A Truly Southern Design

by Darnell Wilson

Are you one of the lucky few that have purchased an Antebellum home? For the rest of us an Antebellum home is a house that was built around thirty and forty years before the Civil War in the United States. These homes are the epitome of fine living and are the best connection that Southerns have today to the Old South. While almost every individual would disagree with many of the old traditions there is one that is universally accepted and that is the appreciation of this era’s craftsmanship and attention to detail.

The characteristics of this type of home are Greek/Classic Revival or Federal in , however many of the opulent architectural features do have a practical purpose. The pillars, sweeping porches and balconies, gabled roofs and evenly spaced windows both gave the home a grand style and also aided in relieving some of the oppressive Southern heat by creating cross-winds in a time before air conditioning.

Double doors, formal receiving areas, a huge dining room and royalty-worthy bedrooms are enough to make anyone swoon…definitely me anyway. The showcase of wealth is a semblance of the proliferation of plantations during the early times in the South. And that’s not all. Add the chandeliers, mantelpieces and woodwork…it’s just an amazing home interior.

When refurbishing one of these grand estates it is important to stay true to the original design. These types of homes are usually protected by an historical society, which means even though you are the owner of this property, the city or town where it is located does have a right to restrict some modern design elements to keep at least the outside of the home historically accurate.

The historical societies will expect you to maintain and upkeep the condition of the house. The external part of the house is also regulated to preserve the historical accuracy of the place. Decorating an Antebellum home might prove to be arduous because of its size, but other than that, no major repair work is usually necessary. These houses have been well-kept and protected so the quality is still something to be admired even if they were built decades ago.

Antebellum homes do pose their own challenges when trying to refurbish them, but the challenges can be easily met. Because there are so few good examples of Old South homes nearly all of them are protected by local historical societies, so it is a good idea to contact them before you start your restoration process. No matter what the condition the home was in when you purchased it, the historical society will expect you to have it in pristine condition within a matter of years. They will also insist that at the very least the outside of the residence is historically accurate.

Moving into this kind of home is challenging. I mean, the size alone and the expanse of most properties are enough to drain a fair amount of oxygen from you. But, it’s a nice kind of challenge. You’ll be living in a historically rich place. You will be in some ways be carrying on the tradition and blending with history. If that can’t be called a full life, then I don’t know what else to call it.

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