Unmuddling a 19th Century Queen Anne

The author’s past two homes were custom-builds. Time to take on the restoration of a Victorian!

old house restoration before and after
Now restored to what the original blueprints show: The 1920s flat-roofed connector is gone and outdoor space configured for family use. The foundation, compromised behind the original stair, was fixed. Rotten column bases were restored, a new fir floor added, exposed aggregate steps and sidewalk rebuilt, a subtle wrought-iron railing installed. “After restoration, the house got a celebratory paint job.”

“Why in the world would you buy that place??” As Ralph and I contemplated the purchase of the newly listed property, family and friends warned us against it. “Don’t do it! You already live in a custom home you built!” “Why would you take such a risk?” “It’ll be a headache and a financial drain, guaranteed!” 

old house stair restoration
Gone is the ubiquitous ’80s wallpaper. Walls, ceiling, and floors were refinished, additional lighting installed, and the hall fixture replaced with a period antique. 

Being rather spontaneous (we got engaged on our second date), we bought it anyway. The late Queen Anne house­— on Utter Street—was built 1897–99. Our unmuddling was undertaken from 2019 through 2021.

A Victorian scroll ornament on the front of the house was carefully copied for the new kitchen entry.

My career was in public education. I figured I could transfer my leadership skills to project management—I was used to chaos and multi-tasking. A former student, Andrew Buehrer, is a talented carpenter whose aptitude was apparent even in high school. He, his brother Luke, and I had worked together remodeling my daughter’s kitchen as well as fixing a construction defect on another property. With gifted carpenters along with my knack for design, I figured our decision to buy this Victorian beauty—three doors from daughter Katie’s house—was not so far-fetched. 

These owners refinished the walls and floors, replaced windows that were too far gone, and added a gas insert to the living-room fireplace. Inset: In real-estate  photos of main rooms, the character was evident: “The house was still charming, but tired,” says the owner.

The house was the Lincoln Countryman family home until 1954, when the Eastwood family bought it. They lived here for many decades. We are only the third owners. We appreciate the house’s location, architecture, and details. 

old house kitchen restoration before and after
The kitchen was relocated to a brighter and larger space on the south side. The doorway was widened during conversion of the bedroom into the new kitchen. Inset: The old kitchen in a view toward the pink bedroom.

Our restoration/renovation was full-scale and meticulous. We renewed or upgraded the heating, ventilation, plumbing, electrical, and insulation. We preserved the original sandstone foundation with repairs behind the porch steps. We fixed and upgraded or replaced windows as needed. The front  porch was a major project involving both salvage and replacement in kind. 

old house living room restoration
Left: The interior is calm; even wallpaper is tone-on-tone. Right: The unusual arches throughout  appear to be original.

A major unmuddling involved removing the 1920s, flat-roofed connector between the house and a carriage house that had become the garage and shop. Our work is in keeping with the original blueprints.

removing sun room from old house
The 1980s sunroom (left) was removed. On one side of the house, an open deck adjacent to the kitchen replaced the boxy sunroom. A new, east-facing kitchen porch leads to the covered barbecue area and has access to the deck. The garage/shop was rebuilt.

We also removed an ungainly 1980s sunroom, replacing it with an open patio adjacent to the kitchen and near the covered barbeque pavilion. The kitchen was enlarged into what had been a downstairs bedroom.

I think our house remains timeless, being a balance of old and new. 

Photos courtesy the Harden and Graves families.

Resources

contractor

Hammer Time Carpentry, Bellingham: (360) 255-1049

ext. iron handrail

Lynden Sheet Metal, Lynden, WA: lyndensheetmetal.com

round windows

Tuscany series
Milgard Windows & Doors milgard.com

new windows

traditional double hung, pine interior, stone-white Ultrex exterior
Marvin Integrity marvin.com

mailbox

Victoria vertical in copper
Comfort House comforthouse.com

ext. paint

Cloverdale Cover Coat satin finish in Brandy, Madrona, Peat, Cameo
Rodda Paint Co. roddapaint.com

millwork

Price & Visser Millwork Inc., Bellingham: priceandvisser.com

wood brackets

Olympic Traditional Smooth brackets in Douglas fir
Ekena Millwork ekenamillwork.com

fireplace insert

gas with Vintage Iron cast surround
Valor Gas Fireplaces valorfireplaces.com

corner posts

Vintage Woodworks vintagewoodworks.com

backsplash tile

Highland Park Artisan Arabesque in Taupe, through showrooms & online sellers 

kit. cabinets

Yorktowne yorktownecabinetry.com

switch plates 

Egg and Dart antique brass
Nostalgic Warehouse nostalgicwarehouse.com

bath floor tile

Parisian Blend in MOUQ Chalk/Mud/Midnight Sand
Marazzi Tile marazziusa.com

vintage lighting

Mary Davis Vintage Lighting, La Conner, WA: marydavisvintagelighting.com

lighting

Lamps Plus lampsplus.com

Seattle Lighting seattlelighting.com


Tags: OHJ October 2022

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