My husband and I had always heard it said that you should buy the worst house on the best street. But we had never imagined taking that advice to heart. If a bathroom needed updating or a kitchen needed a redo, that was fine by us, but we had never imagined tackling much more than that. In fact, the first time we darkened the door of what would later become our summer home in Beaufort, NC, we looked at each other and said, “Who in their right mind would buy this place?”
The peeling plaster ceilings had been covered with foam tiles, the original hardwoods, busted and broken in more places than they were whole, had been covered with pea green shag carpeting, the electrical and plumbing hadn’t been replaced perhaps since the home was built in 1906. There were few windows, the kitchen was a dark, dank, linoleum disaster, the bathrooms were harvest gold, but it had something. That something brought us back to look for a second time. That something is what led us to make an offer that very same day, despite very worried looks from our friends and family.
When you could get past the general disrepair and, quite frankly, the smell, there was charm just begging to be revitalized—and the perfect sunset view that could tug at any heartstrings.
I still can’t say what made us say yes to this project, to what was arguably, at that moment in time, the worst house on a picturesque, historic street in Beaufort, NC.
Maybe it was fate. Maybe it was insanity. Maybe it was all of the “before and afters” that my mom and I had spent years posting on our blog, Design Chic, or the allure of writing my next novel at my desk overlooking the wild horses grazing on Carrot Island right outside the window. Maybe it was that we knew we could take this sad and sagging house and make it anything we wanted.
Oyster shell chandeliers from Currey & Co. add coastal flair without the kitsch, while an antique sideboard bridges the gap between old and new. Bamboo director’s chairs from Kenian Imports around a Halo Styles farm table keep the overall feel casual and beachy.
Whatever it was, the idea of this house wouldn’t let us go. As the carpet came up, the walls came out, the ceilings came down and the rotten boards were replaced, it was like this old house breathed a sigh of relief. As we added moldings and created new door and window casings, using reclaimed scraps from the time period, what had once been an eyesore slowly became a dream come true. Not all at once, mind you. But remodeling is one of those times when the joy better be in the journey or you’ll lose your mind.
We expected to run into some bumps in the road along the way. And we expected to make a few mistakes. But the thing we didn’t know is that when you renovate a house, it starts to renovate you too. Renovates you and changes and you and reminds you of where you’ve come from and where you’d still like to go.
The demo was completed as our son learned to crawl. The floors were patched back together and refinished as he learned to walk. The curtains were hung when I signed my first book contract. I spent last summer writing my third novel, Slightly South of Simple, sitting on the front porch watching the boats go by.
And now, this summer, I have the privilege of launching that novel, the first in the Peachtree Bluff series, into the world from that very same front porch. Because my protagonist Ansley Murphy is an interior designer, this book tour, in addition to your typical bookstores-and-literary-luncheons fare, will include a series of house tours as well. And I’m proud and excited that the very first home where we will celebrate is my very own, and that, in the midst of that, we will get to raise money for the Beaufort Historical Association that is responsible for keeping so much of the charm and flavor of this town—charm and flavor that I “borrowed” for Slightly South of Simple—in tact.
I’m even more excited to have the privilege of sharing several more of these homes, where we will be celebrating Slightly South of Simple’s launch, on TraditionalHome.com. Come along with me to a North Carolina French Provincial showstopper, a charming Palmetto Bluff, SC carriage house and cottage and a sprawling New York estate. Each of these homes is completely different from one another and, like mine, each of these homes tells its own story, a story that, much like Slightly South of Simple, I can’t wait to share with you.
Kristy Woodson Harvey’s third novel, Slightly South of Simple, the first book in the Peachtree Bluff series, combines her two loves: writing and interior design. She founded the blog Design Chic, the inaugural member of the Design Blogger Hall of Fame, with her mom, Beth Woodson. Harvey lives in North Carolina with her husband and five-year-old son.
Slightly South of Simple: From the next “major voice in Southern fiction” (New York Times bestselling author Elin Hilderbrand) comes the first in an all-new series chronicling the journeys of three sisters and their mother—and a secret from their past that has the potential to tear them apart and reshape their very definition of what it means to be a family.
Photography: Smith Cameron Photography, Jay Ackerman, Lindsay Corrigan