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I came upon a great post from Arcoteria @ JAMA House and believe there’s a lot of merit in the discussion about old-home remodeling which got me to thinking.  Please take a moment to offer your comments.

Arcoteria: Lately, I’ve been thinking more about the political economics surrounding the old house industry and how it impacts one’s ability to purchase, rehabilitate, and restore the old home.  A…

Source: Meaningful Complications

While our remodeling project at Vanha Talo Suomi is unique to us, we discovered that our type of home (rintamamiestalo) is a popular choice for remodeling here in Finland. The rintamamiestalo (“front-line soldier home”) were constructed by hand, by returning WWII soldiers who fought against Russia and Germany in Finland and in other places in Scandinavia from the 1940s to late 1950s. In almost all situations, everything was done without use of power tools back then. Despite the era, Finland was a very poor country economically speaking.

About 6 months after we started our project I discovered a Facebook group devoted to rintamamiestalo which allows groups members to share their remodel project as well as share information about how-to, and where to locate old parts, etc.

While many of the 300k homes which still stand were remodeled to varying degrees in the years after their original construction, most in the 1970s, ours and many others were never updated and remained in ‘original condition.’  This is obviously both a good thing and a bad thing. Luckily, our home was lived in and looked after until the ‘little things’ that needed repairing forced the relatives of original owner to sell rather than face repair costs on a home they only used for holidays.

Homes remodeled throughout the 1970s especially, but also in the 1980s were compromised by inferior construction materials of the period and poor technique which combined to spell lurking time bombs of mold and sagging floors, due to improper ventilation and water issues from the inclusion of indoor plumbing. These are but a couple examples current remodelers are facing.  It seems from the group dialogue, for every house there can also be a unique set of issues to deal with.

What I encountered in the Facebook group was interesting and unsuspected. For the most part, each person chooses to update their home in the manner which will allow the best use of the house for their particular purpose. But for every homeowner who decides to take one of these old rintamamiestalos and remodel it, there is a higher percentage I think who choose to ‘update’ by keeping the original layout, and all the original hardware, cabinets, doors and windows, furnishings, decor, etc. They have opted to live in a 1950 style of house inside and out.  They offer disdain towards anyone choosing to really update their house as we have done, because what we have done is not in keeping with the original – according to them. I think this distinction in remodeling approach pits the purist against the ‘modernist’.

Now, to be more direct about what has motivated our project. Firstly, we had no indoor toilet! original construction didn’t include plumbing except for a single cold water line to a kitchen tap. Secondly, we had no indoor heating system -wood-fired stoves in each room as well as wood-burning kitchen stove for food preparation. Thirdly, all the electric was antiquated and instead of being behind walls, was stapled to the interior of room walls, snaking floor to ceiling and along the baseboard. Yuk.  And don’t forget we had cardboard ‘wallpaper’…

Because our approach to remodeling ‘our’ rintamamiestalo diverted immediately from being a time capsule, our project slipped into the minority with regard to the extent of change we have made. We are using the original windows (which I refurbished) and for the most part many  of them are still in their original construction location, others were moved. We added new construction so even the original ‘lines’ of the house have been changed. Interior walls came down, changing room designations, the kitchen layout is completely different. and most importantly, we included toilets! Two toilets, a shower and a sauna indoors. Wow,   In addition to those major deviations, our project has become further ‘distinguished’ in the design scheme. I am not Scandinavian, so I don’t have a leaning preference towards that style, and it hasn’t impacted my design choices – which all supports a final home remodel project that looks nothing like its ‘contemporaries.’

Our project is not complete, there is still much to do. I’m no longer a member of the Facebook group, I choose to leave as it seemed there was too much difference of opinion on the ‘right way’ to remodel instead of support and encouragement.  To each their own! I’ve never minded being unique and/or different – been that way all my life.