Labor of Love
With plenty of elbow grease and a generous dollop of Colonial flair, an Ohio couple restore their turn-of-the-century Craftsman to its former glory.
Through years of hard work, Ohio homeowners reveal the beauty of their turn-of-the century Craftsman-style home.
When a young mother spends the first year in her newly purchased house tearfully overwhelmed by all the work it needs, it’s generally not a good sign. However, that was Gayle Ferguson’s experience when she and her husband, Don, moved into their Somerset, Ohio, home nearly four decades ago. “It was such an old house and it had layers and layers of wallpaper, the two front rooms had glued-down indoor/outdoor carpeting, and the original windows let the wind blow right through the house,” she recalls. “The amount of work we had was unbelievable.”
Today, the house looks like it has always been a Colonial showstopper. The original plaster walls are no longer hidden under wallpaper; they’re enhanced with hand-cut stencils and custom glazes. The original hardwood floors, rescued from beneath that awful carpet, gleam with the rich patina only age provides. “We scraped and scraped,” Gayle remembers. “It was a black adhesive almost like tar. We had to keep sanding and sanding, and it took forever. We sure put a lot of love and sweat into this house!”
New windows banish breezes with an assist from the raised-panel interior shutters that Don made and installed. “A lot of people think they’re original,”
Gayle enthuses. “I’m just lucky I have a talented husband. I’ll come up with an idea and he’ll look at me like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ ”
Installing the wood ceiling in the kitchen required Don to enlist the help of several friends. “The wood beams are authentic and came from an old barn,” Gayle notes. “Don had all the beams pre-drilled so they could attach them right to the studs.” After that project, installing a new dropped tin-panel ceiling in the basement proved to be a much simpler job.
As for Gayle, she has a deft hand with a paintbrush. “I took a stenciling class in the 1980s,” she explains. “We stenciled everything! I have followed Moses Eaton’s history, and most of my stencils are his designs.” She also painted and distressed her kitchen cabinets, sealing them with a coat of satin acrylic sealer.
In addition, she paints canvas floorcloths for herself and to give as gifts. She starts by applying four or five coats of the base color to both sides of the canvas to stiffen it before adding the stenciled design and a dark stain for an
aged look. To finish, she seals the surface with polyurethane and lets it dry for up to a week. “Once it’s done, you can clean it with anything,” she says.
Gayle also has an ingenious system for making prints look like authentic old portraits. First, she attaches prints to canvas panels with adhesive, smoothing them into place. Then, she covers the edges with black acrylic paint, and, as a final touch, she paints over the entire piece with matte decoupage medium, leaving visible brush strokes. “They look just like old oil paintings,” she notes.
Now that the Fergusons’ house is so beautifully restored and filled with antiques and period-style pieces, that difficult first year is just a distant memory. Before they rest on their laurels, however, the couple plan to complete one more project—replacing the slate roof and finishing the attic space. They are proud of the challenges they’ve faced over the years and the skills they’ve gained along the way. “We’ve spent all these years renovating and improving, but we’ve done it the way we love it,” Gayle reflects, “and with very little professional help.” Above left: The dining room features an equine theme, carried out via two painted signs, a small rocking horse atop the shelves, and a large German toy horse Gayle snapped up at an antiques store. “We named him Fantasy,” she exclaims with a laugh, “because everybody was fantasizing over him and I bought him!” Her beloved antique pewter adorns almost every surface in the space.
Above: Installing an original door from the basement behind a vent-free gas fireplace and painting both black makes the kitchen fireplace look like it’s original to the house. An array of antiques on the mantel, including Gayle’s father’s violin, enhances the oldfashioned appeal.
Gayle and one of her four beloved rescue dogs, 16-year-old Daphney, relish a few quiet moments on the front porch swing.