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Refurbished History

Johnson County Natives Restore 120-year-old Home

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Article by Allison Gibeson

Photography by Nick Allen

Originally published in Johnson County Lifestyle

As owners of Bella Patina, Johnson County natives Nick and Megan Allen have always been drawn to old homes and vintage items. Not surprisingly, their home was originally built in 1898, and it and has been one of their biggest projects to date.

 “We have always enjoyed bringing old things back to life,” Megan says.

The couple purchased their three-story, 3,200-square-foot home three years ago and then began their renovation. Although the home was gutted and updated about 30 years ago, numerous cosmetic variables in the home didn’t suit their style. The kitchen was essentially unusable. Old carpet covered well-protected original hardwood floors. The sunroom had insulation showing.

“The character was there, but we had to dig for it once we purchased the home,” Megan says.

That digging involved removing layers of flooring to find original tile and hardwood floors that were in remarkably good shape considering their age.

“When you are working with an old house, you never know what you are going to come across,” Nick says.

During the previous renovation, many walls had been knocked out, creating a more open floor plan. Nick and Megan say that if the home had been in its original floor plan, they would have felt compelled to keep that intact. Because the floor plan had already been opened, they had more freedom to design the home to their liking.

“It gave us a blank canvas to work with,” Megan says.

Even so, they still gutted the kitchen, converted the butler staircase into a walk-in pantry, updated the bathrooms, widened the wall from the kitchen to the dining room and completely renovated the sunroom.

“We upsized from a small apartment, and to conceptualize and decorate color schemes didn’t seem possible at the time,” Nick says. “But now I am so glad we chose white. As we add pieces into our home it highlights them and makes them stand out. We are a tad minimalist when it comes to decor simply because we buy things slowly, picking items that have the character and vibe we really want.”

For example, the newly created walk-in pantry is covered with a wooden door on a barn slider. The door came from an old high school and simply says, “Supply Closet.”

“We try to create a mixture of modern, primitive, salvage and rustic to marry all of the styles and time periods we love,” Nick says.

Megan’s favorite spots in the home are the kitchen--which was completely customized while still taking into account the original time period of the home--and the windowsill with a bench in the stairwell. This windowsill has become a cozy nook in the home for relaxing.

Nick says he enjoys their large dining room, and his brother even built their table. With the updated kitchen, Nick and Megan have enjoyed having friends over for meals. The wrap-around porch is another favorite of the family. They also painted the outside of their home during the renovation.

Overall, Nick emphasizes the need for patience when doing a home renovation, taking into account that it typically takes much longer than anticipated and often requires flexible living arrangements during the renovation. (They stayed with family for part of the renovation and then lived on the second story of the home while the first story was being completed.)

“If you can hold out, it’s worth it when you are living in history,” Megan says.

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