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before and after

Before & After: A Reclaimed Traditional Brick Foreclosure

by Annie Werbler

The horror stories of rainbow colors, wet carpets, dirty dilapidated surfaces — and a resident colony of spiders as big as the hand of homeowner Lisa Hauenstein — usually come as unexpected surprises to visitors of this pristine Wilmington, North Carolina traditional brick residence. Lisa, the designer behind Threve Interiors, purchased the home with her husband Justin at foreclosure a year and a half ago. In order to make the abandoned space habitable for their son Ayden (and a pack of pets including black Lab Bailey and three cats called Gnocchi, Boris, and Milly), the pair has spent 18 months improving this 3,050-square-foot structure built not-so-long-ago (relative to its awful condition), in 1997.

With a passion for renovation and design, as well as a tendency to adopt stray animals, Lisa and Justin had wondered, “Why not take on a stray house in need of love?” They previously flipped a home to sell, and the experience gave them the confidence needed to tackle this project for their own. Since every single surface here needed to be refinished, it also gave them the chance to personalize finishes and colors to their taste rather than for resale. They had an incredibly tight budget, so they did all the work themselves along with some help from Lisa’s father. On move-in day, the dark-stained floors were still drying from refinishing, so they had to climb through a window on the second floor and live up there for four days until the downstairs hardwoods were able to be walked upon! In addition to her design practice, Lisa owns a home decor booth at local antique shop Zartiques. She and Justin are constantly on the road hunting for antiques and unique pieces, or doing refinishing work until the wee hours of the morning. They almost always have paint under their nails and in their hair, and survive on coffee, but wouldn’t trade it for the world.

The pair are old home lovers at heart. Lisa always thought they would wind up in a house like the one from the movie Father of the Bride, so her goal is to make this new house feel old. She’s accomplished that by adding decorative touches and salvaged materials everywhere she can. For example, an antique mantel and bricks from elsewhere in the state suggest a faux fireplace in the dining room. Lisa and Justin added crystal doorknobs throughout the house and exposed wooden beams wherever they could. They still have a long wishlist of projects to complete, including adding beams and moldings to the family room to make it feel cozier and less contemporary. They are also expecting a large load of locally-sourced raw wood as open, floating shelves in place of the upper kitchen cabinets. Lisa imagines that anyone who takes on a huge renovation must feel like their home is never done. For her, the blank canvas is a perfect showcase for all the vintage finds and rustic touches she adores. People still tell her she’s crazy for designing an entirely white house with a five-year-old boy and four pets, but to her, each one of those things just makes it home. —Annie

