In this episode, Stacy chats with Karyn Norwood, an architectural historian and teacher. Karyn founded the popular Instagram account, What Style is That? an educational and fun side-project where she photographs, identifies, and labels the defining...
In this episode, Stacy chats with Karyn Norwood, an architectural historian and teacher. Karyn founded the popular Instagram account, What Style is That? an educational and fun side-project where she photographs, identifies, and labels the defining features of old American architecture.
Also, Stacy and Ashley discuss when, and if it’s ever ok to “fake” historic features using modern replacements.
Eco-Strip is the exclusive US distributor of Speedheater™ infrared paint removal products from Sweden. Used properly, the Speedheater™ 1100 and the Cobra infrared paint removers reduce dust from paint scraping, and they don't release toxic lead fumes into the air. Order now and get $20 off your entire order when you use the coupon code truetales1.
The Window Course is a step-by-step do-it-yourself program that will teach you everything you need to restore historic wood windows successfully. The information is comprehensive and taught with Scott’s signature approachable style. For 10% off, visit The Window Course and use the coupon code truetales.
Thank you for listening to True Tales From Old Houses.
Until next time,
Stacy Grinsfelder 0:00
On today's show me and my friend Ashley from The Gold Hive, tackle a listener question about when to stick to original products and when it's okay to fake it. Honestly, it was one of the most challenging questions to date. And as you already know, there is no right answer. Also, you'll meet my guest, Karyn, who started an educational side project, photographing and characterizing the defining features of old houses--Super interesting. She'll give us a crash course in terminology, and the labeling mistakes that people make all the time. I know I'm certainly guilty of it. But first.
Stacy Grinsfelder 0:33
I'm Stacy Grinsfelder from Blake Hill House, and I am the host of True Tales From Old Houses.
Stacy Grinsfelder 0:46
Hello, hello, and welcome back. Before we start, I have a couple of announcements and I want to share some information about a blog article that I wrote for Blake Hill House. Now I've been pretty lucky in this house. It has most of its original features intact, and I have not been forced to make too many difficult decisions. So far, my belief has always been if it's original keep it but I've been faced with my first dilemma. Blake Hill House has most of its original shutters. They're louvered, so technically, they're blinds not shutters. And a story that I had always heard about shutters was that before houses had storm windows, they had shutters, but once the use of storm windows became widespread shutters were no longer used, and they were often removed. We're talking about more recent olden times not way back when shutters were invented. Well right now currently, our house has low profile, you know, mid-century aluminum triple track storms and shutters most all of the original shutters, I suppose on two sides of the house. I am mentioning this because last weekend I removed some of the shutters to clear out the back window and wash the mildew off our siding. At this point. Our shutters really are just bat boxes. Before I put the shutters back on, I stepped back to take a few photos and I realized that I think the house looks better without them. And that's my dilemma. Remove them and store them in the basement, or leave them up? Well that sent me down a rabbit hole of the history of shutters and blinds and by the way, none of my research corroborated the story that storm windows took over the job of shutters. They seem to have coexisted quite nicely. So I still haven't made a decision, but if you want to read more about shutter and blind history and see photos of what I'm talking about, I invite you to read the full article on my blog at BlakeHillHouse.com. And I've also posted a link to it in the show notes and let me know your opinion. I'd love to have you weigh in. Should I keep them up or take them down?
Stacy Grinsfelder 2:37
Okay, big announcement we are doing another merchandise run from May 3 to June 7 only. We did one last fall and it's been so much fun to see all of you showing off your True Tales From Old Houses gear. This spring I'm going to offer the same unisex t shirts and hoodies again, and we're adding a long sleeve t-shirt and a work apron, which I am particularly excited about. My philosophy is that all clothes are work clothes if you wear a work apron over them. Another new item is a tank described as ladies cuts, but you know me, I never tell anyone how to dress. Wear what makes you happy. I'm going to do this just like we did last time. From May 3rd to June 7th, I'll take your reservations-- basically pre orders for gear, and when the merch run closes, we'll have everything printed to order. When it arrives, I'll send you a notification via PayPal and as soon as you pay, we'll ship within two business days. It all went very smoothly last time, and I expect the same for this round. You'll find a link to the merchandise, photos and pre-order form on the sidebar of the True Tales From Old Houses website, and I will link it in the show notes too.
Stacy Grinsfelder 3:44
I have one more quick announcement. I got a message from Jean, who is the archivist from the Lombard Historical Society in Lombard Illinois, which is 20 miles west of Chicago, and they are offering virtual tours of historic Lombard homes in May. Now the event is free, but they do accept free will donations. It sounds like a lot of fun. The virtual tour is a video produced by students at a local vocational school. And the narrators are the Kirkwood players, a local theatre group. The histories were curated by Jean and her co-worker. So check it out. You'll find a link again, of course on the show notes. If you have information, events, workshops that you'd like the old house community to hear about, please send me an email via the contact page, and I'll announce it on an upcoming episode.
Stacy Grinsfelder 4:46
Once again, it's time for Q & A, and I have invited Ashley back to answer a question with me during this segment. So Ashley, are you there?
Stacy Grinsfelder 4:57
Great. Hi Ashley. Welcome back. Welcome back.
Thank you. Thank you.
Stacy Grinsfelder 5:00
Are you ready to answer another question with me today?
I'll try. I feel like all my other ones, I'm just kind of winging it and making stuff up as I go. So let's hope that this next question, I just nail it.
Stacy Grinsfelder 5:12
The question today is, "What kinds of modern products are available that can help preserve old houses? When is it okay to fake it, and when is historic always better? Would you like to start us off today?
