Like a lot of people, Ken Weiss and Dalton Sturm found their lives upended by COVID-19. The couple lost their jobs, but it didn’t take them long to find a new calling. 

“We’re not the sorts to sit still,” Weiss said.

Weiss was a design consultant with a background in architectural studies, and Sturm worked in a lab and was interested in technology and history. They combined their interests and began a blog focused on historic homes and architecture. Earlier followers suggested they add a video component to their blog, and with plenty of time on their hands, they complied.

The two started posting videos on their YouTube channel “This House,” which today has more than 290 videos and 190,000 subscribers. 

“It just exploded,” Weiss said.

The two now work full time on the channel and find it is the perfect creative medium for their interests. In school, Weiss says he learned a lot about modernist architecture, from Mies van der Rohe to the Bauhaus movement. 

“I learned about the modern design,” he said. “For the most part, it was focused on looking forward.”

While “This House” features some modern architecture, it also includes a wide range of older architectural styles and house museums across the country.

Ken Weiss describes the finer points of a home during one of his “This House” tours on YouTube. The channel boasts nearly 300 videos and nearly 200,000 subscribers, who tune in for tours of homes that range from modest to landmark structures like Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater to 19th century mansions. | SCREENSHOT

The videos focus on the history of homes big and small, with architectural details as well as historical information on owners of the homes. Some homes were once owned by well-known figures, such as Elvis Presley’s Graceland, and others were inspirations for novels, such as a Long Island home believed to be the inspiration for “The Great Gatsby.”

There are videos on estates that span many acres and videos on more modest homes as well. The smallest residence featured in a video is a 700 square-foot catalogue house.

“This House” includes tours of homes that still exist, but they also tell the histories of significant homes that lost their battles with the wrecking ball. Some videos cover entire areas, such as Detroit and Chicago’s Millionaire Rows. There are 10 videos featuring the work of Frank Lloyd Wright.

That interest in Frank Lloyd Wright is a part of what led the pair to relocate from the St. Louis area to Oak Park this month. They both shared a love of Oak Park’s most well-known architect. 

“Obviously, I’m an Oak Park aficionado,” Weiss said. “Oak Park is where it all started for American architecture when you think of Frank Lloyd Wright bringing architecture to the masses. We visited Oak Park and fell in love with this place.”

Sturm chimes in, “We’re constantly referencing Oak Park in our videos.”

They wanted a house that combined Weiss’ love of the historic with Sturm’s love of modernity, and they found it in an Arts and Crafts-style bungalow in south Oak Park. The home still had a lot of its charm and original millwork, but it also had an updated kitchen and bathrooms.

While the house is in great condition, they look forward to restoring some of the original features. A neighbor mentioned that the original sunporch was wrapped in art-glass windows, and they would love to restore that touch to the home. They are also investigating original paint colors and hope to create livable space in the home’s attic.

As they unpack and get acclimated to the Chicago area, Weiss and Sturm say they already have almost 40 invitations to visit homes for future projects and they look forward to creating longer videos with more in-person interviews.

Eventually, their house will be featured in a video, and they say the new home has sparked an idea for an expansion of their business. They plan to add a second YouTube channel that will focus on preservation-minded renovations and restorations. 

Just as they love their old home and appreciate the newer conveniences of a larger kitchen and updated baths, they know that many of their followers are interested in honoring the history of the home while renovation. 

“It’s a balance between new and old,” Weiss said.

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