Monday, November 20, 2006

Restoring a Valuable Antique

Not my apartment, for a change.

Danny Miller and his wife own a 1909 home near downtown Los Angeles that they've been restoring to its former glory while keeping some of the historical details intact. According to Miller, "it is a richly rewarding pursuit that puts you in touch with an amazing array of artisans, craftspeople, historians, experts, and like-minded homeowners whose favorite past-time is sifting through hundred-year-old archives looking for clues to help unlock the mysteries embedded in their homes."

He wrote the cover story in yesterday's Los Angeles Times real estate section about those like-mined homeowners. Contractor Steve Pallrand laments that people are too quick to renovate the bathrooms on these houses, when the old fixtures are more complementary to the house and more efficient than anything you can buy today.

Okay, this actually is about my apartment again.

Our bathroom had one of those pull-chain toilets for years with a wooden water tank up near the ceiling. You could have flushed a truck down that toilet, if you needed a really speedy and convenient means of truck disposal. The landlord replaced it about ten years ago because there was a valve that kept wearing out in it and it was becoming more and more difficult to find that valve. So now we have a more conventional tank toilet.

Some of the apartments in our building have those deep cast iron sinks in the kitchen. Mine did when I first moved in, but it was broken even then and was replaced with enamel and steel. And now I keep seeing those cast iron sinks turn up in home design magazines where the decorator is saying, "My partner and I bought a weekend home in Beacon and we called an antique plumbing consultant..." and the price tag could renovate my entire bathroom.

One of the contractors we spoke with wanted to "build out" the walls in our bathoom to cover exposed pipes. Our bathroom is 2 1/2 feet wide. If you build out the walls, you will have to pee sideways. The exposed pipes are the whole charm of the place. A bitch to dust, but very charming.

Today's Apartment Therapy features a guy who's renovated his East Village tenement while respecting the style and era of the building...and I'm taking notes.

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