Friday, January 20, 2012

Greek Revival Exterior Renovation - Before and After

For those of you visiting for the first time, or if you missed the actual exterior renovation as it progressed on the blog, I thought it would helpful to summarize it all in one post and include all of the sources for those of you who might want to take on this project.

Although this project was a restoration to the home's original state, you could get this look with almost any house that has it's gable end facing the street.  The Greek Revival is a great American style.

Here's my journey.

Copyright 2013, An Urban Cottage

Here's the house when I bought it.  

I never intended to document this process when I started
so I'm sorry it isn't the best photo.

Over the first few years, I did a lot of cleanup and removal of what I thought were the most unattractive and outdated details; specifically, I removed the chain link fence, the wrought iron posts on the front porch.  I did add new cedar fencing which I'll show in another Back Porch and Garden Post and I added a few shrubs along the front of the house.

 The house was sold as a "Greek Revival" but unless you were already aware of what a Greek Revival should look like, you would never know it.  All of the details had been removed or were covered up by the vinyl siding. 

My journey started with a trip to the Historical Commission to see if there was any information I could use to restore the house.  I was hoping to find that my house had a porch across the front, typical of most Greek Revivals in the area.

 I was thrilled to find a drawing of the outline of the house from the City's Field Engineers' book from 1856 showing my house with a 3.9-foot porch across the front.

Here's a cleaned up version of the drawing showing the house,
18.5 feet wide; the porch, 3.9 feet deep and the stairs positioned on the
right-hand side of the porch, 4.2 feet wide.

This was a VERY IMPORTANT find because current zoning laws
prohibit building with 10 feet of the property line.
I was going to have to apply for a variance showing
documentation that the porch was historically correct.

Since the application for a variance requires detailed plans, I had to hire an architect to do a plan for me.  After studying all of the local Greek Revivals and well as all the details appropriate to 1842 this is the drawing we presented.  After filing the lengthy applications, all of my neighbor's were informed of my intentions and invited to public hearing where they could support or object to my plan.

I talked to all of my neighbors in advance, asked for their support and arrived at the hearing with four letters of support.  My variance was approved and after the three-month application and hearing process, we were ready to begin construction.

We startedby  pulling off the vinyl siding that had been installed in mid-1980s. 

For anyone with vinyl siding, there's a possibility that you could simply remove it and paint your house!   I talked to a few of my neighbors who told me the former owner installed the vinyl siding because the house needed a paint job and adding vinyl siding made the house maintenance free for the elderly owner.

Copyright 2013, An Urban Cottage

Here the vinyl is almost removed.  Looks better already, right?

Just be cautioned, removing the vinyl siding leaves a lot of unknowns.  If water has been seeping behind the vinyl for years, you could find a lot of damage that needs to be addressed.  I was happy to find everything in relatively good condition and was able to keep the siding on two sides of the house that will receive later window changes.  Removing the vinyl siding also removes a layer of insulation so it won't be as energy efficient.

Copyright 2013, An Urban Cottage

As we peeled back the shingles, the original siding could be seen underneath.

Copyright 2013, An Urban Cottage

On the back corner, we found the original clapboards and the cornerboards.  We now knew exactly what size the new cornerboards should be.

But even without this find, there are other clues to these details.

Copyright 2013, An Urban Cottage

Once the front of the house was stripped to the original sheathing, we could also see outlines of the original details.  Let's take a closer look.

To the left you can see the vertical shadow of the cornerboard and just below the upstairs window you can see the angle of the porch roof line.  These are a great references in the absence of old drawings and photographs when restoring a house.

I was planning to blow insulation in before putting the house together but we ran into a little bit of a roadblock.  On the back side of the sheathing, lath and plaster had been applied from the inside.  This was done as an early form of insulation.

This can impede good distribution of insulation so all of the sheathing needed to be removed so this material could be taken out.

The cats kept a careful eye on the work.  This was both a scary and funny point in the project.  Having your house opened up to the elements for several days left me feeling very vulnerable.  At the same time, people would walk by and ask "Do you live in there?" to which I would look at them like they were crazy and ask "Yeah, why?"

This shows a closeup of the post and beam construction typical of homes built before 1845-1850.

This is the back corner of the dining room with the sheathing removed.

A closeup of the back side of the dining room wall.  Notice how there are virtually no studs.  A few horizontal studs provide support to wider vertical boards to which the lath and plaster are attached.

Once all the extra lath and plaster was taken out, the sheathing was all replaced and fiberglas insulation was blown in.  I don't know why fiberglas as opposed to cellulose, it's what my atchitect specified.  I did some research and found discussion boards with arguments as to the pros and cons of each. 

After blowing in the insulation, the house was wrapped with Typar Housewrap.

