Intro: Located in the historic Elliotborough neighborhood of Charleston, South Carolina, this home needed a lot of work. The home needed so much work, in fact, that the end result didn’t make it to TV. It is now finally ready to be seen! Originally on Facebook LIVE, watch Kevin take a tour of the completed house and talk to the happy homeowners. We'll also meet some of the folks responsible for this extreme renovation. You can see the dramatic before photos here.
Kevin O'Connor: Hey everybody. Kevin O'Connor, Charleston, South Carolina welcoming you to Facebook LIVE. As you all know, we worked on two projects down here in Charleston over the past year. We had a single-style house, all brick, and it was sort of closer to downtown, and then we have this house right here. And we finished the single-style during the season, but we did not actually finish this one during the season.
So, we are back now that it is complete, and you’re going to get a first look at this house, finished exclusively on Facebook LIVE. I have got questions and answers coming to my phone so if you want to throw some questions out there you’re welcome to it. You can hear the cicadas, right? Charleston lifestyle - that buzzing in the background is all the cicadas in the trees...
Alright, so, this place was a disaster. I want to take a look at it right now. You can see how long this house is. This facade right here, keep that image in your head. Look at the brand-new porch with the columns, now completely rebuilt. That is how it looks now, but when you see how it looks when we started it’s quite amazing. We have got a photo gallery and a video of all the befores you might want to take a look at the thisoldhouse.com website, you can check those out if you want to look at the gallery, but we’re going to show you some here as well.
Tommy what’s going on?
Tom Silva: Hey, Kevin, how are you?
KO: I’m doing all right. You got some pictures here of what this place used to look like.
TS: I do. We’re gonna set this up so Dino can see the pictures here on camera. We gotta deal with the glare.
KO: So, this is the before of the house and the front of house is right here, and I just showed you the length of it right there. And that thing was really, really bad.
TS: You can really see how rotted this wall is right here. Look at the vines. And the roof, years ago, was patched, but right on the other side of that roof right there, was a big hole in the roof. And all that water was rushing into the building, destroying the interior.
KO: Right. And so if we go to the next picture, this is the front porch right here. The columns are all rotted, the porch itself was basically collapsing.
TS: Right and we’re standing right here behind this column and there’s a look at after the demolition of the front porch, getting ready for the new one.
KO: So, we thought originally that the porch was going to able to be saved. Well, that was the hope at least.
TS: Yeah, they tried to do a demolition carefully and once they started opening it up, you’d see more and more rot and it came to the point where we’d say let’s take the structure out and start fresh.
KO: Well, we want to introduce you to Andrew. Andrew come on up here.
TS: Hi, Andrew good to see you.
Designer, Andrew: Good to see you.
KO: So, Andrew, you were the heart and soul of this from the beginning, in terms of design. [Homeowners] Judith and Julia asked you to fix this house.
DA: Well, this house was built in the 1890s which is typical for this neighborhood, the Elliotborough neighborhood of Charleston. This whole neighborhood is late Victorian, there’s a few houses a little older than that, but for the most part these streets were laid out in the 1870s to the 1890s. This is actually one of the last houses built in the neighborhood. So it’s a little different from most Charleston houses - it’s not the classic single house with the side porch, its a front porch house, more of a later Victorian style and it’s got this real formal Greek revival porch on the front which is a little unusual for this area. So this was a real special feature that we wanted to pay particular attention to when we restored the house.
TS: Really important to save that feature.
KO: And we just need to remind everybody, you can’t tear these houses down in Charleston South Carolina. There’s a Board of the Architectural Review. The Board of Architectural review says you can’t do it, they come in and inspect. You did make some changes to the house, you got approval to get the back taken off and rebuild. Talk about that process very quickly.
