Vintage Drag

Not all stylistic makeovers are of recent origin – homeowners have had a penchant for remodeling for as long as there have been houses.  Here are a few “Before and After” transformations taken from vintage decorating magazines and a promotional brochure for stucco:


This house had already suffered one makeover before it was transformed again. Probably dating to the 1860’s, this former Italianate style house had been remodeled in the early 20th century in the Colonial Revival style with a centered gable and full-width porch.


The house looked like this when House Beautiful showcased a second makeover in 1964. The eaves have been cropped, but the ornament above the windows gives the cornice an Italianate flair once again. Amazingly, the original 4 over 4 window sash survived both remodelings and was even reproduced over the entry. The house acquired a formal tone which was neither Italianate nor Colonial Revival, but somewhere in-between (with a dash of Hollywood Regency!).


The original staircase so typical of many Italianate houses – walnut with a beefy turned (or octagonal) newel post.


More Hollywood Regency/Colonial flair. The newel has been replaced with a slender version topped with a brass finial. Balusters have been painted, but the balustrade is the original.


This mid-19th century house of vernacular styling hinting at Greek Revival was deemed passé by enthusiasts of Portland cement-based stucco. The image below shows what stucco did for this house…


This is how the house appeared on a 1920 brochure. It looks like the roof pitch was changed to me, but it is hard to tell. Nothing is left of the original exterior that I can see.


The February, 1958, issue of Household magazine celebrated the transformation of a formerly distinctive Craftsman style house into a rather ordinary looking house that could be found in any suburb at the time.  Of course, the design integrity of the house had already been compromised by new windows and what appears to be white paint in the “Before” photo, but the low-pitched roof with exposed rafter tails reveals its true origins.


A Craftsman bungalow shorn of its masonry porch supports looks, well, oddly proportioned while a nominally Craftsman style Foursquare got Colonialized.


A c. 1910 Colonial Revival Foursquare gets… a c. 1958 Colonial Revival makeover!


The caption says it all… What were they thinking?




2 Responses to Vintage Drag

  1. Wow, that last foursquare mutilation is horrible! I stand by my belief that virtually all homes look best when the original architectural style is consistently maintained. Decor and furnishings can easily be changed to reflect current owners’ tastes, but the “hard” parts of the house will always look best when they fit the style of the house.

    The thin metal columns on Craftsman and Bungalow houses have always baffled me. I see plenty of them here in Omaha, and it just looks wrong.

    Interestingly, when shopping for a home in Illinois, we nearly looked at a 1940s Colonial-style built in a very similar style as the “after” of the butchered foursquare above. It sold before we were ready to make offers, but if we had bought it, I would have kept it in a style appropriate with it’s construction. Aside from too many layers of paint on everything and some terrible 70s carpet, it was largely original.

    Thanks for sharing these. It’s neat to see trends of the past, and get perspective on today’s tastes and trends, and realize they aren’t a new concept. I still hope the HGTV fad passes soon, though. The taste and respect for architecture is abysmal these days. I’m waiting for it to just turn into one giant Lowes ad and be done.

    • Glad you liked these vintage makeovers! I don’t think that HGTV is going to lose popularity any time soon, unfortunately. Their role as an economic stimulator is too essential to the current weird world we find ourselves in… if they are no longer there to encourage homeowners to take a sledgehammer to their interiors, there won’t be as many customers for shoddy foreign-made replacement products. The message from our televisions seems to be:


      If there is ever a television show which actually educates people about architecture, history, style, culture, conservation, etc., I would watch it avidly. However, that is not likely to happen because saving the past is not very lucrative for retailers. So, we are likely stuck with programs which push fads and trends and leave the viewer clueless about historical context and the value of architectural integrity. *sigh*

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