WHEN "This Old House" comes to a neighborhood, there's more
than the usual curiosity about a new construction project next
door. Even joggers stop and stare; people who've never met before
drop by to discuss how things are going.
Everyone on site, and just off, is caught up in what the show's
host, Steve Thomas, calls the "romantic dream" of fixing up an
old place like the shingle-style Victorian on Lawndale Street in
this close-in suburb of Boston.
The dream is most intense, of course, for the owners, Dean and
Lauren Gallant. They had figured on 10 years to refurbish the
86-year-old house, Dean says.
But when their home was chosen from about 200 proposals for this
fall's project on the popular PBS show, the time frame shrank to
six months. The 18-week series of shows on this project began Oct.
2 on PBS (check local listings for day and time).
As work on the stately Victorian structure progresses, surprises
are common. Three trees were removed one recent morning, literally
throwing new light on the project.
"I hadn't realized how much light would come through once they
were down," Mr. Gallant says, shielding his eyes in the bright
sun. The absence of foliage reveals unseen details, such as a
double pitch to the roof of the side turret.
Tree removal was one of many decisions the Gallants talked over
with Russell Morash, who has directed "This Old House" for WGBH,
Boston's PBS affiliate, since he created the show in 1979. This is
the show's 26th project.
Mrs. Gallant recounts discussions with "Russ and Steve" about
the kitchen, which requires a thorough overhaul. With a smile, she
recalls the producer's and host's reaction to their original
design: "That's a nice amateurish plan."
Messrs. Morash and Thomas, both of whom have restored old homes
of their own, recommended the Gallants consult a kitchen designer.
One of their best friends is in that field, so they went to him.
"The design we finally came up with," says Mrs. Gallant, "is so
different, and in some ways more in keeping with the house - a big
working kitchen with lots of space and light."
Viewers of "This Old House," now in its 15th season, will
become familiar with the Gallants' kitchen as bare wall studs and
beat-up linoleum give way to glass-fronted cabinets and restored
The room will be the setting for many a chat among Thomas,
master carpenter Norm Abram, and builders like Sal Bertolami of
J.B. Sash & Door in Chelsea, Mass.
Mr. Bertolami was on hand that sunny morning to discuss his
updated double-hung windows. The half-hour or so spent capturing
that two-or-three-minute scene shows how Morash achieves the
natural, conversational style typical of "This Old House."
First, a few minutes are spent talking over the window, deciding
which features to touch on. Next comes a series of run-throughs,
during which the order of the conversation takes shape.
From the sidelines, director Morash grimaces as he reminds
Thomas not to ask a question about the window's energy performance,
since Bertolami has already admitted he doesn't have the figures. …