Old House Journal - - Design -

When a house dates to 1790 and has made it through at least one fire and had mod­i­fi­ca­tions in ev­ery cen­tury since, most peo­ple would throw up their hands on choos­ing a win­dow style. But to ar­chi­tect Mat Cummings, the house’s di­verse his­tory gave him per­mis­sion to play with mul­ti­ple in­flu­ences. “We didn’t want to play the Match Game be­cause there was too much to match.”

Con­sider that the main part of the house has Fed­eral win­dows with large glass panes and thin muntins. A boxy ad­di­tion at the front is a full-on Arts & Crafts sun­room with fold­ing French doors and leaded- and stained-glass win­dows. The old kitchen, with crum­bling vinyl floor­ing and ap­pli­ances that had stopped work­ing, had no win­dows at all.

While do­ing ex­ploratory work in the kitchen area, Cummings dis­cov­ered that a dropped ceil­ing con­cealed ev­i­dence of an old tim­ber-frame barn with large trussed beams. The ar­chi­tect de­cided to ex­pose them and add more where sec­tions were dam­aged or miss­ing, es­tab­lish­ing a farm­house theme.

To bring light into the kitchen and the ad­ja­cent sit­ting room, he used a mix of di­vided-light win­dows: sash win­dows in the kitchen over the sink and taller case­ments in the sit­ting room. Around the cor­ner in the mud­room is, in the words of the ar­chi­tect, a “wicked cool” round win­dow with a key­stone mo­tif at each of four points (shown on p. 23). The room con­nects to yet an­other sun­room through a pair of re­fur­bished slid­ing barn doors that are three-quar­ters glass. “There’s not too much we didn’t touch in the house,” says Cummings.

An­other con­sid­er­a­tion is ex­ist­ing ad­di­tions to an older build­ing. Rather than go­ing with the win­dow style of the old­est part of the house, it’s usu­ally bet­ter to work with the pe­riod and style of the ad­di­tion. For ex­am­ple, an ad­di­tion to a Colo­nial-era Ge­or­gian house dur­ing the early 19th-cen­tury Fed­eral pe­riod would have had win­dows with the larger lights (panes) and del­i­cate muntins typ­i­cal of Fed­eral. To­day, it’s per­fectly ac­cept­able to use the same trick—in­tro­duc­ing more mod­ern glaz­ing—pro­vided it’s done well, says Mas­sachusetts ar­chi­tect Mat Cummings, who spe­cial­izes in his­toric restora­tions. If the new glaz­ing is on the back of the house, fur­ther lib­er­ties may be taken, es­pe­cially if the house has had many mod­i­fi­ca­tions through­out its his­tory.

Fen­es­tra­tion (the ar­range­ment of win­dows and doors on the el­e­va­tions of the build­ing), how­ever, must stay true to the un­der­ly­ing de­sign of the structure. Such el­e­ments as sills, mul­lions be­tween win­dows, and the muntins separat­ing di­vided lights (panes) should be in keep­ing with orig­i­nal de­tails, if not an ex­act match. That’s true of all the new glaz­ing shown on these pages.

A house that has sur­vived for a cen­tury or more has had the ben­e­fit of many adap­ta­tions by its oc­cu­pants, some for the worse, but usu­ally many for the bet­ter. “I find,” says Cummings, “that the old­est houses in the coun­try are far more functional than new ones.”

Tim­ber-frame beams sup­ported by trusses mark the back of the orig­i­nal 1790 house. Ar­chi­tect Cummings brought in the light with sash win­dows, a sky­light, and a French door.

BE­LOW Orig­i­nally part of an old tim­ber-frame barn, the sit­ting room ad­ja­cent to the kitchen con­nects to the mud­room and barn; it’s lit by tall, di­vided-light case­ment win­dows.

ABOVE A long-term restora­tion of a his­toric 18th-cen­tury house with mul­ti­ple add-ons deftly brings light into all of the rooms, mak­ing the in­te­rior both functional and com­fort­able.

TOP In an Arts & Crafts cot­tage, the sun­room af­forded the only lake view un­til a re­cent ren­o­va­tion opened up in­te­rior sight lines. ABOVE Dark­ened by a dated built-in that went to the ceil­ing, this din­ing room was opened up when de­signer David Heide in­tro­duced a pair of fixed, nine-light win­dows and a French door open­ing to a new ter­race.

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