“In With the Old” features a variety of designers, builders, and amateur old-home enthusiasts across the country working on preserving and updating their own personal projects. Many of the usual reality TV tropes—such as snide catfights between strong personalities and races to meet insane deadlines—take a backseat to the simple pleasures of watching a home morph before your eyes. It’s a quieter kind of drama that’s far more relatable.
In the episode “Restoring a Legacy,” viewers meet Beverly and Michael, who’ve decided to move with their three children a thousand miles to tackle a daunting home improvement project.
“We recently had an epiphany,” says Beverly. “We’d been living in Los Angeles, a thousand miles away from family, stuck in traffic all day and working too hard. We decided we needed a change, so we’re moving our family to Michael’s hometown in Boulder, CO.”
They’re renovating and restoring their grandparents’ home, where Michael’s mother grew up. She now lives just down the street.
“My grandparents’ house was built in 1897,” explains Michael. “The house was once owned by a member of the Carnegie family. It’s even got an antique elevator at the back. My grandparents bought the house in the 1950s, and not much has changed since then.”
Yet it’s high time to make some alterations. As they renovate a bathroom, parlor, and playroom, they pass along some smart ideas that might inspire some changes around your own abode.
Save the radiator
The one room in the house that you can’t live without is a working bathroom, so the couple decide to start there.
While old-timey bathrooms were usually small, there’s a lot you can do to make better use of the space. So the first order of the day is taking out all the gross old fixtures and figuring out better places for the new ones to go.
One feature that is not only aesthetically pleasing but still functional is the radiator. A lot of designers would ditch it and replace it with heated flooring and overhead heating, but heritage is important to this family.
“The radiators in the bathroom were forged from metal mined in Boulder in the 1920s,” says Beverly. “And they still work incredibly well, so it’s important that we restore them and keep the next generation nice and cozy.”
It’s a small bathroom, so it works just fine—and it’s a real conversation piece.
Do some of the work yourself
Both Michael and Beverly are eager to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty, even though they’re not your traditional DIYers. Beverly tries laying dark green subway tile in the bathroom, and while things don’t exactly go smoothly, that’s OK.
“Even though our handiwork isn’t always perfect, doing the handiwork ourselves gives us a huge sense of pride when we think about the house and the legacy it will have,” says Beverly.
Their investment of time and energy is priceless.
Dark walls are fine in rooms with lots of light
Beverly and Michael want the front parlor in their house to be “dark, moody, kind of that European parlor type vibe. A place where we can really connect, and disconnect from the technology,” says Beverly.
But can’t dark colors also make a room feel small and stuffy? Not this one.
“The room gets such great light, we wanted to go a little more dramatic, a little more bold,” says Michael.
And sure enough, the numerous windows on two walls let in plenty of light, which illuminate the navy blue–painted walls.
Reuse hardware, even if it’s cheap
The couple had the handcarved front door completely restored, and now it’s time to turn their attention to the doorknob and knocker.
“While we were restoring the door, we found that the doorknob and the knocker, which we thought were a really nice, expensive, grand brass, are really quite the opposite. They’re made out of the cheapest nickel,” recounts Beverly.
Yet she decides to keep these relics anyway—after all, they’re free.
“Instead of going and buying new and spending a ridiculous amount of money on new hardware, we’re actually going to stick with the old hardware,” she continues. “We’re going to shine it up, make it pretty, spray some paint on it, and kind of keep that piece of history.”
After repainting and installing this hardware, Beverly is thrilled.
“It will actually be a really fun story for us. Grandpa didn’t like to spend a lot of money, and you know what, why should we?” she says.
Add your own personal touch
Michael and Beverly have saved and used all sorts of wonderful old items in their renovated home, like their grandfather’s brown leather medical bag, his signature hat, and a Steinway piano in the parlor.
But while preserving the family legacy, they also decide to add their own chapter to the house, via a mural in the kids’ attic playroom.
They hired an artist to cover the walls with a colorful, creative mural that inspires imagination. Part of that mural includes a lemon tree, whose branches grow across the wall. That represents Beverly and Michael’s romantic wedding in Italy, when glorious lemons were hanging heavily on the trees.
The final results
The three rooms are completed in just six weeks, and the results are impressive. The entire extended family is invited over to enjoy them.
They are impressed to see that, while the home still has the same flavor it did while they lived there, it’s even lovelier now.
“For us, this is not just a house,” says Michael. “It’s a legacy.”