This Old House?

WAY back in 1979, I watched the very first episode of This Old House.

And was mesmerized.

I ate up each subsequent episode. When a book came out about that first season, I snapped did up, and devoured it.

I was twenty-two.

As the years have passed, as the decades passed, I became aware that my approach to old houses diverged wildly from the approach taken by This Old House. In short, I like an old house to still look like an old house after restoration. This Old House, with each passing season, liked their old houses to look like brand new houses. Indeed, when they finished with a house, it WAS more new than old.

In short, I grew into a restoration advocate. This Old House celebrates renovation.

Two totally different approaches with two wildly different results.

For a long time I subscribed to the magazine, but let the subscription laps about ten years ago. I have not watched the show for even longer.

Tonight though, I clicked on a YouTube viewing of the final episode from 2012, season 15, the Cambridge House.

I watched, with my jaw on the floor, as the hosts toured the newly finished house. It is all lovely, but the entire interior is BRAND NEW. Even the staircase. And of course they created an “open plan” on the first floor.

The comments also shocked me. The show opens with a brief segment about the ONE historic fragment retained: a deliciously old-fashion door ringer, pulled by a wire. I was charmed by it. But the comments?

  • I didn’t like the doorbell. Except that, everything looks great
  • Nice idea for the doorbell until it scratches up the wall
  • Not exactly sleek and modern is it? Nice remodel but this just doesn’t fit at all!

So, the ONE original bit retained, and viewers didn’t get it or like it.



The fabulous door ringer. The only part of the old house still IN the old house.


I shook my head in wonder and horror, and realized how diametrically opposed my approach to the Cross House is from the approach taken by This Old House, and how far I have traveled since 1979.

What I really don’t understand is why owners even bother? Why not just build a new house, with maybe some salvaged bits?


It saddens me greatly that an entire generation of people has grown up thinking that restoring an old home means removing 85% of the original structure. Restoration and preservation are two meaningless words.




The kitchen in the Cambridge house. Can you tell this is in an old house?



  1. Frank McCormick on January 17, 2016 at 9:24 pm

    The only worse episode was one where they took a Victorian, gutted the inside and turned it in open plan Scandanavian modern. That one turned my stomach. There outta be a law!

    • Ross on January 20, 2016 at 1:33 pm

      That house is the Cambridge house, the same one I was writing about. Sigh.

  2. BETSY on January 17, 2016 at 9:58 pm

    Thank you for this. I stopped watching this show a while back as well , for very much the same reasons. It just wasn’t fun to watch them ruin great old houses any more.

  3. Barb Sanford on January 18, 2016 at 10:18 am

    Ahahahahaha. I feel the same way. Why buy an old house at all, if all you’re going to do is gut the interior and make it look like a soulless apartment?

  4. Connie in Hartwood on January 18, 2016 at 2:29 pm

    Add me to the list of folks who stopped watching TOH years ago, and let my magazine subscription lapse at about the same time as you. In the beginning, I would watch Bob and Norm do all sorts of wonderful things to houses that, at the time, got no respect. As the show became popular, the ‘restorations’ seemed to be nothing more than sponsor product placements … as you said, little original material remained.

    I have no problem with updating, modernizing, and insuring that one’s old house electricity, plumbing, and HVAC are safe. Removing the soul of an old house survivor, for the sake of TV entertainment, by so-called experts, misleads the viewers.

  5. debra derrick on February 20, 2016 at 9:01 am

    So you just gotta love Nicole Curtis & her Rehab Addict show on HGTV. She is just terrific!

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