Updating the House
When the Marminos first visited the 1892 Victorian home nine years ago, they were in the midst of a years-long search for their ideal country home. Their hunt for a farmhouse had taken them to properties in three states, but Kathy wasn't house-hunting the day she stepped onto the porch of this property shaded by towering hardwoods in the town of Bethalto, outside St. Louis. The large home stood near Wood River, where Kathy and Randy grew up as next-door neighbors. But Kathy had never noticed the property until she called on a client there for the home health-care company she owns. When she arrived, she immediately was enamored with the five-acre farm, as well as its house, barn and sheds.
A conversation with the owners soon revealed the farm had been for sale for three years. "The sign fell down, and I guess they never bothered to put it back up," Kathy says. "I told them right then that I wanted to buy it, and we made an offer the next afternoon."
The deal went through, and the Marminos began updating a house stuck in a 1970s time warp, with gaudy flocked wallpaper, outdated shag carpeting and fussy chandeliers. They were anxious to remake almost everything about the house to match their image of country living. "This was never supposed to be an elegant place. It's a farmhouse," Kathy says matter-of-factly. "Farmers always make do with what they've got." She decided the renovation would be driven by nostalgic practicality, not pretentiousness.
The kitchen, the first room on the rehab agenda, presented an immediate chance to prove their loyalty to those ideas. Thinking like a practical farmer, Kathy looked at the $25,000 bid to replace the dark wood cabinets and reasoned, "They were perfectly good cherry cabinets, so it just didn't make sense to get new ones." So she painted them white, changed the hardware and inserted glass panels in the top-row doors. The price? About $2,000.