The house is ready to be put back together.

My water, sewer and gas service all come in the from the front of the house so before digging for the porch posts, I called DigSafe and each utility service came to mark where the pipes were located.  This is a free service.

Holes for the porch supports were dug four feet deep, the local requirement to get below the freeze line, the cement was poured and were covered to cure.

The new porch deck, the porch roof and the stair stringers were built.  A slab of granite was used as the first stair to keep the wood off the ground.

Close up of the porch beam, also called the entablature.

The entablature was wrapped with cedar so it looks like on solid beam. The porch deck is mahogany.

This is one point when I was happy to have an experienced and smart contractor.  The porch deck had to be slightly wider than the roof because you want the entire base of the column to sit on the porch but that the top, the beam sits back from the front of the column capital AND I think you have to take the taper of the column into consideration.  It's tricky.

The cornerboards were replaced.

To reduce costs, I opted to keep the shingled surface that we found under the vinyl siding on the driveway saide so those shingles were trimmed back to meet the new cornerboard.

The shingles were scraped to prepare for the new paint job.

I wanted to enlarge the living room windows so removed the old windows...

...enlarged the openings...

...and put in the new windows.

These are Marvin Ultimate double-hung windows that are wood inside, aluminum clad in black which I believe they call ebony.

I chose cedar siding.  I considered Hardiplank or Hardiboard but after seeing it up close, I just didn't think it was appropriate for a historical house.  It's slightly thinner than cedar siding and has an impressed wood texture that just didn't feel appropriate.  It was slightly cheaper but not significantly in the overall scheme of things.

Under the porch, I used tongue-and-groove cedar planks.  It would have originally been ship-lapped boards but we used tongue and groove for a tighter more weatherproof joint.

A new Simpson six-panel door replaced the old door.  This is also called a "cross and bible" style and is appropriate to the period of the house.  I could not find a sidelight that was the right size.  Simpson makes a sidelight but they're 12 inches wide.  I had about 8 inches.  Custom sidelights were quite expensive so my contractor Sam said he would make them.

For the skirt around the base of the porch, we repeated the size and pattern of the fence pickets.  I'm not sure that's correct but I think it ties the yard in to the house.

Once the columns went in, the house finally looked like I thought it should.

The columns are a composite material from Pacific Columns.  These are fluted Doric columns.

I used bead board on the porch ceiling.

You can see here what I was talking about earlier.  The base of the columns sit fully on the porch but up top, the beam (entablature) rests centered on the capital.

Most of the trim work that made up the pediment (the triangle that forms the attic area) was in good shape and was reused.  Just a few replacements were made.  All the old nail holes were filled in and sanded down.

Being able to keep some of that trim work saved quite a lot of money so I was able to order new windows for the upstairs and attic.  The house was primed with California oil-base primer in gray.  Each can was a slightly different color which was weird.

We started work in July and this is obviously Halloween time.

Anything that didn't show from the street was left for another phase.  I kept the old vinyl windows but all the old siding and trim that was under the vinyl was painted.  The difference is barely noticeable.

The back porches got new light fixtures.  These are Maxim, cast aluminum flush-mount ceiling fixtures from Arcadian Lighting.  Item # MX-1027-EB. 

This is driveway side where we kep the shingles and just painted everything to match.  The old chimney is painted Benjamin Moore Brick Red.  Isn't that a genius choice?

The remaining windows on the front and garden side of the house were then replaced, again the same Marvin windows, clad with ebony aluminum.

The final paint colors were:

House body:  Benjamin More "Graystone"
House trim:  Benjamin Moore "Silver Chain"

Here's a "before" of the entryway inside.

And the "after" with the new door and sidelights.  Dont' they really open up that space?

Front door: Benjamin Moore "Black"

Porch Ceiling: Benjamin Moore "Clear Skies"

Porch Deck: Cabot Australian Timber Oil "Mahogany Flame" stain

The door hardware with by Schlage, oiled Bronze, from Home Depot.

The house number is from Ram Sign in Denmark. They've subsequently hosted a lot of blog giveaways.  Their products are all custom made and take a few weeks but the quality is amazing.  I've gotten so many compliments on it.

The mailbox was from ebay.  Nothing fancy.  I didn't want to detract from the door and sidelights.

Since the sidelight were custom made, I chose a seeded glass to be installed.  It's an exagerrated distortion from period glass but I wanted something that would offer a little bit of privacy so I didn't need to install curtains.  I love the effect.   I can't remember the manufacturer but it's a German company and I got it at Burnham & LaRoche which is a local stained glass shop in Medford.

