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How ‘This Old House’ is helping an Arlington family preserve their historic home

Home Improvement New Developments Arlington
Nick and Emily Deldon with their daughter and dog inside of their historic home in Arlington.
Emily and Nick Deldon with their daughter and dog inside their historic home in Arlington. Anthony Tieuli

When Nick and Emily Deldon were looking for a place to settle into with their newborn daughter a few years back, they combed the Eastern seaboard. They knew they wanted to stay on the East Coast, that they needed more space than they had in their Arlington home, and that they desired a nice, quiet location.

They eventually decided that remaining in Arlington was their best bet. Both Nick and Emily grew up in the town and still had family in the area.

“When we were looking, we drove around all the streets in Arlington that we were considering living on,” Emily said.

The couple made Excel spreadsheets of Arlington homes they would consider buying if they ever went on the market. And as they peered down down one small, cul-de-sac on a winter day, Emily said they simultaneously asked each other, “Can we drive down?”

They wrote this street down on their spreadsheet — they knew they could see themselves living in one of the few houses on it someday.

Someday soon became a reality. The Deldons ended up buying a 1909 Arts and Crafts-style home with a huge yard on that same picturesque street in 2013, not too long after the street caught their eye.

A photo of the Arlington home before renovations last spring.
A photo of the Arlington home last spring, before renovations began. —'This Old House'

“As soon as I saw the listing, I knew I had to see it,” Emily said, standing with her now 4-year-old daughter outside of the home, which is currently completely under construction. “It was a place we could see [future] generations living in.”

Quickly after moving in, Emily and Nick began developing plans for renovations — the basement wasn’t finished, the kitchen was minuscule, spaces were underutilized, and many of the home’s historic details were falling into disrepair. They received various bids and spoke with lots of people regarding the cost and quality of the work.

After many months of research and getting different opinions, they asked each other, “OK, if we could work with anyone, who would we trust?”

This Old House — a PBS broadcast show now in its 37th season — was an easy first choice.

“You want the dream team to do it,” Emily said. It just so happened that the show was accepting applications at the same time as the Deldons were interested in applying.

The This Old House team began work on their home in April and is expected to finish in December. (This season, which features the Deldons’ early 20th-century Arlington house, premieres Thursday, September 29 at 8 p.m. on WGBH 2. Check local listings for other areas.)

'This Old House' will be tackling an Arts and Crafts style home in Arlington.
‘This Old House’ is tackling the renovation of an Arts and Crafts-style home in Arlington. —Megan Turchi / Boston.com

The home had gone through a variety of renovations over the years, according to Emily, bringing about a mismatch of windows and a front porch in disrepair. Emily said the team is reimagining the front porch and making it more expressive, adding in a flared, curved design in order to restore it to its original Arts and Crafts style.

In fact, Emily said she said she didn’t know much about the Arts and Crafts style when the Deldons first bought the home.

“We didn’t buy the home because it was built in the Arts and Crafts style,” Emily said.

The couple was drawn to the massive size of the lot and the feeling the house provided. After a lot of internet sleuthing and library browsing, the Deldons began to gain more insight into their new place.

“In research, we learned it is not uncommon for there to be mystery about Arts and Crafts homes,” she said. “I thought of it as American Arts and Crafts, but I didn’t realize the whole breadth of the movement.”

The staircase, which has a more Colonial style to them, will be restored.
The staircase, which has a more Colonial style to it, will be restored. —Megan Turchi / Boston.com

As it turns out, the Arts and Crafts movement began in England in the late 19th century and later carried over to the United States in the early 20th. Architects wanted to bring architecture back to a simpler time, with a focus on quality craftsmanship.

Throughout the renovation process and after conversations with the This Old House team, the Deldons learned that their home was actually built in more of the English Arts and Crafts style. Emily read a book about the Lakes District in England, an area populated by Arts and Crafts homes, and had an “aha moment”; all of the little quirks and architectural details of the home made so much more sense. Details that had either seemed out of place or had long fallen into disrepair—like stucco, the steep-pointed roof, and shingles on the roof—are all indicators of the English style.

“[There was then] a feeling of identity of the house,” Emily said. “We really had to look because details faded out. We are going to restore the stucco.”

A fireplace in need of some restoration that is thought to be original.
A fireplace, thought to be original, is in need of restoration. —Megan Turchi / Boston.com

John Tomlin, a senior producer for This Old House, said that one of the difficulties with this renovation is this mismatch of styles and variety of renovations that have taken place over the years.

“[We want to] resurrect the old part of the house,” Tomlin said. “That has all the charm. Renovations over the years have [hidden] great features.”

Tomlin said that, throughout this renovation process, the team has continued to peel back layers of the house, only to find more hidden features, such as a hidden staircase and original panelling. The This Old House team is restoring what is thought to be an original fireplace and the original floors in the home.

Emily likes the feeling of preserving a place.

“I grew up in a historic home,” she said. “I am very aware of the benefits and limitations. I always wanted a home that needed to be renovated to bring something back to life.”

The original door will still be used after the renovation.
The house’s original door will still be used after the renovation. —Megan Turchi / Boston.com