Duluth's Older Homes
There are so many things to love about Duluth! Located on an amazing lake, our city is rich in history and offers a vibrant culture in the arts, theatre, music and academia. Add the endless recreational opportunities – both indoors and out – and you have the best life can offer.
As a designer, I am particularly enthralled by Duluth’s beautiful, historic homes. Much of Duluth’s housing was built between 1900 to 1930 – boom times when entire neighborhoods went up over the span of five to six years. Unlike the housing developments of today, these homes were built with an attention to detail that is all but missing from most modern homes. I’ve had the privilege of working in many of these older homes … some grand old mansions, but just as often, modest bungalows and colonials built for average middle class families. And I am always amazed by the common thread — the great attention to detail that exists in these structures.
These wonderful homes were built in an era that preceded the concept of ‘disposable’ product. Using the best construction materials and practices available at the time, even modest homes were built to last. Attention was paid to the smallest details: solid wood doors, brass and glass locksets, detailed trim and ceiling moldings, artisan tile and interesting masonry. Hardwood flooring was a given and windows were designed to maximize natural light and airflow.
Every home requires updating, especially homes built a century ago. In too many cases, however, these updates result in the loss of original architectural features. Plain modern trim replaces the detailed casings of the past, crown moldings are lost when ceilings are lowered to create new mechanical chases and windows and doors are replaced with styles belonging to a different era. Kitchens and baths have also suffered particularly from updates, especially through the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s (at least from a historical perspective). It’s true, that period of design saw many interior materials take a turn to the worse — what I often refer to as the ‘dark era’ of design — so homeowners didn’t always have a choice. But I still can’t help but feel a little sad when I see renovations so incongruent with the architecture of the home.
I’ve had the honor of helping numerous families restore their kitchens and bathrooms to reflect the period style that belongs to their home. Often times we are un-doing some questionable design work completed from an earlier decade. One needn’t be a preservationist to appreciate good design in an older home. And here’s the good news: It has never been easier to create a kitchen or bathroom that provides modern convenience with details that reflect the era of the home’s original design. Many manufacturers of interior products have recognized the need for quality affordable products with ‘historical’ appeal. Cabinetry, some appliances, plumbing fixtures and fittings, hardware, locksets, tile, moldings even paint colors — are all available to help owners of older homes update them in an honorable way. Isn’t it wonderful when we can give our beautiful older homes the new life they deserve?
Rebecca G. Lindquist is a certified master kitchen and bath designer and co-owner of Lindquist and Company, Kitchens and Baths. www.lindquistandcompany.com