20th Century Design

Extraordinary Properties: Historic Homes

By Iyna Bort Caruso

When purchasing exquisite luxury goods – paintings, sculptures, textiles, furniture and wines – provenance matters. Similarly, when well cared for, homes enriched with the prestige of age and history can acquire the patina that only decades or centuries can bestow. With it, they take on unmatched nobility and grandeur.

A certain class of buyers places a premium on properties enhanced by time. For them, living in a historic residence is akin to living with a famous work of art. “The discerning affluent buyers in our marketplace want a sense of history, or a certain provenance, in a historic home, which doesn’t exist in a new house,” says Michael Rankin, managing partner at TTR Sotheby’s International Realty in Washington, DC.  

Typically knowledgeable about architectural periods, buyers of older homes possess a keen eye for authenticity. They demand the grand scales and proportions associated with previous eras – high ceilings, formal living rooms and entrance halls, double parlours and fireplaces – while also insisting on features such as restored mouldings, handcrafted balusters and original hardware and flooring. Kitchens and bathrooms may be updated, but otherwise the home should speak of the period and environment in which it was built. “People who buy historic estates truly want to be the next stewards of an architectural masterpiece,” Rankin explains. “They cherish the responsibility of being the caretaker of the home. In fact, they consider it  a privilege.” Owning a historic home can be a major endeavour, but to the right person, it is a priceless labour of love.

New York-based writer Iyna Bort Caruso has contributed to The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Newsday, among other publications.  

Click the slideshow to view nine elegant historic homes.

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