Saturday, July 11, 2015

Open House at The Isaac Davis House in Barnstable Village 8/1/15 from 11 AM to 1 PM

Put aside your beach towel and suntan lotion (I know, its hard, but you'll be glad you did!) and join us for an Open House at The Isaac Davis House, located at 3688 Main St. in historic Barnstable Village, Saturday August 1st, from 11 AM to 1 PM.  This beautiful house has a rich history.   Beginning as a Federal style home, it underwent substantial updating during the Greek revival period.  Feast your eyes on the generous, inviting rooms and imagine sitting in front of one of the fireplaces with a good book and cup of tea.

This remarkably well preserved house has had many fans over the years.  An article in the Barnstable Patriot, June 22nd, 1858 described Isaac Davis' house as "one of the most tasteful residences in town":

But this house started its story long before.  On the property, there stood an earlier home from the mid 1600's belonging to Elder Thomas Dimmock and memorialized with a plaque in the scenic stone wall:

An article in Yankee magazine mentions the secret trap door leading to an underground tunnel that could have been used as a stop in the underground railroad. There were Davis' at that time that belonged to the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), known abolitionists.  Hmm, could Isaac have shared their sentiments?

From an article in the Barnstable Patriot by Nancy Rubin Stuart, May 23, 2013:

Isaac Davis' daughter Mary, married a ship captain, Otis Hinckley.    Mary lived many years after Otis and stayed in her father's house until her own passing in 1917.
From Edward Handy's book, Barnstable Village, West Barnstable and Sandy Neck, Arcadia Publishing July 14, 2003, p.13.

From Edward Handy's book, Barnstable Village, West Barnstable and Sandy Neck, Arcadia Publishing July 14, 2003, p.13.Obituary of Mary Freeman Hinckley, December 17, 1917, Barnstable Patriot:

The Isaac Davis house is a strong link to Barnstable Village's past. And now, you have the opportunity to view this character filled home in person!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Farrow and Ball paint on Cape Cod

Photo from Farrow and Ball Inspiration page
If you like the beautiful historic paint collections from Benjamin Moore and California paints, you're going to love the new Farrow and Ball showroom in Hyannis.  The showroom, housed at the Toby Leary Fine Woodworking location, 135 Barnstable Road, is painted in gorgeous Farrow and Ball chalky shades.

Photo from Farrow and Ball Inspiration page
I have several books by Ross Byam Shaw that include character filled homes in the English countryside.  I always sigh at the soft quality of the paint and am not surprised to check the resources and find that it is another Farrow and Ball confection.  She has also written two inspiring books that specifically highlight Farrow and Ball paint, Farrow and Ball Decorating with Colour and Farrow and Ball Living with Colour.  Pure eye candy.

Photo from Farrow and Ball Inspiration page
If you would like to see customer's uploaded photos, check out their Inspiration Gallery - full of photos of real life rooms.  You can even sort by the particular paint color that you are interested in to see how it looks in different applications.

Stop by the Hyannis showroom and take a look.  They even have these itty bitty paint can samples for $7 of all 132 color (or should I say colours?) so that you can try one on for size in your own home.

For a historic home enthusiast, you'll appreciate that many of the colors are derived from historic samples.  I love the names of these colors too - Elephant's breath, mouse's back, Mizzle…

The website and facebook page offer advice, from current trends to considering the direction of light in your color choice.  

Photo from Farrow and Ball colour trends 2015
Photo from Farrow and Ball website
I'll be using some of these lovely colors in my own house - Do you have any favorites?

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Home Improvements using a HUD Title 1 Home Improvement Loan and Mass Save Energy loan

Our house being re-roofed

If you've purchased a home that needs a wee bit of work, but you don't have equity (umm, because you just purchased it), here is a nifty loan that can help.  In my case, we purchased our house at the height of the market, and the price still hasn't recovered to the point where we have enough equity to do an equity line of credit.  I had written a post previously about a 203k loan which bases the loan on the projected finished value of the home.  However, few homes have sold in my neighborhood and those that have needed A LOT of work (one was marketed as a tear down!).  On paper, the finished value of my house did not support the work that I wanted to do.  Whats a gal to do?

I searched for loans that do not require equity and stumbled upon the HUD Title 1 Home Improvement loan.  It sounded too good to be true.  The maximum loan on a single family house is $25,000 and can be used for building alterations, repairs and site improvements.  Now here is the best part, there is no home inspection or appraisal!  The loan is secured by your home (like a second mortgage) but they do not consider the equity that you have in your home.  The only catch is that you need good credit, and of course your income must be sufficient to support the loan.

