, 2020 - 3:12 PM

      Hi Janet,

      I have seen that type of mantel in Boston, but they are not very common. I believe that is from a little later period. Yes, I just checked and this one is from the early 1900s. Of course, I may cheat and go back in time, some. That’s okay. The beaux-arts sisters I wrote about the other day are surrounded by brownstones. They are like the belles of the ball!

      Like today, owners/builders cherry-picked what they wanted in their homes. It’s not like they said, I’m building a Victorian in 1880 and THIS is what it has to be. Of course, like now, there were trends that people frequently followed which is why there are a lot of elements that one sees more frequently. However, that’s not always the case. And, still, the period allowed for many past influences including Georgian (Federal, Colonial, Greek Revival in the US).ReplyCancel

  • Pat - October 4, 2020 - 11:17 AM

    Congratulations. You found a gem. I’m sure you are probably very well aware of this, but I am sure there are architectural salvage resources for you to find the perfect mantle and surround rather getting anything new. That would be a fantastic adventure to explore. It might end up as your favorite change and also preserve history. Also, I would love to see you install one of your un-kitchens. It could be a gem. I am from there and will always be a Bostonian. Since you brought up being stuck, I am stuck in Florida. I have actually been here for 30 years. I have never liked it here at all. One of the main reasons is the total disregard for architecture and history and the complete lack of it. There are a handful of places in my area that are extraordinary but only in a very few places. The mindset here is to tear down and build McMansions. There are examples of this in the next town that when I saw them I felt literally sick to my stomach. It is an assault on the senses. Old and historic are good and important. These places have a soul. The best to you and I cannot wait to see what you do with your new place. You have been brave doing all this during Covid. When it is somewhat safe to get out again I will be trying to find my new place so I can start getting unstuck. You have inspired me.ReplyCancel

  • Nathalie - October 4, 2020 - 11:11 AM

    Laurel – so thrilled for you even at this point and sending positive vibes for total dream fulfillment. Boy I love me some projects and you are going to have so much fun getting creative.and I’ll have fun reading/watching you do it!

    The mantel – someone got creative and it just didn’t work. It may not even be the original mantel to the place but even if it is – it was a negative right from the start. Like you said, original is not always best! Not everybody (even back then) doing the choosing has an artist’s eye for proportions.

    I know I don’t have to tell you this, but others may consider having a custom mantel made to the exact design and proportions you desire! I actually did this in a humble tract home I “built” many years ago when funds were not that plentiful. Also there is that method of altering existing architectural remnants to adapt to the new style.

    I’m as glad as you are to see that the kitchen is a) not in the living room and b) absolutely needs remodeling. I’m in the midwest downsize house shopping myself and it is such a disappointment to tour a contender only to encounter the dreaded “Halloween” kitchen. For some reason I can’t stand orange maple cabinetry. When you pair it with a black granite countertop i go ballistic. Virtually everybody doing a kitchen remodel in the early 2000’s did this look – probably because they saw others doing it and it spiraled out of control. I know most needed a break from the white laminate cabinetry of the 90’s but white ALWAYS works better than orange. Anyway, when it’s obvious that big money was spent on an ugly newer remodel, the guilt of replacing it is a downer. Plus remodels of this sort convince the seller to raise the price sky high and then husbands can get stubborn about jumping in immediately with even more expenses.

    For your kitchen I would love to see how you would “lite” decorate it for you to comfortably look at it until you can get exactly what you want! We all need tips in that area.

    Best of luck! I’m a dedicated fan.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - October 4, 2020 - 3:17 PM

      Yes, I keep going back to the mantel that is my favorite. But, I know that 48″ tall is not going to work. That one goes in a room with no more than an 8 or 9 foot ceiling. So, I’m going to look into both reproduction and finding something old that would look great, too.ReplyCancel

  • celestial - October 4, 2020 - 10:55 AM

    Your new living room looks exactly like YOU! How wonderful to have found a place that reflects your unique tastes and ideals. That molding is exquisite.

    You comment on change is the best thing I have heard this year, when we have all had to change so many things. Thank you for being you.ReplyCancel

  • Linda - October 4, 2020 - 10:48 AM

    Your new place is GORGEOUS! Hope all goes well with the closing, etc.

    We purchased a Condo last fall, which we are having renovated before we move in. If there is any way you can afford it, I highly recommend doing ALL of the work that you want to have done before you move in.