Um, do you want to start us off Stacy?
Stacy Grinsfelder 5:30
I could start. This one is a really, really tricky one, because it is so subjective. And that subjective nature of the answer also becomes incredibly controversial, because there's such a wide variety of old house owners. So I know...where do I start?
That's why I threw this right back at you, Stacy.
Stacy Grinsfelder 5:48
So yeah, yeah. Thanks for that. Thanks for that.
Stacy Grinsfelder 5:53
Now, my house has been not updated in a terrible way, but it has been changed over the years, and I'm, I'm working against or with modern products now. So we're not going all the way back. There's nothing on my house that's all the way back. Well, except one, two windows, which on the exterior have probably the original oil paint. But everything else I'm kind of dealing with what's happened between then. So I'm not forced to make a lot of those decisions all the time, I'm just dealing with the hand that I've been dealt so far. I think it's always worth it to look at the historically accurate product first. And I'll always,--if I have to make a choice, I'll always look at that one first and weigh the pros and cons. I'm not in a historic district, I'm not-- my house is not designated a historic house. So I have complete autonomy, as far as choosing the choices that I do. A lot of the one thing I guess I would counsel people to look at, is is things-- like let's talk about columns, for instance, columns, you can get in any number of product, you can get PVC columns, you can get metal columns, you can get, oh, I don't know, there's any number of them, fiberglass, you know, to replace things. A lot of times, when a house was built-- and check this out first-- a lot of times, they were built in a way, especially columns where the base was the sacrificial layer, those were actually meant to come out and be replaced over and over. So maybe it's worth it to keep your column or repair your column, and then look at a base that would work better for you or for your climate or something like that. Maybe that's where you might want to consider modernizing is a column. I'll use-- I have a porch, a street side-- I call it the street side front porch, and I'll give you an example of what I did there. That was an original tongue and groove. I'm sure it wasn't the original, it was probably the second one maybe from my 130 year old house, and it was tongue and groove painted. And it's on a side of the house, it's on the north side, it's a small porch, the sun never touches it. So it's always covered with it's always cold, it's always damp, it's mildew, the whole thing was rotten, destroyed, destroyed all the pillar bases or the column bases that are on my porch. So when I replaced the porch floor, rather than putting tongue and groove, painting it, which would have been historically accurate, I actually went with sustainably harvested cumaru instead, which is really similar to-- just to compare it, it's like teak. Think about teak. So it's meant for, you know, boats, wet situations, and so all I have to do every year is oil it, and it looks brand new. It's not going to rot, it's not going to as long as I keep it clean, you know, rinse it off some it's not going to get mildew, or mold or anything like that, and if that's not rotting from the bottom, then my column bases are also going to stay a lot more solid. It's kind of an out of the box choice. But it's a small porch. It's not a wrap around. So it wasn't going to really change the overall look of my house in any way. It was just going to make life nicer for me, and for the next person who's going to live here. I mean that cumaru is not going to go anywhere for probably another 120 years.
Stacy Grinsfelder 9:13
Right. Yeah, and I appreciate that perspective. And I think one way to kind of make a judgment call on when it's appropriate to use a modern product versus an old product is, is looking really at what someone's intentions. And I think very often when especially old house purists get really upset is when someone replaces something because they think it's lower maintenance, and a lot of our modern day products, I find to be much higher maintenance. So when someone puts in a vinyl window or a composite deck, you cannot powerwash that composite decking the same way you can with wood that you mentioned that you re-oil. With a vinyl window, once it starts to bow or the the plastic starts to break down, you can't repair it, and so then you have to replace the whole thing. And so that's why I really love old things. That's why you love them. I'm sure most of the people listening are like, yeah, that's also why I like wood is because I can sand it or seal it, or I can, I can fix it. And so I think sometimes some of the modern day products are looked at, with, uh, rightfully so with like, kind of sneer or something is because they end up making things worse down the road, or those products can like they can rot out the entire window frame. And then you now have a whole other situation. So I understand why those are disliked. And I appreciate what you did, because you now still have wood, and you maintain it with an oil, which is also fitting with your home. Even though the wood isn't the same wood, it's a better wood for your needs.
Stacy Grinsfelder 10:48
I like to think about maintenance in terms of what I have to do. But I also don't intend to leave a problem for someone else. And I think that's maybe the step that sometimes is missed, you know. We're just looking at what's right in front of us and what is going to be easier for us without thinking about the house in the future owners. I mean, I can't make people care about others. I mean, gosh,
We can try
Stacy Grinsfelder 11:14
That;s right. Yeah, we can try. But I guess when I'm thinking about what's best for the house, I'm also thinking about helping other the future owners make wise decisions, too. I'm a little worried about my floors here. I usee Rubio Monocoat, which is really a different product than most people would use. Most people would use polyurethane. So I do every now and then get a little bit, you know, anxious and hand-wringy over how somebody might, what they might think about the floor. They might not realize what it is, and they might try to put poly over it, or they might clean it with something harsh. And so I'm not moving anytime soon, but I'm already planning my endgame like, Alright, I'm going to leave a little folder, and it's going to talk about Rubio, and they can make their own decisions about how they want to handle it, but as long as they know what's on it, they can at least maintain it properly.
