New England Home Styles

Bringing Your Interests Home: Finding the Right Space is Key

Heading for the home stretch of summer can mean a lot of things, but it should never mean the end of the fun! For car aficionados the summer and fall months are golden, filled with car events all over.

This coming weekend alone there are Chevelle and El Caminos to see in Westford, the Sons of Italy Car Show in Wilmington, the New Marlborough Classic Car Show, the Whitinsville Cars in The Park, and the Road Devils Boston Massacre in East Bridgewater!

When you’re looking to bring your interests home however, finding the right space is key.

If you or a loved one are a tinkerer or a well-skilled craftsman, you are surely aware that not all hobbies are odorless or quiet. That’s where the builder of 15 Charles Street, Bedford, MA one of our recently listed new construction properties, says his garage stands out from the competition. In fact, he highlights this as a selling-point for the garages he built there, “For the car community, a big advantage is having the garage detached from the house.”

For the car community, a big advantage is having the garage detached from the house.

The garage at 15 Charles Street not only allows for car enthusiasts to enjoy their interests, but also provide space that could be used for snowmobiles, boats, or tools for tradesmen. Ample loft space allows for storage of additional tools and items that are necessary for winter or summer hobbies such as skis, snowboards, beach gear, and more. The epoxy floor allows durability for all types of work, and the heated office space just off the garage adds an opportunity for tranquility when the problem just won’t be fixed!

To search all of our listings with garage space click here. For more details on this weekend’s events click here.

5 Home Improvements that Pay Off

Like many American’s, your biggest investment may be your home, so you want it to perform well when you put it on the market. Some home renovations can be costly, so you want to make sure the upgrades will make your home more attractive to potential buyers and give you the biggest bang for your buck. Here are some home improvements that pay off when it comes time to sell your home!

Energy Efficient UpgradesHome Improvements Kitchen

Improving your home’s energy efficiency may make a bigger difference and give you more bang for your buck than cosmetic upgrades. The number of energy efficient homes is on the rise, and many home buyers favor energy efficient homes because of potential long term savings. Think attic insulation, HVAC, water heaters, windows, and doors. These upgrades are less expensive than solar panels. It’s a great idea to provide potential buyers with copies of your utility bills to show them how much they can save.

Minor Kitchen Renovations

Renovating the kitchen is one of the key things you can do to improve your home’s value. The good news is you don’t need to do an expensive full kitchen renovation to make a big difference. Smaller things like painting your cabinets, getting new cabinet doors, or switching out cabinet hardware can make buyers happy. Upgrade your countertops and install new appliances, if needed. You don’t need to buy the most expensive appliances to make your kitchen fabulous.

Minor Bathroom Renovations

Updating your bathroom can also make a big impact on buyers. Think about regrouting tile, replacing caulk, updating the toilet, mirrors, and fixtures. These smaller projects can give your bathroom a nice facelift without breaking the bank.

Fresh PaintHome Improvements Paint & Flooring

One of the least expensive things you can do also gives you one of the best returns on investment. A nice, fresh coat of interior paint can really brighten up your home and make it shine. Color trends change over time, but it’s usually best to stay away from deep, dark colors and pure white. Always consider the impact the color will have on the buyer. Select colors that will make it easier for buyers to picture themselves living in your home.

Power wash your home’s exterior to decide if you need to freshen up the exterior paint. Sometimes power washing alone works enough magic. If your front door is older and you aren’t going to replace it, it’s a good idea to paint it!

Flooring Upgrades

Upgrading your flooring can make a huge difference and it makes your home look well maintained. Hardwood floors payoff and they are in high demand, but they are expensive to install. Replace tile and carpet if needed. At the very least, refinish your hardwood floors, wax tile areas, and get carpets professionally cleaned. If you’re on a budget, focus on the upgrading the flooring in the kitchen and living areas to get the biggest impact.

Thinking about selling your home in the Greater Boston area? Contact Barrett Sotheby's International Realty today and learn how we can help!

Atwood Millet House Tour with Westford Historical Society

Nine years ago, the Atwood/Millet House at 4 Graniteville Road in Westford was vacant and in need of much care. It was purchased by Anson and Marie James, a young couple with energy and expertise in high end home restoration. This fall, the Jameses are re-opening their home to the public for one afternoon only.

The Westford Historical Society will be hosting a house tour at the historic Atwood/Millett/James house at 4 Graniteville Road in Westford on Sunday, November 5th, from noon to 4 p.m. Come see the transformation. Marie and Anson will be on site to share their stories and hear yours.

Tickets will be available at the door, cash or check only. $6 for Westford Historical Society members, $8 for non-members. $1 discount for students and seniors. Parking is across the street on Randolph Circle. For more information, the Facebook Event can be found here.

