I remember my first house crush. I was a newbie magazine editor, styling homes for photoshoots, when I first tiptoed through an old Dutch Colonial in upstate New York, drooling over baseboards, fondling doorknobs, and staring longingly out wavy glass windows at pea-gravel paths. I’m still obsessed.
My partner, Jaithan, shares my love for old homes, and together we combed the Connecticut countryside for months, seeking our own diamond in the rough. We thought we’d found it in a 1769 post-and-beam saltbox with magnificent trees framing the facade like bookends, shading a long asphalt roof that I couldn’t wait to rip off and replace with cedar. As we walked the perimeter, looking for a spot to put the pool, I saw a sign. Literally: “No Trespassing: Property of the Rod & Gun Club.” I envisioned a high-visibility dress code of neon-orange Speedos. Another home romance squelched.
Finally, on Philadelphia’s historic Main Line, we found what we named Edgewood Hall, a 1923 center-hall Colonial, untouched for nearly a century. It has original raised-panel wood doors and hardware, but also peeling paint (mostly lead, naturally), loud radiators, and hazardous wiring. It’s a beautiful wreck, but it’s ours.
Along the way, I've learned a few lessons about what's worth saving — and what's not.
With new wiring and Edison bulbs, this porcelain sconce, which we salvaged from a bathroom, is perfect for another utility space: the laundry room.
2. Faucet Handle
Ideal for hanging a dish towel in the kitchen!
3. Built-In Bookcase
This 1970s-era bookshelf will move out to the garage and become a potting nook come spring.
We discovered this soapstone sink in the basement, and my dream is to refurbish it for use in the kitchen.
5. Door Hardware
Made of heavy brass and original to the house; it would be a shame to lose
them. So every knob, latch, hinge, and keyhole is being stripped, polished, and put back into place.
6. Paint Chips
Eep! Old paint — possibly lead — is being removed, but I took a pic to use as acolor
Shiny faux-Federal isn’t my style, so this will go directly from the dining room to the Dumpster.
My inner archaeologist loved uncovering the layers of 1920s wallpaper, with chinoiserie pagodas and cutesy florals. They’re great for inspiration!
3. Switch Plate
While this cover has a nice patina, we’re living in a Wi-Fi world, not a push-button one.
4. Porcelain Sink
Reglazing was an option, but we chose to let this rusted-out sink find a new owner instead.
Steam radiators have old-world charm. They also whistle and clang and take up more floor space than they’re worth.
If I wanted a dollhouse-size kitchen, I’d move back to Manhattan. This ’60s-era one is primed for a do-over.
Eddie Ross, designer and author of , will be sharing his discoveries as he renovates his historic Philadelphia home in our new magazine column, Edgewood Hall. for more behind-the-scenes looks at his project.
This story originally appeared in the November 2017 issue of CQ.