My house was built in the late 1940s. It is on the old side of the curve by U.S. standards.
Many people have owned the home and have made significant renovations over the years. The footprint of the house has expanded by at least a third. Most of the shag carpeting is gone. And much of the original wallpaper has been removed. Fresh paint has been added to the walls. The kitchen cabinets have been replaced at least once.
The changes to the house illustrate something important. All of the previous owners viewed the house as a worthwhile investment and contributed a great deal to its maintenance and improvement. Only a fool would update the paint color on a crumbling structure.
My wife and I bought the house in 2013. We quickly outlined our own agenda for renovations and improvements. We have made a number of our desired improvements, but we have not changed the nature of the house. It will never be a “mcmansion” complete with a mudroom and lockers. It has an eccentric, mid-century modern design, and we love it.
The simple truth is that we could never afford to replicate this house. We benefit greatly from the investments made by previous owners. We have inherited their blood, sweat, and tears. Eventually, new owners will inherit all of that plus our small contribution. Through good stewardship and creative vision, we will pass on a better house than the one we purchased. This is the beauty and allure of an old house.
I will admit that our house has its warts, but the foundation is solid. Had there been a significant flaw, the house would have been leveled by a previous owner or an insurance company in an earlier decade. I tend to trust a structure of brick and stone that is seven decades old.
Some may say that we are just slaves to the past. Some may say that we are foolish for not discarding the tie that binds. To a degree, these criticisms are fair. I can’t make my house into something that it is not.
However, the fact remains that I could not build what I have now on my own. I don’t have the intellect or financial resources to do it. I’m more prosperous in the old house.