This Old House: Charles River House
TOM: Well, for its 2010 season, the This Old House TV crew is tackling a curbside Cinderella. It is a ho-hum house along the Charles River that they plan to transform into an architectural thing of beauty.
LESLIE: That’s right. For the latest on this amazing project, we welcome host Kevin O’Connor with details and maybe a tip or two on how to turn your house from bland to beautiful.
KEVIN: Hi, guys. It’s great to be here.
TOM: Hey, it’s our pleasure. Now, this house is interesting because when you look at the photos online at ThisOldHouse.com, the before photos, it’s really a pretty boring house.
KEVIN: This is a very uninspired house but its hidden secret is its location. It sits in a community that is a peninsula and the water that surrounds this neighborhood on three sides is Boston’s famous Charles River. So it is an incredible site; that you could be on the river and about 10 minutes from downtown Boston.
TOM: That’s interesting. Now, these houses on the river have a real history. They were part of commerce many years ago, weren’t they?
KEVIN: Well, you know, the river was actually key to Boston and the surrounding areas and all the mills in the area were run off of it with water power. And in fact, the area where our house sits is called the lake region. As you look out on the vistas, you can’t even tell it’s a river; it looks like a big, giant lake that you’re in the middle of and that’s because there’s been significant damming of the Charles River over the last century or so.
So it’s an important river to Boston and to Massachusetts; it’s got a great history. And for us, it is a great backdrop for our latest project.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Does the house sort of stand out among the neighborhood? I mean is it a similar architecture to what else is going on on the block or is it really stand-alone in its simpleness?
KEVIN: It stood out because it was sort of a dog. It was kind of a tired, old house really, one of the last houses in this neighborhood of about a hundred homes or so that hadn’t been touched.
It was built in 1940. It was a custom, architect-designed house at the time, so you would think it would sort of be this grand, old, iconic style. It wasn’t. It was sort of a square house. It’s technically not a four-square but it’s got a lot of similarities to that and it’s got this sort of really non-descript, little, one-story, flat-roof garage protruding off of the front. And it’s kind of an odd-color blue. So, it’s surrounded by these beautiful cottages and colonials. They’re all very well kept up; very unique. And here’s this little diamond-in-the-rough just sitting there, waiting for someone to pluck it and polish it.
TOM: We’re talking to Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House, about their latest project called the Auburndale House.
So, Kevin, when you guys first rolled upon this – you describe it as a very ho-hum, bland-looking home. You know, if our listeners have a home that they feel could use a little spark, what are some of the thoughts that you have about how you can take what you start with and then really add the polish to it to make it stand out?
KEVIN: Well, with this house – and I think with any house – the first thing you do is look around. What have you got right around the house that you can play off of that you can accentuate?
And here, well, we’ve got the Charles River in the background but we’ve also got a beautiful neighborhood. The houses are tucked in on little lots but they’re presented properly to the street. And so, just a little bit of curb appeal on the front of this house is going to make a big difference. And curb appeal is going to make a big difference on most people’s houses.
We’re also going to turn the house around, sort of metaphorically-speaking, so we’re going to have the living space look out onto the backyard where you can see the river. And these are small little tricks that you can use to really take the house and make sure that it communicates well with its surround. It’s always a great place to start when you’re thinking about a project.
LESLIE: You know, when you look through the gallery of photos, when you get to the image that’s of the back of the house, it’s so boring. And considering that you’re facing this wonderful vista, there’s not really a very usable deck. There’s this weird portion that juts out. Can you share with us any of the plans for the back of the house?
KEVIN: Yeah. The plans for the back of the house are really sort of the heart and soul of what we’re going to do. We’re going to update a kitchen; we’re going to tear out a 1940’s vintage, lemon-yellow kitchen and make it bigger for the way we live today.
But really, it’s about taking the back of the house – which is this tall, imposing wall, as you say, Leslie, that you can’t see much of the backyard; you can’t really get to it – and we’re going to bump the house out. We’re going to have a family room with lots of glass and access to that yard down on the ground level. And then above it, we’re going to have access through a deck and stairs down to the yard and a sun-porch living area.
And you’ll even be able to walk off of the master bedroom – way up top on the third floor – onto a deck, which is going to have phenomenal vistas of the Charles River. And that’s where we’re going to concentrate most of our efforts.
TOM: Well, it’s a beautiful home. It’s a beautiful project and I can’t wait to see how it all comes out. We will get back with you as the project progresses, Kevin, and I look forward, again, to seeing it completed. Kevin O’Connor, host of TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
For more tips, you can go to their website at ThisOldHouse.com and you can even click on the webcams and see the team as they transform this house from a ho-hum, bland structure on the Charles River to a real majestic masterpiece.
KEVIN: It’s great to be here, guys. Thank you.
LESLIE: Hear more from Kevin and the entire This Old House team when you catch episodes of the project as it progresses, on your local PBS station or you can visit ThisOldHouse.com.
TOM: This Old House is brought to you by Cub Cadet. Cub Cadet – you can’t get any better.