Robbie Caponetto / Stying: Rose Nguyen
* If possible, remove plaster and paint early in a restoration project, especially before the floors have been refinished.* Prepare your workspace in a well-ventilated area with adequate safety equipment. The project is more manageable when you work in small sections.* Hand chisel plaster off the brick without chipping or breaking it. Work slowly while angling your tools to prevent damage to the brick.* Clean the brick with a solution of highly diluted muriatic acid (found at home-improvement or hardware stores) and water (1% muriatic acid to 99% water). Spray on the solution, and scrub off the remaining plaster. A cautionary note: Even in its diluted form, the solution will dissolve the plaster.* Rinse thoroughly with fresh water in small sections as you go along. Remember that the grout is old, so be careful not to damage it.* Continue to replace the water as you rinse off the debris.
Jo Beth Kavanaugh loves restoring older houses. Her 1925 Arts and Crafts residence in the heart of downtown Chattanooga is a shining example of the past and present coming together in a fusion of rich history.
"What brings me joy is the creative process," Jo Beth says. "I really love taking these solid, old places that few appreciate and turning them into homes that many value. One thing I have learned," she continues, "is that when it's old, it doesn't have to be perfect. If the character is good, it's fine. You have to be flexible and open to the personal touch each element brings."
Renewing a Room
As a matter of fact, Jo Beth is leading her own personal charge to refresh and rebuild older neighborhoods. While restoring her own home, she uncovered four fireplaces and considers them a wonderful connecting design. The floor-to-ceiling brick fireplaces in the upstairs bedrooms were once completely hidden from view, having been disguised by plaster and paint in the mid-1950s.
"I like uncovering natural brick in the home," Jo Beth explains. "It contributes many elements to a room and gives an old-world feel. When I work on other houses, I expose the brick where I can and try to take it back to what it was originally."