The paperwork was so easy and streamlined that I honestly wondered during the process if it were some kind of scam.  I checked out the bank and could find nothing nefarious so we went ahead with the loan.  From the time we applied, to the time we closed, was 10 days.  10 DAYS I tell you.  And we were never asked for the same piece of information more than once. The attorney came to our house, at OUR convenience, to do the closing.  We have 6 months to make the repairs (or ask for an extension) before an inspector comes out to verify that the work was done.  Easy Peasy.  The loan officer we used is John Rodriguez, Admirals Bank, Office #401- 248-7267, Mobile #401-439-6236, 15 Park Row, West Providence, RI  02903.

I can't believe that more banks don't offer this.  In fact, many loan officers that I spoke with don't even know that the program exists.  We used it to finance a new roof, some work to our chimney and to fix rotted trim boards.

Is there a downside?  The rate is higher than a traditional refinance.  I'm not sure how it compares to a home equity loan though.  However, we combined this with a 0% long term loan from the Mass Save Energy program to get the rest of the work that we wanted done.

If you live in Massachusetts, I highly recommend getting a MassSave Energy Audit.  If for no other reason, you get free light bulbs.  Our audit revealed that our house was 10 TIMES more drafty than a modern house. It's no wonder we've been hemorrhaging money to pay for our oil heat.  They identified some easy, low cost ways to improve our energy loss, like insulation in cracks, door sweeps, and changing out light bulbs.  And they identified some more involved work like converting to gas and changing out windows (ours are NOT original, but are the result of a 1940's renovation).  

Click here for a pdf report by the National Trust 

for Historic Preservation

Preservation Green Lab Report

A note about windows, if you have original windows in your historic home - keep them if you can!  People are often worried about energy loss, but the truth is, studies show that you can get near to, or equal, the energy efficiency of modern insulated pane windows by adding good quality storms on the exterior or interior of the window.   And few things change the character of your house as quickly as removing the original windows.  For great information on energy efficiency of historic windows, click this link to a post by California's Office of Historic Preservation.  I am disappointed that the MassSave Energy program does not allow for a 0% loan if you are restoring your windows - only for replacement.

Sitting here with a light snow on the ground, it's hard to believe that within a couple of months, the daffodils will be poking their heads out of the ground accompanied by the sweet sound of buzzing saws and nail guns : )  

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Vive La Victorian!

From Houzz tour - Eoin Lyons Interiors

Why do Victorian's get such a bad rap?

For a long time, the housing market has viewed Victorians as being stuffy dark places where ghosts and mice like to dwell.  Oh sure, there have been the hold outs, the purists who love a curvy Queen Anne Victorian parlor and whose mantra is "more is more"!  But for many, Victorians spell formality and fussiness.  But that attitude is changing, as evidenced by some recent tours on Houzz and Apartment Therapy featuring Victorians in a fresh modern light. 

Houzz tours:

From Houzz tour - Eoin Lyons Interiors
These homes are graced with high ceilings, deep moldings and warm wood floors - a perfect foil for contemporary lighting and furnishings.  They transport the ordinary into the extraordinary.  Stripped of the layers of competing patterns, the Victorian's woodwork becomes the star.
From Houzz look book - Lisa K Tharp Design
Apartment Therapy tour: Nyakinyua & Ivan's Bohemian ChicVictorian Home
I lived in a Queen Anne Victorian as a child and I still remember the intricate molded plaster that decorated the dining room in a fanciful collection of fruit and cherubs.  That house sparked my passion for historic homes.

Here on the cape, our historic homes date as far back as the 17th century, but there are pockets of Victorians.  The Cape became a popular tourist destination during the Victorian period.  You may be familiar with the charming painted cottages on Martha's Vineyard.

Here is one of our listings for a Victorian period house in Harwich Port that is for sale at $699,900, well below appraised value:
232 Bank Street, Harwich Port

232 Bank Street, Harwich Port

Would you like to see other Victorian homes on the Cape? click here

Monday, October 20, 2014

Tales and Ales event - Historic New England

I'm obsessed with old houses.  There, I've said it.  Obsessed.  So when my husband and I decided that it was high time to take a little vacation for ourselves and get away, of course I went right on over to Historic New England's website to see what events were coming up.

I noticed one that had all the necessary elements for fun - old house, good food, micro brewed ales, stories from the past, music, and fellowship with other old house nuts.  Here is the description of "Tales and Ales" from Historic New England's website:

Tales and Ales, October 18

Saturday, October 18, 6:30 – 9:00 p.m. 
Swett-Ilsley House, 4 High Road, Newbury, Mass.

