Considering my complete lack of rehab experience, I had grave doubts about taking on the project. But I had gone house-hunting with my new girlfriend, Jill—we were both writing professors at nearby Loyola College. Drawn together by our love of learning, antiques, and old homes, Jill and I had gone Dumpster-diving and flea-marketing together. So when she said she had her own toolbox and could help, I thought, "Gee, this could be fun." We would end up getting married in this house, but not before seriously testing our relationship over missing tools, lead poisoning, and unfinished projects. My Realtor was right: I had no idea what we were in for.
Shown: To refurbish the dining room fireplace, which had been stripped of its details, we scoured auction houses, salvage shops, and neighbors' garages for the slate mantel and mirror.