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Historic Home Living

Kathi Caldwell-Hopper - April 17, 2013

Those who live in a modern home probably choose the structure for its sleek style. They appreciate the open spaces, lack of detailed woodwork and numerous, smaller rooms that might be aspects of an older home.

For those who choose to reside in an old home, they are aware of and ready to face the special challenges a historic structure might need. Repairing a roof, a foundation or opening up small rooms to make larger, open spaces are just a few of the things the owner of an old home may face.

When Wolfeboro residents Eric and Amy Piper purchased their historic house, barn and property on South Main Street, they planned to live in a newly-built home elsewhere in the town. The South Main Street property was a large old farmhouse with a barn, perfect for Eric’s new business, Image Awnings. (Old photos show that at one time huge chicken coop buildings stood at on the property, although Eric says they were gone by the time he and Amy bought the farm.) A business such as Image Awnings requires a lot of room to spread out in order to make awnings of all sizes. Luckily, there was plenty of workshop room at the old home/barn.

“We moved to Wolfeboro from Vermont,” Eric recalls. “It was 1992 and we had bought a spec house in another part of town. It was a new home. I was using the South Main Street property for my awning business.”

When the Pipers decided to move into and renovate the farmhouse, it was a drastic move and change in lifestyle. “Amy had reservations about moving into an old house,” Eric laughs and Amy nods in agreement.

“We lived in an RV for a week,” she remembers. “We sent our kids to stay with family in Vermont while we used that week to make sure one room in the house was totally renovated with new carpet, clean walls and nothing hazardous to the kids.”

It was just the beginning of the many renovations the family did on the circa 1890s house; it took nine years to redo all the many rooms of the house.

“Each room was a vacation!” Eric says. “By that I mean instead of taking a vacation, like many people do, we put the money into redoing each room in the house.”

“Vacations are great,” Amy concurs. “But the renovations to your home are lasting. It’s been well worth any sacrifices.”

Indeed, the home on South Main Street is a well-known part of the Wolfeboro community. In summer, old-fashioned wicker furniture on the farmhouse porch facing the road adds a charming touch. In fall, Amy, an event planner and a whiz at decorating, has been known to add a scarecrow or other fall décor. Christmas brings its own beauty and at any time of the year, the pretty and subtle striped awnings over the windows add another bit of flair to the old home.

Well kept inside and out, the home is one of which to be proud. But it took a lot of hard work to get to that point. When Eric and Amy moved in, the rooms were smaller and the floor plan did not flow as smoothly as it does today.

“We took the smaller rooms and made an open concept,” Eric explains. “We had help; we didn’t do it all alone. I am a believer in letting the experts do what they do best. I do what I know how to do but many times in this process, I was the helper in projects and we hired the experts.”

Eric has learned to be the demolition guy over the years as the couple tackled many projects. Old horsehair plaster walls and ceilings needed to be removed and he did much of the work, including sheet rocking.

The heat in the home was steam and the Pipers replaced it with baseboard hot water heat for more efficiency. Replacing about 70 windows in the house with more efficient ones stopped further heat loss.

“We added lots of maintenance free changes and modern conveniences, such as up-to-date appliances and a good floor plan in the kitchen,” Amy explains. “We live busy lives and we don’t have time for lots of upkeep.”

While some might have maintained the old-fashioned floor plan and character, the Pipers are pragmatic about the renovations they have done. They have kept the farmhouse flavor but are aware they need to live comfortably in their home. If it meant moving a wall or opening up spaces or adding modern conveniences, so be it.

“We love the feeling of an old home,” Amy explains. “It has a different charm and character from a new home. In our previous new Wolfeboro home, we didn’t have much to do because it had all been done for us. In this old house, we put lots of time and energy and love into fixing it the way we want.”

Amy’s taste is eclectic and she is not afraid of adding a dash of color here and there. Entering the home is like stepping into a beautiful, open and vibrant environment.

The kitchen invites one to sit at the roomy counter on a colorful bar stool and the “purple” colored kitchen counters add a touch of daring to the space! The floor plan is functional and opens into the living room where décor is all about the ocean.

“I grew up near the ocean and the room is my way of staying connected with the sea,” Amy says of the room’s color and décor.

The recently completed family room has added more space for Amy, Eric and their three nearly grown children to relax. Anywhere and everywhere in the home seems to be a spot to live peacefully and to spread out.

With most of the home having been remodeled, what is next for the Pipers? “We need more closet space,” laughs Amy. “We plan to make our smallest bedroom a walk-in closet.”

The work the Pipers have done on their old home is certainly impressive, and they admit it’s never ending. In an old home, there is always something to be fixed. Do they ever wish for the convenience of living in a condo community?

Eric concedes it crosses his mind when he is mowing the huge lawns around the home each summer or when tackling maintenance projects. “Our next move will be one where I don’t have to maintain a big yard. Maybe a condo!”

Somehow, it is difficult to picture the Pipers living in a ready-made home. With their energy, their flair for decorating and their daring to tear down walls, raise ceilings and boldly paint rooms in bright colors, they will need a home where their creativity can continue to shine.

Eric explains a new idea has come to him and it’s one the couple may pursue.

“Our next property will need to be low maintenance,” he says. “I’ve been looking at designs of underground houses. They can be quite beautiful.”

He pulls out photos of underground homes and a spark of excitement comes into Amy’s eyes to match Eric’s new idea. It would not be a surprise, if in the future, the beautiful historic home on South Main Street becomes a former home for the Pipers as they design and build a unique underground home.

For now, however, their home is where Amy and Eric love to be. Their years of hard work moving plumbing, putting up sheetrock, installing new flooring and more have given them a wonderful home.

Somehow, if the long-ago owners who originally built the farm could see the house all these years later, they would most likely feel right at home. 

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