I think it works nicely with the light fixture I chose for the front porch.  This is onion light made by Troy Lighting and is called their Portsmouth Traditional Outdoor Pendant and it's also from Arcadian Lighting

Finally I added the railings at the front steps.  It took a while for me to figure out how they should look and how they should tie in.  I thought I wanted wrought iron but that can go wrong very quickly. 
The rail pattern again echos the pattern of the fence and porch skirt.  The rails tie in to the columns at what is a pretty difficult joint that's not only angled but that hugs the curve and flutes of the columns. But I really wanted those to line up so it was worth the trouble.

Exterior Before and After
There's still lot to do but this exterior transformation is one I'm really proud of.

If you have any questions, please leave a comment.  I'll answer in the comments so everyone can see the answers.


  1. Stunning transformation. It's amazing what a difference details--such as white columns instead of black wrought iron--make.

  2. Oh my, what a massive amount of work you've done.

    You can really tell the difference flicking back-and-forth between the before and after photos.

    Is that building behind (the other roof and one-level bit) another house, or part of yours?

    Did you completely re-weatherboard?

  3. Wow, so glad you posted all this. I had no idea. What an amazing job.

  4. You've come a long way! Now it's all fun stuff. :) It's been fun watching the progression.

    LOVE the pic of the cat in the window.

  5. Steve, quite the transformation. I bet you can hardly imagine what it felt like living in the house before the renovations began. Your house is just stunning now. I look forward to seeing what your ideas are for the back porches!


  6. G'day Steve, What a good job you have done. I have a similar task on my plate with my 1910-1920 cottage that I moved into just 12 months ago. My house is also clad over the original boards, but with metal cladding and I'm hoping that my reno comes up like yours. I am excited but nervous as to what I will find when the cladding is removed. Did you bite the bullet and do the whole lot in one go or do smaller areas?
    I live in a mountain village called Blackheath, about 120 kilometres from Sydney in Australia. The climate here is very cold in winter, with occasional snow, but we have a milder summer than Sydney, bypassing the humidity, thankfully.
    I will keep reading your blog to get ideas for my reno. I think you house is such a credit to you and I think it would be a beautiful environment to live in. Well done, Regards Tricia

  7. What a beautiful job you've done! Your little house probably didn't look this good when it was new. I can't help wondering if your neighbors were having second thoughts when you were in the do-you-live-in-there demo phase of the project, but I'll bet they're happy now.

  8. I love love it all. The thought to detail is incredible and it shows. The black windows are a very special touch. A very classy transformation. So you should be proud.

  9. Tricia,
    I knew at the outset that I couldn't strip the entire house and reside it. As we removed the siding in those areas, we went slowly so we could stop if we found anything unexpected. On the other hand, if your current metal cladding is hiding some other problem like water getting behind and doing damage to the house, you'd be better dealing with that issue to stop the damage.

    With vinyl siding, it's possible to take it off without ruining it and I did, in fact, take it off under my back porches just to see what was there. I don't know how metal siding is applied and whether or not it will get ruined in the removal process.

    I know; it's scary. Good luck!

  10. This is a pretty incredible transformation. A few comments: I love the black that you chose for the windows and the sidelights really do open up the space. I'd never guess that!

    And I have a question. Why do you think the original porch was demolished to put in the puny one? It doesn't make sense!

  11. That's a great question! Part of it might have been that styles. It might have been viewed at some point like we see Harvest Gold appliances. The truth is, it was probably poorly built on piers that heaved from freezing and thawing and it probably was falling off. It was probably cheaper to remove it that it was to fix it.

  12. Well Done!

    i enjoyed the process, the problems and the final resolutions to a charmer

    we did a similar renovation to our 1850 farmhouse removing the powder blue aluminum siding, adding porches, corner boards.......then there is the landscaping, then there is the interiors. and then, to my husband's horror there are the interior updates, now i am re-eyeing the landscape.
    the joy of an older home

    hope to see the same recap with your interior

  13. Such a beautiful and well thought out renovation -- your neighbors must kiss the ground you walk on.

    What is the rest of your neighborhood like? Are they mostly Greek Revival?

    Julie from CT

  14. I meant to say if you were my neighbor I would kiss the ground you walk on.

  15. The rest of the neighborhood is charming. Cottages, Victorians, mansards, all pretty well maintained. I was one of the three worst houses on the street which was a bonus...and, yes, neighbors are thrilled!

  16. Amazing. Congratulations what a effort it must of taken. It looks stunning you must be so proud.
    Cheers SpecialK XoXo

  17. you should be really proud! let me know if you're ever in Newport RI - I have a little Greek Revival here that's a work in progress...

  18. absolutely stunning Steve it is so
    refreshing to see a job so well done.
    I know it must be beyond rewarding to
    pull up to this lovely home every day.

