Time Tributes and Living Legacies

Every house has a personality. Not only does it reflect he choices of its occupants, it has its own integrity. It tells a story. And, the older the house, the more eclectic it becomes—displaying evidence of each who resided there.

About twenty years ago, I bought a house built in 1888. It has obvious as well as subtle renovations—a two-story back addition, enclosed porches, redesigned entrance, and aluminum siding. Original elements are the gables, front pillar, second floor windows. It is a challenge to draw the original floor plan. So the “personality” of this house has a dramatic transformative history. My goal was to draw how it looked when built, though there are no photographs of it. I discuss this in “Drawing Backwards.”

Since that first adventure, I seek houses that contain elements of its original, but have evolved into a very different present. They blend the past and the present into a hybrid, hopefully capturing the best of both, but always with a visual evolution.

Stevenson House is evidence of repurposing and the advancement of technology. Like so many pre-1880 homes, large front porches disappeared with the advent of the automobile. No longer did families treat their porches as extended living rooms, but retreated inward to avoid the noise and dangers of street traffic. Barns turned into garages.

Creative Commissions for Living Legacies

Those who live in vintage houses all value its evolution. Moat are curious about their histories. My drawings commemorate their histories. Through commissions, I discover the choices of the families living in them. Many trace their own histories to houses of childhood or ancestors. To capture these can become part of family legacies.

What did your house look like when built?
To discuss an illustration of your history through homes,
please email me at
Photographs are nice, but historic houses rarely have images of how they looked originally. Through evidence, research, and experience, I can recreate an authentic approximation.
Most illustration projects range from $200 to $600,
depending on research needs.

How does a house reflect the character of those who live there? I am not responsible for the transformations of my own house, as I have not changed its exterior since moving  here. I did choose the house, though were it up to me, I would have made some different choices. However, what has totally changed through my influence is the yard, reflective of my gardening aesthetics and talent.

In observing the architecture and appearance of any home, certainly the values of its owners are evident. Those who preserve historical elements, attend to the landscaping or garden, and who invest in improvements, display an aesthetic devotion. As my brother, a master carpenter says, “from the moment a house is built, it starts falling down.” How we keep them up tells more about us than the wood or bricks that compose them.

Please enjoy my other illustrations that express architectural transformations:

“An Oldest Original Discovered” One of the oldest houses in Illinois is a forgotten gem. Located in a town with many historic attractions, it sits to the side, humble and eclectic. Through its almost 200 years, its changes parallel the Mississippi River history, must a few blocks away. The Baumert House wears its evolution subtly and the details reveal a mysterious story. Its original is preserved inside two vintage expansions and contemporary adaptations. No images of its pre-1900 form exists, though floor plans define the smaller house encased. The contrast between the original and the current is so dramatic, they seem like totally different places.

Drawing Backwards in Time Although a building may have endured many changes since built, hints of its original form exists. Sometimes old photographs show how a house looked, but most often, there are no images. Illustration can fill the gap. I have always wondered what my house was like in 1888 when new. It certainly does not look the same now! With an enclosed front porch, room additions, siding, and decorative shutters, its character is totally transformed. So I went to City Hall, researched the permits and historic records, and concluded with this interpretation.

Spirit of Place: Creation versus Preservationexamines a life-long dilemma of balance. There is a trend in Allendorf to plaster over the original half-timber skeletons. From an American point-of-view, these wooden patterns offer a warmth, coziness, and charm. But, it may be that to the residents, that makes an area appear old-fashioned or out of date. These homes, though hundreds of years old, are very much within date! The plaster lends a geometry, simplicity, and unity, while following the shapes and design. Taking an illustration that I did of Obergasse 7 in Allendorf, I imagine what it must have looked like when my ancestors lived there. Most of the homes that I have drawn would be familiar to them.



Liane Sebastian wears an artist’s hat, designer’s coat, and editor’s shoes.