Photography by Lisa Hauenstein

Before & After: A Reclaimed Traditional Brick Foreclosure, on Design*Sponge
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The formal living space required the least amount of work, needing only two coats of bright white paint. Lisa wanted to design a space where she could entertain adult friends while the children took over the rest of the home.
Before & After: A Reclaimed Traditional Brick Foreclosure, on Design*Sponge
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The vintage filing or apothecary cabinet came from a local antique store where Lisa also currently keeps a shop. The rest of the room evolved around it. Her sister had a portrait drawn of her son, and it is one of her very favorite pieces in the house.
Before & After: A Reclaimed Traditional Brick Foreclosure, on Design*Sponge
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Detail of some tabletop decor, with the gallery behind. It includes a mix of artwork and photos by Lisa, along with some vintage paintings and mirrors. She feels this room sums up the home's style perfectly.
Before & After: A Reclaimed Traditional Brick Foreclosure, on Design*Sponge
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Lisa likes how the yellow kilim rug works with the vintage Moroccan Tray table she found at the local Habitat for Humanity ReStore. Her heart skipped a beat when she found it.
Before & After: A Reclaimed Traditional Brick Foreclosure, on Design*Sponge
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The dining room took five coats of bright white paint to cover the rainbow of colors found there. The homeowners added a vintage-inspired Pottery Barn lantern over the table.
Before & After: A Reclaimed Traditional Brick Foreclosure, on Design*Sponge
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A $10 reclaimed Craigslist mantel was added to the dining room along with salvaged brick fronts found on eBay to create a faux fireplace that adds some old house character. Above the fireplace hangs an antique mirror. Its reflective coating is peeling, and people tell Lisa it's the scariest mirror they've ever seen! She's not deterred, and has "a thing" for old peeling mirrors - she owns about 20 of them.
Before & After: A Reclaimed Traditional Brick Foreclosure, on Design*Sponge
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A detail of the dining room's antique furniture and new pendant light.
Before & After: A Reclaimed Traditional Brick Foreclosure, on Design*Sponge
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The family room was in rough shape before. The carpet was wet, smelly, and terribly stained. The Hauensteins replaced and refinished the flooring, and added the built-in faux apothecary cabinet next to the fireplace to hide unattractive TV components.
Before & After: A Reclaimed Traditional Brick Foreclosure, on Design*Sponge
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Bailey keeps cool on the new and improved family room floor.
Before & After: A Reclaimed Traditional Brick Foreclosure, on Design*Sponge
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Another view of the family room, showing a green glass cabinet and factory cart that were thrifted finds, and the flatwoven patterned rug purchased from World Market.
Before & After: A Reclaimed Traditional Brick Foreclosure, on Design*Sponge
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This room is where the family watches TV and Ayden hangs out when his playroom is too messy. Lisa has bigger plans for it, but that will have to be a "one day" sort of project.
Before & After: A Reclaimed Traditional Brick Foreclosure, on Design*Sponge
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Gnocchi the cat almost blends into the area rug, but those big baby blues give him away.
Before & After: A Reclaimed Traditional Brick Foreclosure, on Design*Sponge
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Detail of the built-in faux apothecary cabinet, which hides tech and displays decorative accessories that stand out on a grey-painted back wall.
Before & After: A Reclaimed Traditional Brick Foreclosure, on Design*Sponge
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​The kitchen was a huge challenge. Every surface was grease-covered and smelly. Doors were warped and missing hinges. The hardware was dated and the sink was a mess. The couple removed the doors on the upper cabinets to create open shelving and tightened up the remaining ones.
Before & After: A Reclaimed Traditional Brick Foreclosure, on Design*Sponge
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They did the concrete counters and subway tile backsplash themselves, too, and replaced all of the hardware with vintage-inspired knobs and bin pulls found on eBay. They also replaced all of the appliances. A large chalkboard wall was added leading out of the kitchen. It functions as the family message center for love notes, grocery lists, and little-boy artwork.
Before & After: A Reclaimed Traditional Brick Foreclosure, on Design*Sponge
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The farmhouse sink was a $25 Craigslist find! The added exposed beams give the kitchen some additional character, as does the vintage schoolhouse lighting.
Before & After: A Reclaimed Traditional Brick Foreclosure, on Design*Sponge
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A detail of the open upper cabinets, new hardware, concrete countertop, and subway tile backsplash all done by the Hauensteins themselves.
Before & After: A Reclaimed Traditional Brick Foreclosure, on Design*Sponge
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Looking out a kitchen window, one can see the property's lush, green exterior.
Before & After: A Reclaimed Traditional Brick Foreclosure, on Design*Sponge
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The kitchen's breakfast nook is anchored by a large farmhouse table made of reclaimed wood and surrounded by mismatched vintage chairs.
Before & After: A Reclaimed Traditional Brick Foreclosure, on Design*Sponge
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The family refinished the entryway floors themselves, and painted every single surface possible a bright white.
Before & After: A Reclaimed Traditional Brick Foreclosure, on Design*Sponge
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On the first day they moved in, Lisa hung the family gallery wall in the entryway, and it immediately felt like home from then on.
Before & After: A Reclaimed Traditional Brick Foreclosure, on Design*Sponge
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Milly approves of the high-contrast stairwell color scheme.
Before & After: A Reclaimed Traditional Brick Foreclosure, on Design*Sponge
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The upstairs hallway leads to all the bedrooms. The stained carpet was replaced and walls painted. They also replaced the brass doorknobs with reproduction crystal and the light fixtures with schoolhouse lighting. Lisa dreams of adding board and batten molding to the walls someday.
Before & After: A Reclaimed Traditional Brick Foreclosure, on Design*Sponge
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The master bedroom needed new paint and carpeting. Lisa chose a dual-headed vintage-inspired ceiling fan to replace the dated one there previously.
Before & After: A Reclaimed Traditional Brick Foreclosure, on Design*Sponge
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Some pieces from Lisa's antique mirror collection are arranged in gallery style on one wall in the master bedroom. Situated in the corner, a slipcovered chaise lounge from IKEA is the perfect spot to catch up on emails, read, or for Ayden to play video games while he waits for Lisa to get ready.
Before & After: A Reclaimed Traditional Brick Foreclosure, on Design*Sponge
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The bed was a clearance find from World Market. The bedding is a combination of new linen from Pottery Barn and old antique cotton crochet sheets. According to Lisa, you can't beat the softness of vintage bedding. Drapes are a creamy oatmeal-colored linen, and two ceramic grass-green lamps flank either side of the bed.
Before & After: A Reclaimed Traditional Brick Foreclosure, on Design*Sponge
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Lisa renovated Justin's office as a gift to him. She primed the walls and used an antique dictionary to cover them.
Before & After: A Reclaimed Traditional Brick Foreclosure, on Design*Sponge
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On a chance visit to Salvation Army, Lisa found this vintage green leather chair for $9. She and Justin put an antique chippy door on a barn door track they made themselves. The older pieces pop against the bright, glossy white desk and shiny brass office accessories.
Before & After: A Reclaimed Traditional Brick Foreclosure, on Design*Sponge
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​On the home's exterior, Hauenstein painted all of the blue moldings and added shutters, window boxes, and replaced the door. The large dead tree was also removed.
Before & After: A Reclaimed Traditional Brick Foreclosure, on Design*Sponge
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New landscaping includes hydrangeas, roses, and lavender.