    We remodeled the house we are currently living in – twice – while living in it. Construction is dirty and messy. It is disruptive and highly stressful. Why subject your furnishings, etc., to all of that mess if you can avoid it?

    QUESTION: The toilet in our reno has just been installed. Because toilet proportions have changed quite a bit since the building was built in 1963, my new toilet sits about 6″ away from the wall. Altering the room to move the toilet closer to the wall would be very expensive, and make an already lengthy reno (thank you, Covid-19!) even longer. Any suggestions about how to make my toilet not look like it is “floating” in the middle of the room???ReplyCancel

  • Sharon - October 4, 2020 - 10:36 AM

    Congratulations, Laurel! I love this home and hope you will be very happy there for many years to come.ReplyCancel

  • Rosemary - October 4, 2020 - 10:28 AM

    Congratulations and best wishes. The fireplace was intended to burn coal, that is why the firebox is relatively small. Please consider having a chimney sweep clean the chimney and assess its condition before using. Re Kitchen: yes to new appliances, countertops and backsplash. Add 18″ glass door display front cabinets above the existing wall cabinets plus crown molding. Consider displaying a collection on the wall above these wall cabinets if space permits-something like antique blue and white platters or tole trays to draw your eye up and turn what seems like a liability into an asset. I don’t think the kitchen floor is awful, I’d clean and seal it with a matte finish sealer and buy a little Persian area rug for it. Replacing the kitchen floor could potentially entail removing the lower kitchen cabinetry as the existing floor may extend underneath.. Local auction houses are great sources for antique and semi-antique rugs at affordable price points. Skinner in Boston is a nice auction house and they often have home decor type auctions in both their Boston and Marlborough locations.ReplyCancel

  • Carolina - October 4, 2020 - 10:24 AM

    I am so happy for you!
    I have to say that you do justice to your words not only in design!
    Thank you for the heartfull message , fills me with joy and faith.ReplyCancel

  • Sandy Wittenberg - October 4, 2020 - 10:18 AM

    I won’t congratulate you yet, but I’m so excited for you! The place is breathtaking! I totally get wanting to change the mantel – I don’t like our Victorian mantel, and struggle with the guilt of removing original architecture. I think that you’ll design a beautiful kitchen. I often look back at the elevations you drew out for renovating your present kitchen. I think it’s one of the most elegant designs I have ever seen. Good luck on Tuesday, Laurel!ReplyCancel

  • pamela garlick - October 4, 2020 - 10:17 AM

    Laurel, best of luck to you! I lived in Northampton for 12 years and told all my friends about you! But, I hear you on Boston. Perhaps once you’re settled in, you could write a post on the zillions of once-gorgeous homes subdivided into sorry-looking college-aged group homes (my son could offer up his). You’d really have a field day in Boston, and these adorable young adults could use your advice. Looking forward to seeing your place.ReplyCancel

  • Cynthia Novotny - October 4, 2020 - 10:16 AM

    Happy to hear you have found such a gem and cannot wait to read about the project on your blog. Boston’s North Shore still has some lovely antique shops in Essex along with Maine. If you are not already familiar with restoration resources in the Boston area they are still around but it appears Connecticut House wrecking is going out of business. My husband was able to purchase floor to ceiling shutters (39 years ago) for our two Juliet balconies on West 73rd St when we were first married. Best wishes….hoping you might run a seminar when you get settled in. Best wishes for a smooth move. My son is a project manager for a design build firm in Boston, formerly in NYC where he worked on a certain Creative Director’s apartment for a large chain of stores whose shoe closet was bigger than his entire apartment!ReplyCancel

  • Valerie - October 4, 2020 - 10:11 AM

    Laurel, I am so happy for you! Just adore the secret garden! I know you’ll post as soon as the inspection is good, but my fingers are crossed for you till then.
    As another commenter pointed out, the cut floors in front of the fireplace indicate that the original hearth probably extended out about another foot. If this building is important, the historical commission may have pictures of the fireplace in an earlier iteration. Keep a copy of the title search and Google search the names on it; there could also be pictures in old newspapers, etc. of someone standing by that mantle, perhaps a wedding announcement? The Boston Pubic Library is great at helping research historical photos. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to shop for a mantle with the original in mind?
    Best of luck, whatever you do, I know it will be beautiful!ReplyCancel

