When we first ran our #MyHouseLikeThis photo tag competition we asked our audience "What Makes You Proud?" in honour of Pride month. Place St Russell did not disappoint and won the coveted gift of a little bit of handcrafted luxury from our store and this special edition of our blog series.
So today we’re in the historic neighbourhood of Dorchester, Boston taking a peek inside an absolutely breathtaking period home project originally built in 1894. Founded by Puritan migrants originally from Dorset, England in 1630 this little Massachusetts town boasts many Victorian properties, however, none are quite as fabulous as "Lindsay Station"...
Here are two guys with big renovation dreams, a homegrown beehive and a pretty impressive track record in successfully "flipping" property, often putting us all to shame with their crafty workmanship and detailed "how to" stories. It's no surprise that they've been nominated as Best Renovation Blog over on Domino.com - make sure you vote for the boys!
Here's what we discovered when we spoke to the boys behind Place St. Russell...
AHLT: Hi guys! It is a pleasure to host you and congratulations on your win! To get started could you tell us a little bit about you and how you both met?
David: Hi! I'm David, I'm 30 and I work as an Operations Manager for a software company whilst my husband Stephen, is an Architectural Designer working for a large construction company.
Stephen: We both met for the first time in Highschool. David was a senior and he was giving a group of new freshman a tour of the school… I was in that group. Throughout high school, we had mutual friends, went to the same parties, but didn’t exchange much more than a smile in the hallway. It wasn’t until I was as a senior in high school, and David was at a local college, that we went on our first date.
David: And we've now been together nearly 10 years and married in early 2016!
AHLT : Thanks guys, it's great to learn more about you both. Right so getting stuck into your style, which by the way is fabulous, how would you describe it to those who have never seen your feed or blog?
Stephen: I would describe it as a blend of "Traditional Meets Contemporary"
AHLT : We can see why you would say that! Your home is full of some enviable original features and furnishings, some of which you've upcycled yourself. What would you say is your favourite purchase for your home and why?
David: Currently, our favourite home purchase is our front porch furnishings. As soon as the weather started getting warm we went on an unplanned shopping spree to fully deck out that space.
Stephen: No buyers remorse though! We love spending time on the front porch after a day at work.
AHLT: You guys have done a fantastic job and we would imagine you had to renovate sympathetically, how do you plan your decor or renovations?
Stephen: As far as decor, we don’t really. We have a lot of fun in coming across items randomly and allowing them to find their way into a space. That said, it means it takes us a very long time to decorate and be happy with the results. We are very fortunate to be friends with an interior designer who has helped push us in the right direction...
David: Our renovation is the exact opposite, though. Stephen is an architectural designer by training, so all major renovation work is fully planned, drawn out, and even rendered. We also do 3D modelling of major projects when visualizing a space in order to help vet out our options.
AHLT : One thing that we certainly connected with, and many of your followers likely find very informative, is the experience and how to videos that you share and seeing the planning that goes into your renovation. Given that you can plan pretty meticulously have you made any mistakes?
Stephen: New skills can be hard...during our first renovation, we took it upon ourselves to tile a full walk-in shower. We had never done a tile job before…. And, while we are very proud of the end results, the process was torture! But luckily we do have some learnings from the experience. Firstly, make sure you decide definitively what grout colour you are going to use. Thinset comes in white and grey and we decided to use grey with the intention of using grey grout. We decided last minute to change the grout to white. We were not clean enough with the thinset and had to chip out all of the thinset by hand so it would not show through the white grout. It took us days to clean up the mess!
David: Our second bit of advice on that front is working as cleanly as possible when laying the tiles and take your time. The entire situation would have been avoided if we were super clean when laying the tiles. Wiping down the tiles after you lay it and making sure the thinset was cleaned out of the tile space.
Stephen: More recently we tiled our kitchen backsplash and applied our new skills. And man, did it pay off. We are super happy with the results.
AHLT: Great to hear it, from what we've seen we can see why. Everything has come together and you've both worked so hard, given the focus and time do you have a specific space which you'd say is your favourite?
David: The Front Entry. When we bought that house is was already completely gutted down to the studs. A lot of the original trim and detailing was taken out of the house, with the exception of the front entry. The original wood panelling, fireplace, and stain glass window were all intact. Really it is what sold us on the house and what really gives the house its Victorian character.
AHLT : The panelling and the woodwork is superb, its hard to understand why in some homes renovators choose to completely remove the original features rather than look to restore them. Your house tour on your Instagram definitely shows how beautiful that space is, which we highly recommend our readers take a peak at if you'd like to get a full view of the entrance. So guys, what is your next home project and what considerations do you have before you start?
Stephen: Our next big project is installing trim throughout the entire house. Currently, the is no window/door casings, baseboards, crown… nothing.
David: There are a lot of things we want to consider before we take the plunge. Mainly, navigating the line between the traditional and more contemporary options. We don’t necessarily want to match the original trim in the house (fluted casing with rosettes) but we want to respect it and integrate the new options so that everything looks seamless. Really, when you look at the finished project, it should just ‘make sense’.