$35 Historic New England members, $60 nonmembers

In the late seventeenth century, Swett-Ilsley House served the town as Swett’s Tavern, one of three watering holes in Newbury. The huge fireplace and massive beams make a perfect backdrop for an evening of historic fun. Join your friends around a rough tavern table and enjoy traditional local brews from Ipswich Ale Brewery and a hearty tavern dinner while listening to true tales of sword fights, scandalous romances, and bloody brawls, all from Newbury’s storied past. Participants must be over 21.
Swett-Isley House, 4 High Road,, Newbury, MA

How could I resist that?  It was a fantastic evening - which easily explains why it always sells out.  The Swett-Ilsley House is the perfect backdrop for the night's festivities.  Ipswich Ale Brewery made a couple of kegs of beer especially for the event.  The musicians sat in front of the massive fireplace and the room was dimly lit with twinkle lights.  We ate our meal in the adjoining room at long tables with benches.  The dinner was served "family style". Umm, that is if your family eats with their hands.  In 17th century tradition, the serving platter had a knife stuck in the roasted chicken.  Guests carved off a portion of meat, flicked some roasted vegetables onto their own plate and dug right in.  It was warm and delicious - the roasted vegetables were beautifully seasoned with herbs.  The ale deliciously complementing the savory flavors.  While we ate, we were entertained with lively 17th century folk music.  Our table mates traded stories of their favorite Historic New England museums and shared other events that we should try.

Each of us were given little slips of paper with printed testimonies from late 17th century local court cases.  These became our windows to the past.  We were the actors in a 340 year old real life play, orchestrated by Historic New England's  illustrious North Shore regional Mgr, Bethany Groff.  If you ever wanted to be a fly on the wall at a 17th century court hearing (and let's face it, who hasn't?), then this is your event.

If your idea of our puritan settlers is that they were staid and boring - you'll be in for a surprise.

Here is the little slip of paper that I read:

Soooo, that's what the kids called it in those days "he gave me apples".

The evening ended with a very rousing rendition of "Wild Rover" complete with hand clapping and foot stomping, and a lovely ballad.

And did you notice that the price for all this wonder was only $35 per person!! (for members)
Historic New England runs many fun events throughout the year and is a treasure trove of information for New England heritage.  They own 36 house museums and have over 110,000 objects.  For membership info or to learn more, visit their website.

While we were in the area, David and I drooled over the other homes in the area and visited the farmer's market, some antique shops and of course, the Clam Box.
I'll leave you with this eye candy:

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Rent a 17th C. Cape in Historic Sandwich village for 2 weeks this Summer!

If you've ever wanted to live in a restored 17th century cape, now is your chance.  This jaw droppingly gorgeous property is available to rent for just 2 weeks this summer.  You can pick which two weeks you prefer, but act quickly, because it is only available for one 2 week period!  Having 4 bedrooms and 2 1/2 baths, the home sleeps 8.

family room - open to kitchen
The house, dating to 1690, is beautifully situated on a high knoll overlooking Shawme Pond in the heart of historic Sandwich Village.  From this location, you can explore the shops, restaurants and cafe's of Sandwich village - all within an easy walk.  Other attractions within walking distance are the Sandwich Glass Museum, Hoxie House Museum, Dexter Grist Mill, Heritage Museums and Gardens and the famed Sandwich boardwalk where you can swim, kayak and soak in the sun.  A short drive will take you to Sandy Neck or Scusset beach, The Thornton Burgess Green Briar Nature Center with its wildflower garden and historic jam kitchen, Nye House Museum and the Wing Fort House.  And don't forget, this year Sandwich is celebrating its 375th birthday.  There are a myriad of events planned and you would have a front row seat.
Dexter Grist Mill

On the northside of Cape Cod, you can drive along lovely route 6A, the longest continuous historic district in the nation from Sandwich to Brewster.  The drive will take you through the charming villages of Barnstable and Yarmouth Port.

Offered for $2,800 per week for a two week period ($5,600) plus a refundable $300 security deposit.  Sorry - no pets and no smoking.  To rent this one of a kind property, contact Lisa at or call 774-994-1337.

view from family room into kitchen

large eat in kitchen

Living room with fireplace - game room beyond

Living room with dining area

game room and library

View from 1st floor bedroom to sitting room

1st floor bedroom

Sitting room in front of house with views of pond.

2nd floor bath with clawfoot tub/shower

2nd floor full bathroom
Master bedroom with gas fireplace

Master bedroom with attached full bath

Upstairs bedroom with twin beds

View from front sitting area overlooking pond