With its generous views of Narragansett Bay, the location was lovely. The 1,600-square-foot house was anything but. Built as a tiny, seasonal Cape Cod, it had fallen victim to a hodgepodge of poorly planned additions and remodels, most recently in the 1970s, which rendered it dark, dreary, and lacking in character.
TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Coming to you today from the beautiful, New England seaside community of Barrington, Rhode Island. This is the location of the latest renovation from This Old House.
LESLIE: That’s right. And this is a really charming, renovated Cape Cod home that was built in 1925 with amazing views of the Narragansett Bay. And this is the first time that This Old House has chosen Rhode Island and also the first time that they’ve chosen a house that’s right on the water.
TOM: So the age of the home and the exposure to the wicked seaside weather present unique problems when renovating and was – as with pretty much any old house, this home definitely needed a new heating-and-cooling system. So we’re going to talk to This Old House’s Richard Trethewey about the heating and plumbing redo that happened here and get some tips on the best way that perhaps you can improve your old-house plumbing and heating.
LESLIE: That’s right. And besides old mechanical systems, old homes often also need a new look. This house hadn’t had a major upgrade in 40 years, so the old look? Not so great. We’re going to talk to the interior designers that worked on this project and share some tips on how you can stay true to a home’s age and character but add that modern flair and a fresh, new look.
TOM: We’ll also be answering your questions about your old house. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
First up, though, we’re joined by a man who’s seen a lot of not-so-great “before” houses and a lot of really fantastic “after” shots: the host of This Old House, Kevin O’Connor.
Now, Kevin, this is a case of a location being so great, the homebuyers were willing to change a whole lot of things. Does this surprise you with this house?
KEVIN: Well, the location is fantastic, because everyone wants to live on the water. They want to wake up every morning with those views of the ocean. But living on the water comes with some problems. You’ve got to take into account that the rain is going to be going sideways at 40, 60, 80 miles an hour from time to time, so you’ve got to build the house right.
TOM: Now, what were some of the big (inaudible at 0:03:09) here? The kitchen wasn’t so great, was it?
KEVIN: The kitchen was probably outdated by 40 years. It was narrow and small and believe it or not, the wall that defined the kitchen actually obstructed your views of this beautiful ocean. So you could spend all this time in this house and never appreciate the fact that you’re right on the water. So that came down very early in the project.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And that probably greatly affected the floor plan, as well.
KEVIN: It went from a small, modified Cape that was kind of chopped up to what is now, really, a sort of luxurious, wide-open floor plan.
On the first floor, you can see the water from all spots. And actually, you can see the water from every room upstairs except for two: the laundry room and the guest bathroom. Everywhere else, you’re looking out at the water.
TOM: Now, every construction project is filled with unexpected twists and turns but you had a visit from a hurricane during the construction of this house.
LESLIE: It really put (inaudible at 0:04:01).
TOM: Did that set you back a little bit, huh?
KEVIN: Well, it was a fascinating story and only in television was it a fortuitous event.
KEVIN: We were happy Irene barreled up the coast, because we were talking about how do you build a house on the water and what goes with that sort of exposure?
TOM: Right. On cue, you had a hurricane …
KEVIN: On cue, here comes Irene and it’s Category 2 and then it’s Category 3. And at the last minute – before we left on, I think, a Wednesday afternoon for production – it ended up rolling in that weekend. I remember Andy Tiplady, our general contractor, and his guys – and I was helping – we were pulling a tarp down over the entire house, because it was wide open.
KEVIN: The entire side of the house was gone and the wind was going to come piling through here. And we were screwing it down trying to secure it. Two days later, Irene hits. This area – Barrington, Rhode Island – had the highest sustained winds in all of New England.
LESLIE: Oh, wow.
KEVIN: And we were going to run down here on a Sunday morning with the cameras and sort of do one of those Weather Channel live interviews.
KEVIN: Only to find out it was too dangerous, we couldn’t get in the area. And we came down a day later, there were trees down, power was out for five or six days. But wisely, Andy actually took the tarps off at the last second and let the wind and rain go right through the house.
LESLIE: Just blow right through.
TOM: That was smart.
KEVIN: It was smart.