DA: Yeah, so, Charleston’s the oldest and largest historic district in the entire country. And they’re very protective of the old houses. But it’s not exactly a museum historic district, like colonial Williamsburg where everything’s a perfect replica of the 18th century. The historic district covers essentially the whole city, which means they have to have the flexibility to allow people to live in these houses and make these houses work for the owners. So some things have to stay the way they are, particularly the front of the house - we had to restore this front porch to the exact way it had been, to its original design. But the back of the house, they’re a lot more flexible. So in the back of the house we were able to take down an old addition that was complete rotten. We were able to demolish a little bit of the original house that was also rotten beyond repair and I designed a new back for the house, a new master suite on the back, a new guest suite downstairs, and a full size back porch, which the house never had before. So the back of the house is basically a completely new design, but the Board of Architectural Review doesn’t want a new design like that to copy an original part of the house, they want it to be apparent that it’s a later addition. So I designed a back porch that’s stylistically complementary to the front porch, but not identical. When you get back there you’ll see it’s got square columns, it’s got a few simpler details, but it still has that Victorian, Greek revival-style about it, so it looks like it belongs with this house.
KO: We’re headed to the back of the house. We appreciate you sticking with us throughout the entire process - well over a year of your work in the design, so thank you for that Andrew.
TS: Thank you, Andrew.
KO: We’re going to go inside and check it out, and when we do that Tommy, as we bring the camera in here, I’m just want to make some call-outs because we are live and people are tuning in in great numbers. Let’s see, Justin Mills says, “How’s the foundation”?, Elaine’s checking in from Montclair, New Jersey, Elaine nice to hear from you, “When is this going to air”? It’s live, it’s airing right now. Edgardo Lopez says “love it”! Malena Chacon says “Hi Andrew”. “What did you do, that This Old House was amazing, great work”. Thank you very much Joe, a whole bunch of other things. In terms of the foundation, it’s on piers.
TS: It’s on piers, number one, and all of the piers were researched and checked and a lot of them were good. We did have to add new piers for the new addition off the back, but the house is, believe it or not, pretty solid, it hasn’t settled down too much, except for some of the beams that were rotted and had to be replaced.
KO: Take a look at the room, this is the front living room and when we first got here, this was basically the size and shape of this room. There were double-pocket doors right here and there are still double-pocket doors, a couple things on the punch list, and the fireplaces were here as well. We exposed the brick and you could see the effect that those have right there, they’re no longer operational for wood, but our homeowners decided to put in gas, there are going to be inserts put in right there.
TS: These brick were all re-done, re-pointed.
KO: And let’s see if we can show you the actual room right here. This is the fireplace that we are standing in front of right now. You can see the double-pocket doors. The furnishings were still here Tommy, the house was full of fleas, it was nasty.
TS: Yeah it was pretty bad, it was pretty bad. The mantle’s gone, exposed brick is there - but see this part of the wall right here it was actually just a small door opening that led into the room - well this wall got all opened up so now you can see the staircase and it makes this room itself seem much larger.
KO: Let’s just go to the next one because were going to jump in. Right now this is the other side of those pocket doors, take a look at that again, the furnishings, the decay, the plaster off the walls.
TS: The windows boarded up, all this debris on the floor - there’s actually a hole right there in the floor where the beams and stuff were rotted and had to get replaced. A lot of work went into this area structurally of the house.
KO: And the transformation, why don’t you show it to us Tommy? We got some work going on because today is wrap day, which you could see this additional room right here. Just a couple more call-outs: Brian Farmer from Rome, Italy - all the way from Italy! Terrific, love that. “Love the brick accent from the former fire places”. Someone’s asking for tonight’s lottery numbers, Thomas responded with, “5 34 17 9” and you have to tune in for the last one.
TS: Leave it to you!
KO: “Can’t wait to see the inside and back of the house” from Marie. We’re going to show you that as well. Take a look at this fireplace right here, that’s the back to back Tommy.
TS: You see the nice fireplace back to back, I love the fact that they have the real wide grout lines on the brick to match the Charleston character. Again, the mantle was taken off and the brick is exposed, it’s a nice effect.
KO: So would you guys like the meet the homeowners and see how happy they are? Come on over. Judith, Julia, look at the smiles on your faces!
Homeowners, Judith and Julia: Hi, everybody!
