When Jeff Titus bought an antique home in Wilton, CT he knew from the start that he wanted to preserve the exterior structure, but the interior of this 3-story house had fallen into disrepair; been remodeled several times over the 200+ year; and, had endless chopped up tiny rooms. The windows were narrow so they didn’t afford views of the property or let in enough natural light. “Most of the plaster wall were uneven, the front door opened directly into the main staircase to the second floor, and its location didn’t make any sense,” said Jeff.
After Jeff bought the house, he hired a dendrochronology lab to take samples from the fireplace lentil, front wall and floor joists to run scientific dating tests. (Dendrochronology or tree-ring dating is the scientific method of dating based on the analysis of patterns of tree-rings. Dendrochronology can date the time at which tree rings were formed, in many types of wood, to the exact calendar year. From Wikipedia) The lab results were inconclusive; the best likely dating was somewhere between 1740 and 1760, but during this period it was not uncommon to reuse wood from an older home when building a new home. The Wilton Historical Society dated the home’s origin to 1791.
When remodeling an antique home you never know exactly what you’ll be dealing with until you begin to demolish part of the structure. As Jeff points out, “whenever you open up walls, particularly in an old house, you know you’re going to find things that need to be fixed. But when I ripped out the walls, I found a lot of problems I hadn’t expected”. There was no insulation; the wiring was old and of frayed covered cloth; there were two buried (blocked-in) fireplaces; during one of the previous renovations someone had placed steel beams incorrectly (sideways); and, as with most antique homes the walls and floors were not plumb and there was a lack of space for today’s mechanicals (i.e. duct work).
Although Jeff didn’t go into the project planning to replicate the 18th C details, he did want to design the new space with respect for the home’s history. The beams were sound, and of history of the house, so they were left in place. “It’s hard to replicate this type of detailed post and beam construction today”, Jeff explained. The original center chimney remains the core of the home; although it had to be rebuilt from the top of the first floor up through the roof. And, another noteworthy fireplace in the dining room remained intact. In 1943 John Bransby and his wife purchased the property and carefully restored much of the home. One of the most historically significant additions made to the home is a fireplace decorated with ceramic tiled bas relief’s depicting important events and places in the Bransby’s lives.
Above is a close up of one of the ceramic bas relief tiles from the fireplace. The tile featured is the Wilton Congregational Church c.1790, the third church built in Wilton. The tiles were made by Bransby’s long time friend Svea Kline and were glazed with the ashes from an apple tree on Dudley Road.
In designing the new space with respect for the home’s history, Jeff built bookshelves and closets in nooks and crannies under eaves and stairwells. “I like to use all the space, and the nooks and crannies give the house character” Jeff explained. He also installed bead board, paneled wainscoting and custom molding in many of the rooms.
Walking up the stone walk to the front of the home brings you back in time with its broad expanse of front porch, but inside brings you to the 21st C with a professional kitchen, walk in pantry and mudroom, central air conditioning, central vacuum, a whole house sound system and cable TV/Internet network – A home of nostalgia past with a fusion of 21st C comfort for today’s family.
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