Stacy Grinsfelder 11:27
I'm not planning on moving anytime soon, either. But I also have a binder ready to go for when someone comes in. And they have all the products and they have all of the receipts, and they know everything that's in there. But you can bet that I'm going to spend a lot of time like making the list of how to take care of my house, which I'll have a hard time not calling at my house when the time comes. But
Stacy Grinsfelder 12:26
When you aren't living there anymore, it will become the Goldman house because it's never the house, right? I mean, I still live in Dorothy's house, even though I've lived here for seven years. So when I leave, it'll be like, Oh, yeah, that was Stacy's house, but it's never going to be my house until until I'm gone.
Stacy Grinsfelder 12:41
That's interesting. Yeah, that's a good point. There's a ton of products out there that are really helpful that are modern products, like Abatron. I know you've used that for repairing wood, and that's a great way of keeping that original wood intact. But then patching wherever there's a problem, and it's solid and good and has been tried and true outdoors. And that seems almost like a magical product in a way. That's great for old houses. Another thing I was thinking of too, beyond like maintenance or repairing of houses is. in our old house, we don't have any of the original electrical. We replaced the knob and tube with romex when we remodeled and it was just the natural thing to do, but we did install push button light switches. And some people might go Oh, you're faking it. But also like, they're so charming. So sure, yeah, I want those push buttons, switches. And it's a little bit of a nod to what the house originally had, because our house did originally have electricity. So they would have had those push button switches and I find them really charming, and I think they're they're like a really subtle reminder of the fact that we are in an old house. And even if we update the walls or if we repaint and stuff, there's something about it. Even though they aren't original to the house. I really like those little nods to what once was.
Stacy Grinsfelder 13:57
Talking about faking it to you know, you brought up a good point it made me think about it. When you're talking about electricity, my house didn't have electricity when it was built and probably didn't I don't think it had plumbing either. I-- maybe --that's kind of-- jury's out on that. But it was built as a summer house so it had neither of those things. So when I take the little shoe molding off, if I'm making any repairs, I can actually see where they've tucked the wires down. You can see where where they did the original adding of electricity. So I don't feel super beholden to any particular anything when it comes to electrical. I just I choose something that's traditional because I think it fits in with the house aesthetic, but I don't feel like I'm required to do something a certain way because this house just never even had electricity. Right. So that's another thing I guess to think about when you're talking about update or not even updating but looking at up a project in which you have to make some restoration versus remodeling or renovation decisions. To look at the big picture, think about it in broad terms. I'm not asking you to give yourself a pass, but maybe is it really important? Is it not? I don't know.
Stacy Grinsfelder 15:08
Well, I think that's also another important part is we we often is old house lovers tend to think about the original house. But there's also something to appreciate about the evolution of the house and the life that the house has had. At one point, your house got electricity, and that was probably the coolest thing to the family that was living there at that time. And there's something neat about when you put a light fixture in, you pick someone that was period of the time that electricity would have been added to your house. I can see the schoolhouse lamp behind you, that's also very charming. So it's like, it's nice to still incorporate things throughout the history of the home, and I think a lot of people would be surprised by how many old houses have an old component that was added 10 or 20 years after the house was built. And there's no shame in enjoying that part too. So like even the purists can enjoy the old-old to the semi-old to the not-as-old, and I think the evolution of our houses are something to appreciate too.
Stacy Grinsfelder 16:04
thank you so much, Ashley for doing this again today. And it's great to see you again.
Stacy Grinsfelder 16:11
This season. I have a question for you. And it is, "What is the weirdest or most surprising thing you ever found in your old house?" I love that people are getting into this and I have a few answers to share today. The first is--It looks like Kate was peeling about 10 layers of wallpaper off the walls of a porch which had been converted into a bedroom, and she found pretty strips of fabric used as drywall tape. I think that's fancy and resourceful. Janelle found antique golf clubs in the basement ceiling. I feel like there has to be more to the story, but that's all I've got. Did somebody hide them or forget where they put them? Forgetting is the likely scenario in my house. And finally, Amanda found an oxygen tank left by a former owner a doctor. My first thought was well that tracks-- doctor's office-- oxygen-- But it turns out that the doc and his wife used that tank for their asthmatic dog. When I asked Amanda for permission to use this story on the show, she said yes of course. And her husband Rob told me that they finally sold it last month for $120. So far, that oxygen tank might be the most lucrative find reported.
Stacy Grinsfelder 17:21
Now it's your turn. Visit the True Tales From Old Houses website and submit your answer by voicemail or email. For a voicemail, click on the mic icon in the bottom right hand corner. Please answer in a complete sentence. And you can leave your voicemail using your phone or computer as long as it has a microphone. If you want to send an email, tap contact in the top menu bar. Your privacy is important and I will not share your messages without your permission. Thank you, Kate, Amanda and Janelle, for taking the time to answer the question about the weirdest or most surprising thing you ever found in your old house.
Stacy Grinsfelder 17:56
True Tales From Old Houses is supported by Eco-Strip, the exclusive us distributor of Speedheater infrared paint removal products from Sweden. Used properly the Speedheater 1100 and the Cobra infrared paint removers reduce dust from paint scraping, and they don't release toxic lead fumes into the air. Now that the weather is getting warmer, I'm restoring windows again and I'm definitely giving my Cobra a workout. It is perfect for removing paint and softening old glazing putty. It heats the paint and putty from the inside out and only where you pointed, so it doesn't break the glass. That is so important. For me. It's also been the best tool for releasing paint from intricate details and mountain profiles. The Cobra makes this work so much easier. To find out more visit Eco-Strip that's eco dash strip.com (Eco-Strip.com) Order now and get $20 off your entire order when you use the coupon code truetales1. Squish the words all together-- true, then tales, then the number one-- That's $20 off your Speedheater order with truetales1.
