Folk victorian exterior
Photo: Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn
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Buying a Hard Sell

Sandwiching the main floors were a dank basement and an unfinished attic reachable via creaky pull-down stairs. The imprint of hard times could be read in every room. Along with peeling wallpaper, green paint, and one tenant who had been ensconced for 27 years, the house had knob-and-tube wiring, aged plumbing, and no insulation. Paula's friend bowed out.

In the back of her mind, however, Paula, an art history professor, was hoping to give up the high-maintenance Shenandoah Valley farm where she and her late husband had raised their kids. She wasn't sure this house was the one. "I'm not a Victorian person, really," she confesses. But with all the work that needed doing, it meant a chance to do it her way, with a nod to the home's history.

She took the leap—and kept her tenants for five years, time enough to imagine how the house might be turned back into a single-family dwelling. Then, with the help of Green and the rest of her dream team, she moved quickly to bring the house up to date, with more light and a kitchen big enough to hold prep space for friends who, like her, love to cook. Forgoing a formal dining room, she would find space in the kitchen for an eating nook as well.
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