Everything old is… well you know…

Last month’s Vanity Fair magazine contained a feature article entitled Greenwich’s Outrageous Fortunes.  The piece describes the over-the-top building boom up there that is being propogated by obscene amounts of money harvested from the sweat of those involved in “the trillion-dollar hedge fund business“.

Laying out the logic behind the ‘need’ to build 30,000 sq ft cottages, residents are spending money like drunken sailors to outfit their homes without so much as even a nod to Bill Gates’ higher angels.  For instance, as one very-rollin’-in-it local interior designer quipped, “…So far, the curtains for just one room have come in at $20,000 to $25,000. Plus the labor…” and this, “You can spend $200,000 on the lighting-control system…” and finally, this, “That’s $1 million to $1.1 million in windows“.

Upon further reading, I find that I and my business may yet finally ‘arrive’ and I may soon be building my own Greenwich estate. (But I promise not to spend more than $10k per room on curtains).

Seems that my stock and trade (my company restores historic, finely crafted, counterbalanced, double hung wood windows) is coming into vogue among the neaveau-rich.  There is a company, named Zeluck, up in Manhattan, that will build you some excellent windows for several thousand dollars each.  And here’s their hook, as quoted from a local architect…

“…these were not ordinary windows; they were the newest, latest status symbol for homeowners: custom-made windows … beautiful windows.  Incredibly well crafted. They’re made of two-and-a-quarter-inch-thick mahogany sash, instead of one-and-three-eighths finger-jointed pine. They’re solid. Instead of plastic jamb liners you have weights and chains—the windows are counterbalanced.”

Well I’ll be darn.  That’s exactly the type of windows that I, and thousands of other people living in early 20th century homes, already own.  (But ours, for the most part, are made of now vanished, original growth, southern yellow pine, which is superior even to mahogany).

As more and more people are discovering as I ply my trade throughout the Carolinas and Virginia, there is some extraordinary craftmanship hidden behind 20 coats of paint on most every original window in pre-1935 structures. All it really takes to keep them functioning like a new Greenwich, CT mansion’s million dollar fenestration is a little maintenance every fifty years or so.  As ‘old house people’ know, there are few sounds as satifying and quirky as the distinctive squeeks of pulleys, ropes and counterweights doing their thing when they lift their old sash as easily as the day they were made.  That’s what we do.

As my business grows – fueled by the trends of my new allies, and soon-to-be-neighbors up in Connecticut – I’ll be sure to send postcards to all of those who insist that nothing will do but to rip out original, century-old, master-crafted windows and substitute them with new ones that carry an expected service life of 20 years, unceremoniously relegating the old ones to the local landfill.

So, all of you folks out there who are considering replacing your counterbalanced historic windows, you might want to re-consider and just fix the ones you have. It might be as close to Greenwich, CT that the rest of you will ever get.

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