Stephen: To help us review our options we have been modelling everything. Fully visualizing what new trim, wall panelling, and built-ins might look like has been super helpful with giving us a sense of what will work in the space. Even better we can share this with a carpenter so they can gauge cost and know exactly what we are looking for.
AHLT: We cannot wait to see how that pans out, it looks like a big job and it really has been fascinating having a look over all of your plans prior to the full execution. The floorplans of your home are insane, it really shows the difference in Victorian homes in Britain versus how the style came into its own in New England, especially in terms of scale. Whilst you clearly have a passion for restoring your home in a traditional sense, how and where do you source your inspiration?
Stephen : When it comes to everyday decor we are constantly being inspired by Instagramers like TheHousethatBlackBuilt, ChrisLovesJulia, DeuceCititesHenHouse, and KismetHouse. When it comes to pushing the envelope and doing something more bold and unique, we’d have to go with our friends at Evolve Residential
AHLT : And given that you mentioned some there how would you say the UK Interiors style compares to the US?
David : From the UK Instagrammers we follow we think people are more comfortable with contemporary design. We think that Americans tend to ride closer to traditional Pottery Barn style design....
Stephen: To be fair we actually have no idea! We do know they like lots of dark colours and fairy-lights though!
AHLT: Yes, fairy lights and letterboards seem to be everywhere over here. So, decor aside, could you tell us was it always your goal to renovate a Victorian home?
David: Before buying this property we spent two years renting in the South End, a very nice, and very gay Boston neighbourhood. When our roommates decided to move across the country, we decided to look for a more affordable apartment. Two days into our apartment search we emailed a realtor about the house. Within a week of our email, we had an accepted offer.
Stephen: We have been in this position before and are no strangers to the fact that we make really big decisions really fast. While a Victorian was not the main goal, we grew up in Western Massachusetts in the “City of Homes” which is full of beautiful Victorians, so we have always had an affinity for them.
AHLT: American Victorian Architecture is just stunning, we've always been obsessed. From the Queen Anne style to Folk or Gothic Revival it really does seem like always Amercian's just do things bigger and better in some senses. With a home so saturated in history and appeal is there anything that you wish you could change?
David: We both love and hate that our house sits at the corner of an intersection. Living in the city on a busy intersection comes with car honking, loud music, and people littering! That said, we have had a pretty amazing home and yard for Boston and finding these types of properties is rare…
Stephen: One idea we have to help solve this is working on the backyard space. We want to make it intimate enough to forget about the intersection
AHLT : That sounds like a great compromise. Given that your home is filled with them what would you say is the best original feature in your home?
Stephen: We have to go with the Stained-glass window in the front stairway. Even with a few missing pieces, the window is always glowing and putting on a show. It’s a great feature to wake up to in the morning when you are coming down the stairs.
AHLT: It really is, just look at how it illuminates that amazing wood panelling! So, we've talked a bit about your house but what about the location? What is the best thing about living in Dorchester, Boston and where would you recommend any UK readers visit if they are looking to head out?
David: The best thing about Dorchester is that you truly are living in the City. Dorchester is part of the City of Boston and with that come the benefits of city life. We live a 5-minute walk to the nearest subway station and it can get us into Downtown Boston in 20 minutes. We live in a diverse and changing area that has a fantastic history.If anyone decides to visit Boston I would recommend May and June, nothing beats spring in the city. Really you can’t go wrong with whatever you decided to do.
AHLT: We'll bear that in mind, and given your experience what advice would you give to homeowners looking to start their next decor or renovation project?
Stephen: This is easy... don’t be afraid of the unknowns. We bought our first home with almost no skills and learned everything as we went. Follow people who are already doing it for inspiration, watch youtube videos, talk to people at the hardware store and before you know it you will be on your third home.
AHLT: Thank you both so much and congratulations again on your #MyHouseLikeThis prize which again centred around "what makes us proud". We identify with much of your story, and as a gay couple pride is incredibly important to us. It's horrifying to think there was a time when LGBTQ+ partners couldn't really ever dream of owning property together let alone get married. You guys have achieved so much and will be a big inspiration to many of our followers. To that end, what does Pride mean to you?
Stephen: Pride is the feeling you experience when you can be unequivocally yourself without self doubt or fear. The feeling you have when you see your community, past and present, progress in the face of adversity. Pride is the feeling you get when you work for the ability to pursue happiness unconditionally.
David: We feel Pride everyday in our selves, our relationship, our home, and our community. We feel it when sitting on the porch and having a friendly conversation with a neighbor, or cooking dinner after a long day of work. Pride is integral to who we are and makes us… well, us.
Stay tuned for more features on the AHLT blog and if you'd like to have the opportunity to win your own scented soy candle and interview keep sharing your interiors with #MyHouseLikeThis and be sure to follow @ahouselikethis and @ahlt_home on instagram to be up to date on our monthly themes!