Ever wonder if an older house is worth the fix up? You bet. Here are the convincing results.
Before and After Bungalow (promo image)

Older houses--with all the new construction that's going on around us, why would anyone choose to undertake a full-fledged renovation? Perhaps it's the quaintness of a long-established neighborhood or the mission to save a family homestead that intrigues folks.

Another motivation could be a belief that houses aren't built like they used to be. Don't get me wrong; owning a new house is great. Still, there's just something about the craftsmanship and attention to detail in an older home that's often overlooked in newer construction.

Formidable Find
Harvey Petty and Jeff Avery not only share these sentiments, but they've also heeded the call.

When they saw this 1912 bungalow, located in the heart of Tampa's Hyde Park district, they were instantly hooked. But their preoccupation became a classic case where the vision didn't quite match the reality. In short, the modest house was barely livable. "After buying the place, we couldn't move in for more than a year," Jeff remembers.

Because the bungalow's last owner had resided there for 54 years, time had taken its toll. Numerous layers of paint hid the intricate details found on the front stucco columns and double porch gables. Also, dingy siding veneered the exterior walls, while burglar bars held windows captive.

The interiors didn't fare any better. Consisting of a hodgepodge floor plan, the bungalow rambled through an awkward series of rooms with uneven floors, peeling wallpaper, and outdated paint colors. In spaces such as the kitchen and baths, the floors were covered with four layers of linoleum. Other areas were damaged by a leaky roof and general neglect.

First Things First
Choosing to perform much of the renovation themselves, Harvey and Jeff assessed the challenges that lay ahead. "Our renovation goals were twofold," Harvey explains. "Not only did we strive to restore the bungalow's original character, but we also aimed to update the house to be completely modern and functional."

They initially concentrated on the front exterior. First, they cleared the brush growing in the yard and pruned several trees. After planting new landscaping, Harvey and Jeff patched the stucco porch columns and painted them, along with the roof gables.

Their next step was to remove the unsightly siding. To their surprise, the owners uncovered the original wood siding, which had remained largely undamaged. With heavy-duty scraping, they restored the existing boards. The windows were in relatively good shape, so they simply took off the burglar bars.

Interior Motives
With the front facade complete, Harvey and Jeff turned their attention to the interiors. In the original floor plan, the front door opened into an L-shaped room that seemed to be a catchall living space. At one end, an existing fireplace stood with a noticeable cutout for a gas furnace flue, while adjacent wall extensions loosely separated the connecting space. Luckily, the original coffered ceiling added some distinction to the otherwise nondescript room configuration.

Assisted by Montgomery, Alabama, designer Lea Ann Ward, they assigned three distinct functions to this room--study, central living area, and adjoining dining room. To lend definition to the front spaces, two columns visually separate the study from the living room while keeping them open. In the dining room, master carpenter Sherman Beilby replaced the partitions with another pair of columns and used kneewalls to connect them to the walls.

All-Inclusive Kitchen and Den
When they first encountered this room, Harvey and Jeff found a small galley in need of a total overhaul. So they called upon the expertise of architect Bret Azzarelli, who removed an entire interior wall and a rickety staircase to create a kitchen worth celebrating. Stained cabinetry, along with the refinished heart-pine flooring, brings warmth and coziness to this space.

Adjacent and open to the new kitchen, an existing bedroom became a quaint den. A new gas fireplace flanked by low bookshelves continues the cottage theme. The architect even replaced the original double-hung windows with fixed square windows that appropriately balance this wall. In the den, Bret found the right location to rebuild the staircase that was lost. Along the opposite wall from the stairs, a series of French doors and transoms fill the den and adjoining breakfast room with natural light. The breakfast room is decorated with some of Harvey and Jeff's finds, including an old soft drink dispenser and buffet hutch, which is a family piece.

These homeowners, spurred on by their vision and the help of family and friends, reclaimed a bungalow that was down for the count. So, the next time you're wondering whether or not to fix up a timeworn place, do as Harvey and Jeff did--give an older home a chance.

To learn how to carry a theme throughout your decor, read "Seeing Squares," on page 86 in the February 2003 issue of Southern Living.