With an eye toward re-renovating the home he had previously tackled as a do-it-yourself project, Will Davis and wife Bridgett thought it would be prudent to buy another, smaller home on their street in Woodland Heights to live in during their home’s more professional overhaul and to offer it up thereafter as a rental unit.
“I must have tried to buy at least half the houses on the block,” he recalls of the protracted process. In the midst of that, when an adjacent property sold to someone else, he realized being his own neighbor might have long-term benefits. “I like to know what’s going to happen next to us.”
As a small, brick cottage from 1935, the simple floor plan was common for its time, with two bedrooms, a single bathroom, a sleeping porch and a kitchen, dining room and front parlor. Its deep front porch also boosted living space.
Before the Davis family – with five young children, including triplets – could move in, even on a temp basis, the home needed some updates of its own. The crisp-and-clean results will be on display March 24-25 as part of the Woodland Heights Home Tour, themed “Fresh Traditions Plus Teardown Turnarounds.”
The featured home’s sleeping porch, located off the back kitchen and previously accessible only through one of the bedrooms, has been converted into a master bedroom, which now a toilet, shower and double vanity, “like a hotel,” he says of the in-room placement.
By reducing the size of a secondary bedroom, there was space for a hallway and staircase to a huge “camp room” upstairs. It served as a dorm room for the Davis youngsters but now doubles as a playroom for the current tenants, who are friends of the owners.
“We took out the fence between the yards,” he says. “We’ve got a compound.”
When Davis, then in his twenties and dating his now wife, had renovated the larger home next door, “I learned! Don’t do that!” he says of his missteps. An example? “Like an idiot I pulled out all the shiplap.”
But he also amassed and salvaged some interesting fittings and finishes that have been installed in the tour property — which not only kept its shiplap but features it prominently. There’s a cool claw foot tub in the bathroom, for example, and an indestructible ‘50s vintage kitchen stove by O’Keefe and Merritt. It had been stored in his garage for a decade with seemingly little effect. “I hooked it up and it fired right up.”
Elsewhere in the kitchen, the floor plan has been opened up a bit by taking down the shared wall with the dining room. The “nasty” linoleum came up, replaced with reclaimed hardwood to match original flooring.
Its dark finish mirrors the similarly stained ceilings.
Davis says the shiplap ceiling is his favorite part of the house because of the texture and length of the planks. Some run 20 feet. To gaze upward from the sofa after a long day was almost meditative, he says. “I miss living there, though it was a little cramped.”
Davis, who is managing partner of the Liberty Kitchen group, had the help of business partner Carl Eaves in the design and build of the cottage redo.
Other features include original doors converted to sliders, bold wallpaper and eclectic antiques.
Having learned from over-opening up the rooms in his first project, Davis opted in the tour house to retain a bit of definition between the parlor and kitchen. Likewise, he kept the trim, windows and built-in bookcases that flank the fireplace.
Among the tips from Davis for taking on a similar project is that “if you’re not doing an historical redo, you have to make it functional.”
Meanwhile, be aware that removing plaster to reveal the underlying shiplap can make for a drafty interior.
He recommends using wallboard beneath it.
To share your renovation survival tale, contact Cynthia.Lescalleet@gmail.com.