  19. Elaine Cascio,
    I'd love to see! Send me images if you want. My e-mail address is in the "About me."

  20. Unreal Steve - it has been an amazing and LONG transformation. I feel like I've been reading your blog forever, but looking back, I realize I missed most of the exterior stuff. I think when I came along, you were already done most of it. I love all your choices - how does one know just the right thing to do?! You had a great contractor - what a blessing, but you definitely had the vision - great work. I bet the neighbours are pleased. Love your lighting choices and paint colours, love the sidelights, everything strikes the perfect note - esp.those black windows.
    Brilliant! xo Terri

  21. Stunning, Steve! What do your neighbors say? Your house transformation must bring up the home value for your entire street!

    5 stars.

    ox, Mon

    P.S You have a really great eye for colors.

  22. This looks like quite the labor of love. You should be very proud of yourself.

  23. I have always wanted to buy an old house and fix it up! The transformation is amazing. You did such a good job. Would you do it again?

  24. fantastic job. really impressive.

  25. I would do it again. It's very rewarding. I'd love to do an old farmhouse that's on more property. I'd love to have more land for a vegetable garden and beautiful landscaping.

  26. Dahhling if ever it were true: "it's all on the details"... Congrats!!! Just beautiful.

  27. Thank you for the detailed history of your renovation. What a beautiful, thought out job. I know the building commissions in Cambridge aren't easy to deal with, so your points about the research of the original structure are so important! This reno rivals anything This Old House has done, no question.

  28. Steve, How nice of you to do this review. I'm sure that I'm not the only one who fantasizes about restoring an old beauty--always turn first to the back page of This Old House magazine to see what needs saving. But I'd only have the courage to really do it if I won the lottery, could clone your contractor, and hire you as a consultant!

  29. I loved this post. We recently redid our 1950 Lido Island beach cottage...the facade was a challenge as we are close to the sidewalk and the foundation is high (almost like a Charleston house). We needed insulation and new windows (and plumbing, electrical, etc)...but we kept it as it was originally intended...a humble cottage. You seem to really respect your home's stately integrity.

  30. Yesterday I was getting ready for a party, so did not get through the entire transformation (guilty of procrastinating on party prep as I took a quick peek). This morning it was a wonderful treat to take my time to vicariously experience your design and construction photos. Wonderful vision and attention to detail!

  31. Omigosh...this is amazing....LOVE your house to pieces. I am new to your blog, so I cannot wait to explore older posts to see what the INSIDE looks like! Love this!!!!

  32. Hi Steve,

    I've been enjoying your blog for the past few months. Thank you for your summary of the exterior restoration. I've dreamed for a long time of "making a silk purse from a sow's ear" (especially of a historic house) but so far have not been able to realize that dream. I've enjoyed living vicariously through your restoration! It's beautiful! I enjoy "checking in" with you every week. All the best and continued success!

    Mary Ann

  33. It's nice to hear from so many new people. Thank you all for commenting!

  34. Wow. As someone who has been through house redo after house redo, I know what it's like allllll too well! The new face to your home is INCREDIBLE, I absolutely love it.

  35. This post was enthralling. I loved going on the journey you took to make this absolutely elegant transformation. I love the Greek Revival style, and to be able to return your home to the beauty it once was must have been very rewarding. And what a gift to your neighbors! You must be one of the most popular guys on the block. Kudos to you.
    All the best...Victoria

  36. How did I miss this?? It's hard to believe I've been reading you long enough to have seen so much of this. I bet it feels like the old house never existed. What a labor of love inside and out. Every thoughtful thing you have done for this house makes it sing. :)

  37. Steve, I just thought of a question, make that two. I'm curious about the lathe and plaster "insulation" you removed. Clearly it isn't the same layer as the interior walls since you didn't mention replacing them. But how was the construction done so that you could remove it without damaging the interior?? Also, how much were your heating costs reduced by all this work? Practical minds want to know!

  38. Rosalind,
    The lath and plaster "insulation" was attached to the back of sheathing so when we opened up the house from the outside and removed the sheathing, some of it just collapsed, some of it just held itself in place and just needed to be tapped with a hammer to get it to break up and fall down. Since I removed all the pink rigid insulation that was under the vinyl and only blew new insulation into the house where I replaced the siding, there's still half of the house (where I kept the shingles) that I took a step backward in terms of the insulation. Since I plan to gut the kitchen, I didn't want to blow insulation in that part of the house that would just fall out when I gut.

    Overall, I think there's a zero sum gain. My heating costs are the same as they were before, about $130 a month in the winter which isn't too bad at all. Hopefully that will get reduced when I do the rest.

