Thursday, April 22, 2010

How I Met My House.

The first time I ever saw our house, it was a foggy morning in 1992 (a lot like this morning, in fact).  We were taking our daughters to a swim meet, at a pool we'd never been to, for the 6:30 (am!) warm-ups.  On the country road to the pool, we rounded a curve, and I saw the most wonderful house I had ever seen.

(I took this photo this morning, to approximate what I saw that first time I laid eyes on our house.)

I tell people that it was a good thing my husband was driving that morning, because there's a good chance that I would have run off the road.

This house is everything I love about houses ... it's old, it's brick, it's in the country, and it's really unusual.  What it wasn't, however, was for sale.

This is the first photo I took when we came to the house with the realtor in 2002.

In the early 2002, I was in downtown Fredericksburg on my way to have lunch with my husband.  In a newspaper-style street-side box in front of his building, I saw MY house on the cover of a real estate magazine ... with a price that we could never afford to pay.  My husband spent our whole lunch together trying to console me.

Fast forward 6 months to the summer of 2002 ... MY house is featured with a big article in the newspaper's Friday real estate section.  It was still for sale!  Seeing it there was so depressing.  I looked at the photos, and started reading the article.  The author was describing the house's history and its features.  It really hurt to read it.  When I got to the end of the article, the part where the author tells who is listing the house and for how much, I saw that the price was lower ... significantly lower, and (most importantly) low enough for our budget.

Against his better judgement (at the time) my husband agreed to let me call the realtor. He said, "What can it hurt to take a look."  (Famous last words)

The front steps, 2002.

The house was tired.  The then-owners were overwhelmed by the maintenance needs of such an old house and its property, and we could see that the place needed significant work before it could be our home.  This caused my husband to have second thoughts about even considering the idea ... but, he knew I loved this place, and he agreed (after three visits, and against his better judgement, again) to go forward and make an offer.

Recognize the side of the house that I featured yesterday?

Armed with what we thought was a comprehensive home inspection, we put together a renovation plan that we thought would take 2 to 2 1/2 years.  We would continue to live in Spotsylvania during this time, and the house would be finished by the time our youngest daughter graduated high school ... a perfect time to move.

Big surprise ... Every project on our list turned out to be more involved than we thought it would be.  All of the things we thought would be fine, weren't.  Plumbing, electrical, roof, plaster ... the list is endless.  I tell people that the only thing in this house that I haven't either replaced or refinished is the railing on the stairs (I threatened everyone who worked here not to damage that railing, or there would be dire consequences ... and I'm scary enough to back up that threat.)  It took five years until we had the house finished enough to move in.

I think our front yard looks like a park.

Here are a few Before and After photos, to give you a taste of how far we've come.  All of the Befores were taken on our first visit, with an ancient digital camera.

The Dining Room and kitchen are in the 1967 addition to our house.  Since this wasn't the historic part of the house, we didn't have a second thought about removing most of the wall between the two rooms and completely replacing the kitchen.

Dining Room before, with kitchen door on the right.

A big double beam would insure that our upstairs stayed upstairs.

Much better.

We completely replaced the kitchen.  Here's a taste of the former eat-in corner.

Before, 2002.

Ready for new cabinets.

After, as of today ... but still not quite finished.

The entry, in 2002, was covered with gold, flocked, Chinese-patterned wallpaper ... completely fashionable in 1967, when it was installed.  It was time for a change.

Gold wallpaper, Colonial Revival light, and a stair runner that's way past its prime.

No more wallpaper.  The plaster is repaired, and the new yellow paint looks beautiful (BM Windham Cream).  Countless layers of paint are gone from the woodwork, and it's ready for primer.

Entry, as of now ... still not quite finished, though.

Our Family Room is probably my favorite room in the house.  It has windows that face east and north, and it is always bright and happy.

Dark photo of the family room, 2002.

Moldings stripped and primed, and plaster stripped of paint in preparation for the plasterer to do his thing.  Notice the new electrical outlets in the baseboard.

Repaired plaster, fresh paint (RH Silver Sage), and refinished floors.  I love the light in this room.

This is where I'm sitting right now, with Maggie sleeping in my lap.  The coffee table is a future refinishing project.

This is just an overview to introduce you to this house that I love so much, and to show how far it's come in the 8 years we've owned it.  I'll go into more detail from time to time, focusing on various rooms and projects we've worked on.


  1. What a GREAT house! I love homes with history. The front yard really does look like a park.

  2. A beautiful house -- I, too, am partial to brick ones!

  3. Oh Connie, I love this post! Your house was truly lucky that you two found it and have lovingly restored it! It's beautiful! And you're way too nice to be considered scary, I can vouch for that! ;)

    Kat :)

  4. What a beautiful home. I love the yard. It's really incredible.

  5. What a story! Your house has a lot of character. We also have BM Windham Cream in our home and love it!

  6. I love the story of how you acquired your house which is a lovely, lovely home. I smiled as I read your post. Your husband sounds like a keeper. Ted and I have been through versions of what you spoke of. Right now we are pulling the carpets and restoring a little rental that we have. I love your roses. How fantastic to work with such a wonderful flower. Thanks for visiting my blog. I will return to yours!

  7. What a neat refrigerator--What brand is it?

  8. Connie: This is such an interesting and moving story.
    We, too, bought an old house (built in 2 parts between 1860 to 1870)and as I read your story, my heart went out to you throughout the reading. I can relate to your journey.
    Thanks for sharing your house and your heartfelt feelings with me. Love for an old house like this may be strange to others, but goes deep with those who love such places. (Heck, I wrote a whole book about the old houses I have loved and lived with.)
    Thanks again. How far have you reached with your restoration/renovation now?


Thanks for stopping by and reading what I share. Comments are welcome and very much appreciated. Spam and trolls are not!

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