Historic Preservation is not for the faint of heart, or the light of pocketbook. If you are handy, or want to become handy then by all means, tempt fate and buy a 1924 house. If you have gumption and a soft spot for the old and forgotten, then roll the dice and look for a heritage home...or let one find you.
I wasn't looking when my house found me.
What originally tugged at my heart was the sadness I felt. It was an overwhelming emptiness, "where was the family, why let the ball drop on this beauty?"
Reality has a different look now. Top to bottom restoration of a 5 bedroom home covered in vines on the island of Maui for a single mom on a paper thin budget would give me great pause at this point.
When "Under a Tuscan Sun" hit the big screen, I watched with tears rolling and laughing until my face hurt. The scene with the hot water steaming out of the toilet left me gasping for air. I knew that plumbing dilemma only too well as one of the ancient bathroom on the North side of the house was a plumber's mystery challenge. The hot water found a way into places it was not supposed to. People appreciated that perk on cold mornings, but that is taking luxury bit too far.
Twenty years later, I have a pretty good understanding of what is involved in buying and restoring these forgotten gracious beauties.
Finding anything older than 1940 in Hawaii is very rare, especially a home in it's original condition still standing. Termites are healthy here.
The last home I restored was a cute and airy 1939 Plantation home in Makawao. My son and I worked on it together, sanding ,scraping ,painting and landscaping. We laughed, struggled and sweated, and it was a bonding experience that I will always cherish.
I have always been big on reuse, re-purpose and recycle before it became popular. Saving antique bed rails to make picture frames ,and rescuing vintage stain glass windows is second nature to me.
The Cypress trees I had to remove became flooring and trim for my home. Those wooden floors shine with a golden glow, offering a special softness under foot.
One of the most fulfilling experiences of this 20 year odyssey was the return of the original family for their family reunion. I had worked hard in preparation for the event. Glimpsing their experiences together, I could see the weekend was filled with love and excitement catching up and sharing memories in the old family home.
My lofty goals have shifted and changed throughout the years. It started with saving the house from demolition, then I thought it was about honoring the history of the original family, then I hung on to building something lasting for my own family. As I sit in the Kona Wing this afternoon experiencing my own staycation in a quiet house, I see that I have come to a place of simple observation and appreciation.
With all it's quirks, flaws and unfinished restoration, the artist in me admires the elegant lines, offset by formidable crown molding, and plate rails. The 11 foot ceilings give me room to breathe and my dreams space to float. The irregular antique wavey glass windows make beautiful patterns on the walls as the afternoon sun shines.
My senses are deeply satisfied as I contemplate true craftsmanship.
A 90 year old house is not too pushy in it's demands for preservation and restoration. It's patient knowing that I do what I can.
This summer I plan to take on the job of painting the outside of the house again. The shingles look thirsty and dry, it's one story, so, I think," I can do this"... maybe I will see who wants to join in a painting party.
Aloha for now,