  39. Steve, this post is so inspirational and educational. You've truly worked wonders here, thanks to your hard work and your vision. Thank you for such a detailed and informative account. So... when do you get your award from the Cambridge Historical Society??? You've transformed not just a house but a whole neighborhood. Bravissimo!

  40. Thanks, Miranda. I've considered applying for one of their preservation awards but I need to get the back porches finished before I do that. Since they're not original, it's difficult to decide how to handle them.

  41. Steve, I didn't join you at the very beginning but have been reading back through "it all." Just the same, this summary is exciting to read. I doubt that I ever will restore an old house but I do celebrate each instance I discover of a carefully appointed success such as yours.
    Three cheers for your lucky house and for you.

  42. Thanks for this recap, Steve. When I first discovered your blog, I was so enthralled that I read your entire archive of posts.

    Was your electrical/wiring ever updated prior to you having insulation blown in?

    Your blog is an education in itself! Thank you!

  43. t,

    Most of the electrical work that was in the exterior walls was newer Romex. Anything that's not Romex is BX (metal sheathed) wiring so it's still in really good shape. The bigger problem is the number of outlets isn't sufficient. I've pulled new wiring in places where I need it for entertainment systems and when I redo the bathrooms and kitchens, I'll replace all the wiring in the back part of the house so about 90 percent will be updated or new.

  44. Thanks for the new posting with info/paint colors/sources. It has been great watching your journey and seeing what you have created. But more importantly you have made it your home with the love and respect shown.
    Cheers, Ferol

  45. Steve,
    Now I love your house even more...and I have great appreciation for the amount of detail that went into your plans. I was wondering the same thing as someone else mentioned...why would they have ever removed the original porch? I would think you are right, that at some point it was less expensive to remove the original and add a small stoop. But what a find at the historical society. I do love all of the details...including, but not limited to the addition of the black or ebony windows, the door with narrow sidelights, the light fixture, the house number from Ram and the skirt around the base of the porch. Seeing all of this in one post is amazing! It truly is quite a transformation and you must be so proud. I'll bet your neighbors love you!

  46. I would so have missed this if you hadn't commented.

    What a labor of love the house and this post.

    Can't wait to show it to GG.

    Amazing attention to detail.

    xo jane

  47. Thanks so much for your post! It is really wonderful to see a house so beautifully and lovingly restored. You are so thoughtful to walk us through your process. These are the kinds of posts that take some of the mystery and scariness out of renovation and encourage others to take a chance and do the same. P.S. One of my best friends lives in Medford!

  48. This is my all time favorite post you have done. The house is amazing just like it's present owner!

  49. What can I say that I haven't said before? Absolutely amazing. It was so interesting to see and read the process.

  50. Steve,
    Your blog is like a good book that would be best read in front of a warm fire with a cup of hot chocolate and snow falling outside. You have such a great way of telling a how-to story from decorating a Christmas tree to arranging blakets in a closet, to renovating your house. Can't wait to read what the future holds. Keep up the great blogging it's like comfort food for the soul.

  51. A stunning transformation, it is just beautiful. I love the research you did to actually "restore" it. That's what makes a house a home, that kind of care and love. Congratulations, you should feel very proud. I love your new front door as it fits in beautifully but the old front door is quite beautiful also, what happened to it?

  52. Hi Steve, I love reading your blog, it is so informative and inspirational. Thanks especially for this step by step post on your porch transformation. I too would like to someday restore the remudeled porch on my 1908 bungalow. A few questions...What type of beadboard did you use for the ceiling and did you attach it to the rafters or plywood sheathing? Is the bottom stair step completely off the ground and how are the stairs attached to the granite? How many coats of paint did you end up using on the columns? What do you think of reproduction redwood or cedar columns? Thanks, I wish I could hire you and your contractor, Cate

  53. Cate,
    The beadboard came in pieces, two strips wide by maybe 12 feet long, tongue and groove and were nailed to the rafters similar to the way you would put down hardwood floor.
    The stair stringers are notched so they rest on the granite. The stringers are then tied together at the bottom behind the granite.
    So the stringers sit on the granite at the first riser is maybe a nail's width off the top of the granite. So by keeping any wood off the dirt, they "should" last longer.

  54. Steve, your renovation has been so inspiring and I loved following your Christmas decorations. Thank you for blogging.

  55. Steve,

    Even though I followed the whole thing, this post was a wonderful journey through the whole process. Again. Amazing job!

  56. I'm stunned.
    I somehow missed this post!?!?
    I had seen a post "title" a few days ago but nothing was there and today I'm groupering through your blog and here this is.
    I am bowing to your fabulousness.
    Saying "well done" seems so inadequate. How about an astounding WOW!!!!!
    :D - Cindi

  57. I just stumbled here I think your blog is great to read. Your house looks great. I am only going to say that one negative thing..I surely did like the old door. I would like to have seen that type door with the window panels you have with your new door.

