My Old House Online

An online community for people who love old houses.

For all its related stresses, I genuinely do love the process of looking for a new place to live. I'm the kind of person who likes to walk around in the evenings, peering into people's windows to see what their homes look like inside. House-hunting offers the same thrill, magnified—instead of merely getting a glimpse of the kitchen or living room from the sidewalk, you get to poke around each and every room and (even better!) imagine how you'd do things differently.

For the past few weeks, my boyfriend and I have been searching for a rental in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of D.C. For an old-house lover like myself, hunting in Capitol Hill has been a dream: It's all but impossible to find anything for rent that's not in a historic building. Admittedly, we've hit up way more showings and open houses than we've probably needed to, because I can't get enough of seeing what's behind all those colorfully painted row-house façades.

So far, most of the places I've toured have fallen into two categories. The first are the modern renovations, which have been "spruced up" with fresh coats of paint, stainless-steel appliances, granite countertops (is it just me, or are granite countertops the new beige carpet?), and vinyl windows. But for the refinished hardwood floors, you'd barely know you were in an old building.

In the second category are the haphazard conversions, in which lovely old row houses have been split, usually top to bottom, into two rental units. Although these types of places often remind me of the "before" tales from one of our Old-House Insider stories (like this one), I can't help but feel that the slapdash nature of their makeup is actually a blessing in disguise. Because their owners haven't completely "updated" them, they still retain original features like double-hung windows, hex tile, pedestal sinks, and ornate light fixtures. I've even come across a 1950s Welbilt stove and a Victorian-era butler's pantry. (The apartment with the butler's pantry was in such bad shape that, the night after viewing it, I had a dream that Demetra and I broke in to save the pantry.)

While OHJ's editors aren't quite ready to face jail time for butler-pantry theft, I can't help but hope that someday, one of our readers will step in to revive one of these places, saving the remaining original features and replacing the awkward rental alterations with period-appropriate details. Who knows? Maybe I'll be the one to do it.

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Tags: editor blogs, house-hunting, old apartments

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