solid oak front door of our historic home in La Grange

To Match Or Not To Match

Remember when I said, ” pick the most critical items to match, bite the bullet on those items and find other places to save money?” (read more here)  Well so far, it seems everything has been deemed critical, so we need to find ways to save money.

Because exterior details tend to be more permanent, architectural features of a home, most are critical to match. Mismatched windows, foundation or architectural styles ruin the overall curb appeal of a house and are almost impossible to fix later.  Erik Johnson drew our plans to match the style and details created by the original architect, Howard Van Doren Shaw (see Decisions, Decisions)  Now we need to bring this plan to life with the right selections without pricing ourselves out of the neighborhood. So far we spent extra money to match the foundation  with reclaimed limestone and completely blew the budget on the awesome matching custom  Kolbe windows. It’s time to find a place to save.


Remember the existing moss covered cedar shake roof? It was neither functional nor historically correct. Cedar shake roofs were all the rage in the 90’s, but in 1894, cedar shingles were in (read more about historic roofs)

Cedar Wood Shingles Up-Close


Cedar shakes were hand split from logs . They are uneven and rustic.







After 1840, when commercial sawmills were common, people preferred the more refined look of a shingle that had been sawn on both sides for a smooth, even look.



Since the entire roof has to be replaced, we don’t have to match the existing one. If we want to be historically correct, we should replace our mossy, rotten cedar shake roof with a cedar shingle roof. The estimate for a cedar shingle roof came in at $58,000, which made deciding not to be Historically correct a pretty easy budget decision.


If we had an unlimited budget, we would have used cedar shingles, but going back to our “Needs” , “Wants”  and “Willing To Live With” lists, we have to make some tough decisions. Roofs get replaced (the last one only lasted 10 years due to tree overgrowth and poor installation) so we’d rather invest our money in more architectural elements.  I want a cedar shingle roof; I can live with an architectural asphalt shingle roof  to save money. We just saved $30,000.

Because interiors are easier to remodel and often necessary to change with the times, we have more freedom in our selections on the inside. Our goal is to be true to the architectural bones of the house, but flexible enough to allow for the way we live today. I don’t want to live in grandma’s frumpy house.


We love the original trim in this historic Howard Van Doren Shaw home in La Grange, Illinois.

We fell in love with the original trim of the house. It reflect’s the architect, Howard Van Doren Shaw’s style, and it’s just really cool. Thankfully, previous owners  did not fall victim to trends and paint it. It’s in good shape. We will not touch the existing oak trim,   (The wallpaper, however is GONE!)


But trim in the addition is different. You can’t replicate 124 year old oak. Back then, they used old growth wood. Lumber these days is made from trees that are harvested sooner and are not as dense.


Some splurge for reclaimed wood like the reclaimed sinker cypress we used in this stunning new library but that would blow our budget.

Then there’s the staining, re staining and hand brushed varnishing that happens over 124 years that can’t be replicated. Today, we spray a clear laquer finish on wood that doesn’t yellow the way varnish does. And nothing can replicate the hands of time (NOT faux painting or distressing!).astonishing-ideas-updating-80s-oak-cabinets-before-golden-oak-cabinets-were-a-popular-trend-in-the-80s-and-90s-photo-courtesy-brushed-interiors2-5

Dave wants to try the old fashioned techniques on new wood, but I can’t get past the nightmare of “golden oak” trim from the 80’s. The stuff everyone couldn’t wait to rip out or paint white.

kitchen in the Historic Biltmore Estate, built in 1895.


And here’s the thing. Most of the addition will be kitchen, baths, and laundry, which in 1894 were considered the servants’ areas. The doors and trim in these areas were simple and  did not match the more elaborate trim found in the rest of the house. Families didn’t hang out in the kitchen. If we really want to be historically correct, our new kitchen would be small, bare, and simply trimmed with a cheaper wood. Since flush toilets were just being introduced to homes in America, our bathrooms might have been an outhouse.

So we decided to order paint grade poplar wood rather than rift and quarter sawn oak for all the new trim. Any of the original oak trim that is affected, we will try to save or match. This saves us around $20,000.

We also will re purpose as many doors and windows as possible from the spaces we demolished. This saves money and adds to the authentic feel of the addition.We had to consider height, swing, and type of wood, so this took a certain amount of super human patience.

Since most of the demolition took place in the “servants area” most of the doors are made of Douglas Fir, and can not be used in the existing parts of the house that have stained oak.

Lists of “doors available” were compared to ” lists of  “doors needed” more time then we would like to remember.

_DSC5595We also planned to use the three windows pulled from the old kitchen  in the new breakfast bay.



It turns out they were too wide to make the radius in the bay work so they went to the window graveyard in our garage (notice the weights?)


We had to buy 4 more of those crazy expensive custom weight and pulley new windows.


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