  • Lynn - October 4, 2020 - 10:07 AM

    So happy for you…your new home’s mouldings are incredible…love, love, love. Just a little plea for the incredible stone mantle and aged mirror shown in one of your examples- really incredible & just my cup of tea! I share your sentiments about making one change, which can bring about a series of new opportunities…I too waited much longer than I should and still have days with a little doubt. But I know it was for the best and that I am strong enough make things happen for myself. My Design career has really taken off and I finally feel I am in the place in my life that was meant to be. Much happiness to you in this new beginning…can’t wait to see what will evolve for you in your new home!!ReplyCancel

  • Dottie in CT - October 4, 2020 - 10:05 AM

    Thank you for sharing some glimpses of what, I hope, will be your new home. I love the living room area. It is classic and beautiful in my opinion. Good luck with moving forward.ReplyCancel

  • Connie Fowler - October 4, 2020 - 10:00 AM

    That living room and the woodwork are gorgeous. And a little garden! I completely agree about the mantel–it doesn’t look right to me at all. I can’t wait to see what you do with this beauty over time. Congratulations!

    ConnieReplyCancel

  • Pattie - October 4, 2020 - 9:45 AM

    I like the Brownstoner. Wishing you good health and happiness.ReplyCancel

  • Diane Bockelman - October 4, 2020 - 9:43 AM

    So happy for you! Change is hard…but your new home looks like it’s going to wrap it’s arms right around you!!! Following with great interest your new adventure!ReplyCancel

  • denise lauria - October 4, 2020 - 9:33 AM

    That was beautiful. I loved what you said about being stuck. Words of great wisdom! Thank youReplyCancel

  • Elizabeth K - October 4, 2020 - 9:32 AM

    Hi Laurel — For thé floors, work with Eco Floor Sanding, based in Watertown. Beautiful enduring work, no fumes to poison the workers or you, lots of choices of finishes (and extra wood sourced from other old houses), years of experience with art museums and other public spaces as well as homes. Berj, the owner, is reliable and straightforward, and also just knows so much that it’s fun and helpful to talk to him about design issues. He tactfully saved me from a too-dark finish in my place in Cambridge and magically produced the perfect wood to replace the ruined kitchen floor.

    I normally read your blog and come away with a smile, good ideas, and continued love for my own cozy-if-odd old apartment. But those windows and ceilings in your new place in the Area That Shall Not Be Named give me serious house envy !

    May all go well –ReplyCancel

  • Gemma - October 4, 2020 - 9:28 AM

    Fireplace talk: that mirror is probably original and the firebox ( probably shallow) was designed to burn coal, either with an open grate system or with an elaborate cast iron stove insert. Having owned and restored a large Montclair NJ Victorian with 6 fireplaces, houses of that period carried millwork motifs throughout the rooms. My house featured a laurel leaf…. yours a flower. It might give you inspiration to get a glimpse of the fireplaces in the other apartments. Btw, the tiles appear to be un-original. Most tiles of that period were small, highly glazed, colored rectangles.
    As a 76 year old woman, my rehab days are over, so I shall live vicariously through you .ReplyCancel

  • Mary E - October 4, 2020 - 9:26 AM

    Hi Laurel,
    It looks like you’ve found yourself a gem. Congratulations! It appears that your kitchen floor & fireplace hearth are the same tile. I could be wrong.
    My only tip to offer is to find out if any of your new neighbors have a dog. Only because I moved into a place that I was expecting to be quiet only to be disturbed by the neighbor’s barking dog. It made me miserable.
    Again…Congratulations!ReplyCancel

  • Ellyn - October 4, 2020 - 9:23 AM

    Laurel, I’ve been reading and loving your blog for years, but have never once commented until now. Thank you for sharing your talent, humor and your life with your readers. I have learned so much about tasteful decorating from you as you weave your own real experiences into your advice. I wish you so much happiness in your gorgeous new apartment and can’t wait to see how you make it yours!ReplyCancel

  • Candy - October 4, 2020 - 9:21 AM

    My excitement for your new home soars like the ceiling in the parlor. And a Secret Garden too…sky’s the limit for multi-seasonal joy in there!

    It’s nice to hear a story with a happy ending these days. Thanks for sharing so much with us!ReplyCancel

  • Jonathan Stone - October 4, 2020 - 9:21 AM

    Congrats!!
    A new mantle will make all of the difference in that room. Something simple for sure. A quiet focal point. The kitchen is definitely filled with opportunity.
    You’re the best. Look forward to seeing what You do here. Best of luck and congrats on becoming “unstuck”.