Stacy Grinsfelder 19:02
True Tales From Old Houses is also supported by The Window Course from Scott Sidler of The Craftsman blog. The window course is a step-by-step Do It Yourself program that will teach you everything you need to know to successfully restore historic wood windows. It is self-paced so you can go as fast or as slow as you need. There are several price points to fit your needs and budget, and it complements Scott's books, Old Windows Made Easy and Old Windows In-depth. As I said before I had early access to the full course, and it is excellent. Scott has such an approachable teaching style. The information is very thorough, and it is all in one place. No more bouncing around the internet trying to fill the gaps of your window restoration education. The window course is offered with a 100% Money Back Guarantee and lucky for us, Scott is offering True Tales From Old Houses listeners a special discount. For 10% off, visit TheWindowCourse.com. Use the coupon code, truetales.
Stacy Grinsfelder 20:06
This season has been a crash course in what I don't know. And that is one of the reasons why I'm excited about today's guest, Karyn Norwood. She's an architectural historian and educator and the person behind the Instagram account, What Style is That? Where she posts photos of old American architectural styles and labels their key identifying features. Her project is so much fun and educational, too.
Hi, I am Karyn Norwood. I am an educator, architectural historian. And I am the creator behind What Style is That? an architecture Instagram account.
Stacy Grinsfelder 20:43
Thank you for being here. Karyn. It's so nice to meet you.
Hello. So nice to be here, Stacy.
Stacy Grinsfelder 20:48
I've been looking forward to this. Oh, how funny. So nobody can see this. But I'm recording right now, and I just saw Karyn's cat walk across the screen. So pretty cute-- Maybe, maybe not for you, since you're living with your cat right now, but I think it's adorable. So. Alright, to get started, why don't we--I'd like to start with your background as a historian, an educator, and then we'll get into your current Instagram project.
Yeah, absolutely. Well, um, I have an undergraduate degree in history. I actually specialized in medieval history, which isn't so essential to my daily life today, but it was fascinating. And actually, medieval architecture like that Gothic and Romanesque architecture was actually something that initially got me interested, when I was in my early 20s, thinking about architecture. I also have a master's in teaching education. So I am a social studies, middle school teacher, ismy day job, and I have a Master's of Science in historic preservation
Stacy Grinsfelder 21:52
You have a very well-rounded education.
Yes, there was a lot of wandering in my 20s. And thinking about what I want to do with my life. And I knew history was something that I was super passionate about. And I went from there. So yeah,
Stacy Grinsfelder 22:07
I realized, I was gonna say, I realized my comment may have come across as a little judgy. I was I was impressed, not judging. anybody's path could be as long or short as it needs to be to get them where they're going for sure.
Stacy Grinsfelder 22:20
Well, I found you on Instagram, and you started a very informative and educational account called and you talked about it before, called, What Style is That? And let me-- I'm going to just say the name of it, because if you type in what style is that in the search bar, you'll probably find it, but the actual handle is, @ what underscore style underscore is underscore that? (@what_style_is_that) I assume the full name altogether was probably taken. But I'm curious, how did you start the What Style is That? project and why?
Yeah, so as I mentioned a little bit earlier, my passions are historic architecture, and also education. I worked in as a professional in historic preservation for a few years, and what I was most excited about was the education piece. So teaching people about different architectural styles, teaching people how to research their houses, their properties, National Register nominations, any of that was just so exciting and rewarding to me. And I just really, really wanted to create something that was free, accessible, and a place for me to share all my nerdy architecture, passion with vocabulary and terminology, and just getting people excited about the built environment around them. I mean, there is just so much to see when you go for a walk around your community. And you can, once you understand the architectural styles, and the different parts of these homes, you can go out and just see kind of how your community came together and it's how it developed over time. And yeah, I just-- I started it like that, and I was blown away by how many people were interested in nerdy architecture, terminology and different architectural styles over time,
Stacy Grinsfelder 24:13
About how many architectural, like historic architectural styles are there? I don't know anything about this.
So you can think about architectural styles as, I love to compare it to fashion. So throughout-- and I focus particularly on American architecture, I haven't gone too much into international architecture, though that is something that followers have mentioned, it's something that they're interested in--and they're basically trends over time. So what was, you know, a popular thing. For example, if you think about the when the United States was founded in the late 18th century, this Federal architecture, which is one of our earliest American architectural styles emerged, and it was based off of like, Roman Republic. That ideal of, you know, very classical architecture. And that echoed back into, you know, how people wanted their houses to be. They wanted it to reflect the republican ideals of the new country. So long story short, you know, you can see, throughout American architecture and the history of our country so far, um, many different architectural styles. Off the top of my head, I'm, you know, there's at least like 20, common architectural styles that you'll see, but you'll see regional variations. And, of course, you know, there's architectural styles all over the world. And so there's a lot, a lot
Stacy Grinsfelder 25:41
Plenty. When you talk about regional styles is that based on in a lot of ways, maybe the types of wood and things that were available there-- maybe a specific architect in the area, who influenced other architects? What would cause, you know, certain regional differences amongst different styles?
