Thursday, March 10, 2022

How to Love an Old Home

It's my fifth anniversary of finding my forever home, so I thought I'd share a few tips and tricks that have helped us have a successful relationship. Before I break it down, I'd love to introduce you to her. First, we affectionately call her O'HOGS (Old House On Glen Springs), but she's technically the Blake House if we named her by her first occupants. O'HOGS sort of fits her personality better, though. Anyway, O'HOGS was built in 1928 and is considered a Florida cracker house, a wood frame house with no fancy details. It's currently on approximately an acre and a half, but was once part of a large farm that spanned miles around and included several barns and a large farmhouse behind us (it burned down in the 70s).

Gray Florida Cracker house with front porch and American flag

When I tell people the stuff I've had to do to keep up with this house they usually respond with "no, thank you!" I get it, though. Who wants to buy a new foundation or own 12 different fly swatters because wasps sneak in through the cracks? Just because I'm in love with my house doesn't mean I haven't had days where I admire all the brand spankin' new houses developed on the other side of the pond. I bet their houses are so sealed tight and all they do is relax on the weekends. But if you find yourself like me, owning an old house that sometimes gives you anxiety, grab a notebook and ponder how to love an old house:

Step 1: Ask questions

Researching old homes is one of my favorite things to do. You'd be surprised by the amount of stuff you can find on the Internet or in your local community. Try searching your address in the following places to uncover its story:
  • Census records or old city directories (you can oftentimes locate these in websites like
  • County property appraisal site
  • Local historians or history museums
  • Public and academic libraries' digital collections and/or special collections
  • Neighbors
My favorite find for O'HOGS was an interview of Alice Blake, the original owner, housed in University of Florida's Digital Collections. I learned so much about my house, the family who lived here, and the city of Gainesville from the 30s-80s.

Alice Blake was known as "Nana Blake" to a lot of neighborhood children. How do I know that? They're adults now and they sometimes message me on Instagram! She had a daycare in this home for a while and saw at least four people who I met on Instagram and my very own hairdresser! Here is one of the pictures they've sent me of her:

Nana Blake and two children

Step 1 is enough to make you fall in love. Look at Nana Blake and those cuties!

Step 2: Listen and appreciate

Now that I know a bit about the history of my home, I try to listen to what it might need or want. It's an old cracker farmhouse that never asked for ornate Victorian details or grand staircases. I respect that. I've also learned to listen to its creaks and make sure it's not in need of support. I know there's a spot in the dining room that always says hello when I step on it and two of the three front doors need a little extra help from my hip to open. I love and appreciate those little house quirks.

Side note: I don't know the full history of how we ended up with three front doors, but how fun is that? It helps me feel connected to the outside. 😅

Step 3: Have fun together

I know I literally just said something about not adding ornate Victorian details to a cracker house, but hear me out with this next step. Yes, as a wannabe architect, I am a strong believer in honoring and preserving the design of your home. Except I'm designing a hobbit-themed kitchen right now and I feel a bit like a hypocrite. But hobbits are all about wood and stone, and hosting visitors. So a wood-frame house with three front doors makes me feel like I can get away with this. And you know what? It's so much fun and I will take up cooking, so win/win.

Hobbit house
This airbnb is inspiration for my kitchen reno

Step 4: Buy it a new pair of shoes

Technically this should come before the step above, but I wanted to wait a little longer before being a buzzkill. Imagine if you had to sit in the same spot for 100 years and endure hurricanes and thunderstorms every year, along with countless bugs crawling all over you. Your back would probably hurt, right? Your feet would be tired. Your skin would be itchy and gross. Before I was allowed to do anything fun to my house, I had to address foundation issues. I needed to protect its siding and replace some of the windows. It was not fun and did not help me fall in love, but once it was done and out of the way, I felt like we could focus more on what we loved about each other. 

Steel smart jacks

So if it needs it and you can financially afford it, buy it its shoes (foundation) or dress (paint) to make it feel refreshed. O'HOGS needed several pairs of shoes. We found out that the living room was supported by an old water tank from a well! And I still don't know why there's a light bulb under my house, but I hope it's because some adorable creature lives under there.

Blue house
When we bought it in 2017

Gray house
New dress, new shoes, new cat in the window

Step 5: Slow down and say I love you

Sometimes I run my fingers along the porch rails, admire the view of the old oak trees, and tell my house that it is a good house. Last night I sang my favorite song to it and that's not weird. I just really love this old house and I'm sure if you followed these five steps, you would love your old house too. 😍

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