The Soul of the Dohmicile

The first time we visited what would become our dream house, a 1921 French Eclectic set atop an undulating hill, and underneath a gigantic oak tree, it was mid-winter in Minnesota. Snow had fallen to the point where we weren’t sure we’d be able to make it up the steep and winding driveway.

It was essentially love at first sight, even with the peeling wallpaper, broken light fixtures, and stained carpet. Years of neglect had not erased her shine. (You can read all about how we ended up here.)

When I think back on why we were able to see past the dark green wallpaper and blood-red carpet, the ’70s chocolate and mustard palette in the kitchen, den, and upstairs bathroom, I realize what did it for us: The windows.

Natural light is at such a premium in the winter months, and yet it was still strong enough on that wintry, sunless day to overcome narrow pathways, light-sucking color palettes, and grime.

I’ve never done a data-driven research project on how many windows the average house has of our square footage, but I can tell you this: furniture can pose a problem when you have this many windows—wall space is at a premium.

But whoever designed this house—history has yet to reveal itself—was thinking about ventilation and light. Windows grace nearly every wall in every room, which means in the summer months we get excellent cross-breeze, and regardless the time of day, we get tons of natural light—both energy savers on cooling and electricity.

We came from a midcentury modern home with vinyl windows—they weren’t bad, but they also weren’t anything special. But this house was a study in contrast.

Tall windows made to appear even taller, thanks to the three-quarter, or cottage, design, where the sash bar doesn’t split the window evenly in half but rather three-quarters of the way up. Stately mullions that split the glass into smaller panes. Beautiful dark stained wood framing. To me, these were windows from an old library, notable estate, or specialty museum.

I didn’t want to touch them. But let’s face it: 62 single-pane, 100-year-old windows is an energy hog in the winter. That’s not good for our budget and definitely not good for the environment. Some were broken. Screens were busted or chewed through. I can’t physically open some of them on my own. We knew windows would be needed, but could we replace them without erasing the character?

Turns out, we could. And we have started to. When our Weather Shield Doors and Windows rep came out to the house to consult, we knew we were in good hands immediately. Cottage–style windows? They do that—in fact our rep asked us if we wanted to make sure we got them. Mullions to match the originals? You bet. And they could even replace the large picture window that had been redone in the dining room with three windows just like the house originally looked. Needed stain to match the existing? Done. It was really that easy.

We were hooked.

Original and new windows on the Dohmicile.
A study in contrast: New windows next to old windows. Talk about a facelift!

As our total gut remodel begins, there will likely be lots of stunning before and afters. But like eyes are windows to the soul, windows are the soul to this house, so when the first phase of these windows went in, we were stunned at what a difference it made. We think you’ll be, too.

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