TOM: Yeah. Because the pressurization issue when you have a hurricane like that is really important. And if you allow the outside and the inside to be, essentially, the same pressure, you’re not going to get the implosion or the explosion that happens when all that air moves around.
KEVIN: Sure. And we were fortunate that sort of all of the materials that would have been damaged by the water – the drywall, the insulation and such – they had already been taken out. So we were down to the studs and just the sheathing and this house could withstand that. It got soaked and then it dried out.
TOM: Great. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Kevin, you want to take a call with us?
TOM: Alright. Leslie, who’s up?
LESLIE: Alright. We’ve got Beth in New Jersey, who’s got a question about her kitchen.
Beth, what can we do for you?
BETH: Hey, guys. Thanks so much for taking my call. My house was built in the 50s and I really love it but the kitchen really needs to be redone and it’s just not in the budget right now. And I was wondering if I could just paint the kitchen cabinets. They seem to be in pretty good shape; they’re well-made. Is that possible?
TOM: That’s pretty much a no-brainer, right, Kevin?
KEVIN: Yeah, I think it is a no-brainer and it’s probably the biggest bang for your buck, because you can get another kitchen. I mean if the cabinets are in good shape, it’s easy enough to change some of the hardware: the pulls and stuff. And all you’ve got to do is put on a fresh coat of paint and you can completely change the look of that cabinet.
Now, we’ve done it in the past and I would say one of the tips is you probably want to end up with a glossier finish: something that you can wipe down.
KEVIN: And we’ve even seen people paint them and then they even put a little, small coat of polyurethane on top of the paint or even mix it in to get that gloss. So, I say go for it.
TOM: There you go, Beth.
You are listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. We’re coming to you today from the set of the current This Old House project in Barrington, Rhode Island.
LESLIE: That’s right. Still ahead, cosmetic issues aren’t the only problems faced by homeowners of old homes. Hidden dangers, like your fireplace, are just as common. We’re going to tell you how to stay safe, after this.
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ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Santa Fe, makers of the world’s most energy-efficient basement and crawlspace dehumidifier. Santa Fe offers a complete line of high-capacity, Energy Star-rated dehumidifiers, specifically designed to effectively operate in the cooler temperatures of crawlspaces and basements. Visit DehumidifierSolutions.com to learn more.
TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I'm Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I'm Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And The Money Pit is coming to you today from the beautiful seaside community of Barrington, Rhode Island, the site of the most recent renovation from This Old House. The guys from This Old House took a pretty dated beach house built in 1925 and transformed it into a beautiful, year-round home.
And a special thanks goes out to Icynene, who is making this broadcast possible.
LESLIE: Now, you guys know that Tom and I both really do love our old houses but they do come with their own set of, should we say, challenges that you really need to be aware of. And many of those challenges have to do with the year they were constructed, so it’s not that difficult to be able to predict where your old house will fail. And this way, you can head off any potential problems before they start.
TOM: Yeah, good point. For example, chimneys that were built between 1900 and 1920 were commonly made of brick with no liner. So if you look up inside your old chimney, you don’t see a liner, that’s a potential problem that you can head off and avoid a fire.
We’ve got a great article that covers dozens of defects by house age. Just search “home repairs needed for old houses” on MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: Well, our next guest has seen all of the above and then some. Richard Trethewey takes on the mechanical guts of the houses made over each season on This Old House.
Richard, it is great to see you again.
RICHARD: Nice to be back, nice to see you around at our wrap party.
TOM: Is it – is that on your business card: mechanical guts? Your specialty?
RICHARD: No. Mechanical guts. My mechanical guts are getting a little too big lately.
TOM: As do the projects. And here you are, once again, completing another beautiful home.
TOM: What were some of the mechanical intricacies of getting this job done?
RICHARD: Well, I tell you, this house I love for one thing: its scale. It is manageable, it’s small.
RICHARD: And when small shows up, it becomes more of a challenge mechanically, because there’s not a lot of room for anything.
RICHARD: So what we did is we jammed all of our parts and pieces into one small closet here in the basement.
TOM: I saw that. I saw that. We were looking around for spaces to set up the show before and I was like, “Wow, this is tight.”
RICHARD: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah. So, at least they gave us a place. A lot of times, people forget that they even need mechanicals and they’ll build their dream house.