  58. Steve,

    Funny, my house numbers are vintage enamel, in cobalt blue, French. I found MY numbers at an antique store in Concord. You's look similar.

    Love enamel house numbers.


  59. Boy...I bet you learned so much during this phase. The transformation is stunning. I can't believe you could make the decision about the windows. We are having to replace ours and I couldn't decide on the we haven't done it yet.....I am helpless sometimes.

  60. Such a fantastic transformation Steve!! The windows are gorgeous!

  61. Oh, my! What love you have shown your house. I don't live in an old house any more, but I love them. Kudos!


  62. Wow, wow, wow!!! Fantastic! Thanks for showing what can be done.

  63. What an inspiration!

  64. Thanks for taking the time, effort, love, and money to restore your home for your community. You really are giving back to your neighborhood and town when you put in the effort and cash that a restoration like that takes. It is quite a gift to give. I am glad to read that your neighbors are appreciative.They should be!

    Enjoy your home, Steve. It is beautiful!

    Karla in Ca.

  65. Wow - this is so elegant. Thank you for sharing this!

  66. What a beautiful home you've created. The attention to detail is amazing! I will continue to follow your progress:)

  67. What an amazing labor of love! So glad you restored the porch. It makes such a difference. And the color choices are so great. In a word, "WOW".

    Warmly, Michelle

  68. Steve: WOW! I love this post; thank you for sharing the details. Cindy

  69. I really enjoyed seeing the transition. What a beautiful diary of progression!

  70. Not sure how I even ended up at your blog, but so pleased I did! You have made such a gorgeous transformation to your home. So lovely to see such a beautiful and sympathetic restructure.

  71. I know you posted this a while ago, but I wanted to thank you for putting this up - having grown up in South Africa, where we have brick homes, I had no idea how I could one day buy a house here and make it beautiful. Now I know! You've inspired me!

  72. You have inspired me!!! As a fellow Yankee from Norfolk MA, living in the south, I just bought an 1906 home! I love the colors you chose for your home and have decided to do the same!

    not sure if you can see my link to the house I bought, but either way, what a FABULOUS JOB!

  73. erinc,
    I wasn't able to get to your fb page but thank you for the huge compliment. I'm so glad you were inspired! E-mail some photos if you want. I'd love to see it!

  74. beautiful transformation. great job!!

  75. A lot of work, but so worth it! You did excellent and your house looks fabulous!!!! Enjoy!!!

  76. This is amazing!!!! Thanks so much for sharing. Now every time I drive by a Greek Revival with a small front porch I'll know what it could/should look like. :_

  77. This restoration is so great - by the way I have a lovely Jenny Lind bed (from Maine) looking for a good home - it needs a bit of work but it is spectacular - any takers?

  78. Your house is gorgeous!!!!! Wonderful job! I've been able to post some great before and after photos of homes/buildings in Newburgh too! You also have a great eye for interiors also. Congrats.

  79. Hi! perhaps you would like my parent's house in my blog

  80. First visit . . . Introduced from Living Life.
    Stunning transformation.
    Refreshing for me to discover you. The "refreshing" is your 'Urban Cottage' content and style. Different from the usual Reader visits and inviting me into more discovery of you.

    Such a treat . . .

  81. Steve,
    I had to come back to this post to check out the skirt around your porch. I think we need to do something like this. Reading this post again reminds me that I need to make a trip to town to check out records on our house. This is only day two and I have more questions than answers.

  82. Wow! what an amazing transformation is this. The renovation they've did was simply impressive. A lot of thanks for sharing this with us.

  83. I am late to the game but want to say that your work is amazing!
    I love the transformation and your design choices.
    Congratulations on a beautiful home!

  84. It looks WONDERFUL!
    The new/original porch makes the house look so welcoming.
    I like the sidelights a lot. Looks like the cat does, too!

  85. LOVE your home. You have done such an amazing job. Found you via Amy's blog Maison Decor! I'm local too, based in Scituate, MA!

  86. Your transformation shows great respect for the old, great new products to make it even better and a sincerity in combining both. You had a great contractor to work with which is so important. Great job!! Thank you so much for sharing.

  87. WoW! Your transformation is incredible!
    This is my 1st intro to your blog and project, and I'm having much fun checking out your work!
    I've been busy doing a reno/addition to my mother's home--my passion!

  88. What city and state is your house located in?
    The transformation is amazing, and your tree looks
    lovely. Audubon Girl, Boston

  89. i came across this web site and must commend you for an outstanding job. I too live in a Greek Revival and have spent the last 30 years restoring it. Budgets do slow things down a bit. You have taken the time to focus on the key architectural details of the house and it looks perfect. Great work.

