I am a sucker for before and after photos, especially with regards to building rehabs in the city. We recently went to a Lafayette Square house tour, and many people on the circuit had some amazing before & after photos. It's staggering just how dilapidated some homes were allowed to get over the years. I stand firm to the opinion that tastefully restoring a building to it's original glory is one of the biggest impacts you can make toward improving St. Louis.
I look at some of the dilapidated buildings commonly posted on ecology of absence blog, and get so discouraged. It's easy to feel like half of our city is crumbling and beyond repair. However, that just isn't true. It takes the right kind of people with the right skills, determination and of course $$ to turn these ramshackle dumps into truly functional, stately, proud spaces.
Since we're in the process of listing our home and searching for a new one, we've been looking at a lot of homes lately. I have yet to see a tasteful remodeling job from the 1970's/1980's. Horrid years for kitchens and bathrooms in my opinion. However, my tastes probably run against the norm. We love metal cabinets. When we remodeled the kitchen in our current home, we considered these, but the cost was out of hand and the suppliers limited. We went with a traditional, contemporary look. And since the home is not a stately century home, rather a mid-century ranch, we felt it appropriate.
It just makes me wonder though, how many people get rid of the old or original qualities and finishes in their old St. Louis homes simply to get something new and fresh in there. I for one am way more intrigued by the original finishes. Gut rehabs do not appeal to me. The weird thing is, the more expensive homes (~$265K - $300K) in TGS, TGE and Shaw are total gut rehabs, complete with fancy modern jet tubs, granite counter tops and kitchen islands. I guess that's what the modern urban home buyer wants. Not me, I like the original floor plans, pocket doors, light fixtures, stained glass, wood trim, crown moulding, plaster, wood floors, etc.
I realize many of these beautiful homes were stripped of their original features and charm, and that's how many of the dry-walled homes came about. Still, I'm more drawn to the original charm. However, the odds are against these original fixtures. The elements of time and nature wear aware at their physical components. Styles change, and people feel pressured to keep up with the times. The city has changed. There was a time when the city was teeming with people and housing was limited. Many stately homes became too expensive to maintain after the boom times, and they were subdivided into apartments, etc. This robbed many homes of their original design.
It amazes me that a 100+ year home can still retain it's functioning bathtubs and hardware. I mean, do you expect the Chinese Home Depot rigs to work in 100 years? I don't.
It's also amazing to me that several people on the Lafayette Square house tour stripped layers of lead paint off pocket doors, windows, stair cases, etc. That is truly a labour of love. A labour that makes St. Louis a very, very special place. Cheers to all you tasteful rehabbers out there. I am truly inspired.