    Best,
    JReplyCancel

  • Cathy Kerley - October 4, 2020 - 9:16 AM

    Hi Laurel – Amen and thanks for the very true message. Change doesn’t come easy and most of us are pushed to the corner before it’s initiated. But it’s not the end! Congratulations on this new path and being smart about it i.e. Change for the sake of a change. All the best from Tennessee.ReplyCancel

  • Kate - October 4, 2020 - 9:11 AM

    Congratulations Laurel! Wishing you many, many happy years in your new home.

    And just like renovations, people are constantly under renovations too. Keep the good, change the not so good. We are all works in progress.ReplyCancel

  • Frances - October 4, 2020 - 9:03 AM

    Your living room may be facing south, but the bones are just lovely. I love the trim, the height of the ceiling, it is just beautiful. We can’t wait to see how you make it your own. And then you surprise us with that wonderful pep talk. Those words are something we all need to hear, but it may strike some of us more than others. It may inspire them to change their life. What a wonderful gift, Laurel. Thank you.ReplyCancel

  • K Taylor - October 4, 2020 - 9:01 AM

    Oh, Laurel! It’s so cool, and I know you will make it the coolest as you make it yours! Congrats! Good luck! I hope you take us on this journey with you. xoxoReplyCancel

  • BrigittaV - October 4, 2020 - 8:54 AM

    Congratulations on your almost new home! I agree about the kitchen floor and I find your fireplace to be horrendous! (Sorry about being so blunt.) I did not spot the separate dye lots on the tiles until you pointed it out, and then that was almost all I could see whenever I took another look at it. However I also cannot get past the double pillar and how overbearing the whole effect of that surround is. I am sure that you will figure out how to get it to look fabulous.

    My first impression of the few images you’ve posted is how awesome it would look with touches of Gustavian style, but that’s just my opinion. You have the perfect “blank canvas”, and this will be the perfect creative endeavor for you. I look forward to seeing what you do with the place!

    Having a car in a big city — especially one that has a lot of snow in the winter — is mostly a nuisance, and an expensive one, too. Much better to use public transport, and then rent a car for getting out of town. My only concern would be groceries, but in a big city it is probably easy to get everything delivered. And besides, there are probably plenty of great eateries nearby.ReplyCancel

  • Susan Hijazi - October 4, 2020 - 8:54 AM

    Oh Laurel
    Such eye candy and you know I’m off sugar, so that works almost as well.
    Loving the pictures so far.
    Yes Thank You for the pep talk, wish I were as strong and ambitious as you are, I would leap too
    Best wishes on your new home.ReplyCancel

  • Kathy - October 4, 2020 - 8:50 AM

    You persevered and you found it! Congratulations! It looks absolutely beautiful, and you can fix that kitchen and make it outstanding in appearance and function. I am the happiest for you that you got the garden space. Anyone raised in Indiana with our fabulous trees will never shake the need for outdoor space. Plan a cocktail party open house there now!ReplyCancel

  • Pamela Dunn - October 4, 2020 - 8:48 AM

    Just lovely. The secret garden would have done it for me too !
    So glad everything is going in the right direction for you.
    Best always,
    PamReplyCancel

  • Margaret - October 4, 2020 - 8:43 AM

    Congratulations! It is going to be an awesome apartment/home for you. And, it will be equally awesome for us to watch and learn from the renovation changes you make. Please..lamps on the mantle, if only for one staged pic!ReplyCancel

  • Carol - October 4, 2020 - 8:41 AM

    Love it! Looks gorgeous, congratulations!ReplyCancel

  • Cindy - October 4, 2020 - 8:36 AM

    Congratulations and best wishes to you as you work through this lengthy process. Thank you for your blog today about architecture and getting unstuck. Needed that.ReplyCancel

  • susie - October 4, 2020 - 8:36 AM

    I vote for a black and white checkerboard kitchen floor!!ReplyCancel

  • Carol - October 4, 2020 - 8:18 AM

    Laurel, Congratulations on holding out and finding such a fabulous home!!!! It is spectacular and when you put your touches on it- well it will be even more spectacular-perfect I would say!!
    And thanks for the pep talk!! Looking forward to following your journey. Enjoy every moment!!ReplyCancel

  • Laura - October 4, 2020 - 8:09 AM

    Lovely Living room. I would go try to meet the neighbors and see what their fireplaces look like, you might find they are all the same or that someone still has an original one. Worth investigatingReplyCancel

