Thomas Jefferson Little House – Circa 1888
In January 1988, six months after the current owner bought her house, she put it back on the market. “This was a trial live-in, not a lifetime commitment,” she told her realtor. “There’s too much to do and I don’t have unlimited funds!” The market was slow, and one year later she called him back. “Come get your sign. This house was made for Christmas, and the past year has been like marriage therapy. I’ve learned to live with the faults and be more patient about changes. Christmas made me fall in love again!”
In the 21 years she has owned her home, the owner has steadily remodeled and renovated, all with the goal of making the house more compatible with her lifestyle and capturing a Victorian essence without necessarily making an authentic restoration. Each year as she adorns the house for the Christmas holidays, she is reminded of how close she came to giving up what has become a truly lovely home.
Over these years, the first floor walls were stripped of 7-8 layers of paint and paper with new wallpaper then applied to the original plaster walls in the double parlor, dining room and foyer. In the dining room, wood paneling was removed from the walls, new sheetrock installed and woodwork milled to match the pattern in the parlor. The floor could not be saved as carpet had been glued to the floor, so wall-to-wall carpeting was installed. Other wood floors throughout the house, all in an interesting “log cabin” pattern, were refinished. The painted woodwork in the double parlor was stripped and stained, new wallpaper was hung throughout, and new light fixtures completed the work in the formal living areas.
Kitchen walls were sheet rocked to cover 1950-vintage plastic tile and brick finishes and the cabinets were repainted white. New appliances and countertops completed the facelift to this wonderful working kitchen that enables today’s owner to bake scrumptious desserts to please her guests at the parties she loves to host. The most recent project was replacing the kitchen and powder room floors with new hardwood.
The second floor required extensive remodeling to improve the traffic pattern and create “the best closets to be found in Victorian Willimantic.” A new central hallway was created and was lined with storage and linen closets. The small bedroom that remained has become the grandchildren’s nursery. Two bedrooms were combined into a spacious master bedroom suite with a walk-in closet the size of a small room. A small hall closet and bedroom closet were reconfigured to create a huge double closet in the guest room, coined the “flea market room.” A small office nook for the owner’s consulting business was then possible at the front of the house. Finally, the attic stairs, which originally opened into the bathroom, were repositioned to open into the master suite, thus allowing the creation of a shower stall in the bathroom. Skylights over the original claw-foot tub, a new pedestal sink, and ceramic tile in the bathroom completed the renovation.
The exterior of the house was repainted in 1989 in a five-color scheme featuring shades of cream, coral, pink and rose with a blue-green punch color. In 2001 a garage, fashioned like a small Victorian cottage, was added and then the grounds were re-landscaped around the bluestone patio, added in 19494, that surrounds an 85- year-old maple tree. The new landscape design is a “new Victorian secret garden” of perennials, flowering shrubs and ground cover. In years to come, the rhododendrons and arbor vitae will provide 12-15 foot high greenery walls for privacy and quiet on this busy corner lot. Although the rhodies only grow about 8 inches a year, the current owner expects to be there when this secret garden is a reality. “They’ll take me out of this wonderful home in a box,” she says. “My last renovation will be in about 30 years when I convert to one floor living and hire someone to wheel me in and out of my new first floor shower!” Now, that really is a lifetime commitment!