If Walls Could Talk

posted by Andrea | 06/10/2013

For those of you who don’t know me that well, I have a crazy obsession with old homes – specifically old farmhouses. Ever since I was very young (8 or 9 years old) I’ve dreamed of buying an old farmhouse, gutting it, renovating it, raising a family in it, and growing old in it.

Yes, I realize that’s a very weird thing for a little girl to dream about — but it was my dream.

Then, almost exactly 3 years ago, I found a potential “diamond in the rough” 120 year-old farmhouse for sale on Craigslist — only about 7 miles from our current house. Besides the fact that the entire inside of the house needed to be renovated, it was exactly what we were looking for :)

The location was perfect, the layout was perfect, the extra building and garages were perfect. It was set back off the road just like we wanted, on a 1-acre lot, smack in the middle of town, close to restaurants, highways, parks, school, etc.

This was our dream house!

To make a long story short, we moved in 6 months later and have been renovating it ever since.

(You can read the longer version of that story here… and lots more about our farmhouse here)

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We only have a couple blurry pictures of the original farmhouse (I should really share those with you sometime!) so almost every time we tear down another wall, rip up another floor, or roll on another coat of paint, Dave and I think:

If only these walls could talk!

What would they say?

What were the families like who lived in our house over 100 years ago?

What were the rooms used for and how were they decorated?

What changes were made in the 120 years before we purchased this house?

What did the surrounding area look like at the time? And what did the original farm look like? (I’d love to have one of those aerial shots of the original farm)

We’ve uncovered quite a bit of history in the walls of our house so far, and it’s really cool — at least for me.

However, what I’m most excited about is what the walls of our house will say many years down the road, after we move out (we’re not planning to move any time soon, don’t worry!)

What will they say?

My hope is that our walls will also be full of stories and memories.

New babies, first steps, potty training, lost teeth, broken bones.

Birthdays, anniversaries, Christmases, and so many other holidays.

First days of school, craft projects, baking experiments, living room forts.

Summer BBQ’s, camping in the backyard, running through sprinklers, sidewalk chalk.

Learning to read, playing catch, practicing the piano.

Graduation parties, wedding showers, baby showers, and more!

Even though we’ve only been living in our house for 2.5 years, we already have so many memories inside these walls. It’s finally starting to feel like OUR HOME and I like that!

Last week, the previous owners of our house came back for a visit and to see all the updates we have done. They lived in this house for 25+ years and raised their family here.

Naturally, I wondered what it would be like for them to come back and see everything so different — I was thrilled that they seemed quite happy with everything we’ve done to the house. They had their phones out and were taking all sorts of pictures to show their kids.

As they walked from room to room, they shared some really neat stories and memories.

The husband (who also worked from home some of the time) explained that when his daughter was in middle school, she would file papers for him and they kept a tally on the back of the office door. Each tally mark meant he owed his daughter $0.25. He paid her monthly and said they repainted the back of that door so many time and just kept adding more tally marks. If I would have known, I would have given them the door when we renovated :)

The wife (who absolutely LOVED the new kitchen) was thrilled that we kept the big old floor grates (we did this on purpose). She said that the kids would always race downstairs on cold winter mornings and fight over who got to stand on the big grates in the kitchen to warm their feet.

Can’t you just picture Nora clamoring down the stairs in a few years!

These are the types of stories and the memories I can’t wait to make! We’re already making memories and I know there will be many more to come — especially since we hope to stay here for a long, long time.

In a few years, we’ll look back and laugh about how we lived upstairs in our “one bedroom apartment” for 8 months while we were renovating the main floor, we’ll have a story for every dent and ding in our old wood floors, we’ll wonder how on earth we managed for 5 whole months without a kitchen, and I bet we’ll even smile as we remember all the nights we paced up and down our hallway and slept on the floor in Nora’s nursery :)

Lots of memories to make, and hopefully lots more years to make them!

If the walls of your house could talk, what stories would they share?

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14 comments

  1. Sharon

    06/10/2013

    Beautiful sentiment! I really enjoyed this post!

