Old Houses Are Better Than
Born in an 1850s Greek Revival home that was lovingly restored by her parents (and having attended more country auctions than she can count), Elizabeth’s love for crown molding and decorative ironwork runs in her gene pool. After high school, she left the quiet of the countryside for the bright lights of the big city to entrench herself in New York’s great history and architecture. While there, she earned a Masters in Historic Preservation and spent years working in the field of professional preservation advocacy (and started a few geeky architecture blogs to boot!). A licensed tour guide, professor and architectural historian, Elizabeth is also Country Living Magazine‘s official real estate columnist. Through @circahouses and @cheapoldhouses, Elizabeth is proud to maintain two of the most popular Instagram feeds devoted specifically to historical homes for sale. The wildly popular, viral feed @cheapoldhouses has been featured in New York Magazine, The Financial Times, Money Magazine, Buzzfeed and numerous other influential publications. Elizabeth and her husband Ethan fantasize simultaneously about owning a Brooklyn brownstone and buying a big, old farmhouse somewhere far, far away. In the meantime, CIRCA keeps them dreaming.
What makes old house people different from other people? Old house people are visionaries. They can see the potential in things others cannot. They’re people who feel that being part of a larger story—a steward of something—is an integral part of being a homeowner. They’re people with immense creativity and soul.
Favorite historical interior? The mint green + black Art Deco women’s bathroom at Rockefeller Center might be my favorite room on earth. Does that make me weird?
Technology + Marketing Director
Ethan and Elizabeth are at their best when they are creating together, and thus CIRCA was a match made in marriage heaven. Ethan is the technical brains behind CIRCA and the round-the-clock marketing strategist that took a small idea and turned it into a movement. While not working on CIRCA or dreaming with Elizabeth about landing that perfect fixer-upper, he’s all-hands-on deck running his first baby: Color + Information—a full-service, Brooklyn, NY-based agency specializing in creative strategy, development + digital marketing for luxury brands. A professor of Brand Development, Ethan’s true passion is finding the untapped potential in things, whether they be old houses or new ideas looking for a creative path forward.
When did you know you were meant to live in an old house? I’ve known it for as long as I can remember. My mom grew up in a farmhouse in New Hampshire that sat on 200 acres and dated to the 1700s. I made so many childhood memories at that house. And once you’ve grown to love a place like that, there’s really no turning back.
Favorite house style? Anything rustic and secluded. As long as it’s down a dirt road, I’ll take it.
Director of Social Media
A Midwest transplant, Cristiana traded the prairies of South Dakota for the architecture and history of New York City and the East Coast. Cristiana studied Art History and Architectural History at Penn State and later received her Masters in Historic Preservation from Columbia University. Her home is filled with art and objects, each with a story to tell—like the exquisite Murano glass chandelier that her parents, sister and half-dozen friends bought as Cristiana’s surprise 35th-birthday gift. Or the brass gong that her father won playing bingo while on deployment in the Middle East in the mid-90s. And of course there’s the mid-century Grundig console radio that even she can’t believe was hiding at a Goodwill in Peekskill, NY, waiting to be snapped up (for $150!). Old things, old houses—Cristiana’s addicted to both.
Favorite historical city? The best historic towns are the tiny ones; the ones you visit by chance as you pass through on your way to another destination. Take the time to stop and learn how this town got its start, and see what the architecture can tell you about how it’s changed over time… then find the local antique shop and have fun.
Best old house movie? “The Money Pit,” with Shelley Long and Tom Hanks. Not because it’s a particularly exceptional house, but because even after the heartache of restoration is complete, I still think it was “worth it, and I’d do it again!” Also, “two weeks.”
Alix studied Historic Preservation at the College of Charleston. She relishes working directly with homeowners and real estate agents and squeals with fresh glee upon hearing from each happy customer: The retired couple (dream team) that were finally ready to set out in their RV, untethered, knowing their lifetime project would be continued by a new, bustling family with old house dreams. The young couple, still starry-eyed and overwhelmed by the possibility of their victorian fixer and their luck. She lives for those stories! On a lifetime mission to visit every great flea market in the world, she’s probably going to need a bigger old house soon.
What was the first old house you ever fell in love with? As a child, I went to the dentist in the town over. There’s a white Queen Anne on the way with a huge turret and sprawling porch. A glimpse of that house was worth going to the dentist – That’s when I realized old houses are magic.
Weirdest old house feature you’ve ever seen? Push button light switches. They get stuck, they’re not user-friendly. Lawful evil at best! Thanks for inventing the toggle light switch, John Henry Holmes.