Tasteful furnishings

Ramsey Hill Condo

Over the years I have worked with many clients who have “good taste”, yet I can only think of a few instances where tasteful the furnishings in a home helped make it more saleable.

The furnishings that appeal to one generation may not appeal to another. There are some classic pieces of furniture that have a universal appeal, they are smaller more versatile pieces like chairs, end tables or must-have furnishings like kitchen or dining room tables.

Sometimes removing the furnishings actually helps sell the home especially if it is a smaller home. Staging also helps make homes look more appealing but staging is sometimes misunderstood. It isn’t about filling a home with furniture. It is more about using a few items to show how the space could be used or decorated.

The condo in the picture sold quickly and the owner sold some of the furnishings with it. It was staged by taking some of the furniture out and rearranging what was left and adding some lighting. Rugs were removed and so were family photos.

Less is usually more and having no furniture is better than having the wrong furniture.

Old exterior 1980s interior

brick turret
Historic brick and stone

What is historic on the outside may look like it was built in the 1980s on the inside. There must have been a lot of condo conversions in the 80s.

The original woodwork was replaced with blond oak and the floors are carpeted. The “old world” charm can not be found on the inside. In fact, sometimes there isn’t anything charming about the interior.

There are several buildings in downtown St. Paul that were factories or warehouses that were converted into condos. The kitchens are all new but the buildings still have exposed brick and timber. They retain their historic charm.

The developers restored unique historic features rather than just gutting the building and starting over. River Park Lofts, The Great Northern, and the Rossmor in downtown St. Paul were all converted from industrial buildings to condos while retaining original walls, windows, ceilings, and flooring.

There are a few great old buildings that are disappointing on the inside because they were chopped up and made into small apartments that don’t make sense. Who wants a north facing condo with one window? The original flooring is gone and brick walls are covered with drywall.

Historic preservation districts have rules about how the outside of a building has to look but no rules about the inside.

The roof, the roof . .

Last week we had a new roof put on the house. I hated to see the old one go to the landfill but it did last 31 years. Repairs were made to it, flashing was added, vents were added but eventually, the roof just wasn’t up to the job. When it rained outside it also rained inside.

Nothing like a new roof to make a house look nice and tidy and almost newish. That is the thing about old houses, they can be retrofitted.  Making an old house more energy efficient in most cases is more environmentally friendly than building a new energy-efficient house.

Tearing an old house down just to build something newer and larger should be a crime but it isn’t.

Over the years our old house has been updated and retrofitted many times. It was built before there was indoor plumbing. There was an outhouse instead of a bathroom. It now has two bathrooms and a kitchen sink and one in the basement, a washing machine, and a hot water heater.

It was built before the telephone was invented and used to have telephones in it. At one time it had cable TV too but I won’t go into that. It has had Wifi for many years.

The house did not have electricity in it until it was at least 30 years old. It was well over 100 years old when we added central air. It would have been hard to add central air before the house had electricity.

Sure there are times when I think that a new house would be wonderful but I know they don’t build them like they used to and building a house is very expensive and not as environmentally friendly as recycling and retrofitting.

If you like old houses you will love St. Paul, Minnesota!

The scariest Halloween ever

How well I remember Halloween 1991. The kids kept coming to the door and I kept sweeping the snow off the porch. By about 7:30 PM they stopped coming, and I gave up trying to keep the porch and stairs free of snow. By then the wind started to pick up and visibility was low. It was wet, cold and windy outside.

The kids had a lot of fun the next day. It was a Friday and everything was canceled.

We got 28, possibly 31 inches of snow that day in St. Paul.

That was the scariest Halloween ever. Happy Halloween!

Snow
Halloween blizzard 1991 – 28+ inches of snow

Sometimes less is more

Alexander Ramsey House
Alexander Ramsey House

Back in the 1870’s the Ramsey house probably only had one wreath on the door during the holidays. I like the simple decorations and they are all cordless.  The inside of the is decorated for the holidays too and there are tours and holiday events Throughout the holidays and even on Black Friday.

Alexander Ramsey was the first Governor of the Territory in 1849 and the only person from the Whig party to govern. He was appointed by the 12th president of the United States, Zachary Taylor.

History might be smaller than you think

The oldest homes in St. Paul are found just West of Downtown in the West 7th neighborhood. They date back to the 1850’s and 40’s which pre-dates Victorian-era architecture.

In the 1850’s St. Paul homes were small and simple, with floors made of fir or maple. The ceilings were high and there weren’t many closets. People did not have as much stuff or as many clothes to cram into closets in those days. Sometimes bedrooms had hooks on the wall and no closet at all. That doesn’t work anymore. (See what is a bedroom?)

The John Lewis house at 412 Goodrich is a great example of a historic home or an old house depending upon your point of view. It was built in 1856 and is one of the oldest houses in St. Paul. It has about 1000 square feet of living space, two bedrooms, one bath and no garage. The most recent sale was in 2015 for about 30K.

1856 house
John Lewis House – 1856

We lost quite a few of these old/historic houses during the great recession and we almost lost this one. It will cost about 45K more than it can be sold for to fix it up.

It often costs more to fix these houses up than they can be sold for which is why they end up being bulldozed, which is a shame. They really do not build them like they used to and they won’t because builders need to build large houses in order to make a profit.

This house didn’t do anything wrong and really doesn’t deserve the death penalty but it is in disrepair and cannot be inhabited.

Little Bohemia Neighborhood Association and Historic Saint Paul are collaborating to preserve and rehabilitate the property. An event to raise money in support of the project will be held on Sunday, November 5, from 3 to 6 p.m. at Bad Weather Brewing, located at 414 West 7th St. The event will feature beer specials, a silent auction, raffles and other activities, including information about the Lewis House.

To find out more or make a donation online go to the Historic Saint Paul web site

There is also a Facebook page for the project

To see what the house looks like in color click on the image below.

412 Goodrich