There are houses whose stories span not just over decades, but centuries. Their stories intertwine with those of their owners, and become meaningful pieces of history in their communities. Today we get to share one of these special historic houses, whose new owners have gone above and beyond to turn it back into its original purpose — a home, in the true sense of the word.
When Natasha and Jason Meininger moved to Hannibal, MO to start a family, they wanted to eventually find a great old home to do up. After their second son was born, the couple began looking for this type of house in earnest. An old house that had been converted into a bed and breakfast had been on and off the market for a decade. Although it wasn’t for sale at the time, Natasha didn’t hesitate — she tracked down its owners and, as it turned out, they were willing to sell. Natasha and Jason spent the following winter visiting the house numerous times, and couldn’t help but fall in love with the possibilities it offered. Comprising of 18 rooms all in need of some major TLC, this would be no small project. Natasha and Jason weren’t afraid of the challenge, and felt confident about bringing the 160-year-old house back to life. “The inspection took two days and read like a novel of maladies. We took it anyway,” Natasha says.
Natasha and Jason started work on the house while still living in their old home. During the first six weeks, every spare moment was spent pulling up 30-year-old carpet, removing painted-over wallpaper and preparing the rooms for various reparations. While the contractor worked on the three bedrooms that the family now use, Natasha, Jason and their two sons camped in what was once the servants’ quarters. Once the bedrooms were move-in ready, work started on some of the main rooms downstairs, followed by a kitchen conversion.
Natasha and Jason have worked hard to restore the beauty of their historic house, which was once stripped down to its bare bones. In the 1990s, the then owner of the house foreclosed, and all of the original contents were auctioned off. Over 20 light fixtures, a fireplace mantel and built-in bookcases from the library were among the pieces that were removed. Amazingly, some of the original light fixtures have made their way back to their rightful home. When Natasha and Jason bought the house, the father of one of their friends contacted them. He had purchased some lights in the auction two decades earlier, and wanted to return them! “Talk about kismet. He had stored them in his basement in shoe boxes all this time,” Natasha shares.
Today, Natasha, Jason and their three sons Oliver, Beckett and Jude reside in eight rooms in the main part of the house. With over half of the house yet to be touched, there’s a lot more work to be done to restore it completely, but the feeling of love and family is already there. Turning the house into a home that suits the family’s needs has been an exciting and rewarding project for Natasha, who works part-time as an interior stylist. She wanted to celebrate the grandeur of the house and still make it modern, comfortable and child-friendly. Natasha loves thrifted treasures, and several old pieces have found their way into the family’s home, where classic shapes are brightened up with color, pattern and various textures.
Four years in, Natasha and her family are enjoying every moment in their beloved home, and look forward to renovating more of it as time goes by. Future projects include the restoration of stained glass and various other windows, a rebuild of the historic two-story porches as well as the exterior, which is up next. The to-do list also includes tackling the servants’ quarters, laundry room and any of the eight bathrooms that need attention (two of which are original from the 1880s!). Most of all, Natasha and her family are thankful for being the stewards of this great home, and for being able to save it from an otherwise inevitable demise. “I love this house as if it were one of my children!” Natasha exclaims. 160 years ago, the house was built for entertaining friends and family. Natasha, Jason and their three sons have allowed the house to blossom in the way it was originally intended — once again, it’s full of love, life and laughter. —Sofia
Image above: The colorful vintage kilim runner greets guests at the front door. “I want guests to instantly know when they walk in that this is the home of a modern family and is not a museum, [it’s] a place where they can feel welcome and have fun!” Natasha says.