KO: We’re in the kitchen, heart of the house for you guys, big change in here.
Julia: Huge change in here. It’s a transformation.
Judith: It is, and it’s nice and bright and it’s lovely and you know, it’s funny, when you guys first came of course this was a disaster. But the house that was here - actually give a shout out to my late father, Dr. Jude [last name], it’s the anniversary of his passing.
KO: How many years?
Judith: Sixteen years. So I wish he were alive to see it, but my mother’s alive, and she’s visited with us, as you know. My father bought this house for my mother, so it’s a special joy to be here with Julia and to transform it and to be here today is really great. And my grandmother’s pink teacups - we found them. Sarah, the producer and I went and got all these, we saved all these little chotchkes, my grandmother had a bunch of birds and all kinds of things. We just saved a few little things just to show you my grandmother’s character. She loved ceramics, she had so many, she probably had hundreds, but I just picked a few of them and that saw in the old house so it’s really special.
TS: It’s a nice touch.
KO: I’ve got a question here from Betha Violet who says, “They went with a different color scheme in the kitchen, what happened to the Aruba waters”? Do you remember?
Judith: Yes, yes.
Julia: It’s here, it’s here!
KO: On the cabinets?
Judith: It’s on the cabinets and it’s actually funny because there is a beautiful color - we’d been debating colors. You know, we wanted it pristine and we have a lot of colorful art from West Africa. My late father was from Ghana, my mother is from Charleston, so we wanted to bring those two cultures together. And in a weird way, I think we’ve done it. Color is in the art, it’s not on the walls yet, but we’re going to live with it for a little while and then we’ll see what we want to do with it. What do you think Julia?
Julia: I think you’re absolutely right. Remember there’s some colors of Bermuda here as well.
KO: Yes, that is where you’re heart is right?
Judith: We chose this blue specifically for Julia and to recognize her country of Bermuda, it’s so beautiful there. And of course, that blue there, Grandma’s blue glass chotchke works too.
KO: Just a couple more comments from people. Shawn says, “Oh my god it’s THAT house”?
Judith: Shawn it is that house, we did it!
KO: And Shawn says it gives me hope for his own house, “amazing transformations”, so you guys are giving hope to a lot of people out there.
Judith: Please, do it. It’s been a year. We’ve done a lot in a year.
KO: Joshua from Houston, Texas signing in. Ginger McKnight Chavers.
Julia and Judith: Hey Ginger!
KO: You know them?
Judith: We do. One of my law school classmates, one of my dearest friends, and somebody with impeccable taste. So Ginger you inspired me years ago with your beautiful house and it’s transformation, so thank you, and Kevin!
KO: We’re going to show a couple before pictures of the kitchen and then move to the back guest room, so let’s do that. Tommy if you could pull up those pictures.
TS: Alright so here’s the room that we just left, you could see debris there. Here’s a picture of the kitchen, you could see it’s in pretty bad shape, look at the holes in the floor there.
KO: When you say pretty bad shape Tom, are you trying to soften it a bit?
TS: I’m trying to be kind, I’m trying to be kind. You could see the ceiling’s all falling down because above that, where the hole in the roof was, a lot of this part, the back section of the house actually got torn off because it was so bad. It was definitely a lot of work, but look at the difference.
KO: That wall came down, which actually allowed us to open up the two spaces
TS: Right, that opened up a big space.
KO: Did that wall come down or not? That’s this wall right here.
TS: No that wall didn’t come down, that’s the ending wall right here. And then the room in the back got rebuilt because it was so rotted.
KO: Let’s go look at the guest bedroom in the back.
KO: Judith, Julia thank you, we’ll be back.
Judith and Julia: Thank you.
KO: We got a wrap party with them tonight.
Judith and Julia: Bye everybody. Thanks for tuning in.
KO: A couple more shout-outs: Bay City, Michigan is signing in with Larry McCaulsky, Melena Chacon says “Hi Tommy”, “WOW” says Susan Durrant which is pretty good. “Pretty bad shape” perfectly stated. Another “WOW” coming to us from Catherine Zimmerman. “Have the floors been completely refinished? How much was salvaged verses new?”
