Photo: Tria Giovan
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Before: Ready for a Remodel

The original Pugsley Farm was 100-plus acres. It was subdivided long ago and designated mostly what New Jersey calls Green Acres—land preserved for public recreation. We bought the three-acre lot along the road, including the 1820 farmhouse, the circa 1780 carriage house, and several outbuildings, for $285,000.

A series of families had owned and lived in the houses, but the main one had been a ramshackle rental house for 20 years. The place was a mess but with some virtues intact. A classic farmhouse, it had a gabled roof, original wavy-glass windows, and a sprawling yard. The property layout, with farmhouse, carriage house, and outbuildings in a half-moon configuration, meant you couldn't see the road from the backyard. The Green Acres behind it sweetened the deal. I'd worked summer jobs as a groundskeeper and a furniture finisher, and had done construction. I knew renovating those houses would be a learning experience.

Shown: Battered barn-red aluminum siding and untended trees obscured the main home's facade.
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