We’re always looking for different decorating ideas. When you restore and sell houses, it helps if you have a lot of ideas stored up to rehab any type of building. The good news is that inspiration can come from anywhere!
Sometimes when you walk into an old building that’s been repurposed or a business that has set up in a vintage space you find the coolest things. For instance, a wall that has lost it’s plaster or drywall and exposes the brick underneath—killer. Some people might see it as falling apart or “just old.” We don’t see it that way at all.
Instead, consider it a feature that is unique only to this space. And that’s special! It’s kind of like the theory of kintsugi, where something is more beautiful for having been broken. Or think of it as having a dialog with the past. However you choose to look at it, it’s a fun way to incorporate a house’s past into the present and future.
If you live in a vintage home, you’ve probably encountered lead paint or have wondered if it’s lurking. To be honest, unless a previous owner took the initiative to remove it all, the chances are pretty good it’s someone in the house.
Generally speaking, a good benchmark is 1978. After the federal government banned lead-based paint for consumer use in 1978, most people became aware that it was toxic. So if your house dates back before then, just be aware that the subject might come up at some point.
There is good news, though. If the paint is in good shape or buried under layers of paint or wallpaper, you don’t really have to worry about it. The problems arise when you want to remodel and create a construction zone or when the paint itself becomes damaged. That can mean anything from peeling, cracking, chipping, water-damaged paint.
To see if you have lead-based paint in your home, it’s pretty easy to pick up a DIY test kit. If you want it removed, though, it might be best to consult a pro. Plenty of people do try to rid their homes of lead paint but it’s a messy job—and it’s toxic. We like to recommend the “better safe than sorry approach.”
Here are a couple of tips to remember:
So if you are in the market for a vintage house or already live in one, consider what it might take to get rid of the home’s lead paint.
Have you ever noticed those masonry blocks that appear on some buildings’ corners? We see them a lot, especially with some older, more stately places that we work on. Those block things actually have a name—they’re called quoins, which is pronounced coins. Quoin is a French word that just means corner. Sounds fancy though!
There was a time when those blocks were functional and provided walls with strength and stability. They were also used as decorative features that could add some panache to a corner or give the illusion of strength. Building technology has improved to the point that they’re no longer necessary for the structural support. Today quoins are pretty much used as a way to add visual emphasis or contrast. Quoins are usually uniformly cut blocks (or imitation blocks that are cast) that alternate evenly between long and short lengths, though sometimes they’re all square or some other variation.
Quoins were originally popular in Europe in various incarnations. They can be seen in ancient European buildings, including in windows to add strength, and was especially favorable in the 1600s England and France—so the French term makes sense. The look found its way to the United States in the 1800s when we were a new country and our architectural styles were heavily influenced by Europe. We still see them today, especially with European-style houses that are popular these days.
In some homes and buildings there is a small window above a door or up high that can often serve solely as decoration or swivel open up just a little. Transom windows —that’s their name— come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
Because they are high up, when transom windows are above front doors or above, say, living room windows they can allow sunlight to stream into a room. Also, you can close your curtains but still get the benefits of natural light from the transom window above. Also, when they swivel open, they can allow for air circulation.
Less common today are interior transom windows above doors or front doors in older apartment buildings. There were popular—and necessary—before the days of air conditioning. They allow for light and cross ventilation while still maintaining privacy because they are small and up high. Today, they are still a great addition to homes for both decorative and functional purposes in rooms that need a little extra ventilation. In older homes, they’re a terrific original feature that can easily be preserved.
The term “Eichler” has become practically synonymous with Mid-century Modern houses in California. More than 11,000 Eichler houses were built in California between the late 1940s and mid-1960s, with the highest concentration in Northern California. But here in Southern California, Eichler neighborhoods in such cities as Orange and Granada Hills are still hot properties for folks who like sleek, modern design.
The name “Eichler” actually derives from the developer, Joseph Eichler, a businessman whose architectural aesthetic was said to be inspired by living in a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house. After World War II, returning soldiers and the following baby boom increased the demand for middleclass housing. Eichler’s houses contrasted with most of the other tract houses going up during that era—usually boxy traditional or ranch-style houses. The modern houses simply became known as “Eichlers” because of their unique architecture.
Eichlers are best known for blurring the lines between indoor and outdoor living. Floor-to-ceiling windows and sliding glass doors all but make walls invisible and flood houses with natural light. The floor plans are typically U-shaped, forming an open-air atrium in the center of the home. The genius of the houses’ layouts is that despite all the large windows, there are few if any windows in the front so it’s completely private from the street.
So what are the characteristics of Eichler houses and why are they so different? Here’s a brief list of some of the most notable Eichler features.