Originally built in 1878, this 3,475 square foot home is set on .57 acres and offers a great space for anyone looking for modern amenities with historic charm. Not only is it on tour with the Westford Historical Society, but it is for sale with Barrett Sotheby’s International Realty. For more information, take a look at the listing on our site, here.

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.

Ranch Dressing

The ranch home has a hard time in New England, primarily because it has no connection to the region's much-cherished Colonial past. But like the rest of the country, New England has its share of post-war ranch homes. Of the over 28,000 homes currently listed for sale in Massachusetts, 17% are identified as ranch style compared to 41% identified as Colonial style. Ranch homes were built in the late 1940s to the early 1970s. The style started in California, and by 1950 nine out of 10 newly built houses were "ranch-types."

Architectural historians have made jokes like, "I'll die if they start trying to preserve ranch-style homes." Well guess what? That day is here. Ranch homes are an American architectural form, and appreciation is growing. Check out Atomic Ranch magazine to see true fan enthusiasm.

The ranches generating negative reactions are likely the tiny post-war houses that many of us grew up in. Sometimes they are derogatively called Ranch Burgers. I was raised in a 980-square-foot, three-bedroom brick ranch in Michigan. Attention current real estate agents: try proposing that housing option to a family with four children. But our ranch-type house represented normal middle-class living in the 1960s. (My parents did add on in the 1970s, but just like many additions, the extra space was added after two kids had already left for college.)

So why the passions for and against the ranch? Like every other house style, ranches have good points and bad points but much of that depends on what you are used to and whether you are a first-time homebuyer or an empty nester.

A ranch is the perfect starter home for a young couple. Imagine coming from a city apartment and having your own beautiful, mature yard and efficient space to accommodate all of your activities, including a huge basement for hobbies or entertaining.

Older homebuyers, or those with disabilities, also appreciate ranches. First-floor bedrooms are essential for many people or simply sought after for their convenience. Affordability in a mature neighborhood has wonderful appeal to first-timer buyers as well as empty nesters.

The rambler is another name for a ranch and it connotes a sprawling custom ranch. The mid-century modern lovers like our California couple house hunting in the Boston area would gobble up a rambler. Because these ranches sprawl, they usually have a large lot to go with them. Lots of glass and retro features add modern appeal.

The large ranch or rambler is appealing to discerning buyers, if they either seek mid-century design or don't respond to "traditional" architecture. Many of these buyers would say that a Colonial is boring. And going up and down stairs is just a pain.

So give the ranch its due and take a fresh look. A open, airy rambler could be the answer to a family's dream. A neighborhood of small ranches could be just the thing for the cost-conscious buyer, proving the adage, "what's old is new again."

Colonial Style Homes of New England

When people say that "colonial homes" are their favorite housing style, they are probably picturing a two-story structure with a center entrance and a symmetrical arrangement of windows, often fondly summed up as "five-over-four-and-a-door." In New England, colonial homes, both old and new are generally built of wood.

The towns that Barrett & Company serves have many beautiful examples of Colonial homes, and a surprising number of these are the real McCoy, dating from between 1640 and 1776. These antique homes usually have been lovingly cared for and sensitively updated over the years. They offer their owners history and a homey warmth.

Some traits of Colonial-era homes:

  • Post and beam construction -- now a current trend in modern home-building, showing that what is old is new again.
  • True divided light windows.
  • Construction around a central chimney. This huge masonry chimney runs through the middle of the house and was originally the only heat source for the upper floor. Later, to gain more interior space, early American homes had a chimney on either end of the house.

The Colonial Revival

The Boston area also has a stunning collection of Colonial Revival homes, which were extremely popular at the turn of the 20th century through the 1930s.

Colonial Revival homes:

Were inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement, which honored the craftsmanship of a bygone era.  Wallace Nutting, a famed collector of early American furniture, produced hand-colored photographs of Colonial interiors, helping spread interest in the revival.

Tend to have a bigger layout and larger windows than true Colonial-era homes because of course central heating was part of the original design. Glass-walled sunrooms and formal gardens set these homes apart from their homey, utilitarian forebears.

Usually have a fine level of workmanship in the moldings and mantels, many historically accurate but sometimes "pumped up" for added drama.

Can range from houses that would be considered estates to modest Dutch Colonials (to be discussed in a future blog).

May include Arts and Crafts elements in the interior, such as an inglenook or a built-in sideboard in the dining room.

Modern Classics

New England residential architects continue to draw on Colonial design traits when building new homes. A large, 5,000 square foot "Colonial" can have game rooms, large walk-in closets, and other high-end amenities but will still rely on classic Colonial details, such as dentil molding, side panels on either side of the front door, and an overall symmetry of design.

Built for the Landscape

Colonial homes of any time period function well in the New England climate. They have simple rooflines and a maximum of usable space for the footprint of the house, making them easier to heat than more "sprawling" styles.