    Longmeadow, MA admirer

  90. Wow! That's all I can say. Wow! It makes me homesick for my old Iowa home. It can be depressing raising a young and inexperienced house (current one built in 1979 - a baby!). You did an amazing job with every detail, and you did a great job showing how/why you made the choices you did. This post is inspirational and instructional. I'm with a previous commenter who said it probably looks better now than it ever did. I bet the house sighed with relief when you first turned her key. Congratulations on building a better home, a better neighborhood, and for sharing!

  91. Love the before and afters! I happened to have worked at Pacific Colums years ago, and its fun to see the product on things.

  92. Well done!!! Amazing how you can transformed. Huose looks much beter and very fresh. I enjoyed every picture of transformation. Greetings from Provence France.

  93. My first time to your blog....AMAZING JOB!!! So very interesting and seeing the transformation is such a treat for everyone. Your neighbors must love you. Congratulations on a job well done. Historic Preservation is such an interest of mine. Also, congratulations on the courage to undertake such a project.

    1. Hi
      Did you do new or replacement windows. They look great..

    2. The windows are Marvin replacement windows. They're aluminum clad on the outside so they're maintenance fee and wood on the inside. I would recommend getting them primed on the inside so you don't have to feel rushed to get them painted on the inside.

  94. By any chance do you have the model number of the windows. Our house looks similar to yours and we have been hesitant about replacing the window. We have old original windows. Are you happy with yours..By the way I love the new door with the house. It is simpler than the older door and just ties it all together.

    1. I don't believe there's a model number. There are a lot of different options so they're pretty much entirely custom.

  95. Steve...

    What a great project and transformation. I love the fact that you made the windows larger on bottom as I think that makes entire job appear more symmetrical. Would you be able to share the name of your architect? I have a Greek Revival house on the Cape that needs some work and I love what you and your architect designed.

  96. An incredible job done. You have meticulously done the job with eye at each detail. Simply amazing! I recently did gevelrenovatie (facade renovation) at my Antwerpen home which is 40 years old and only doing this part was so interesting and challenging. I can relate to the multifold experience that you may have had. You deserve to be proud of the exterior renovation that you have done.

  97. I can relate to your exhilarating experience that you must have had while doing this project. Everything seems to be just perfect. After reading the post it is quite seen that you have an eye for detail, which probably must have been the key ingredient behind this successful magical transformation. Well the efforts have paid in leaps and bound. While doing the gevelrenovatie (facade renovation) of my home at Antwerpen, I dug into some posts for garnishing knowledge on the topic. The research by you is incredible and thanks for sharing all the smallest of activity details in the post here. Congratulations once again for the Urban Cottage.

  98. hello, i realize i'm a little late to the game on this post but just found it googling "exterior home renovation" and this is amazing! sorry if you already said this somewhere, but would you care to share how much all of this cost you in materials and labor? it sounds like you did a lot of the work yourself, can you estimate how much money you saved by doing so?? thanks!!

  99. Steve,

    Let me begin by saying what an excellent piece of photodocumentation and storytelling! I was hooked once I began to read it.

    I stumbled onto your Urban Cottage page as I was researching what kind of home I actually own. As it turns out, it is exactly like your home. It was referred to as a "Colonial" when I purchased it.

    I wish I had seen your project before because I just had my house resided. Now that I have seen what you have done with your home, my curiosity about the origins and original concept of my home has been piqued.

    You mentioned going to the historical commission to review the original plans for your home. I live in Melrose, MA. Do you think I would have to visit the Middlesex County Registry of Deeds in Cambridge for that kind of information?

    Also, what town is your home located (only if you are comfortable sharing that)? Thanks!


    1. Fred,
      Greek Revivals are actually an anti-Colonial but it's not uncommon for real estate agents to miscategorize them.

      I would try Melrose Historical Commission or Society and ask them for what information there might be. I would doubt the Registry of Deeds would have drawings but I could be wrong. If Melrose didn't diagram each house, the Historical Commission might have maps or other documents that show the outline of the house. I'm in Cambridge which has an Historical Commission--separate from the Historical Society--that has a wealth of information. I don't know what kind of architectural details you have on your house but if you're interested in making it look more like a quintessential Greek Revival, I'd be happy to give you some suggestions. There are a lot of variations and I have a lot of photos. I'd love to see a photo if you wouldn't mind sharing. My e-mail is urbancottageblog at gmail dot com.

    2. I have also visited the Cambridge Historical Commission as I start the planning process for our new home. Actually the Cambridge Historical Commission is the top agency of this type in the country, or so I have been told.

