Homes with surprising backstories always seem to stick with me longer than those that are simply pretty. Oftentimes, these standout houses witness love and loss, momentous personal growth and cheer. I revel in their every detail, all the while hoping to one day build a space just as special.
The Cleveland, TN bungalow of PJ and Thomas McKay is a home with one of the most remarkable histories I’ve ever come across. See, Thomas grew up there, and his most-beloved childhood memories took place within its walls. From hanging out with his parents in the living room to imprinting his hands into the newly-paved sidewalk outside, every one of its corners tells a deeply personal story.
His family’s relationship with the home dates back to the 1980s. After getting the basics of the space figured out, his parents tackled numerous improvements, massaging it into the perfect fit for their growing youngsters. Not only did they wallpaper everything, redo the bathrooms and fix up the kitchen, they also converted the attic into a second floor. This last bold move added two bedrooms to the house’s overall footprint and gave them much needed extra square footage.
In the years that followed, the family nestled further and further into the house. As with almost all homes, though, not all of the stories this one’s collected are cheerful. In the 1990s, Thomas’ parents got a divorce, and everyone ended up having to leave their beloved bungalow behind. Over a decade went by, and the home began to wither and creak as renters took progressively-worse care of it. Late-night parties pounded, persistent leaks loomed and quick fixes became commonplace until it was in such a state of disarray the landlord decided to get rid of it.
Even though it didn’t look great, Thomas couldn’t resist peeking inside the home he had once so adored. Memories flooded back as he walked the property, and before it was even officially listed, he and PJ bought it. In doing so, they gave themselves a truly rare opportunity: the chance to show the home just as much love as it had shown Thomas’ family all those years ago.
For five months the couple worked around the clock fixing every inch of it until it gleamed again. They put in a new kitchen, revamped the facade and brightened the space through traditional furnishings and antiquities. Thanks to their hard work, the space really does look the best it ever has.
Originally, the plan was to flip it once all of the renovations were complete, but the couple tells us they’ve recently changed their minds. Instead, they hope to raise a family here one day. Who knows, maybe their own children will get to put their handprints in the front sidewalk just like Thomas did as a kid. They’d certainly be in good company. For the impressions he and his sisters made all those years ago still remain. Enjoy! —Garrett