Houzz tour: from shocker to stunner in Houston

Once moldy and decrepit, this 20s bungalow is now a neighborhood gem

By ; reposted with permission from Houzz

Many people have a general area or neighborhood in mind when searching for a home, but Houston engineers Brie and Scott Kelman knew exactly which street they wanted to live on. And they didn’t care how long it took to get there.

That’s why they spent more than two years with a watchful eye on the tree-lined stretch, even long after they outgrew their existing 1920 two-bedroom home when their first child was born and their second was on the way.

The reason it took so long was that most of the homes on Harvard Street in the Historic Heights neighborhood had been “redone weirdly or were too expensive if they were done well,” says Brie. Their luck changed when a builder friend mentioned a severely dilapidated house on the street that had recently gone up for sale. The Kelmans were in New Zealand at the time visiting Scott’s parents, but they didn’t want to miss the opportunity, so they put in a contract without ever stepping foot inside.

Brie Kelman

Houzz at a Glance
Location: Houston
Who lives here: Brie and Scott Kelman, both engineers in the oil and gas industry; their 2-year-old son, Oliver; and their 4-month-old daughter, Georgie
Size: 3,000 square feet (279 square meters); four bedrooms, three bathrooms

When they finally did walk in, the Kelmans were more than shocked. Water and mold had damaged the original wood floors and walls beyond repair. Makeshift plywood patches covered holes in the floor. Drywall had been put up on only a few walls, and even then, none of it had been painted. Plus, there was trash piled nearly knee high.

The home was built in 1920 as a three-bedroom, two-bathroom single-family residence. At some point during the past 94 years, it was converted into a duplex, then converted back to a single-family home. The two doors from its duplex days oddly remained. The cheap wood veneer on the asphalt roofing shingles, all nailed to the original teardrop siding, was crumbling off.

The Kelmans may have finally had their slice of the street, but it was by far the worst piece of the pie. “It was the only house on the block that wasn’t gorgeous,” Brie says. “But it was the only one I felt I could afford.”

AFTER: Brie remained optimistic, and she and Scott, along with architect Sam Gianukosof Creole Design and builder Dave Seeburger of P&G Homes, got to work gutting the home. They also added more square footage to the back in the form of a new combined kitchen and great room, and a second-story addition with three bedrooms, including a new master suite.

Brie Kelman

Brie chose nearly every piece that went into revitalizing the home, from the plumbing fixtures to the dressers, using images she found on Houzz as inspiration.

With a full-time job as an engineer, and with a toddler already and a baby on the way, Brie squeezed in time hunting for pieces for the home during her lunch break and on the Internet at night. “I had over a year of planning, and when I’m pregnant I can’t sleep very well, so I’d wake up in the middle of the night and get on Houzz,” she says. “Even if I hired someone, I’d end up doing it myself, because I’m such a bargain hunter.”

Brie Kelman

She did hire a designer to help choose the exterior white paint color and the front door color. While trying to figure out a color at a Sherwin-Williams paint store, she ran into designer Stacie Cokinos, who offered to help. “I hired her for $65 an hour, and she came over with a box of paint samples and talked through some options,” Brie says. “I was worried about choosing all white, because I was afraid of being too boring. But every house I love is always all white, and Stacie gave me the confidence to go with my gut.”

At the time the doors weren’t ready, so Brie couldn’t test the color, but by that point she was used to making quick decisions. “I was very pregnant, and one of the yellows was named Cheerful, so I just said, ‘Let’s do that,’” she says.

Brie Kelman

The Kelmans removed all the nails and restored the original teardrop siding.

Despite its haggard appearance, there was plenty that Brie loved about the home. Walking through, she noted two old claw-foot bathtubs and a sink that she could reuse, and several original five-panel doors.

She found this particular bathroom layout odd. “It was like,bam — tub, sink, toilet all in a row,” she says. “Not to mention the mold covering the walls.”

Brie Kelman

AFTER: The interior was completely gutted, and the floor plan was completely changed. The more open layout stems from Brie’s hatred of hallways. “I feel like they waste square footage,” she says.

From every place she stood in the house, Brie wanted to be able to see shiplap, transom windows and old light fixtures. The view from the entryway looking into the piano room and dining room accomplishes that.

The piano is a Steinway from 1886 that once belonged to Brie’s grandmother. “It’s very special to me, and I wanted to have that be the first thing you saw when you walked into the house,” she says.

Be a Bargain Hunter and Refinish Rather Than Replace Furniture

Headers in the ceiling and half walls with see-through storage helped her achieve some semblance of separation. “Even though I don’t like hallways, I like the division of space,” she says.

Brie Kelman

Brie knew she loved all-white homes but struggled with choosing it as a color scheme for fear it was too basic. In the end she was happy with her choice. “You forget how it accents the old wood and floors,” she says.

Almost all the lights in the home are schoolhouse-style fixtures, Brie’s favorite.

She initially balked at the idea of putting her microwave under the island, but then realized that it’s a great way to hide an “ugly appliance that I rarely use,” she says. “Plus, my kids can heat stuff up for themselves as they grow.”

Again, choosing the white scheme gave her pause but didn’t stop her. “A lot of people love white subway tile, but when they go to choose it, they change their mind because one little white tile looks so boring, but they forget about how the grout lines add dimension and it’s timeless,” she says.

Brie Kelman

A cutting board from Williams-Sonoma acts as the main food prep area, because Brie wanted to preserve the Calacatta marble counters. “I’m petrified of screwing up the marble, so we put everything on that board,” she says. “It’s a practical solution to the impractical choice of having marble with two small kids.”

Brie Kelman

Brie says she combined ideas from about four photos she found on Houzz to create the built-in desk and storage unit in the kitchen. Using her iPad, she showed the photos to her carpenter, Felix Vargas of P&G Homes, who drew out the dimensions on the wall and then built the unit.

Brie saw a cutting board drawer in her friend’s in-laws’ house and had to have one. “I took a photo of it on my iPhone and showed it to my carpenter, and he built it,” she says. A pullout trash can drawer lets whoever’s prepping a meal scrape leftovers easily away.

Brie Kelman

Growing up, Brie had a good friend with a ranch in Kansas City that had a kitchen and living room open to each other. She wanted the same for her home. “Even though it was a little ranch home, everyone could end up together,” she says.