  100. Hello Steve - your house is absolutely gorgeous - you should be proud! I have a question, though. The trim (as in around the windows and columns) is really "silver chain"? I am thinking of painting my house in graystone and I am looking for the perfect white trim. And I don't know if you mentioned it somewhere, but what color is the black for the door?

    1. Thank you so much. Yes, the trim is Silver Chain. I wanted the color palette to be really harmonious so I chose the lighter gray. A lot of people, even standing in front of the house, refer to it as white. If you look at the last photo, though, specifically at the stairs, you'll notice the first riser above the granite step is still just the primer so you can see it's white. If you want to go that white, take a look at Decorator's White which I think is a chalky white that might work. I'm going paint my back porch ceilings in Decorator's White since it's surrounded by Silver Chain trim. The black of the front door and side lights is Ben Moore ready-mixed black. I hope that helps.

  101. Hi Steve,
    I just love coming back and reading old posts about your specific choices in your renovation.
    You have incredible taste! I would like to know how your front porch stain is holding up?
    (We are in the midst of painting our house, and now the front porch looks like hell!) When renovating, one thing always leads to another!

    Kristen in Atlanta

    1. Kristen,
      It's held up okay and by "okay," I mean well enough. This is its third year and it looks a little tired. I think all I need to do is wash it down and give it a top coat of the Cabot oil. It's not peeling or anything, it just looks a little dingy. The painters recommended doing it every other year.

  102. I have to echo what everyone else said: Your house is gorgeous and it's so interesting to read about the renovation process.

    I was wondering if you have any tips for picking an exterior color?

    I have a 1929 bungalow in Providence. It has a screened-in porch so there's not a lot of opportunity for trim, in terms of posts and railings. I've been looking at blues or blue/gray but I just haven't been able to find a color that really hits me. So far, I have 11 sample colors on the side of the house. They're either too light or too dark, too purple or too teal.

    So now I'm thinking about giving up on blue and choosing a gray instead. I painted my living room and dining room Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter with white trim and I love the way they look. But I was thinking I might need something a little darker outside, and the Graystone looks really sharp.


    1. Thank you, Esther. I suffered through picking a color...or obsessed might be a better word. The only tip I could offer is to take to the streets. Walk around some of the nicest neighborhoods of your fine city and look for inspiration. I tend to lean toward dark colors and I think they're handsome. If your house is small, I think it's better to pick colors that are harmonious rather than contrasting but that might be a personal choice. But Providence has so many beautiful homes, I think you'll find the perfect colors.

    2. STELLAR JOB. I know I'm late to the party, but good GAWD how remarkable. I have but three questions:

      1) are the parlor windows under the porch enlarged by you or did you find evidence of windows (nearly to the floor) - either way I like it and consider it an improvement.

      2) Is it a stove house or are there fireplaces?

      3) Was there evidence of the Doric Porch?

      Again, SUPERB .... I hope you've inspired the neighborhood similarly.

  103. I absolutely love this transformation. Found your blog while doing a little search this morning on exterior house husband is dying to paints ours, but picking out the right paint color is proving to be rather daunting to me. Graystone is getting some serious consideration though. Love the colors, columns, the red chimney! Brilliant job

  104. Wow, what an amazing transformation. I am in love with the elongated windows that look out onto the porch. The colors you chose fit in nicely here in New England, but the Greek Revival style reminds me so much of New Orleans. Just add a few hanging plants to that porch and you've got yourself a southern charmer! Great job with this. The curb appeal is outstanding.

  105. Just found your blog post from Manhattan Nest's posting. . You did such an amazing job! Love how you mixed old with new and kept the historical look. Much love from California!


  106. I really enjoyed following the progress of your redesign project especially since I am hoping to do something similar:
    Restore the original (half) porch on a late 18th century house in Cambridge.
    I gather that your house is in the Boston area maybe even in Cambridge. I wonder if you have tips to share with me and especially if you could tell me who your contractor was. I am in a similar situation: the 1890 survey shows a half porch and there is a door in the front room that goes no where and clearly originally went to that porch. I have a small entry porch now which was damaged when a tree limb came down and since I have to rebuild it anyway I would like to expand the progect to encompass my long standing dream of restoring the porch I was told by the Historical Commission that I would have to apply for a variance but that the fact that I was aiming for historical accuracy would work in my favor. I contacted a few contractors last year but no one really was on fire to do this job so I shelved it. I am once again motivated to get things going and your online log of your restoration and enhancement of your house helped a lot!

    So if you have time and any ideas for me please get back when you have a moment. Any ideas would be helpful.

  107. Just found your blog and have to say that it's amazing what someone walking past that before can see with some imagination. A beautiful transformation though I have to agree with commenter Kate, until I read your About Me, I thought you were in uptown New Orleans.

  108. and exciting transformation!!! Love each step....