  • Kathi - October 4, 2020 - 8:02 AM

    Congrats Laurel, things always happen for a reason, that NH house was really nice, but you would have had a lot more to take of (yard work, expensive electric & gas bills, etc) than owning a fabulous apt in a vibrant city.This way, you are free to close the door, hop on a plane, travel, live life to the fullest.
    I was thinking of botox remedies, like marble countertops remnants from a granite yard, new light, new knobs ,paint and then I thought screw it, all of that costs money, might as well wait and do it all of the way-its a perfectly fine kitchen for now.ReplyCancel

  • Ani - October 4, 2020 - 7:57 AM

    This place is simply perfect for you! Congratulations! I will send you Info for my painter and floor person, plus some background about them.

    So happy for you Laurel.ReplyCancel

  • Em - October 4, 2020 - 7:37 AM

    I’m clearly no expert, but even from the side view photo of your gorgeous living room, the mantel was trying to steal the show.

    Oh, that beautiful room…so happy for you!

    Can I come have coffee with you in your charm-oozer couryard?

    You’re home will be spectacular; well deserved, talented Laurel!ReplyCancel

  • Mary - October 4, 2020 - 7:35 AM

    Big fan of your blog. The person you want to contact is Brent Hull of Hull Historic Restoration. Accredited by Winterthur. Has worked for Barbara Streisand and she wrote the forward of his last book. See google and YouTube… Very approachable. Please do not post my name or email. Thanks.Congrats on your new home.ReplyCancel

  • Tracy - October 4, 2020 - 7:33 AM

    Are you kidding me!? The ceilings! The garden! The windows! Enjoy the journey!!! So happy for you.ReplyCancel

  • marsha Coats - October 4, 2020 - 7:32 AM

    If it were my kitchen I would put a lot of black in there and keep the tile!
    Thanks for the pep talk I may have needed it!ReplyCancel

  • Sue Ellen - October 4, 2020 - 7:23 AM

    Welcome to Boston! It really is a beautiful city – not too big, not too small. Lots of history and culture. With a 2-hr drive you can be on the Cape, Newport, Berkshires, Green mountains, or the Maine seacoast. Best of luck with your move!ReplyCancel

  • Pat from Cape Cod - October 4, 2020 - 7:15 AM

    You are an inspiration in so many ways. I will enjoy your journey in making this your home. You don’t need advice, as you give the best, but if you can afford it I hope you can take care of the kitchen as well as the fireplace, floors, paint before you move in. It’s so stressful living through a Reno. And it wastes valuable time. Also—I would have killed for my own outdoor space !ReplyCancel

  • Amanda - October 4, 2020 - 7:14 AM

    Gorgeous!!! You’ve found a true gem, Laurel! The secret garden is the icing on the cake. It makes me think of a petite version of Rose Uniacke’s garden conservatory in London. I look forward to you writing about all the new projects and challenges that you will take on and seeing your ideas come to life. What a journey! Good for you!ReplyCancel

  • Elisabeth - October 4, 2020 - 7:07 AM

    So happy for you Laurel! Can’t wait to see more. What color will you redo the floors? What color do they look to be now to you – do you think they are finished with just poly as they are? Are they red oak? I think they’re lovely and can’t wait to see what you do!ReplyCancel

  • Pat - October 4, 2020 - 7:04 AM

    Dear Laurel

    Congratulations on your new home! That secret garden is wonderful. Can’t wait to see your progress with the updates.

    PatReplyCancel

  • Diana Bier - October 4, 2020 - 7:00 AM

    Wow, what a great space!
    Can’t wait to see how you make it yours. Congratulations, Laurel, and best of luck in your new digsReplyCancel

  • Patricia - October 4, 2020 - 6:58 AM

    Love Boston! IF I were to move now, Boston would be a consideration. And I would also definitely eliminate the fireplace. Makes way too big of a statement. My favorite mantel was the one you liked. Too bad the proportions don’t work.
    First….get rid of the tile in the kitchen and it can be a tough job. Those tiles were put in to STAY! Once they’re gone you can start the kitchen redo. Maybe keep the bottom cabinets. Find uppers that are taller, maybe have some shelves. Have fun!! Boston-wonderful.ReplyCancel

