We purchased this 1915 American Foursquare in beautiful Cape May, NJ, from the family of the original owners in 1994. It needed work! Drop ceilings, horrible wood paneling, avocado plexi-glass wall dividers, linoleum over hardwood floors and coffee cup wallpaper were just a few of the cosmetic problems we faced with this old house. Of course, the mechanicals all needed replacing, and the landscaping was non-existent.
It recently sold. The place just got too big for us now that we are empty nesters. It’s devoid of all our antiques, but I wanted to honor our wonderful old home (the place we raised our seven kids in) by showcasing one room a day. Remember, my husband did ALL the work himself while working two jobs, being a great dad and having church callings. These photos are to praise him, also. It was a miracle that we were able to restore most of this fixer upper on our shoestring budget. Dumpster diving and Saturday mornings spent ripping out cupboards and trim in demos up and down the Jersey Shore became the norm. Close-out wallpaper, yard sales and thrift shops also played a big part in giving us some wiggle room to feed the kids.
David installed the green built-in cupboard that we had salvaged from a Jersey Shore demo, and put up a stained wood ceiling that everyone though was original to the house. He also added a cedar-lined closet under the staircase, hung new wallpaper and of course, replaced a junky light fixture with the one you see here. He also designed, built and installed the window trim.
I absolutely loved my restored kitchen! When we purchased the home in 1994, the room had drop ceilings, coffee cup and toaster wallpaper, a brown porcelain sink, avocado appliances and basic white homemade cabinets with black wrought iron hardware.
At first David put up wood paneling that went three quarters of the way up the walls. You know, the kind old homes have where they put plates on the sill. It made the room like like a fort, so David tore it all out after one week. Instead, after stripping and refinishing them, he turned dumpster-dived doors sideways for wainscoting. Old doors were also used for the 9-foot ceilings. The trim, shelf above the wide opening, and all the cabinets were salvaged from different demos in Ocean City, NJ. Even the tall, floor-to-ceiling cupboard was salvaged! It cost about $250 for all that. (Knowing how much I was attached to that cupboard, my wonderful son was able to haul it in his van all the way out to California for me).
David refinished the wood floors in a warm honey tone, and we put up the inviting wallpaper (a close-out from K-Mart). The old Quality stove and porcelain top table were purchased at yard sales for $75 and $40 respectively. I was actually going to use the stove for cooking, but the oven was so small, it wouldn’t even fit a turkey or regular size cookie sheet. That just wouldn’t fly with my seven kids (Sadly, I couldn’t keep my adored stove). We also purchased a white porcelain sink that stood on two legs to replace the brown sink. It was so shallow that it was useless, especially since I never owned a dishwasher, so we went modern with stainless steel.
You’ll notice that there is no refrigerator in the kitchen. We put a mini-fridge in the adjacent pantry, and the large fridge and freezer units went in the basement. Sometimes that was a pain in the neck, but anything to keep our hideous refrigerator out of my kitchen. The largest expenses were the granite counter tops and the new large cottage window. Both were so worth the money. The window brought in so much more light!
THE LIVING ROOM
It took a ton of work to scrape the old linoleum, black tar paper and newspaper off these hardwood floors. We took down the drop ceiling, and David installed this beautiful wood ceiling. He salvaged old doors from a demo and turned them sideways to create the white paneling, hung damask wallpaper, designed and built the window trim, and added the fireplace. We had to replace the windows because they were so drafty and would rattle in the wind, not to mention whenever a car passed by. We managed to find replacement windows that closely resembled the originals.
THE DINING ROOM
Like the living room, the dining room’s wainscoting is actually doors turned sideways. We fetched these out of a dumpster in Wildwood, NJ. David designed and built the window trim and redid the floors. The house did not have central air conditioning, but the large windows and ceiling fans kept it relatively cool in the hot and humid East Coast summers. When we purchased the house, avocado green plexi-glass panels separated the dining room from the kitchen. We took those out and expanded the opening between the two rooms. The drop ceilings were scratched and David took the cheap and easy way out by putting up white vinyl wainscoting (really made for exterior soffits). It looked good!
We purchased the oak table from Macy’s Clearance Center for $149 35 years ago. The mirror and Queen Anne side chairs were from Stone Harbor bulk trash picking. The daffodils came from our yard.
The pantry was originally a bathroom off the kitchen. David installed wood floors, a tongue-and-groove ceiling and a Tiffany-style lighting fixture. You can see our pantry’s discount peace, love, hope wallpaper in the photo of our beloved Spazzy cat.
Jo’s room was the last in the house that we tackled, and by this time, we were exhausted both time- and money-wise. David took the easy way out and put up vinyl soffit wainscoting material for the ceiling. The crumbling horsehair plaster came down (what a mess) and he replaced it with plywood for the walls. Jo stained the plywood a pretty aqua color, and David did his magic with his trim work. I thought the stained glass window was a great touch. It came off of Ebay from a London flat.
We bought the painting over the bed from a yard sale. Jo was a Stone Harbor ocean lifeguard; it depicts Stone Harbor beach. The brass bed was purchased from a yard sale, as was the $2 nightstand, lighthouse pictures, lamp and shabby chic clock and candle holder. The rug was found in the trash, and the oak dresser with mirror was a $50 find from a Wildwood tear down.
It always tickled me to look out the dining room window at the Victorian shed David designed and built from salvaged materials.
I referred to him as “the artist” after he built that building. He received many compliments on it, and it was functional as well as pretty.
A View Down the Street