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A Young Couple Tackles a Forgotten Italianate

Husband-and-wife remodeling newbies learn to tackle everything from roofing to foundation walls while renovating their first home

Traditional Facade

Photo by Helen Norman

The original sidelights and transom remain, but the old front door was too far gone to save. A door found at a salvage shop fit the wider-than-average opening and suits the style.

Read the story of the renovation: Remodeling Newbies Renovate Their First Home

Stairway Saved in the Foyer: Before

Karl and Amy were able to preserve the stairs and the original Italianate newel post, as well as the plaster.

New Paneling in the Foyer: After

They covered the walls with paneling and wallpaper scored on the cheap from the home center and added stenciling throughout.

Stenciled Ceiling Over the Front Door

Even the fifth wall got special treatment, with delicate gold stars on the tray ceiling.

Original Mantel in the Living Room: Before

Photo by Helen Norman

Scraping layers of paint off one of the home's five existing fireplaces revealed a detailed wood mantel and overmantel. No original moldings remained elsewhere in the room.

Hand-Stenciled Living Room: After

Photo by Helen Norman

Amy and Karl Gelles (opposite) installed intricate crown and tall baseboard pieces. To get the look of elaborate, layered Victorian-style wallpapers, they added panel-style paper to the base of the wall and a matching border at the top before hand-stenciling stars on the wall and ceiling.

See how they created the look: How to Create Faux Wallpaper With Paint.

Original Parlor Fireplace: Before

Photo by Helen Norman

Karl installed all the trim and panel molding on the walls to echo details on the original fireplace, closing up an old closet for a more finished, uniform look.

New Parlor Woodwork: After

Photo by Helen Norman

The fireplace itself remained intact, but the insert was purchased new. The couple bought all the furniture secondhand, on Craigslist and eBay, and reupholstered much of it themselves.

Unusable Kitchen: Before

Photo by Helen Norman

The kitchen got a complete reno, but the couple managed to stick to their tight $3,000 budget by buying floor models and using low-priced basics, such as white ceramic subway tile and home-center and flea-market cabinets.

All-New White Kitchen: After

Photo by Helen Norman

They personalized the look with leaded-glass inserts, aged-bronze bin pulls, and scrolled corbels. Another money-saving trick: As an alternative to a single piece of stone for the countertops, they opted for 12-by-12-inch granite tiles that they installed with dark grout. The effect is the same, at a fraction of the cost.

Built-in Window Seat

Photo by Helen Norman

When Karl and Amy moved in, the cook space had only a thin plywood subfloor. To tie the kitchen in with the rest of the house, the couple installed refurbished heart-pine floors. This window, like many in the house, is a reglazed original. Karl constructed the window seat from stock cabinets and stair treads

Dining Room

Photo by Helen Norman

An original plate rail rings the walls, which are painted a contrasting slate blue. The tall fireplace, painted the same white as the plate rail, door surround, and baseboards, becomes a simple, serene focal point for the space.

First-Floor Bath

Photo by Helen Norman

One of the last rooms to be renovated was the first-floor bath, which was a 1950s addition to the original structure. A sinking foundation meant that the room had to be rebuilt from the ground up. Amy estimates that Karl installed 2,000 tiles in this bathroom, but the couple kept costs affordable by using basics sourced from their local home center.

Master Bedroom: Before

Photo by Helen Norman

To get the original fireplace working again, Karl and Amy removed the cinder blocks from the opening, then tiled the brick surround and hearth.

Master Bedroom: After

Photo by Helen Norman

A garland appliqué added to the frieze visually balances the trim under the mantel shelf. Crown molding, lost over the years, was replaced, and new baseboards were added throughout. A delicate, vintage-inspired chandelier supplants the stodgy ceiling fan to complete the lighter overall mood of the room.

Elegant Master Bath

Photo by Helen Norman

The master bathroom was the first room to be finished, before the couple moved in. Among the highlights: crown molding with corner blocks, to set off the tiled ceiling, and beadboard wainscoting that encircles the room. The slipper-style claw-foot tub is new, though the refinished bathroom floor is original.