TOM: Yeah. Right.
RICHARD: So, we’ll take what we can get, you know?
TOM: Yep. Absolutely.
RICHARD: So in this one, we did a high-efficiency boiler but we also did solar, which was pretty cool. We’re right here on the ocean and there’s no trees between us and the sun.
RICHARD: And so we did solar, both to make hot water but also solar to make electricity, so it was pretty fun.
LESLIE: And that’s interesting. So tell us a little bit about working with the solar panels. Did you have to really find excellent placement? Or because you’re dealing with such open area in this coastal site, could it really be anything goes?
RICHARD: Well, Leslie, I think it’s both. We saw on the south side – you always cover that south side – there was this perfect spot facing the ocean, south side, a place for two perfect solar panels for us to make hot water.
LESLIE: And two is all you need for that?
RICHARD: Well, for this scale of a house, absolutely.
And then what we did is on the east and the west side, we did two small PV panels to make electricity with two separate systems. So as the sun comes up, we make electricity. As the sun tracks up and over the other side, we make it with the other and we combine them.
TOM: Oh, great. Yeah.
RICHARD: They keep that meter spinning backwards whenever possible.
LESLIE: That’s great.
TOM: Let me ask you about the size of those panels, Richard. Are there different sort of efficiencies where certain panels will deliver more BTUs than others, based on their size and how they’re built?
RICHARD: Yeah. Yep. Yeah. There is a national rating organization: SRCC – Solar Rating Council.
RICHARD: Because you look up at the panels, they all look the same, you know?
RICHARD: They’re 4x8 or 4x6 or 4x10. But there are, indeed, performance numbers. And so as solar starts to really get its renaissance – and as soon as we saw $4 oil for home heating oil, which we’re now at, that’s when all the numbers start to make sense, again, for Americans with solar – using solar to make hot …
LESLIE: Now, for this job, because you’re working with solar, you kind of brought in a renewable-energy expert but the name escapes me. It was Ross …
RICHARD: His name is Ross Trethewey. I couldn’t find a good expert so I actually made one.
LESLIE: Ah. And you had the foresight to imagine that years down the road, you would need one.
TOM: You would need one.
RICHARD: Now, Ross, is a mechanical engineer with his masters in mechanical engineering. And so his expertise is solar renewable.
LESLIE: Look at that proud daddy.
RICHARD: And so, we had this story where there’s a great little island in the center of Newport Harbor that has been using photovoltaics for years and years and years and it’s self-contained. So he hosted the scene.
TOM: And it’s completely off the grid, so it’s …?
RICHARD: Yeah. So now I have to worry …
LESLIE: And then you lost your job and now he’s here all the time.
RICHARD: Right. I have to worry now. He’s going to poison me and try to take this job.
TOM: Yeah, we want the younger, cuter one.
RICHARD: Both my boys want that job.
TOM: Now, talk to us a little bit about the hydronic system you used in the house. I mean Leslie and I both own older houses. I love my hydronic heat; there is nothing better than the warm, moist heat that comes off of that.
RICHARD: Yep. Yeah.
TOM: What was involved in getting that set up correctly in this house?
RICHARD: Well, most people have no idea what hydronic means. Is it hydroponic? Is it hydraulic? And really, hydronic is nothing more than we’re heating water and we’re going to use water to do everything.
RICHARD: So we have an interesting, high-efficiency, gas-fired condensing boiler in the mechanical room. This gas-fired condensing boiler heats water efficiently and we use it to do three things. We send water to an air handler down in the basement. Now, that’s really just a blower that has a hot-water heating coil, like an (inaudible at 0:12:57) radiator.
RICHARD: And we blow the air across it and we heat the air coming out of ductwork. We also have a zone – a baseboard down here in the basement – and we’re going to make hot water with that same unit.
TOM: You make heating systems sound very, very simple. Richard Trethewey, the plumbing and heating contractor on TV’s This Old …
LESLIE: For now.
TOM: Yeah, that’s right. Unless Ross takes over.
RICHARD: Until the boys get me.
TOM: Thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
RICHARD: Great to be here.
TOM: Well, one of the things an old home often lacks the most is insulation. And one of the most energy-saving insulations out there is spray-foam insulation.