That's a great question, Stacy. Um, so. So regional variations and architectural styles, I think, can come from a variety of ways. So one, there might be an influential builder or architect in a particular area, I think, also to the regional environment may also play a role in it. So for instance, in the New England area, we do not see a lot of Spanish revival architecture, you know, with like Adobe siding. That's just not so common in our area. So like, certainly building materials play a role. And then also, you can think about in the United States, in particular, historical context. So for instance, you know, Spanish revival architecture came from a lot of that initial-- the colonists who came from those areas coming into the area and settling and then also indigenous architecture as well, playing a role in like the creation of the Spanish revival architecture, because certainly, they borrowed a lot from indigenous communities in the creation of that architectural style as well. So it's kind of a mishmash, right? You have the building materials, you have, you know, regional interests, and then you also have history as well. So where people came from-- bringing that into that community,
Stacy Grinsfelder 27:16
I live in a community that's heavily influenced, influenced, pardon me, by the Raycroft movement. And we have a lot of Eastlake and we have a lot of... all the names just escaped me, I always tell you, I say we're not going to edit, and so when my brain doesn't work, then we all have to suffer right along with it. But anyway, my town is heavily influenced by the Roycroft movement,nd I know that one of the tenants of Eastlake design in particular is that it needs to be both beautiful and functional. Are there other examples of that across architecture or design?
I mean, definitely, I think that form and function play a role in pretty much all architectural styles. There are certainly some where you know, the aesthetics of it may take over. For example, you think of Queen Anne, and there's just so much extra elements that are kind of piled on, and those aren't so much for the function or the structure of the building, but they certainly add aesthetic details to it. But it's certainly like not straight-on applied. I think the best examples are of where you really have like a functional architecture is early on, and like our early building traditions in this country, and again, we think about indigenous architecture as well, again, where the function was super important--not so much necessarily, like all the making it look beautiful. But I mean, there's certainly like Craftsman, prairie, those styles are definitely ones that really focus on, you know, not just having the aesthetics but also making it a functional architecture as well.
Stacy Grinsfelder 28:57
Craftsman was the word I was searching for earlier,
Stacy Grinsfelder 28:59
when I couldn't come up with it. Feel free to interject when you know what my brain is trying to say, but just can't come up with the word.
Whenever you go into an old house, and I know everyone who follows this podcast, loves old houses, you know, you really spend so much time looking at the craftsmanship of old houses. And I think that is something that we don't often see in a lot of modern architecture. That that attention to detail the beauty that comes with like creating
Stacy Grinsfelder 29:28
Well in your account, What Style is That?, you identify most historic houses and architecture based on the exterior only, because obviously, you can't just knock on the door and say, Hey, can I come in and see the inside of your house?
I know. I wish I could.
Stacy Grinsfelder 29:43
If we get really popular maybe we can arrange for that to happen, right? But I'm wondering if so many houses have had so many additions here and there and some of them are those additions are quite seamless, tasteful, hard to tell. Do you see those?Right away, can you immediately look at that and say, Oh, that's not original. Not in a snobby way. But just in a way where you have the knowledge to understand that there's-- even though it's tasteful, and it looks lovely. That is not original.
Yeah. Are you talking? So you're talking about exterior?
Stacy Grinsfelder 30:19
Yeah, definitely you can--It's interesting with historic architecture too. A lot of architectural historians, we want to see an addition not made in kind, meaning we don't want it to be an exact replica from that time period, because that that can often create, like a false sense of history with a building. So you know, with changes in time with additions to buildings, you know, seeing something that's slightly different, is okay, because we can say, Oh, this was a later addition to this structure. But yeah, you usually can tell with it with an --with an addition. It can be tastefully done, or sometimes not always the most sympathetic to a historic structure, and that's what we want.Like we want-- with additions, you want something that's sympathetic to the historic structure, it doesn't take away from that historic structure, but is also different than that historic structure. I mean, you can you can tell that that is not an original part of the building.
Stacy Grinsfelder 31:17
Let me just use my house for an example. This show isn't all about me, but I tend to use my house a lot, because it does serve as an interesting example, in that I have an enclosed porch on what is the street side of my house, but that window was put in probably in the 30s. So it was enclosed very, very early. So for me, we know-- when I moved into the house not knowing much about it, I don't think I really recognized that for about the first 15 months. But if you came to my house, and you looked at it, would you be like oh, yeah, that's not-- that wasn't on there originally. Because it's not-- it doesn't fit anything, you know, with the way we build additions or make changes now with permits and such, and it was done probably by a craftsperson. It's pretty unique and interesting, and also fits well with the entire structure.
Yeah, I mean, with windows are one of those fascinating character defining features of historic styles. So oftentimes, you can look at a building and say, that was a replacement window. You know, for example, if you look at a Federal style building, you might see windows that are 12, over 12, meaning 12 panes over another 12 panes, or nine over nine. And that's very characteristic of the style. However, if I was to walk up to that Federal structure, and I see a one over one window, that's a giveaway to me that it's absolutely a replacement, because a building from that time period would not have had a single pane of glass over a single pane of glass that's just not in line with the the characteristics of the window styles at that time period. And actually, even window technology, right, like you couldn't have that made like a big pane of glass for, you know, a building made around 1800. The technology just wasn't there. That's what-- so Yeah, go ahead.
Stacy Grinsfelder 33:07
That's what I was just gonna say they couldn't make glass that big. So we had to do divided lights and lots of little lights here and there for a very long time before they kind of streamlined that process of how to make glass. And so I wasn't looking, I guess, to, you know, try to stump you or anything, but I'm just so curious, because some houses have a ton of features-- a ton of them, and I how do you narrow down what is?--It's all real. So that's the wrong word. It's not fake. It's all real, but how do you really just, you know, get to the bottom of what house style what a house style is?
