Besides the bathrooms and kitchen, most of the rooms in the Griffin house were in solid shape and didn’t require more than cosmetic work. This involved removing the carpet (oh, the carpet!), refinishing the wood floors, removing the radiators, repairing the trim in some areas, painting, and upgrading light fixtures. Take a look:
Let’s jump right in and start with the powder room, shall we? It was carpeted, for one thing, and the sink and toilet were way too bulky for the space. We gutted the room, refinished the hardwoods, and found a smaller toilet and sink that fit much better.
Upstairs in the hall bath, we ignored the advice of everyone who told us to get rid of the clawfoot tub and instead had it refinished. We ripped out the tile and installed fresh new white hexagons, installed wainscoting, repositioned the toilet to improve the flow of the space, and found an adorable little pedestal sink that doesn’t interfere with entry into the room. We splurged on a beautiful chrome antique-inspired faucet for the tub. This is Erica’s favorite room in the house.
That room was a big project, but nothing compared to the master bath—which didn’t exist when we bought the house. We took a dark, awkward room on the back of the house and converted it into an ensuite bath and laundry closet. This involved tearing up the tiles, refinishing the floors, and installing a new tile shower and large vanity. The room is truly unrecognizable from its original state.
The day we’ve been impatiently waiting for is finally here: Listing Day!
It’s been a long, long time since we started this journey on a frigid December day. We had more than a few people act like we were crazy for taking on a major renovation project, but we saw the potential in this house from Day 1 and we couldn’t wait to bring it back to life. We had some surprises along the way, and it took much (much) longer than expected, but we learned a lot and we’re excited to do it again.
When we bought it, the Griffin House was hiding behind a cluster of prickly, deep-rooted bushes. Todd worked hard to remove them with the help of a few friends, and we replaced them with sculptural grasses, purple-hued bushes, and rosebushes. The exterior got some new shingles, a new door, and a fresh coat of paint with a subtle green tint. The backyard got some love too with a lot of cleanup (so many leaves!), a privacy fence, tree-trimming, and repairs to the shed.
In our own extensive real estate browsing, we’ve noted how light fixtures can have a huge impact on the feel of the space, so we knew we had to get them right. Cheap, outdated fixtures can really bring down the look of a place, while attractive fixtures, carefully chosen to fit each room, can be a major focal point. We worked hard to find light fixtures that fit the home’s historic vibe while giving an occasional dash of modern style—and fitting within our budget. Because as much as we’d love to outfit the whole house in Schoolhouse Electric lights, that’s just not in the cards.
Here are a few of our finalists that fit the bill for being attractive, functional and affordable. Obviously, we didn’t use them all in the reno—you’ll have to wait for the “after” pictures to see which ones we chose!
We’ve spent the last few weeks cleaning up the exterior of the house and building a new privacy fence for the backyard. Let’s take a little trip down memory lane: This is what the house looked like when we first bought it:
It was hiding behind lots and lots of old bushes, plus the home’s original wood screens and lattice were deteriorating badly. We debated just a bit before deciding to pull out all of the bushes, and we’re so glad we did—it really opens up the yard. Here’s how it looks now:
As you can see, we also changed up the lattice under the porch. We’d seen a similar treatment on other homes in the neighborhood, and we liked how it gave them a little more modern look without going overboard. Once it’s painted black (along with the porch floor), it’ll match well with the house numbers and light fixture we’ve chosen, which are both a bit more modern as well. The style of this house is very versatile, which makes details like these fun to play with. Here’s a better look at the fence, which has totally transformed the big backyard of this great corner lot:
We’re not quite done with the exterior yet. We’ve been waiting for a stretch of sunny days to get the house pressure-washed and the trim painted, and once that’s done we can do some landscaping and add our new fixtures. We also got a more period-appropriate front door that will bring some sunlight into the foyer—I just have to decide what color to paint it. Red? Cobalt? Something else? We’ll keep you posted.