TS: Well this is new, and this is actually a new part. If you actually look, when you’re ready I’ll show you this picture, this space here is new. These floors are new, the existing floors in the house were patched and salvaged. So if you look right here, we’re actually standing in there behind- next to that window. You could see how we tore off this whole back section of the house because it was so bad, but this is the new section that we are in right now.
KO: Let’s take a look over here because this is the guest bedroom. A little seating and dressing area, with a bathroom right there.
TS: Beautiful, full bathroom right here.
KO: Want to go out?
TS: Let’s go out to the porch, which is really nice back here.
KO: So you said this is all new space.
TS: This is all new space and this is the porch as Andrew was saying, he built with square columns. It’s complementary, but it’s not the exact same so you know that it’s an addition.
KO: Right and there’s a picture right there, you could show that one to Dino.
TS: There’s the picture, you could see the whole back was torn off and rebuilt.
KO: Alright so we did some landscaping out back as well because you if you’ve got these beautiful porches and you’re in Charleston you do outdoor living. Brent how are you? Why don’t you hold onto that one second.
Landscaper, Brent: Very good, thank you so much.
KO: Thank you for the beautiful work.
LB: Hey, I enjoy doing this.
KO: Looks awesome, tell us what you did.
LB: Thank you so much. Well, we did quite a few things, as you remember this was- well when we first came over it was a trainwreck. Of course they demoed the back of the house, there was a pile of debris.
TS: There was debris everywhere.
LB: It was kind of hard to imagine what it would become. Andrew designed this wall, the architect that you talked to earlier, very cool wall, and we kind of took it from there. Tried to make it a nice little kind of Charleston courtyard-type garden, and I think it turned out pretty good. We packed a lot of plants in a small space.
KO: A couple people agree with you. Abby Brangle says, “Look at that backyard, so peaceful and lovely! Good work, you’re all an inspiration”! What are the materials? What have we got down here?
LB: This is chipped mini slate. A lot of people like to use pea gravel and things like that, this lays flat and doesn’t really kick under your feet. I have this in my backyard, works very well, you could put furniture on it as you can see. It has a layer of wheat fabric under it, just so it doesn’t press into the soil.
TS: So the weeds won’t come up from it.
LB: And the weeds won’t come up through it, it works very well. I also use it for a pervious parking area if you want to do it for that. And it doesn’t stick on the bottom of your shoes.
TS: So you won’t scratch the floors when you walk inside.
LB:And it’s easy to blow the leaves and debris off of it.
KO: The brick you’ve got here for the cap of the wall both low and high, Charleston brick.
LB: Yes it’s some older Charleston brick. Andrew selected this and it kind of goes with the whole Charleston theme.
KO: And we couldn’t do anything with the block wall that separates our lot from the neighbor’s lot.
KO: In terms of taking it down or up but you tried to give it a pop of color.
LB: Yeah Julia picked out a color, it’s called Charleston Red and they painted this the other day. It looks a lot better than a concrete block wall, of course.
KO: How come all the colors down here are named after Charleston?
LB: I don’t know!
KO: Charleston blue, Charleston red…what’s going on with that?
LB: It’s just a common theme I guess.
KO: And then we’re just going to take a long shot, if you’ll just step back. You can see how close the houses are to each other in this neighborhood. Long and narrow on this side, it looks like we’ve got ideas for a one car park [space] up front.
LB: Yeah there’s going to be a brick pad installed up there. We can actually get two cars.
KO: Two cars in there, which is terrific. We’re hiding some mechanical equipment.
LB: Two very small cars. There’s only about nine feet between these houses, so it’s pretty tight.
KO: And then have a look at this. This is probably the biggest transformation off of the back Tommy, this is all new.
TS: This is all new from that corner of the house all the way back, is all new, and made a huge difference.
KO: Alright. Corey Coppola says “Beautiful garden, love the chipped slate”.
