Victorian Restoration

This house was in one family for over 100 years, then it was sold and quickly sold again. I had become good friends with the new owners after I did their vacation home on Lake Blackshear, a 4,000 square foot weekend house. They came to me and said, “We have just bought this house and we need you to meet the architect. You two think of everything you could ever want in a house. Think of everything that needs to be done to completely restore this house.” And we did.

I guess you could say it was a designer’s dream. They knew that I wanted them to feel comfortable in the house, and they spared no expense because they thought it was going to be the home that they lived in for the rest of their lives.

Built in 1867, the house has a mansard roof and a little bit of that French feel. I knew some vendors in New Orleans that did reproduction lighting from that era, and I wanted to make sure that we had the right lighting. So I traveled to New Orleans to pick out the light fixtures and to buy furniture at auctions.

We took up all of the heart pine plank flooring in the attic over the kitchen and made all the kitchen cabinets out of it. The kitchen has “his” and “hers” islands in it. He liked to cook, and she liked to bake, so she had a baking area, he had a cooking area. Each of them also had a dishwasher and their own sink.

For the bathroom downstairs off the kitchen I found a very, very narrow tub with a sink bowl in it. I found it in an auction, and it was a French men’s bathhouse type tub, a big, long lay-out tub, with a small sink where you could shave.

I was able to save two fireplaces with the original tiles and everything around them. The mantle pictured here is absolutely incredible.

All the woodwork in the alcove of the bay window was covered in decades of soot and grime. It took a team of six people almost seven months to refinish every bit of that wood work – baseboards, floors, all that molding, and the doors. There are four different kinds of wood: heart pine floors and walnut, ash, and black walnut for the walls and ceiling. That beautiful detail had been lost under all that soot.

Where they used to dump all the coal for the house in the basement, I cleaned all that out and had his and her bathrooms down there for the pool, so you didn’t have people coming in from the pool into the house. I did an outdoor kitchen. I re-did the carriage house and had a studio apartment above it.

It was a dream job. I traveled the Southeast pretty extensively finding furniture for them, and I went out to Texas to buy a custom table.  It took two years to complete. This house was my first historic restoration where I really tried to find correct pieces. However, the house sold again, and the couple that own it now are younger and not wild about antiques. I had worked for them before too, and I’m helping them now to find pieces that are a little more contemporary, a little more edgy. They like the historic feel, but with more clean lines – not so 19th century, not such heavy drapes and that sort of thing.