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Comments

  • I’ve known both Lisa and Justin since we were kids (they were a few years older) and they are truly wonderful people. Their hard work, determination, and wonderful characters really come out when seeing the transformation they made to this house!

  • Wow! What a lovely, well-designed but cozy and natural-feeling home! This is a perfect example of “less is more”… more color doesn’t always = more fun or lively.

    -Rachel

  • Wow – these transformations are truly amazing! I especially love the huge wood table in the dinning room – looks as if it’s come straight from A Knight’s Tale!

  • What a big house to end up in foreclosure. Paint color choice aside, a lot of the damage occurs when the empty house is in possession of the bank. The people often leave a sort of ok house behind, but the the bank let’s things fall apart. We bought one where the rain went right through the roof. Nice work on keeping everything cohesive, that is where I struggle!

  • It would be hard to find more genuine, kind, and talented people. Such a gorgeous space but an even more beautiful family. Love this article!

  • What an incredible makeover! As a 23 year old in Sydney, Australia I have very little hope of affording a home any time soon, but boy does this make me want to renovate one! Thank goodness my rental has white walls, it could be so much worse…

  • So impressed that they DIY’ed the concrete kitchen countertops! I was thinking “Oh sure, they did what they could themselves and then got a contractor… nope!”

  • In so many house transformation series, rooms go from horrible to beautiful by gutting, completely changing the whole house. I love that these changes are truly done to the existing house, using it’s existing beauty. It gives me hope in a way that so many redos just don’t. When you can’t see the original house in the makeover, I think, why not just get some other house? Not this time. Really lovely.

    • What a great example of how to transform a house and give it a professional look! I home staging properties in the Montreal area. It is very difficult to get sellers to paint. Many can not be bothered due to lack of time, are unmotivated or do not think it will make a difference.

      Changing the living room fuchsia walls to a light colour really opened up the space. The dining room looks fantastic too. The ‘before’ walls were awful. Thanks for sharing!

  • Wow! Their style came through so beautifully in this transformation. The home now has a sense of history–with layers and textures that would make me want to linger and explore…well done.

  • This just might rank as my favorite house transformation ever, and certainly the most astonishing and inspiring of the hundreds if not thousands I’ve perused since DesignSponge’s inception! I’ve examined every detail in every picture of this post and still can’t get enough, already translating myriad details into ideas for my own humble space. Truly, what a gorgeous and welcoming home by world class designers!

  • As her grandfather, couldn’t be more proud of all they have accomplished.
    Their love for the Lord is reflected in all they do.

  • Wow, Lisa, lovely transformation. What I appreciate most is your ‘restraint’. Nothing is overdone… just simple, consistent and serene. Can you tell me where you got your drapes/curtains for the family room?

    • Hi Andy!!! Thank you so much for your kind words. They are from Pottery Barn. They are called the “Emery linen Drape” in the color Oatmeal. Hope that helps!!!!

      • Hi Lisa,

        Your house and transformation are beautiful and inspiring! I especially love the pillows on the white couch and also the ones in the bedroom do you mind sharing where you got them?

        Thank you!!
        Liz

  • This is definitely one of my favorite homes here. Mostly because they took something new and without much character and added so much! This is the first time I have ever looked at a new construction and actually liked the transformation :)

  • You simply cannot tell us there are several pets with adorable names and then feature TWENTY-SEVEN photos with NO PETS. What gives, design sponge? I feel cheated of furry cuteness. But yes, the house is lovely. It would have been lovelier with some photos of pets.

  • This is one of my favorite homes ever featured on Design Sponge. So much character and warmth shows through in every detail…. Lisa, can you let us know what white paint color(s) you used throughout? Thank you!

    • Hi Angie!

      Wow, thanks so much!!!! I actually simply used Behr white paint, straight off the shelf! I hope that helps.

      Lisa :)

  • A millions loves, bravo.

    But I didn’t see anything on that awesome chair in the living room, opposite the black apothecary… Is it a stripped down wingback, or is that how it was made? I love it!!!

  • Good Morning,
    I was wondering if you would share where you purchased your lovely yellow area rug in the living room. Thank you.

  • I am obsessed with those concrete countertops!!! Can you tell me what how you did that? I’ve been researching concrete countertops, but none look as awesome as this one. I love the rough, dark look.

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