So that's also a really good question. Different architectural styles have different character defining features of them. So you know that when you're looking at a structure, it can be high style in that style. So for example, it could be decked out with all of those character-defining features. It might have been designed by an architect, who was really implementing all those things from like the builders, handbooks, or whatever they might have been doing. And then you might also have more vernacular example of that style, which might only have a few of those character-defining features. They're both examples of that style, but one might have a lot more than the other. And again, that is also reflective of the people who are building that their resources. So you might have a high style example from a wealthy prominent family who hired an architect to design it in that style. Or you might have a more vernacular example from a family who were like, I just want to have, you know, the brackets from you know, this Italianate style that's emerging. That's really what I can afford. In my price point. I'm gonna have a local builder make me an Italianate style house that has those characteristic brackets, and maybe those tall windows, but it doesn't have you know, a cupola or a belvedere, and all these other components of the Italianate. So it varies, but there's definitely for a lot of styles. There's, you know, two to three defining features when you're looking at a structure, and you can say, Oh, that is probably that's an Italianate style house right there. Or that is a Gothic Revival for sure. It has the steep gable pitch. It has the the verge board trim. It might not have anything else, but just the way that building is designed and that it has that bargeboard trim, gives it away as a Gothic Revival.
Stacy Grinsfelder 35:36
Interesting. So let's define some of those terms. I guess, for people who are listening, just in case so you've missed. You've mentioned verge board. Can you tell us more about that? Yeah,
Yeah. I wish I wish. I know you mentioned before this like having video because it's so much as you know, for my Instagram, it's just so nice to have that visual, especially when you're looking at different architectural styles. So the Gothic Revival architectural style was really prominent around the the mid 1800s. In the United States, like so many American architectural styles. It was a borrowing from from Europe--Gothic medieval architecture, bringing that back-- the picturesque. So Gothic Revival has often really steep pitched gables-- front facing, and it often has this wood, almost like jigsaw trim that goes around the the gable, and it adorns the gable, and it's very distinctive. It looks like-- I think some people have described it as like, you know, gingerbread trim. And so when you see that that-- that decorative cut out piece of, of wood that kind of is adhering to the to the gable, then you most likely know that that is a Gothic Revival. And it's called verge board. You can also --it's also called bargeboard, as well. So you'll hear those two terms kind of interchain interchanged. Yeah.
Stacy Grinsfelder 36:57
So how about Belvedere and cupola? Yeah, did I say that? Right. It sounded wrong CUPola.
Cupola (COOpola)It's one of those things, too--I find oftentimes I'll mispronounce words, just because I read that about them or I-- yeah, so I pronounce it Cupola. It may, may or may not be pronounced that way, but it is funny because people will often ask me for pronunciations on my Instagram as well, like, how do you actually say that word? And I'm like, Well, I think it's like this.
Stacy Grinsfelder 37:29
Well, I blame my pronunciation problems on living all over the United States. So I have picked up accents pretty much everywhere I've gone and you know, people use words differently in different regions and parts of the United States. So anyway, cupola and Belvedere-- go for it.
Yeah, so a cupola is something that you might see on the top of usually-- it's--you'll see the most commonly on Italianates. You might also see them too on on barns as well. So it's it's a top on the roof. And it's usually, oftentimes, cupolas are dome shaped. They're kind of small. They may have windows, or they may have vents going around all sides of them. And it was for ventilation purposes. Right? So it helped with ventilating the house. A Belvedere is basically-- you can think of like almost a larger, sometimes they're square in shape. They have a lot more windows to them, and you'll see them on top Italianate roofs as well, and they're a little bit larger, lots of windows, and you might have also had that areas as more of like, again for ventilation, but also could have like sat up there as well. It's like a nice window warm room that you could you could be in as well. So that's cool. And Belvedere is and you will see them most commonly on Italianates.
Stacy Grinsfelder 38:41
Is that the same thing as what I've heard called a widow's walk?
You know, I think that there's definitely similarities. I think with the Belvedere in particular, you could say with like the the widow's walk. You can also, I think with a widow's walk too, it was often sometimes a space up at the top of the roof where you might have had like a low balustrade or something like that. Where Yeah, the idea was with that story of like the woman waiting for her husband to come home from see safe. And I think that's that's where that originated from.
Stacy Grinsfelder 39:12
Sure. What are some other vocabulary that you could share with us different features?
I will share-- so I'm just thinking about some of our our most common defining features of different architectural styles so your listeners can hopefully go out in their own communities and be like, Oh, I know what style that probably is assigned to. So an example is the Federal style of architecture, and with the Federal style that again emerged around the time of our new republic being formed. The Federal style a character defining feature is over the main entrance of the doors are the entrances, you will see an elliptical window family and the family is something that you We'll see almost always on a Federal style building. So if you're not sure what style it is, you can tell it's an older structure. Look for that fan light over the the main door, because that's pretty much a key giveaway of that style. Let's see what else Greek Revival which came a little bit later after the federal which, from its name, Greek architecture was really where that style came from. And again, this was a time Greek Revival style architecture. It was the 1820s 1830s 1840s in America, and we had this, you know, nationalistic pride going on in our country. And you went back to the Greek classical ideals of architecture with that. And for Greek revivals, you can look for that almost like temple front, even with high style and vernacular examples of that you will see like the temple like the pediment of a temple, and then you might also see those columns as well, the classical columns on that style. I could go on forever, Stacy.
Stacy Grinsfelder 41:00
Oh, that's okay. I'm not stopping you. Give us some more, give us some more.