LB: Chipped mini slate, yeah good [...]
KO: Take a compliment when you get one pal, okay? Awesome, I’ll take that, appreciate the work, terrific. Alright we’re going back in, back of the house, the porches are all new. We’re going upstairs.
TS: Take a look at ceilings that they painted a little bit of blue, to give the illusion that you’re looking up to the sky. It’s really nice, I always like a blue ceiling on a porch, nice feature.
KO: Alright back into the house. Just a couple of comments are coming in. From Shannon Tate, “Gorgeous house”. “Hello from Highland Park, Michigan” writes Kyle. Hello!
Judith and Julia: Hi!
KO: You go that way, I’m going to go this way Tommy.
TS: We’ll all end up at the same place. So you can see that this had a little doorway right here. This all got opened up, so it made a huge difference in the space and the dark stairway is now light and bright.
KO: If you followed from the beginning, you’ll notice much of the wainscot that was in the house originally, remained. So you can see the imperfections. Judith and Julia are perfectly happy to live with those. This was all there. In this new entryway, they’ve tucked a little half-bath underneath the stairs. Dino can pop his head in there. A lot of light. Definitely tucked underneath the stairs. Pretty cool, right? And the old doors, saved, reused. This was a dark and dingy place.
TS: And the old floors, we still have to get a finish on the floors.
KO: We have a picture of the staircase, I wonder if we can show that to folks, looking up there. Show what we’re going up to.
TS: I have one up at the top of the stairs.
KO: If you look at that picture closely, you can see the wainscot on the right-hand wall; the newel post and the ballast rod which stayed.
TS: Yup these are all original right here. This is the wainscoting going up, all the way up into the hall.
KO: Ready to go?
TS: I’m ready to go, up we go.
KO: As we go up, a couple more call-outs. “Beautifully done from Satellite Beach, Florida” that comes to us from Joyce Hindman Fowler. Boise, Idaho, Jacob Bateman is signing in. Jessica Van Sack-Downey, “So much character in the wainscot” she loves it. Helen Lindsey-Kroll says I love that half bath”! writing in from Michigan. Alright, have a look around. Upstairs, this is the now master bedroom. You could see that there’s sort of an office area in here. There’s a bedroom back in here. There’s the fireplace in the corner.
TS: All been re-built, nice look, plaster has been gone, but it’s just a beautiful look.
KO: And again, not for wood, but the gas is going to go in there, so the insert’s coming. And on the backside of this chimney/fireplace is another one in the front room. Let’s talk about how bad it was.
TS: You want to see how bad it is, alright, so if you look at this wall right here, this wall is now taken down, but right there in the ceiling, is a big hole. If you were to look up through that, through the roof, you’d actually see the sky. It was a huge hole in the roof that was rotted. The water ran down, damaged the wall, put a hole in the floor and damaged the wall and the floor in the old kitchen down below and the living room and dining room. Quite a mess.
KO: This is the room where Julia (**Should be Judith) as a little girl, this was her bedom that she shared with her brothers and sisters, and when we did that first walk-through she was up here, kind of emotional. This is the room where she would stay when she was visiting her grandparents, and it was in that sort of terrible disrepair. She stood right in this room and that’s when she told us her dream for the house: for them to have a family home, renovated and restored. Let’s push in a little bit. This is a little writing room/office area that they intend to use when they’re in the house.
TS: So the thing about that room right there is, originally this room- that wall was added, so that was part of the hallway and there was an entryway back there. So they added the wall on the other side of this to divide this space, but also give them closet space at the top of the stairs.
KO: So Kevin Karubya (??) writes in and says “Jacob, my seven year old, from Ipswich, Mass. asks will there be any EV charge ports”? I don’t think there will be, not in this one.
TS: Does he have an electric vehicle? He must.
KO: Gail Bellin writes, “Isn’t there a Charleston folklore regarding the blue ceiling on the porch? Keeps the boo witch away and you always keep a broom on it”. We’ve heard about the haints, that is the lore that we heard, which is the haints were the apparitions and ghosts and stuff and they didn’t like the blue, so they call it “haint blue” that’s one we’ve heard. I’ve not heard the “boo witch away”.
