Interior designer and star of HGTV’s “The Rehab Addict” shares why she loves preserving a home’s history and how it benefits our environment.
How do you incorporate sustainability into your life and work?
We go by the motto, “the greenest house is the one left standing.” We live between several very old homes. We focus on repairs versus replacement. Our family is hyper-sensitive to recycling. We live in walkable neighborhoods and bike, walk, or run anywhere that doesn’t require a plane.
Why is flipping old homes important to you?
We don’t flip old homes — we preserve old homes. It’s so important for people to realize that you don’t have to destroy the original features of a house to make them appealing to buyers. We have focused the past two decades on educating buyers and highlighting the really cool, unique features of century homes. Once people understand the story behind their houses, they get why it’s so special to have dining room walls with oak from trees that are over 300 years old versus an open floor plan.
They fall in love with the tile that was handmade in Europe over a hundred years ago and put on a ship to America rather than tearing it out to replace it with someone thing that is mass-produced and new. We will never have the ability to recreate these unique homes. We don’t have the tradespeople and we don’t have the old trees. We aren’t just saving houses, we are saving history.
What would you recommend a new homeowner do to make their home more energy and water efficient?
This sounds silly, but most things are common sense. First, your old windows are the best product you could ever get. However, you need to maintain them. Simply spending a few hundred dollars doing repairs instead of spending tens of thousands in replacement windows will make all the difference in energy efficiency. Simple dollar pieces such as new washers in old faucets can stop drips quickly. Homeowners are so quick to replace when all that’s required is simply repairing and maintaining. We also love digital, adjustable thermostats. We monitor all our homes to get the best bang for our buck with energy costs. Also, door monitors are a must. One door left open in summer will ruin our budget. The dinging keeps us all on our toes.
Why is buying an old home a great idea for families?
It’s only great if you go into it eyes wide open. Research the history, track down the old owners, and involve your children in the process. It’s a magical experience, and it truly teaches your children to appreciate history. How fun is it to remind them that when it was built, there may not have been electricity? There were no phones, no TVs.
Also, old houses are safer than new builds. Why? They were built with very dense, old growth lumber which doesn’t burn as fast. They also are stronger. If they are standing in 2021, then depending on the region, they have proven to be stronger than tornadoes, earthquakes, or floods. These houses were built rock solid, and with the right love and care, they’ll be around long after we are all gone.