Written by: Amber Barnes
Before Chip and Joanna Gaines popularized HGTV with pewter colors and kitchen islands, there existed This Old House on Alabama Public Broadcasting network. For those who have never had the guilty pleasure of immersing yourself on a lazy Saturday afternoon for an hour, the television program consists of a group of master craftsmen from the New England area who address different issues in older homes. Rather than quickly agreeing to tear down a wall or rip up heart-of-pine flooring, these craftsmen work to amend problems while also providing a historical context for the original work. We could also use a little of This Old House wisdom in Tuscaloosa with some of our older homes. Just the other day, I was touring a home built circa 1940’s with a client when she commented that the first thing to be done was to remove the wall between the kitchen and living room to make it into the trendy “open concept.” As we continued to tour the home, I continued to share information concerning the original builder, who was once a sought-after tradesman in Tuscaloosa known for his unique home accents. I did not even realize just how much I had known of the person and was more-or-less making conversation. By the end of the tour, the potential buyer had completely changed her mind about making any changes because she loved the charm of the cozy living room along with the traditional idea of a separate kitchen. “After all,” she said, “sometimes you just want to cook in peace.”
Another example is a one-of-a-kind listing I currently have nestled in the heart of Tuscaloosa. Built in 1970, it reminisces of a French country chateau complete with all the privacy and natural beauty befitting such an architectural style. The separate and formal dining room harkens back to a time of togetherness while the intricate inlay of oak walls mimics the ancient smoking room of Ashville’s Biltmore Estate. To the buyer who is quick to suggest a coat of gray to cover the mahogany stained oak, I would recommend a pause to gather information and history to better appreciate the unique craftsmanship of this traditional woodworking method. In fact, upon further inspection, one would see not only the beautiful striations of the oak wood but also a hint of something more. Perhaps a recessed hiding spot perfectly camouflaged and expertly constructed just behind one of those panels. Such unique characteristics are few and far between these days in the market of modern farmhouses.
Truly, Tuscaloosa has a lot to offer in the way of new home construction with more opportunities being framed and roofed each day. However, in this market of “new,” let us not forget the timeless beauty of the old. We have numerous homes that while not boasting neutral tones and open floorplans have something perhaps greater to offer: a story.