The simple 1980s ranch on River Road in Mantachie had stood empty for several years. Bank-owned after a foreclosure, it was all but a looker. Worse was the smell. When Amelia Adams, 29, and her husband Matt, 31, first set foot inside, a rank odor took their breath away.
“It really smelled bad,” Amelia remembers, “like old-men feet” in a house that hadn’t been aired out for years.
But, they agreed, the house had potential. Amelia, aftercare coordinator at the Montessori School in Tupelo, calls it “good bones.” And it didn’t hurt either that the 1,700-square foot home came cheap. For a mere $18,000 the couple took over the 3-bedroom house situated on 1.5 acres of land. “The bank sold it to us as is. They thought it didn’t even have a septic system.” But it did. As the layers of old wallpaper — from mushroom to floral design— peeled away, the dank house transformed into a home, slowly, and one room at a time.
Of course, it took a lot of elbow grease, a mix of moxie and naïveté, plus heaps of help from their family.
“When we drove up, I was like ‘I’m trying not to cry,’ ” Amelia’s mother Jo Anne Massey says, recalling her first impression. “There were broken windows, boarded up windows and that aroma.”
But the young couple did not dither. First, they tore out nearly all walls, reducing the inside to just concrete and studs. Family members helped scrape off decades of linoleum squares, in some places a staggering five-layers deep, glued solidly into place and stubbornly fighting against removal, just like the smelly carpet. “I spent hours with my little razor knife scraping the foam [backing from the old carpet] off the floor,” Amelia says.
They found dead mice in the insulation. Undeterred, they carried on. It took nearly five years and very few professional installers to make the house a bright, modern affair. Penny-pinching all the way and roping in the whole family to help, the couple spent roughly another $30,000 on a new metal roof, windows, slate tiles for the two bathrooms, a new bathtub and shower, stylish sinks, kitchen cabinets, granite tile counters, a few coffered ceilings, new walls, exterior doors, wainscoting in the bathroom, and a window seat between built-in bookshelves in the den. Matt, by training an alcohol and drug counselor, now co-owns with his dad an air conditioning and refrigeration business. It was the father-son team who treated the house to its first AC system.
The only real splurge were the hardwood floors throughout the home. Admits Amelia, “It’s probably one of the few things we had installed that we didn’t do ourselves.” The Brandon-native, who holds a degree in art and photography, is responsible for all the art work in the house from objets trouvés artfully arranged on built-in shelves, to small oil canvasses and pressed leaves in restored frames. Matt, she says, knows how to do most of the practical stuff. Do-it-yourself is the motto throughout. A set of run-of-the-mill bedside tables were stained blue before Amelia hand-painted small white flower details onto them, mimicking intricate wood inlays. The master bedroom’s beige self-made upholstered nailhead headboard rivals the expensive ones you’d expect to find at the likes of Pottery Barn. In due course of the renovations, Amelia added more practical skills to her repertoire, like learning how to mud drywalls. “I watched a lot of HDTV and DYI Network and looked on Pinterest.” She chuckles, “It really gives you a false sense of confidence. I didn’t even know walls went up in pieces. It was a definite learning curve.”
In this house, color matters. “I painted our bedroom three different times,” says Amelia of her quest for the perfect slate blue with a hint of gray. The kitchen pairs fresh yellow walls with turquoise-robin egg blue cabinets. For the latter, Amelia closely matched the color of the couple’s aqua Casafina plates, a wedding gift, now proudly displayed in the color-coordinated cabinets with rustic chicken wire doors.
Matt is the laid-back one who, by Amelia’s account, accedes to his wife’s renovation ideas. An example? The couple had bought perfectly square slate tiles. But Amelia had set her heart on rectangular ones for a brick pattern. Matt cut some 70 tiles in half with a wet saw before Amelia laid them. A coffered-ceiling in the den? Sure thing. Now, with baby number two due in January, the couple is putting the finishing touches on the house, like adding a few crown moldings and a stained-glass transom window in the bathroom. Next on the agenda is a large, rectangular wood table for the entrance hall, cum dining room. Already Amelia has an exact idea of what she wants: a wood herringbone pattern to mirror the brick walkway she laid just outside the dining room window, leading to her front door. So far, Matt has never said “no” to any of her intricate remodeling schemes, she notes with a grin and a hint of surprise.
Photos by Lauren Wood // Story by Sandra Knispel