After 23 years in business together, learning and employing absolutely everything there is to know about renovation and interior design, Julie Hoffmann and Lori DuVal of J&L Interiors did the only thing they could to fully display their creative capabilities. They bought an old house downtown and set their sights on restoring it to its former glory.
Flexing their trademark spontaneity, the twins saw, considered and bought 427 S. King St., originally constructed in 1902, in just two weeks 18 months ago. At the time, it had a dilapidated rear porch, ugly asbestos shingles and shutters, and a serious backyard drainage problem. To the untrained eye, the property’s only redeeming qualities might have been its solid wood banister, its heart of pine wood floors, lovely stained-glass window adjacent the stairs and its location in the heart of Leesburg.
It still has the lovely little stained-glass window and now glossy wood banister, but the unassuming-looking home now boasts a wide-open floor plan, outdoor sunken patio and luxurious finishing touches that combine to make it one of the women’s proudest achievements.
Humbly, they say their pride stems largely from the strength of their relationships with some of the most talented tradesmen in the area.
“It literally took a village,” Lori says. “That’s probably why we are the proudest of this project because we were able to leverage relationships that we’ve built for 23 years, and together we added value to the community.”
Of course, value always comes with a price. While it’s easy to share the women’s sense of accomplishment sitting in the sparkling new kitchen, a peek at the process may give pause to prospective imitators.
Because they wanted to rip off the back porch and install a two-story addition, it took a while for the town to approve their architectural drawings. They worked with architect Tom Gilbride on the design of the addition, which now includes a new family room, powder room, combination mudroom/laundry room and master suite on the second floor. Tom also helped them figure out how to raise the ceilings to 9 1/2 feet at their highest.
To get there, everything else in the interior had to go. “We opened up all the walls, and went down to stud," Julie says. "Lori and I crawled underneath the house and installed vapor barrier insulation ourselves.”
“We put in all new electrical, all new plumbing," Lori chimes in. "We took the furnace out of the kitchen and installed two HVAC units—one for the main level and one for the upper level. We heated the floors in the master bathroom. We installed high-end KitchenAid appliances. We put a custom closet system in the master suite and lay down luxury carpets.”
After discovering that “all of Leesburg drained into our backyard,” the sisters installed a sunken patio with a boulder wall and flagstone steps for rustic beauty with a French drain to divert all the water around the house.
Along the way, Julie learned that she actually likes wielding a sledgehammer, cutting insulation and seeing things from the perspective of her “brilliant” contractors. Lori learned to maximize her organizational skills. “I gained an understanding that every detail matters and that you have to communicate that detail to everyone that you work with.”
At some point, the town took notice. At first, it was the neighbors coming by to find out what happened to all the boulders in the front yard. Then they stopped in for an open house and began to chatter excitedly about all the other houses in town they thought should be next.
“We didn’t realize how much we were contributing by doing the house," Lori says. "It became a community event. That was really exciting for us; we didn’t expect that.”
“It’s way more work to renovate," she cautions, "because there are always unexpected things that come up, and you have to be able to handle the stress of constant change. You have to be able to make decisions and adjust quickly, and you have to always keep the final result in perspective. There are many paths to get there, and what you originally planned is definitely not the direction it is going to happen!”
Luckily, the women both expect and delight in challenges and laugh often.
“This brought us joy," Lori says. "We never saw this as a house-flip. It was always to be a signature home. We didn’t do the minimum so the house looks new. We did the maximum so we are proud to put our name on it.”
“We looked at it from the perspective that, if we were going to move into it, what kinds of things would we insist on that the house have?” Julie adds.
“Luxury should be lived in,” Lori says. She and her sister design interiors that delight all the senses but that are livable for their families’ lifestyles. As for her and her sister’s lifestyle? “We have fun every day. How many people get to live the American dream with their twin sister?”
Will they do it again? “Oh yes,” Lori says. “Absolutely,” Julie agrees.
“Don’t tell our husbands yet,” Lori adds. “Now we want to renovate all of Leesburg!”
427 S. King St.
Bathrooms: 2 1/2