Spring houses were built over their namesake — freshwater springs — so that the flowing water below could keep the space cool in order to store milk and other perishables. Inside, crocks of food were partially submerged in the water to keep them cold. Spring houses were built out of stone to withstand the moisture. This charming spring house in Pennsylvania is located behind the main home on a 26-acre property and dates back to 1770.
Spring House Exterior
Years of wear and tear were showing with peeling paint, rotting wood and crumbling mortar. Thankfully, these things were an easy fix. Jeff replaced the old doors with new Dutch doors, replaced the windows, and painted both light gray. The gorgeous stone was cleaned and repointed to bring it back to life.
Before: Living Room
Homeowners Barbara and Joseph wanted to restore the house in different ways. Barbara, an author, envisioned it as a writer’s cottage, while Joseph wanted to convert it into a guest house. Jeff Devlin was able to meet both their needs and bring life back into the dilapidated space, as seen in the next slides.
After: Living Room
In the living room, Jeff and his team created a cozy atmosphere for guests to enjoy. They installed Pennsylvania bluestone pavers on the floors in shades of deep gray, slate blue and rust. They exposed the beautiful old ceiling beams and removed part of the ceiling to let more light in. They decorated with lighter-colored furniture to help brighten the space.
Before: Ceiling Beams
A closer look at the row of rustic oak beams reveals chipping green paint. The homeowners wanted to strip the beams back to the natural wood.
After: Ceiling Beams
Jeff used a sandblaster to remove the green paint from the beams and expose their natural tawny tone. Sandblasting is a messy but effective process of using pressurized air to propel abrasive media against the wood. It was the only way to get the paint out of the nooks and crannies, and it was worth it.
Before: The Fireplace
Because the original homeowners in the 18th century lived in the spring house, there are two unique features — an arched fireplace and a bread oven. The fireplace is constructed of beautiful stone but covered in cracked and crumbling plaster.
After: The Fireplace
The team carefully removed the plaster overlay to expose the stunning stone that was hidden underneath. They chiseled out the old mortar to repoint it with new mortar that will last for years to come. They left the plaster on the bread oven to keep the contrast.
Living Room Details
A clean-lined wooden chest painted a fresh shade of greenish-ivory provides storage, extra seating and a pretty pop of color.
Jeff and his team handmade the two new Dutch doors with historically accurate strap hinges. He chose this design so that the homeowners could open the top half on both doors and make the most of the cross-breeze.
Before: Upstairs Loft
The wooden floors in the loft were in desperate need of a thorough cleaning. Jeff's plan is to sand them down and then whitewash them. He also plans to finish the ceiling with wide-planked shiplap.
After: Upstairs Loft
The upstairs loft got a whole new vibe. Referencing the shiplap, Jeff said, “They didn’t have drywall back then; you either plastered or you used wood on the walls." Finding that the floors were in better condition than expected, Jeff opted on a clear coat rather than whitewash as originally planned.
After: Upstairs Loft
On the other side of the loft from the bed, Jeff removed the floor and ceiling to let more light shine into the living room and give the appearance that the house is larger.
After: Upstairs Access
Originally, a small trap door in the middle of the ceiling was the only way to access the second floor. With half of the ceiling now gone, Jeff added a wooden ladder on an iron rail that slides out of the way when not in use. Jeff also installed salvaged Victorian-style spindles for the loft railing, which he estimated to be 70 to 100 years old.
Jeff made a custom furniture piece for Barbara, a Colonial-era secretary’s desk, where she can write.
Since Colonial homes often featured deep jewel tones, Jeff painted the desk a dark wine color. Then, he distressed the edges using sandpaper, so that it looked aged. He paired it with an antique cross-back chair next to the bread oven and fireplace to create a cozy writer's nook, where Barbara is sure to gain a lot of inspiration.
The desk features a hinged desktop that folds out and enclosed bookcase-style shelving to hold pens, pencils and all the notebooks a writer could need. “Hopefully Barbara will want to sit down and write a book,” Jeff said.
Spring Has Sprung
With a writer's desk, an upstairs loft, dining area and living room, the spring house now has a little bit of everything that both the homeowners desired.