Antique Colonials: Beyond the Borning Room*

We all follow the trends of home sales and what is hot among buyers. Recently, square footage is no longer the be-all-and-end-all of buyers’ requirements. Many are looking for quality and unique design. Here are some things on discerning buyers’ wish lists:

  • quality construction
  • fine woodworking and detail
  • spaces for gracious entertaining
  • custom-built, not “cookie-cutter”
  • a connection to nature
  • mature and lovely landscaping
  • Lastly, everyone’s dream — all of the above features at an affordable price in the desirable towns west of Boston.

Surprisingly, many antique homes (primarily ones built in the 18th and early 19th centuries) fit the bill and offer even more amenities.

First, it should be noted that the most popular home style remains the Colonial. They are still being built today. But New England is blessed with the real thing, and if you have spent any time in a true antique Colonial, you will recognize that the proportion and functionality are aesthetically perfect. Unless you go with a high-end custom builder, I’m willing to wager that a new “Colonial” will simply not be as well proportioned (or even as well built). It’s analogous to Greek vs. Roman art. The Romans copied the Greek originals and rarely surpassed them.

But back to today’s home buyers. They covet woodwork, built-ins and fireplaces. The antique Colonial has these high-end features and even the bragging rights that all the work was hand done by the best-trained craftsmen. You won’t find comparable moldings at Home Depot!

Someone considering an antique will have to balance the likely small closets or small bathrooms with the advantages of multiple fireplaces and those quality features, like wide pine floors and wainscoting. That is a trade-off I would be willing to make. I value a formal dining room with its own elegant fireplace and a large built-in china cabinet more than a large master bath. The pleasures I get entertaining at holidays or even coming together for a relaxed evening meal trumps any activity I do in a bathroom. But that is just me.

Today, people talk about the home’s connection to nature. We live in a lovely part of the country and want to enjoy the outdoors. The typical antique Colonial will likely maintain at least some pastoral views from its windows. I was recently at an antique home for sale in Lincoln Massachusetts and oohed and aahed at the views of stone walls and a sylvan tree that stood in the back yard. If you long for a sylvan tree, an antique home is the place to find one. And since many antiques are located in the center of town, people moving from the city will continue to enjoy the walk-to-everything convenience.

One shouldn’t be too afraid of exploring the possibility of expansion, as well. While towns will rightly want to make sure that additions are sympathetic, the reality is that many of these New England homes were added on to over the years. That contributes to their picturesque appearance. In fact, today’s high-end builders sometimes design large homes to look as if they had been expanded over the generations. This is a much more New England aesthetic than just building large right from the start.

So look to antiques. They are not just for history buffs. Antique homes provide warmth, charm, and beauty, which make them truly timeless.

*It seems that many antique Colonial homes have a small first-floor room called the borning room. Colonial-era women, who often had 12 or more children, were stationed in this room for their deliveries. Borning rooms never seem to make it onto modern buyers’ wish lists, but they do make a great story (or maybe a great closet).

Click to search all Massachusetts homes for sale built prior to 1900.

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