LESLIE: That’s right. The experts at Icynene brand of spray-foam insulation say that this type of insulation both insulates and seals out drafts because of the way it expands once it’s in place. It’s a great product and company that is sponsoring this broadcast, so joining us by phone to tell us more is Betsy Gallacher, Vice President of Marketing for Icynene Incorporated.
BETSY: Well, hi. Thank you. It’s great to be with you today.
TOM: Now, Betsy, this particular project is on the water and so it’s exposed to severe weather. That’s an application of the sorts that Icynene is particularly well-suited for, isn’t it?
BETSY: Icynene is suited for a variety of applications but it is particularly good, because Icynene has the air barrier and because, with the foam, it expands to fill every crack and crevice. So being on the coast, this type of product for insulation is ideal.
LESLIE: And really, what is the application process, since it does spread so smoothly and evenly and cover all of those areas? Is it an expansion foam?
BETSY: Well, it’s applied as a liquid and then it expands into a foam. And so as it expands into a foam, in fact it goes from the liquid into the foam. It expands 100 times and so it completely insulates and seals the space; every nook and cranny gets sealed with this expansion.
TOM: And what’s really cool about that is not only does every nook and cranny get sealed, that process really keeps out one of the major sources of air leakage, which is the infiltration. So, when we say it seals and insulates, it really does do both in one application.
BETSY: It certainly does. And so, not only does it provide – not only is it a great insulator, by blocking out the air infiltration, it also keeps the air inside your home healthier, free from dust. There’s lots of other benefits that you get with this type of insulation beyond just the insulating facts of it.
LESLIE: And Betsy, I bet you get quite a good savings on your energy expenses, as well.
BETSY: Homeowners can save up to 50 percent when they insulate with a foam insulation. And with Icynene, we say, “Retrofit or new home, you could get up to 50-percent savings.” So, it’s very energy-efficient.
TOM: We’re talking to Betsy Gallacher. She is with the Icynene Corporation.
And Betsy, you actually have been involved in a number of This Old House projects. We talked with you recently about the Bedford House, which is a very, very old house that Icynene was used in. So, Icynene really can apply to brand-new houses, as well as existing houses, correct?
BETSY: It absolutely can. In fact, we’ve been working with This Old House for over 15 years. And so retrofit has been an important part of our business, particularly older homes that have very little insulation, because this type of product can be poured into the walls, used in the attics to increase the insulation value of it. And in particular, with new homes where you can seal the whole envelope of a new home, you get the maximum of benefits that you can from this type of insulation.
LESLIE: As an owner of an older home myself, you know, would the best step, for me or anyone listening who does have an older home that needs more insulation, be to contact a local Icynene dealer? Will they advise me on what type and where and what best could shape up my home?
BETSY: Absolutely. Our licensed Icynene dealers are all thoroughly trained in building science, so they understand the whole-house system, they understand older homes and new homes.
So, homeowners – yourself, Leslie – you can go to our website where we have a section specifically dedicated to homeowners. Learn more about it and right online find a dealer that’s near you that would happily come to your home and provide a free quote on what work they could do to improve the quality of the insulation and the comfort of your home.
TOM: We’ve been talking to Betsy Gallacher, the vice president of marketing for Icynene.
So, Betsy, I think it’s fair to say that you can really stay warm with Icynene, correct?
BETSY: You absolutely can. It’s a wonderful insulating material to keep you warm and in the warm places, it will keep the warm out and keep the cool in. So, it’s great in all climates.
TOM: And that’s why, all this month, we’ve been running this – or I should say all last month – we’ve been running this very fun Stay Warm with Icynene Contest. And you’ve got a lucky winner to announce in just a little while, don’t you?
BETSY: Yes, I do.
TOM: Alright. Well, we’re going to get back with you at the end of the show and we’re going to find out who’s – the big winner of the Stay Warm with Icynene Contest is going to pick up a $500 gift card that they can use towards the purchase of a great energy-saving improvement, like the installation of Icynene insulation.
LESLIE: Alright, Betsy. Thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
Up next, the thought of beachfront property is pretty appealing until you remember that nor’easters and hurricanes, they really love to make their way up the Atlantic coast like a freight train.