TS: There’s also one that you paint the ceiling porch blue and it seems like the sky and less chance of birds nesting in, under the porch.
KO: Laura Bodie writes, “Oh my, I would never leave the master bedroom, beautifully done”, also from Michigan. We’re getting a “Hi” from Narish Kumar Dehira. “Absolutely gorgeous” from Gail Bellin, we appreciate that. We are going to leave the master bedroom though just to show you the master bath. Talk us through that one Tommy.
TS: Great shower in here with a glass door, beautiful shower, a lot of shower controls there. Head wash, I love the rain fall that comes out of the ceiling. Twin sinks, beautiful countertops, and a soaking tub- that's a big one, deep one, can really get into it there I guess.
KO: It’s live Tommy.
TS: I didn’t mean that way!
KO: I don’t want to hear anything about your bathing, soaking-
TS: That’s you, you always take it the wrong- just because I like to take a [soak in the] tub.
KO: I take a tub every week. Back porch, also new. Just a couple of questions, “Love the master bedroom and sitting area, where are Roger, Richard, Norm and the rest of the crew”? Just Tommy and I on this trip. The boys are back. We got two other projects we’re working on as you know, Brookline, Massachusetts, Jamestown, Rhode Island with our friend Jeff Sweenor. So work continues, the boys are back there doing all the work. “Looks awesome” Scotland, Connecticut writes in from Sherry Robinson. “Oklahoma” Joshua, thank you for signing in as well. “And keeps hornets away” says Larry McCaulsky. Think he’s talking about the blue ceiling, which we’ve got here as well.
TS: [inaudible], really nice look.
KO: We’re going to wrap it up. We appreciate all the comments. I guess just some reflections from you on this one Tommy. It’s difficult to say which one was the worst, ever, and I don’t think we need to call one the worst ever or not. But this one was really far gone.
TS: This was really bad. I mean not only was it destroyed, or really beaten up from the weather, but insects down here, termites, are just brutal, and they ate a lot of the structure. And so you have to deal with that. Again, you can’t tear these houses down, so you have to make a marriage between you know, what do you replace, what do you [?] to make the structure last.
KO: Right and they did amazing things. There’s a great local general contractor, Flyaway Construction, who was the lead builder on this project so we thank them for sure. You met Andrew, you met Brent the landscaper. There’s a lot of local help down here who are very familiar with working in Charleston, they can get us around the Board of Architectural Review and these structures so we owe it to them to give them some thanks for a job well done.
TS: And you know what you can do, what you can’t do to give the house the character that it needs.
KO: Right. So you guys have seen it live for the first time here. We’ll also drop a segment into the upcoming season, where we’ll do a flashback and show it on This Old House, those are going to start in October, first with Jamestown, Rhode Island, followed by Brookline, Massachusetts. A cottage down near the water down in Jamestown and then a mid-century modern back in Brookline. You’ll see the full television version of that come October.
TS: Jamestown project is going to have a little bit of a twist to it, I think it’s going to be really interesting. You gotta tune in to see what we’re doing with that. A way they say to save money over the long-term.
KO: “Hello to Tom and Kevin from Kentucky” from Thomas Brown. Laura Bode says “We love you both so much” Kevin just a little more.
TS: Aww, she didn’t say that at all!
KO: No, she didn’t.
TS: I know how you make this stuff up.
KO: I can make up whatever I want - Can you please show us Tommy taking a tub again? It’s unbelievable. Anyway, “Thank you for the walkthrough” from Eugene, Oregon. You’re very welcome, thank you guys for tuning in. We got to get back to work, because we’re going to wrap this thing up filming today and then we’re going to have a little wrap party with Judith and Julia and all the local tradespeople down here who made this thing happen. That’s it, signing off from Charleston, South Carolina, probably for the last time.
TS: Let’s go [...], let’s go [...]. You can’t shut him up!
KO: Shut up.