So brackets are another term that no doubt your followers have you heard of. Brackets are-- you'll find them underneath the eaves of most likely Italianate style structures. And basically, they kind of are like an L shaped piece of wood that might be cut out in some sort of like curved fashion. Oftentimes, brackets are and they're right underneath that. You've got the roofline of Italian main structures. And the brackets are really that identifying feature of the style.
Stacy Grinsfelder 41:37
May I ask you something about the brackets? They could be either simple or ornate? Is that correct?
Yeah, definitely. Yeah, they can be they can be embelished. And again, with with all the architectural styles, right, there's, there are amazing, perfect examples of this style. And then you'll also see vernaculars examples. And both of them tell a story about the time period of the people who lived in that house, people who live there now in those structures as well. Queen Anne's, you're almost always going to see a tower, or a turret, which is kind of like a smaller version of a tower. I love-- I call them like baby turrets. They're so cute. If you ever see those like little towers that are kind of like sticking out of the side of a building. That's pretty much a character defining feature of Queen Annes you'll almost always see that as well as like, different varied cladding on Queen Annes, and so you might see like scalloped shingles. You might see clabbord. You might see different colors. Queen Annes are all about variety and mixing up the wall to like excite people when they're walking by.
Stacy Grinsfelder 42:39
How about brick?
And yes, you'll absolutely see brick pattern work as well with Queen Anne. They're so varied.
Stacy Grinsfelder 42:44
Now some people say Queen Anne Victorian or Victorian. What's the-- is there a difference?
Oh, such a good question. You asked good questions.
Stacy Grinsfelder 42:52
I actually get a lot of this as well on my Instagram about this. Well, you say Oh, it's Victorian style. And actually, that's not-- Victorian is not a style. So Victorian is a time period, you can think about when you say Victorian architecture, you can think about the late 19th century in the United States. So 1870s 1880s 1890s and of course it goes back to England with Queen Victoria who is in power at that time. But Victorian architecture is made during that time period. So you have Queen Anne. You have stick. You have Second Empire. Those are all Victorian styles of architecture, and the Queen Anne is one of those Victorian styles of architecture.
Stacy Grinsfelder 43:34
So what other styles of houses would fit in that same Victorian period?
Shingle, Second Empire, Richardsonian Romanesque. So anything that's going to be made in that like late 19th century is likely-- you consider a Victorian structure.
Stacy Grinsfelder 43:49
This is also fascinating to me because I feel like I know little bits and pieces but couldn't fit it all together. So this has been very educational useful for me as well. So thank you. Do you have any other vocabulary you think that we should know that would be helpful to us?
One of the things that you will often see on Tudor revivals, you may often see as well on Queen Anne's is this half timbering. And basically if you are looking at a structure that has almost like pieces of wood on the side, and stucco so it's oftentimes wood and stucco and you can think about it almost you imagine you're walking down and we'll be able to all travel soon, but if you're in the UK, you might look up and you'll see you know the wood timber and you'll see the stucco that's called half timbering. And you'll see that on Tudor revivals and Queen Annes, so that's something you can keep an eye out for when you're walking around. Craftsman-- that architectural style you will often often see exposed rafter tails. So it's literally, if you look under the eaves of a Craftsman they often have really wide overhanging eaves underneath them. You, You'll see the rafters sticking out. And that is a really character-defining feature of that style. So look for rafter tails when you're out and about, and you know that your community might have a lot of Craftsman, you almost always see that particular architectural feature there.
Stacy Grinsfelder 45:16
Let's talk about the term revival because we have Colonial and Colonial revival, Tudor then Tudor revival. So where does one end and the other began? And why are they described differently?
Yeah, so Revival-style architecture, and really almost all of American architecture besides like the Shingle style and Prairie style, are revival styles of architecture, meaning they're going back to an earlier time period, and taking features from that. So a lot of people on my Instagram will often say, well, is my house a Colonial or is it a Colonial Revival? And it all comes down to the the time period as one of the big things. If you're trying to think about like, is my house a Colonial Revival? When was it built, because if it was built around the turn of, you know, the late 19th, early 20th century, it's a revival. If it was built in the 1700s, it's a colonial structure. So it's Georgian, it's Spanish, it's French, that means that it was made in that time period. Colonial revivals emerged right after our centennial in America 17 err 1876. There's is again, this like nationalist pride that goes on, and people go back to our earlier Colonial architecture, and put those elements into the revival styles of that time period. So you'll see like palladian windows. You'll see fanlights. You'll see columns on Colonial revivals. You'll see the the Dutch Colonial gambrel roof, all kind of coming back, and yeah, the revival is basically just that, right. It's like bringing back some of those old styles, making it its own to from that time period.
Stacy Grinsfelder 46:58
Interesting. All right, I'm going to switch topics just a little bit, or switch gears just a little bit. And I may be putting you on the spot. But I am curious, what do you consider one of the oddest features of a particular house style? Now I want to clarify and say that beauty is subjective. So the intent of this question is not to disparage any sort of, you know, someone's house style. It's more like, what feature do you see and think to yourself? Well, I mean, that's a little extra, isn't it?
I mean, when you think of extra, I always will just think of Queen Annes and just be like, oh, there's so much going on here. It's so busy. And it's very interesting when you talk to people about, you know, what's your favorite architectural style, people really wide, widely varying that. So, you know, some people might love the simplicity of a Federal building, or love, like the garish eccentricity of Queen Anne. And I think what, when I am most likely feeling upset, or, like displeased with architecture, it's often with unsympathetic additions to historic structures. I think, generally, that's like, where I I find like, why did they do this? That's where I kind of will, will feel upset about it. Because oftentimes, I think historical structures are really wonderful for telling the story of the people who were there and that time period and what was important to people with aesthetic details on houses.