LESLIE: So when we come back, we’re going to tell you how to weatherize a coastal home, on The Money Pit.
[audio timestamp: 0:18:17]
ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Quicken Loans. Call Quicken Loans today at 888-450-0024 or go to QuickenLoans.com to receive your free home-loan review. They’ll give you their best possible mortgage at their best possible rate, in the shortest amount of time. That number, again, is 888-450-0024. Equal housing lender. Licensed in all 50 states. NMLS Number 3030. Call today. 888-450-0024.
TOM: Where home solutions live, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I'm Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I'm Leslie Segrete.
TOM: We are on the set of the current This Old House renovation, which is also the home of Geoff Allen and Michelle Forcier.
LESLIE: That’s right. This is a really great house. It’s a small Cape in Barrington, Rhode Island with amazing views of the Narragansett Bay. And this is the first time that This Old House chose property on the open water. I mean just saying “beachfront property” is probably making you salivate right now. But it does require extra thought and a lot of extra planning.
TOM: And you need to make sure that you follow the many, many laws and regulations that are established to protect our natural resources. Our next guest worked closely with the team to do just that. We welcome to the program Grover Fugate from the Coastal Resources Management Council.
GROVER: Hi. How are you doing?
TOM: Now, you are a busy guy here along the seashore, aren’t you?
GROVER: Yes. We regulate the entire shoreline of the state.
TOM: Mm-hmm. And that’s a real important job and I think without that regulation, you’d probably have a lot of builders and homeowners taking liberties that perhaps that wouldn’t benefit the environment as well, huh?
GROVER: That is typically the case, yes.
TOM: OK. Now …
LESLIE: I’m sure you’ve had, in the past, homeowners – well, before there were so many regulations, I’m sure there were homeowners that took liberties that now are sitting in an example where you can’t do those things today. Do you find that a challenge? Do you get a lot of homeowners being like, “But they have it.”
GROVER: We get that all the time, particularly with our buffer and setback programs. There are people that want views, they want to be very close to the water and don’t understand that there are setbacks. And the setbacks are actually there to protect them, not to be necessarily a nuisance to them.
TOM: Now, aside from the physical positioning of a building when you’re constructing it along the ocean, what other types of natural considerations come into play?
GROVER: Well, there’s a lot of siting considerations that we look at. You’ve got things like erosion rates. So these are areas along our shoreline and we typically find that here on the East Coast, that our shoreline, in general, is moving backwards.
GROVER: So, we are very concerned about where you place a house and whether that house is going to be in jeopardy within a period of time that’s fairly reasonable, such as about 30 years for us.
There are other considerations in terms of the flood plain itself and whether the house is going to be exposed to storm surge, those types of issues that we deal with.
GROVER: And then there’s things like storm water and whether that storm water, which carries pollutants to the bay, whether they’re going to make a direct connection to the bay. And then just the vegetation itself is very important, believe it or not, even in suburban settings like this, for things like bird migrations for neotropicals that are constantly accessing the what they call the “coastal dropout area,” or the area immediately adjacent to the water, for food sources as they’re making their migrations. So, these are all very important considerations.
LESLIE: And Grover, there seems to be so many laws and regulations to keep track of. If you’re even considering buying a home on the water, how do you start to sort it all out?
GROVER: Well, a lot of the homeowners usually start out with a consultant or a design professional that is usually familiar with the regulations. And it starts, usually, at that point. There are, obviously, as you said, a lot of state and local regulations to keep track of. And so it is a very difficult process, unless you hire a design professional.
TOM: And that’s why you’re here working with the team at This Old House. Grover Fugate from the Coastal Resources Management Council, a great job. Thanks so much for being a part of our program.
GROVER: Thank you.
TOM: Up next, one of the most important and potentially dangerous areas to consider with an older home is the electrical system. Now, this home got a much needed update of that system, which we’re going to talk about, in just a bit.
LESLIE: And later, if you plan it correctly, your natural landscape can contribute nicely to your total landscape. We’re going to hear from the designer who worked on the outside of this house, on how to do just that, next.
[audio timestamp: 0:23:13]
TOM: Where home solutions live, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I'm Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I'm Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Coming to you from the set of the latest This Old House renovation.