  • Ivis - October 4, 2020 - 6:53 AM

    Congratulations! What a delight to wake up to this joyful post. I can’t wait to follow along on your journey with this house–and thank you for the inspirational pep talk too. We all need to encourage each other during these times.ReplyCancel

  • Mary - October 4, 2020 - 6:45 AM

    Laurel, such great news. And you are in my favorite City! I used to take the train into Boston when I was a teenager and just walk all over. I grew up in near Cambridge. The city has changed a lot since then. But, I often go back and still walk all over. Good luck on your new Adventure.ReplyCancel

  • Sandy Hiatt - October 4, 2020 - 5:45 AM

    Your apartment is gorgeous, and I hope you will bring us along on your journey! We are almost finished with a reno of a brick Victorian that belonged to my husband’s grandparents. I’ve used BM Shorline, Simply White, Raccoon Fur, and Cement Grey, and per your comment I’m trying not to “paint everything grey”! Lol! I love your blog and look forward to every post! Best of luck on your new adventure!ReplyCancel

  • mlhooey@hotmail.com - October 4, 2020 - 5:26 AM

    Dear Laural– creative, gifted, down to earth, hilarious and beloved mentor, with a past that we would die to have– you have earned your success all by yourself. You can now feel free to settle into a life, and a home that you love. It doesn’t have to be really near your son. You make a home, and he will come. I really look forward to you sharing your new home with us. We are as excited as you are, and we love ya.ReplyCancel

  • Jeanne Young - October 4, 2020 - 4:34 AM

    congratulations, love your apartment, I would want south facing too! mantel is interesting, my uncle had an old victorian with a mantle with lots of mirrors and it was original. if you ever did have a fire in that fire place keeping the over mantle clean would not be easy! is the kitchen floor real tile or vinyl? if it were tile, it is one expense I would put off but the off white counter would have to go! not that you need my advice. fun read on an early Sunday morning.ReplyCancel

  • GL - October 4, 2020 - 4:29 AM

    Congratulations, Laurel! Great to have an outdoor area, no matter how small.
    The fireplace is indeed peculiar. I wonder what’s behind the tile — has the firebox been reduced? And the floorboards in front appear to have a cut-out which has been filled in, why? Perhaps the front columns are a later addition, as they don’t link up to the base of the back pieces.
    I don’t dislike the kitchen floor as much as you do — and it would work well with an Edwardian-style un-kitchen. But here too, the existing proportions don’t work. Is there a window in there? If not, perhaps a U-shape with tall cabinets right across the back wall and no uppers elsewhere might be an idea. Just a thought…ReplyCancel

  • Debbie - October 4, 2020 - 4:22 AM

    Mazel tov, Laurel! I am so happy for you! And I appreciate your pep talk. You’re courage is inspirational. As with instruments, shoes, and haircuts- I believe you should invest in the finest mantle you can comfortably afford. It will have a BIG impact. I also wonder if you were considering taking down the bars from the windows on the living room level? It would be nice- aesthetically and metaphorically.ReplyCancel

  • Cécile - October 4, 2020 - 3:10 AM

    Dear Laurel, congratulations for your new home, as I understand it’s almost yours! And you feel pretty confident. What a gorgeous living room and what a gem of a garden. In my opinion you should get a new fireplace while the kitchen can wait. Wouldn’t you want to get a new kitchen floor also? It’s liveable as it is and maybe you could have it completeley redone in a couple of years or so. My own kitchen in Paris had a botox treatment when we moved in 6 years ago and now I’m thinking of having it redone once more. Botox doesn’t last 😉 all my best wishes, CécileReplyCancel

  • Cécile Bargues - October 4, 2020 - 3:09 AM

    Dear Laurel, congratulations for your new home, as I understand it’s almost yours! And you feel pretty confident. What a gorgeous living room and what a gem of a garden. In my opinion you should get a new fireplace while the kitchen can wait. Wouldn’t you want to get a new kitchen floor also? It’s liveable as it is and maybe you could have it completeley redone in a couple of years or so. My own kitchen in Paris had a botox treatment when we moved in 6 years ago and now I’m thinking of having it redone once more. Botox doesn’t last 😉 all my best wishes, CécileReplyCancel

  • Gaye - October 4, 2020 - 3:02 AM

    Good for you, Laurel! Both on the new place and all that it represents in your life. It is always such a joy to see someone’s hard work and courage pay off. BTW, I think somebody jiggered with that mantle, added those two columns and that peep-mirror. Celebrate, lady!ReplyCancel

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.