I’m a big fan of historic and older homes. They’re a specialty of mine. There’s more to buying or selling a historic/older home versus one more recently built. So, it’s critical to work with a realtor with the relevant experience and knowledge (see larrygiammo.com/historic).
And, there’s more to renovating and remodeling an older home as well – especially, if you want to evoke the home’s past, in a way that’ll suit your tastes and result in a home you’ll really enjoy. That’s where a firm like Old House Loves comes in – they’re a local design firm specializing in older homes, with a focus on interiors, gardens and colors. I recommend them to clients.
I’ve been good friends with two of Old House Love’s founders for many years – Donna Sprague and Jeanne O’Meara. Donna and Jeanne are both Rockville residents and they each own and live in a historic home. I asked Donna to share some background about their firm…
Larry: Who is Old House Loves (OHL)?
Donna: Old House Loves is Lauri Hafvenstein, Jeanne O’Meara, and Donna Sprague – the three founding partners of a business launched in early 2016.
Larry: What was the inspiration for OHL?
Donna: The business and its name are both natural extensions of our passion for old houses – their beautiful architecture, character, place in the history of a community, and of course, the joy they bring to the homeowners who love them. Each of us lives in a home at least a century old, so we understand the challenges, but we still think nothing compares to an old house!
Larry: What kinds of situations/goals do clients come to you with for help?
Donna: Many of our clients have a general idea of how they want an indoor or outdoor space to look, feel, or function, but they just aren’t sure how to pull it all together. They may have photos of gardens they like, for example, but are overwhelmed by the idea of coming up with a cohesive vision for their own outdoor space, deciding on hardscape materials, picking the right plants and combining them effectively, and so on. Or they know they want a blue house, but want to be confident they are picking the right blue from hundreds of options, before they make a significant investment. Or maybe they want a new kitchen with a vintage feel, but feel paralyzed by how many decisions are required to make that happen. Sometimes we help people rework a room just using what they already have. Our projects come in all shapes and sizes, and we love that variety.
Larry: What do you provide to your clients?
Donna: We do design work in three areas: color (interior and exterior), gardens, and interiors – particularly kitchens and bathrooms. So what we deliver depends on the type of job. For some projects, a one-time on-site consultation may be all that’s required – help picking a room color, or coming up with ideas for reworking one problem area in a garden. In other cases, we’ll deliver both on-site consultation and additional work: a formal landscape design and planting list, detailed photographic mock-ups of exterior paint and trim options, a kitchen cabinet plan, research on the perfect tile or chandelier. We always strive to deliver design work that fits the client’s budget, tastes, and wish list for the space.
Larry: What’s important to you in working with clients?
Donna: The most important thing to us is that clients feel comfortable and have fun working with us. Many people feel intimidated by the idea of working with a designer, or worry that the designer is judging their taste. We don’t want that. Your home should reflect your tastes and the way you live, period. We simply help people develop an overall vision, help tie the parts together into a cohesive whole. Ultimately, we want to help people love their living spaces, to love their old houses as much as we love ours.
Larry: What distinguishes OHL?
Donna: In addition to being super approachable, I think the three of us provide a unique combination of skills and experience. Lauri is an extremely talented color expert; she is also very dedicated to finding historically accurate fixtures and materials. Jeanne is the visionary – she can walk into a kitchen or a backyard and immediately come up with the most creative and functional ideas. I love the garden design work in particular, and the detail work on any job. Clients benefit from the great mix of ideas and perspectives from OHL’s collaborative, team approach.
Lastly, of course, we named our company Old House Loves for a reason. We aren’t trying to be specialists in every type of home style and décor out there; we really have a thing for old houses – and for people who want to inject some “old house soul” into a newer home. We never met a cast-iron planter, a great piece of architectural salvage, or a timeless paint color we didn’t like, but we always marry that vintage vibe with fresh and functional design.
Larry: Finally, what historic homes and gardens in the DC area are favorites of yours?
Donna: Jeanne would definitely say Hillwood Estate and Gardens, home of Marjorie Merriweather Post, and one of DC’s best hidden gems. Growing up in Annapolis, I always loved the William Paca House & Gardens, and Historic Annapolis in general. And, Lauri loves wandering the many historic neighborhoods of D.C., camera in hand, in search of interesting architectural details and color combinations.
Larry: Thank you for sharing! I’m looking forward to working with you in the future.