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  2. Debby

    06/10/2013

    I have lived in my house for 23 years. It’s a new version of a farmhouse. I too love old homes and when I saw the floor plan for this house, I was sold. My house has seen a young couple buy it bare bones and add the extras as they could afford, two babies brought home, lots of birthday parties, family cookie baking parties, friends in the backyard parties. With two teenage girls and the drama that sometimes occurs, I might be glad my walls can’t talk. There are moments that none of us are proud of I’m sure :). However, this is our home and we all love it so much. Not too long ago, my husband and I had talked about moving because our home needs some updating, and my H thought maybe we should just look into a newer home with the updates, in the same school district. We got a LOUD NO!!!!!! from both girls. “I love this house!” they cried. Well guess what? So do I. I am looking to your pics for inspiration as we update our kitchen toward the end of summer. No need for an overall reno, just paint the cabinets and drawers (all 43 of them) and new countertops and sink. I love your insight to everyday life. I feel like if we were neighbors, we would be very good friends. Keep up the great post.

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  3. kimberly

    06/10/2013

    We had visitors just this weekend, relatives of the last owners of our home. They just wanted to see the old place and take pictures. This place lives on in the hearts of others. It is our home now, but it has sheltered many in these 93 years. Having random people stop by and share their stories is one of our favorite things about this place.

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  4. Deb

    06/10/2013

    We moved a lot when I was a kid as did my husband’s family and we have moved a lot together, so our memories are in so many different houses, that makes it really confusing! We have to stare at pictures hoping something will click to remember what house it was! We have been married 22 years and this is our 12th address!

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  5. Margret

    06/10/2013

    We’re renovating the old bowling club in the middle of our small town to live in. We had friends over on the weekend to celebrate the purchase and the big burly husband of one friend said he’d had many a cup of tea there, I thought that was cute and that we’ll hold a lot of memories of the town in our new house.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Wow an old bowling club — that sounds awesome!

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  6. Marie

    06/10/2013

    I might be one of those old owners soon who goes to visit their old home. I grew up in a house about three hours away from where my husband and I are stationed now. My family and I moved away from it (12 hrs away) 15 years ago. Ive lived three other places since but the house I grew up in has the most memories for me so I want to go back and see it while we’re relatively close. It’s good to hear that some people don’t seem to mind having old owners come back to visit.

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  7. Leah H

    06/10/2013

    Sounds like our dream too! Good to know you found it and we can too :) Good ole Craigslist! I was wondering, how did you search for such a house on Craigslist? There are too many listings to look through. I do search for “land for sale” (since we’d be up for buying land and building later), “farm house”, “farm land”, “acreage” etc. I still feel like it’s not the best way.

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  8. Ree Klein

    06/10/2013

    What a beautiful post, Andrea, and a beautiful life you and Dave are building together and for your children.

    It makes me smile!

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  9. Amy

    06/10/2013

    Your post today reminded me of the song, “If These Walls Could Speak” by Amy Grant. I thought you would enjoy it.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T2eKB_fZryY

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  10. Echo

    06/10/2013

    I just bought an old house and look up property transfers. I was able to trace ownership of the property back to Restoration and have started getting to know former owners via ancestry.com. It’s fun and interesting! My walls are talking, and I’m grabbing a seat and soaking it up.

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  11. Stephanie

    06/10/2013

    Our house is well over 100 years old. Old stone foundation and then block foundation and poured walls. It seems our house has been added onto many times.
    I know some history, our neighbor behind us, his grandpa used to live in it. They eventually sold it to an older lady who had no children. She added onto it a few times as well. When she died the estate sold it to a young couple who ended up keeping part of the acreage and building behind us. It is fascinating knowing that much. We also have two aerial photos of the house. It is neat to see how they added a pond behind it and how Mich has changed in the last 30 years or so.
    Our walls would have many stories like yours. It is fun to try to guess while renovating what was originally where. We have a set of stairs to our basement under our kitchen floor. We redid the bathroom and found random painted plaster in the walls. There was about 6 ayers of ceiling to cut through to install a fan. It is much more work but a lot better than letting the place fall apart.

    Thanks for sharing!

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  12. Sandy

    06/10/2013

    I love this post.
    Our house was built in 1960 (so it’s not that old – 43 years) and we are only it’s third owners. The people who built it turned out to be distant relatives, so we learned about its construction and why certain things were done. Just last week I was contacted by the second owners asking if they could stop by. I will welcome them in the next couple of weeks.
    We have lived here 24 years and have updated, remodeled, moved a wall or two, added a room or two, etc….making the house our home. I am the keeper of my family’s history and memorable furniture. I look forward to meeting these former owners and hearing their stories of this house…our home.

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  13. Kalyn Brooke

    06/12/2013

    Every time we would rip something apart in our 100 year old house in NY, we would say, “WHY did they do it THAT way!?” It would have been comical had it not cost us so much time and money to redo it right.

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