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Once upon a time, before Zillow, Redfin and astronomical interest rates, you could buy a home from a catalog. From 1908 to 1942, Sears Roebuck sold over 70,000 of his homes in boxes. These kits contained all the materials needed to build the house and were shipped on railroad boxcars to homeowners’ locations in North America. There, it was assembled on site by the homeowner or hired hands. Think of this as a very complicated IKEA project.
Sears, a retail giant at the time, sourced building materials in bulk and used pre-cut lumber to save construction time, so these kit houses are often less expensive than other construction methods. There are few kitted homes left today, but one of them belongs to Adaena and Chris Tray.
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The 1924 house retains many of the original features, including window chairs built into the living room, alcoves, ornaments, coffered wood ceilings, archways, and hardwood floors. Adaena explains. When Adaena and Chris first moved in, “When we arrived at this house, there was very little furniture, most of it small,” she says. “He had three old chairs, a white slipcover sofa, a cabinet and a small coffee table.”
Their work didn’t match the grandeur of the rooms they were working in (technically, Kit’s living room and the room called “Solarium” in the Sears catalogue). “At some point, the stairwell that separated the two spaces was removed to create one very large function room,” he explains. “I love the historic charm, the openness, and the natural light coming in through the many windows. I didn’t particularly care for her palette of the original cooler colors for the accent walls, including steel blue and baby blue.”
For a while, Adaena tried to live with blue, but her main home advice is to not force yourself into something you don’t like. but of course it only took me a day to paint over it,” she says. To make the house fit her style, “while respecting the age and history of her home,” as Adaena puts it, she and Chris first gave the space a warmer, more neutral tan. (Valspar Luxury Linen.) I used green (Sherwin-Williams’ Oakmoss) for the accent wall.
“The gallery wall is everyone’s favorite feature in the room,” Adaena said, adding that she initially had other plans for a thrift store-sourced frame. “I originally hung the picture on the wall facing the stairs. It’s a whim, but I thought maybe I could wrap some frames around the corner of the window wall. It led to something else, and soon I was covered floor-to-ceiling with family photos.”
Old photos add a personal touch while preserving the historic feel of the home. This is a total redo. “The biggest ‘DIY’ in this space was replacing and adding furniture and accessories,” she says Adaena. “I was very careful with the pieces I procured. I wanted to bring in a lot of wood tones, antiques and unique items that reflected our personalities. Starting with the bright red handwoven Turkmen rugs we luxuriate in on the day, statement pieces like this set the tone for the comfortable ‘living’ space of the collection. ”
Additionally, Adaena refinished the stair railing and newel post. “Being able to move the object to the basement makes refinishing a lot easier. One of my cats stepped into the dirt and had paw prints all over! I am really pleased with the results and I love that there is a section showing the age and patina of the wood in the house.”
Adaena also restored and replaced missing trim from the windows, replaced the front door with something more appropriate for the house’s 1924 era, and installed modern lighting fixtures similar to those that came with the original house. “This room took three and a half years to complete, as time and money allowed,” says Adaena. “It was a slow process with a lot of iterations.”
Adaena’s advice for working in a historic home, or a modern one populated by history buffs, is to buy second-hand. , purchased a clawfoot pedestal table from a thrift store for $75 and refinished it for less than $20. She mixed in a few splurges like commissioned bookcases and her Poly and Bark chairs, in addition to those found at Wayfair, Etsy, and Anthropologie outlets.
“I love collecting and curating items from different eras,” says Adaena. “It’s more fun, timeless and layered.”
Adaena also states that she believes every room should have an element of whimsy. Her two touches of whimsy: a hot air balloon and the Anthropologie Home Outlet’s old wicker market wagon, aka the “Sole Train,” where she and Chris store their shoes.
Adaena says the living room now truly reflects her and Chris, two dogs, and three cats. “Given that we started with almost no furniture or accessories, cramming a room with meaningful and useful items is both aesthetically and functionally appealing,” she says. “Great room for entertaining. My nieces and nephews love to pile on the window seats. Lots of crafts, puzzles and heart-to-heart clashes on the table and chairs. March During Madness, my husband was blissful watching TV.The pets huddle around the fireplace on cold nights.A cuddly, warm and happy home.”
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