LESLIE: That’s right. And this one is in Barrington, Rhode Island and it’s a beauty. They took a little beachside house and transformed it into a gorgeous, year-round home.
TOM: And today’s broadcast is presented by Icynene. Icynene makes spray-foam insulation that starts off as a liquid and then expands into cracks and crevices to cut down on air leaks, making homes much more energy-efficient.
And we’ve got an announcement coming at the end of the program. We’re going to announce the winner of the Stay Warm with Icynene Giveaway that they’ve been running with us all month. The winner gets a $500 Visa gift card, which they can use towards Icynene insulation, so stay tuned for that. And visit I-c-y-n-e-n-e.com for more information on that product.
LESLIE: Alright. This house was built in 1925 and then pretty much nothing had been updated since 1970. And I can’t even think about the design issues without my head spinning. But before you even think about that, you’ve got to bring the electricity up to code. And once that was done, a layout for all of the lighting was set by Evelyn Audet, the lighting designer.
Evelyn, why was the right lighting so important here?
EVELYN: The right lighting is always important but in this particular house, with all the windows and the beautiful day-lighting that they have coming off the bay, it was really important that at night, when the electrical lighting came into play, that we had as great as the lighting plan is – Mother Nature gives us during the day.
TOM: Now, sustainability is always important. There’s been a lot in the news about changes in the lighting industry with the phase-out of the incandescent bulbs and so on. What’s your take on lighting as a sustainable topic? Are there ways to give us very sustainable lighting without giving up quality of light? There were some early concerns about, for example, the quality of light coming off a CFL.
EVELYN: Yes, there are a lot of ways to address the lighting and be green and sustainable. And the incandescent light bulb is changing as we know it but it’s changing. So we have energy-efficient incandescent lamps that are available now.
TOM: Right. OK.
EVELYN: We have halogen lamps that are energy-efficient and they’re available now. And of course, with the LEDs, the light from the LEDs has come a long way over the past few years. So we, as lighting designers, are comfortable now to specify it. And the compact fluorescents used in the proper location, for the proper task at hand, are still a great source of light.
TOM: So, the type of lighting is really important that you match it with a particular task. So you may use CFL in one area, you might use LED in another. And if you match it, you really can get a nice compliment of functional illumination.
EVELYN: Absolutely. Using different kinds of lamps, so using the different sources, creates an interesting lighting plan. And we use layers of light to create that and always choosing the source first: what lamp do we want to use to create the light and then what it should be housed in comes in later.
LESLIE: So what was your plan of attack here in this coastal home? How did you go about achieving that desired look?
EVELYN: Well, this home was interesting. It’s a coastal home and the homeowners have a great sense of style and it’s a little bit of an Asian flair to their decorating. So it wasn’t going to be the traditional blue-and-white beach house that we think about here in New England. So that made it fun. And I also note they had some art pieces that we wanted to accent.
EVELYN: And we always take our task lighting and our general lighting into consideration and then the accent lighting. So we’re using all of the tools that we have available to us as a lighting designer and then apply the lighting based on the construction constraints and …
LESLIE: Now, that had to be a little bit challenging, because you mentioned that you’re lighting around specific pieces of art. And say you’re figuring out the lighting plan at a construction phase. How do you know, a few months down the line, that that piece of art really truly is going to work in that space so that you can make the proper lighting installation?
EVELYN: Well, that’s a really good question and it’s – some of the tricks of the trade is to specify a product that gives us a little bit of flexibility. So, the art lighting, we might be accenting this particular wall for art. We want to make sure that we can either cover the whole wall with the light as a wash or we can really fine-tune it and then pinpoint as a real accent piece if we have a small piece of art.
TOM: Evelyn Audet, the lighting designer on the Barrington project at This Old House, thank you so much for telling us about what you do. I think it’s a fascinating topic and I think it’s one that’s often too often overlooked but that is really critical to being in a space that really makes you comfortable and really works for you in so many ways.
EVELYN: Yes, thank you. Very important.
LESLIE: Now that you’ve got the electricity issues under control, you can actually start to think about the design issues that a 1970s décor, of course, presents.
TOM: That’s right. We’re joined now by the woman brave enough to take that on: designer Lisa Newman Paratore.
