It's not the pair of towering oak trees in the front yard or the historic neighborhood that Laura Maxwell Hollingsworth likes best about her new home.
It's living in the house where her father spent his childhood.
The Italian Renaissance Revival home built in Summerville in 1921 has been in Mrs. Hollingsworth's family for 70 years. Her grandfather, Grover C. Maxwell Sr., a local businessman and philanthropist, took up residence there with his wife, Corrie Ann, in 1929. They raised three sons in the home: Grover Jr., George and Billy. Mrs. Maxwell continued to live there after Grover Sr.'s death in 1983.
The youngest daughter of Billy, the youngest son, Mrs. Hollingsworth and her sister Fran remember spending the night with their grandmother, snacking on her famous "miracle cake," a light sponge cake, and coffee ice cream.
The Hollingsworths purchased the home from a family member after Corrie Ann Maxwell died in December 1998.
The old house was in dire need of an overhaul and took a year to renovate.
But the couple is pleased with the results, and Mrs. Hollingsworth says her grandmother would be, too.
"She'd be really happy with what we did. The whole outside is the same, and the yard is exactly the same," she said.
The couple had local architect Brad Bennett review the dwelling and draw up plans for a structural makeover to the kitchen, an upstairs bedroom and bathroom. Contractor Gerald Hargrove completed the work -- some of which turned out to be more complex than expected.
"The thing is, with a house as old as this, you can't tell what you'll run into," Bill Hollingsworth said.
The unexpected problems included replacing pipes that were so clogged only a small amount of water could pass through. Another lesson learned was in the financial department.
"You're working on a budget, and with an old house like this you always go over budget," he said.
Budget or not, there wasn't any question about removing window air conditioners and radiators and replacing them with central heat and air conditioning. The job was a big one: about 8,000 pounds of old radiators were removed, Mr. Hollingsworth said.
Other structural improvements included gutting the outdated kitchen and replacing windows over a kitchen sink with French doors that open onto a patio.
White windowpane kitchen cabinets were installed to complement granitelike Formica countertops. Both are offset with mustard floral wallpaper.
A butler's pantry, which also served as a laundry room, was made into a wet bar with granite countertops.
Upstairs, extensive remodeling included creating a master bedroom suite with a bathroom and walk-in closet. A small bedroom was turned into a master bath. A closet and bathroom were combined into one large closet.
The project has been fun for the newlyweds, who are still looking for the right furniture for some rooms.
"When you go from 1,800 to 4,100 square feet, you kind of run out of furniture," Mrs. Hollingsworth said with a laugh.
In terms of interior design, she had one thing in mind: light. The home's seafoam-green molding, heavy-looking wallpaper and wall-to-wall carpeting made it seem dark.
Mrs. Hollingsworth employed Tori Boardman of Design Images to recommend paint and wallpaper to brighten things up. Walls were painted in shades of white, yellow and beige, which are offset by rich-colored cranberry fabrics.
Throughout the house, wall-to-wall carpet was ripped up to expose "virgin" hardwood floors, which were refinished. Woven Berber area rugs give the house a natural appeal.
Mrs. Hollingsworth, whose husband is an avid outdoorsman, chose hunting accents, including pheasant-feathered lamp shades and a bird dog toile de Jouy fabric, a scenic pattern that originated in 18th-century France.
Other design accessories include wedding gifts like an iron rooster standing tall on an island in the kitchen.
The outside of the house was painted light beige, and shutters were replaced on windows on the second floor. Downstairs, shutters on French doors facing the front porch were painted and opened. The result is much-needed light inside the home.
The Hollingsworths also took out metal screens on a side porch to open it up.
The couple made some interesting discoveries during renovations. When the wallpaper was peeled back in one room, they found "1937" written on the wall -- most likely a record of when the work was done, Mr. Hollingsworth said. He recently uncovered the home's original back door. They plan to restore the door, which has windowpanes, and install it in the garage.
The garage holds less tangible treasures, such as childhood markings made by Mrs. Hollingsworth's father. Another place on a wall marks the growth of the three Maxwell boys through the years.
Although the couple plans to refurbish part of the garage into a guest space, there's one stipulation Mrs. Hollingsworth is adamant about: her father's boyhood graffiti stays.
Reach Margaret Weston at (706) 823-3340 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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