3/1/2011 - Turning wrong into right in Montford, central Asheville
by Paul Clark
"The city of Asheville's historic downtown neighborhoods were established at the turn of the twentieth century. Many of the homes in these historic districts have been remodeled and renovated into modern reflections of their original splendor. It can be quite an undertaking to restore an old home, but sweat equity can be the most fulfilling kind of appreciation." - Ben Falcon
Turning wrong into right in Montford, central Asheville
The Montford home of Joe and Abbie Emison and their children, Seamus and Grace, in Asheville. See a new Home of the Week every Saturday in the Asheville Citizen-Times. (John Fletcher 1-18-2011) / John Fletcherfirstname.lastname@example.org
Nuts and bolts
The home: A two-story, 2,020-square-foot Dutch Colonial built in 1915 in central Asheville's historic district of Montford. It has four bedrooms and two bathrooms.
The homeowners: Abbie Emison, a city planning consultant, and Joe Emison, vice president of research and development of BuildFax, a knowledge company based in Asheville. Their 15-month-old twins are Seamus and Grace.
Defining aspect: Many of historic Montford homes have been renovated and "opened" up to accommodate modern families, as the Emisons' house demonstrates.
OK, but not ideal, the Asheville couple agreed.
"I'm not good enough at interior design to make something out of nothing," Abbie, then an administrator working for an economic development organization, said recently. "I need walls to push things against."
"It might have been too hip for us," Joe said, joking. He was studying law at the time.
But the couple liked the openness of the loft, and Abbie liked being able to walk to work. So when it came time for them to look for a home in Asheville (Joe grew up here), they want a big, broad space close to downtown.
But with walls. In a house that didn't need major renovations.
"Famous last words," Abbie said, a rueful look competing with the smile on her face.
The old house they found in Montford, in October 2007, was right. But the rooms were wrong.
So began a lot of work.
Pulling the switch
The Emisons' house (Joe adopted his wife's name) was built in 1915 by W.H. Schoffner, an Asheville jeweler, for one of his children. Since World War II, no one has lived in it for more than 10 years, according to the Emisons' reckoning. Lots of changes had been made, many that didn't make sense. The front of the house was a huge living room that they made into a kitchen. They turned the old dining room into the living room. The tiny kitchen tucked away almost as an afterthought became their guest room.
Unboxing the kitchen
Cracked plaster in the new living room came out, replaced by drywall installed by Joe and three of his friends. The floors, already refinished, needed patching in places where they moved walls. They submitted their design for the kitchen to ikeafamily.com and loved the reworking that designers there did (for free). IKEA cabinets outfitted the kitchen, upgraded with wood doors sold and sized by Scherr's Cabinet and Doors, a company in North Dakota. Jason Rector, Scott Bender and a crew installed the decorative panels at the end of the island.
Window to Montford
Somewhere along the line of previous owners, the front porch was enclosed and now has large, sunny windows that provide the family with a view of people going by on the sidewalk. It's the movie they enjoy as they eat - the windows are part of the dining room. Feeding the twins (Seamus and Grace, who came along after the renovations were done, thank goodness), Joe sees people walking, jogging and waiting for the bus. "There is not another neighborhood in Asheville that is as diverse," he said.
Checking references, grammar
Much of the work was done by contractors that the couple found on Craigslist. When they had a job to do (patching plaster in the house, screwing drywall to the ceiling), they contacted people on the website who sounded qualified, then paid attention to their e-mailed responses (Joe looks for proper grammar - a sign of professionalism, he believes). Then they called a nd checked references before hiring them.