Lisa, let me guess: lots of dark and dreary, perhaps, when you first saw it?
LISA: Actually, by the time I got pulled into the project, it was down to studs.
LISA: So I really didn’t see the “before” so much, which maybe sounds like it was a good thing?
TOM: Yeah, perhaps. So how did you bring that what they had to start with kind of into this century? What’s the process? Take us through it.
LISA: Well, the homeowners’ belongings were all in storage, so all I had was their disc that they had created before they put it into storage, for insurance.
TOM: Oh, man. So you didn’t even see it physically? You just looked at pictures?
LISA: I didn’t see anything. I had no measurements, no dimensions, anything.
TOM: Talk about walking into the …
LESLIE: Photographs represent colors so well, so well.
LISA: Well, what I did is I looked at their artwork, because I think artwork is a really good way of getting a handle on what someone’s aesthetic is. And I used that as my point of reference.
LESLIE: And they really have a distinct style when it comes to their art choices in the home: very Eastern, very Asian.
LESLIE: And that really doesn’t normally go hand in hand with a beachfront property.
LISA: No, it doesn’t. So, really, what I did was I looked at the natural colors of the beach outside and used those as the reference point for the artwork, as well. You know, there is – in the Asian artwork, there’s a lot of natural color and texture and pattern. And I kind of made that be the transition from the outside to the inside.
TOM: And that’s a good practice – regardless of what your views are, right – is to start, perhaps, with nature and build upon it.
LISA: Absolutely. Especially when you’re in a beachfront property and the view is just exquisite, the last thing you want to do is try to upstage it with what you’re doing inside the house.
LESLIE: And that’s got to be challenging with paint colors, as well. A couple of things, given the vista out the windows, the coloration of the water, the sand – and then depending on the season, time of day, that all takes on a different hue, as well.
LESLIE: So how do you determine what colors will work best?
LISA: Well, fortunately, I grew up in New England and I know what …
LESLIE: Right. You know what it does all day.
LISA: Exactly. I know what the beach looks like pretty much all 12 months.
TOM: Seen it before.
LISA: Right. So I had a general appreciation for what the color palette would be. And again, thinking in terms of color, the last thing I wanted to do was upstage the outside. So I just kind of worked with the homeowners to pick colors that they really loved but that would also honor the view from outside.
TOM: A lot of folks want to decorate on a dime these days, literally; they want to do things on a budget. Any tips for getting a lot out of a little?
LISA: Paint, absolutely.
LISA: I mean it is by far and away the best bang for the buck, because you can go and buy a can of paint. If you’re able to do the work yourself, for under $50 you can really transform a space.
LESLIE: Now, when it comes for the average homeowner, sometimes they really have a hard time with visualization. So, how can you make somebody feel comfortable with a color choice? If I was a homeowner just trying to think about what color to work with, do you tell me to look at my rug, look at a throw pillow, look at a piece of art? How should I find that color?
LISA: I think the first thing to do is to decide whether you want the wall color to be the backdrop for the space or the primary focus for the space. And once you’ve determined that, if it’s the backdrop, you want it to be something that’s going to recede from all of the décor. If you want it to be the focal point, then you choose something that’s in direct contrast to what’s going on in the rest of the room.
TOM: And if you have a dark space and you want to make it bigger with paint, can you keep the walls darker but make the ceiling brighter? What are some tricks of the trade to make a small room appear taller or bigger than it is?
LISA: It wouldn’t really relate to paint but if you want to make a small space feel taller, you use vertical things.
LISA: So try to hang artwork in a vertical way and use stripes and things like that.
TOM: Good point. Lisa Newman Paratore, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit. Great job, beautiful home.
LISA: Thank you very much.
TOM: It’s a pleasure to have you on the program.
LISA: Thank you.
TOM: Still to come, a beautifully-planned landscape could end up across the Canadian border if you don’t plan for high winds and rough water. We’re going to find out how to make sure a newly-planted landscape can survive that experience, after this.
[audio timestamp: 0:32:01]
TOM: Where home solutions live, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show where we make good homes better. I'm Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I'm Leslie Segrete.
TOM: We’re getting a special treat today. Leslie and I are on the set of the latest This Old House renovation in Barrington, Rhode Island.