If you’re wondering why we haven’t posted in awhile, the answer is simple: Because the house is currently in shambles. Our contractors have been hard at work doing all the nitty gritty details like upgrading the electric and plumbing, installing new HVAC and removing the radiators, and framing out new closets and the master bath. It’s not pretty work, but it’s the most important part of this renovation project.
The contractors still have quite a bit of work to do by our March 31 deadline (yeah—they’re really pushing it). Here’s what’s left for them to do:
Tile the bathrooms and install sinks/toilets/showers
Drywall the upstairs ceilings
Paint the exterior
Finish the electric/plumbing/HVAC
Refinishing the hardwood floors
And a bunch of other stuff
Once they’re done, we can take over. Here’s what’s on our punch list:
When we were hunting for a house to renovate, we always took into account the surrounding homes. Were they in good shape? Were any being renovated? Had any recently sold? For the Griffin house, we were encouraged by a home that had recently sold for an above-average price on the next block, and another that was undergoing a full renovation two doors down.
As we’ve started our own renovation, we’ve watched the house at 3018 Griffin come to completion and hit the market. The renovator, a local realtor, did a great job of maintaining the home’s historical integrity while still giving it a beautifully modern look. He priced it much higher than we expected—$324,950—and we held our breath to see when and if it would sell.
We didn’t have to wait long. The house sold within a day, for above asking price. This is good news for the person who put so much care into this renovation, and very encouraging news for us! Check out all the photos of the house here.
One of the most important things to us as we embark on this renovation project is finding a balance between maintaining the historical integrity of the home while making it attractive to modern buyers. Already we’ve had to ask ourselves some tough questions:
The clawfoot tub takes up most of the upstairs bathroom. But it’s beautiful. Can we find a way to work it in?
Our realtor suggests getting rid of the mud swirl ceilings. Erica thinks they’re lovely. Todd is undecided.
If you’re wondering where we will be for the next several months, or what we’ll be doing, you can bet it has something to do with this guy. We’re calling him Griffin (a.k.a. Griffindor), and he’s a project we’ve been planning to take on for about a year.
After looking at multiple historic homes in the area in varying states of disrepair—and making more offers than we remember—we finally got lucky with this four-bedroom, two-bath home on the Northside of Richmond.
A lovely woman named Gladys had lived in the home for most of her adult life, and although the floors were covered in stained carpet (including the bathroom!), the shed was caving in, and the kitchen probably hadn’t been updated since 1920, it was clear that she had really cared for the house over the years.
With its high ceilings, spacious rooms, big backyard, and historic details (like an amazing clawfoot tub), we saw the potential in this house, and we decided to take a big—and admittedly scary—leap. This is our first real estate investment project, and we’re hoping it works out. If it does, there’s a good chance this won’t be the last home renovation we’ll be doing.
We’re pretty excited for the months ahead, and for sharing with you as the transformation takes place.
Pop Quiz: What do Charleston, Boston, and Richmond have in common?
Answer: They’re all cities we have called home over the last few years. They’re also cities that are known for their history—and beautiful historic homes.
We’re Erica and Todd Curran, and we’ve always had a thing for old houses. When we started searching for our first home five years ago, age was a crucial factor—we wanted nothing built after 1950. And while the number of bedrooms and the size of the kitchen were important, we were equally won over by details like beadboard walls, soaring ceilings, exposed brick, and lived-in hardwood floors.
That’s our first house, at the top of this post, a nearly 100-year-old cottage near Hampton Park on the Charleston peninsula. We adored living there, but felt the call to move closer to home, and we’ve since bought a 1920s American foursquare in a streetcar suburb of Richmond, Virginia (pictured below, with us and our nieces on the porch). As we’re slowly making this house our own, we’ve decided to embark on a full renovation project on another neighborhood house a few blocks away.
We’re just two normal 30-somethings, learning as we go. As we move forward with our labors of love, we’re planning to document the process to share with anyone who’s interested. Because we know we’re not the only ones out there who have a thing for old houses.