Is it ever better to renovate, to completely renew the style and form of a house, rather than restore it to its original condition? I guess so, though I have a feeling in most such cases it would be better to just tear it down and start from scratch. If a house is worth keeping, then it is generally worth keeping in its original shape. Trust the architect – he or she may not have been a genius, but he had a complete vision of the place, firmly set in a historic context, and that means a lot. Yet, people can’t stop themselves from fooling with their houses. And the results are often monstrous.
Take this home on the hill above Westervelt Avenue. Someone must have lived there in the 1960s and decided he was not satisfied with the earlier, probably wooden facade. Brick is modern, brick is strong and easy to maintain, so brick it is. It is also now a sorry mongrel, with a mansard roof and wooden cornice that have no relation to the modernist poker face below.
Then further along the hill, one of those hot messes that can spoil the finest day of neighborhood strolling. Good Lord, what happened to this house? People obviously have more money than they know what to do with. Why don’t you just throw some of that money at me and leave your poor house alone? I think everyone would be a lot happier then.