Dilapidated boarding house renovated into a dream home

Dilapidated boarding house renovated into a dream home

They needed more space than their 1,800-square-foot cottage home could offer. That's what Kirsten and William VantWoud told themselves when they began the search for a new house.

They found their answer in the nearly 5,000 square feet of a close-to-dilapidated, 10-apartment boarding house. They walked through its burrow of oppressive, walnut-paneled hallways, trying not to notice the pungent smell of the tiny rooms and decided that, yes, this was home.

Perhaps this isn't the decision that most couples would come to, but Kirsten and William have never taken the easy course when it comes to home ownership. They tend to shy away from move-in-ready homes and prefer houses that are ready for the wrecking ball.

They purchased their boarding-house-turned-dream-home in October 2001, and in November 2002, they were passing out I-told-you-so's to naysayers.

Recently their efforts paid off — the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana honored them in May. At the 2003 Indianapolis Preservation Awards, Kirsten and William received the Angie's List Old House Rehab Award.

"Some of our friends and family thought we were crazy when they first saw the house, but they knew we could handle it," admits Kirsten.

The couple has had plenty of experience restoring old homes, but this one was certainly a challenge — so much so that Kirsten admits she wasn't positive it could be saved after her first (and only) trip through the home before its purchase.

Beautiful details were slowly uncovered

While it had been a mansion at the beginning of the 20th century, 50 years later it was divided into small apartments in order to pay for the cost of such a large structure. By the time the VantWouds saw it, the house had been vacant for months and had become a shelter for stray dogs and a nuisance to neighborhood police. William was convinced it could be saved despite its bleak first impression.

What sealed the deal was one room — a studio covered in rich woodwork with skylight-illuminated, stained-glass artwork. From there, the potential for the rest of the house became visible.

The couple started by taking out all non-original walls and partitions, removing eight kitchens and extra bathrooms, and uncovering the framework. Piece by piece they put together the uniqueness of this Colonial Revival-style home, built in 1901.

Luckily, much of the original woodwork in oak, beech and redwood was recovered after days and days of stripping layers of paint from trim and banisters. After removing the aluminum siding, they painted the remaining clapboard and huge front porch columns in warmer, complementary shades of cream and green.

Little by little the detail and craftsmanship of their new home came to life.

Commitment to home preservation

Today the VantWoud's faith has paid off. Best of all for the couple, they are surrounded by families with similar faith. Their designated historic neighborhood is regulated by strict codes — a negative aspect for some homeowners — but the VantWouds are comforted that their neighbors care as much about proper care and restoration as they do. It's a care that they've been careful to instill in their children as well.

"We definitely teach our kids to reduce, reuse and recycle," says Kirsten. "When we go through a designated historic neighborhood, my young son can point out that vinyl siding doesn't belong on the houses."

The VantWoud's hard work and faith have materialized in the restoration of this house and other homes, but furthermore, their legacy will hopefully lead more homeowners to pick up the hammer, the paintbrush, and work to restore history and beauty.

These qualities have earned the VantWouds the indisputable honor of the Angie's List Old House Rehab Award.


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