LESLIE: That’s right. We are right on the water at a gorgeous Cape Cod home that has been completely renovated.
TOM: And being on the water, there are lots of special considerations that have to be taken, including the landscaping. The landscape designer is joining us right now: Kate Venturini from the University of Rhode Island.
So, Kate, how challenging was this project?
KATE: It was challenging, rewarding, so …
TOM: Yeah? Yeah. Right. So how did you start the process of designing a landscape for a house that is on the water, that’s subjected to such severe impacts from weather?
KATE: First thing is met with the client.
KATE: Knowing what I know already about plants that survive in coastal areas, I met with the client, talked to them about what they’d like to see and then sat in a room by myself and thought about how I could make it beautiful for them.
TOM: Right. Yeah.
LESLIE: Now, that’s got to be hard because I mean we really are right on the water, so you’re dealing with salt water, moisture, lots of different environmental conditions. Plus, who knows what the soil is? Say you’ve got a client that’s got a very specific look in mind, is there always a plant that will match the correct location or do you just have to get creative?
KATE: There’s always a plant. The great thing about what I do is that I work with native plants.
KATE: So native plants are those that are acclimated to our climate and so they tolerate a range of environmental conditions. And so, looking to natives first, because this is a very harsh site, that solved the problem.
KATE: And there are a lot of beautiful native plants. So we put in inkberry outside, some summersweet, which people are familiar with, some perennials. So I did have options and that’s …
TOM: And that’s a really good point that when you are designing your landscape – whether it’s a coastal community or whether it’s the middle of the Midwest, wherever it is – if you start native first, you’re always going to be guaranteed a high rate of success, correct?
KATE: Correct. And you’re providing habitat for wildlife, which is a goal of mine always. And coastal areas, especially, are very rich.
TOM: Very sensitive, yeah. Mm-hmm.
KATE: Yes. Sensitive and rich.
LESLIE: Now, many homeowners that call into our show or are listening now might not have the opportunity to call someone like yourself to help them with the plan. What would be their best plan of attack?
KATE: I would suggest becoming familiar with plants that are native in your region. And there are resources online. In Rhode Island, specifically, we have a Rhode Island coastal-plant guide, which is specifically geared towards plants that survive in coastal conditions.
KATE: And so we always point people to that. But there are groups of ecological-landscape professionals and organic-certified professionals, so the internet is an amazing resource.
LESLIE: Oh and when you said “organic,” that brought up another point. We’re so close to the water. What do you feed all of the plants? Obviously, you sound like the type of person that avoids pesticides and any kind of chemicals. So how do you know – we’re so close; something’s going to get in there. How do you avoid that and what do you choose?
KATE: That’s a great question. To the native point, native plants, if they’re put in the right place, they don’t require additional inputs. So you don’t need to give them extra water or fertilizer; they’ll do OK because they’re used to growing here or wherever you are.
KATE: So that’s a great place to start. And the other unique thing we did out here is we specified – I specified – fescue instead of Kentucky bluegrass for the lawn.
LESLIE: And that’s a type of grass, right?
KATE: Yep. And so, that is a low-maintenance, low-input grass species.
TOM: Kate Venturini, landscaping designer for this Barrington This Old House project. Thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
KATE: Thank you.
TOM: Now we have just one more piece of business to take care of. Betsy Gallacher is back from Icynene and she’s here to announce the winner of the $500 Stay Warm with Icynene Giveaway.
So, Betsy, who is the lucky winner?
BETSY: Congratulations to Patty. She’s a single mom of two who reads The Money Pit newsletter regularly and even keeps all the back issues to refer to.
Thanks, Patty. Your $500 gift card is on the way, courtesy of Icynene Spray-Foam Insulation. I hope you and your family will enjoy the comfort that Icynene will bring to your home.
TOM: Alright. Fantastic. Congratulations.
You’ve been listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show from the set of This Old House. Be sure to check local PBS listings for This Old House and Ask This Old House. The show continues online.
I'm Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I'm Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself ...
LESLIE: But you don't have to do it alone.
END HOUR 2 TEXT
(Copyright 2012 Squeaky Door Productions, Inc. No portion of this transcript or audio file may be reproduced in any format without the express written permission of Squeaky Door Productions, Inc.)