Stacy Grinsfelder 48:30
So what would you consider unsympathetic?
So oftentimes, when I am considering an unsympathetic addition, I will, you'll often see it. Maybe in the front of a building, for example, you might see a porch that was added to a historic structure, or you know, an additional story or, you know, an extra, even an extra room I've seen in front of houses, and when it is blocking the original structure, or kind of overwhelming it in size in detail. That is what I'm a bit when I'm like, it could have been done a little bit better, a little bit more sympathetic and not take away from that historic structure. Because oftentimes, you'll see just crazy things that have been done to an old building over time, for mostly functional reasons, right, people will will add a porch or they'll add another room, or enclose a historic porch just to you know, get that extra space. So it's often done for functionality. But sometimes it takes away from the original building. And I think sometimes that's, that's a shame.
Stacy Grinsfelder 49:38
Right. So just for fun, do you have a favorite style of house?
I feel like I'm all over the place because I-- it's so interesting. I used to be very partial towards English Colonial Revival art--so like post-medieval architecture, I was just in love with but over time My appreciation of architectural styles and how they tell different stories has led to me having a lot of favorites. I, for a while was quite obsessed with Streamline Moderne architecture, which comes about in like the 1920s 1930s, where we have, you know, this kind of streamlined, rounded edges, smooth surfaces, lines, air-- which was echoing, of course, you know, the creation of airplanes and buses and automobiles, and Streamline Moderne was going along with with all of that, right that time period, and I fell in love with that period of architecture too. And I've also just always been partial towards Italianates, second empires. Those Mansard roofs, they're so cute.
Stacy Grinsfelder 50:50
They are so cute. I'm not going to ask you specifically where you live. But have you ever had an opportunity to live in different houses?
Actually, right now I am living in a 1905 or there abouts vernacular or folk house. So this is a house that and a lot of a lot of people have houses like this, right? We have houses that don't necessarily have a particular style attached to them. They were made with the building materials that were available. You know, my house is a Gable front, one and a half storey house that was made by somebody who probably didn't necessarily have means to make a house in the latest fashion. But it's a house from that time period that tells the story of like, you know, people who didn't have an extravagant means to make, you know, a gorgeous Italianate, or when this house was built, maybe a Colonial Revival with all the bells and whistles, and this is actually my first house. So I am hoping-- My dream is to have a beautiful old Italianate one day that I can lovingly restore, but yeah, that's where I am right now.
Stacy Grinsfelder 51:59
You created --I saw this on, I think it was on Instagram, I know you have a Pinterest account, we'll get there too. And it's very, very useful. But you created this really neat house style scavenger hunt page for kids and adults. And I wondered, is that available as a PDF? Is that something that I could put on the show notes that people could download? All credit to you, of course?
Oh, yeah, absolutely. And I have more of them, too. And again, I really just the thing that I love the most is teaching people about architecture and what's what's around them. So absolutely, I think I have more of them that I've made over time. And one of the things that I really like doing is making it approachable, and not, you know, something that might be seen as like snobby or intellectual, but something that is just a part of who we are, right? Our architecture is part of who we are. A built environment is part of who we are, and making it accessible is something that I'm really passionate about. So absolutely, I'm totally glad to send that your way, and then if any other ones I know I have some more that I've created over time, too.
Stacy Grinsfelder 53:03
So these scavenger hunts are really, they're very charming. They're they're worksheets as such, and then they have different roof lines and porches. And then you can, you know, put little marks, how many did you see, and it's a really good stepping stone towards learning these different house styles. And you're right, it's incredibly approachable. And I happen to live in a community with plenty of different styles. But maybe if you don't, then you could keep it in the car. And if you go to a different town, or if you go on vacation or something, it would be a really fun thing to do as a family, as an adult, as a kid, I don't really draw the line there. I think it would be fun for everyone. Anyway, let's wrap today by telling everyone where they can find you. So again, your Instagram handle is What Style is That, and the words are separated by underscores. (@what_style_is_that), and then you have a Pinterest page. Is that right?
I do. I do. I created a Pinterest as well. And I I haven't updated it in a little while, but I will. But on there there you can see a lot of the labelled images that I've created on my Instagram, and they're sorted by different architectural styles, which makes it quite nice. Because you know, my Instagram is just like a scroll, a scrolling feed, and it's usually based on, you know, somebody sends me a house or, you know, I'm inspired by a building that I see outside and I take a picture of it and I label it. The Pinterest is nice because it is all organized by architectural styles as well. I think it's it's the same thing. It's What Style is That.
Stacy Grinsfelder 54:34
Excellent. Well, I'm going to put all of this on the show notes, including some educational resources. And everyone who is listening can refer to those show notes, follow Karen on Instagram and check out this Pinterest page because it is wonderful. Thank you very much for providing that. And I do want to say thank you for being here today here and this has been incredibly educational.
Well thank you, Stacy. I am so excited to be here. I can talk about architectural styles all day. Every day.
Stacy Grinsfelder 55:00
Thank you again, Karen. I appreciate your time.
Oh, thank you. I'm so honored to have been asked to be on your podcast. It's a huge honor.
Stacy Grinsfelder 55:08
Stacy Grinsfelder 55:10
Thank you for listening to today's episode. To continue the conversation, follow True Tales From Old Houses and Blake Hill House on Facebook and Instagram, and for more information about this episode, including show notes, transcripts, merchandise, and to sign up for the monthly newsletter, visit TrueTalesFromOldHouses.com. Until next time.