Restoring this Louisville, Ky., Arts and Crafts gem brings a beautiful historic home back to life
By Robyn Davis Sekula
Cottages & Bungalows magazine | April 2008
Thomas and Nancy Woodcock had always liked the house next door to theirs in Louisville, Ky.’s Old Louisville neighborhood.
From the exterior, they could tell it had some nice features, including stained glass windows, and from their limited visits into the neighbor’s foyer, they could tell much of the interior features, such as built-in bookcases and mantles, were in-tact. It was also about 1,500 square feet larger than their home.
Thomas particularly loved it. So the day it went on the market, the Woodcocks decided to put a bid in on the house, even though they had not seen the interior.
Once they got inside, they discovered that the house was indeed, as they presumed, a gem. It had many original features, including the built-in china cabinets and bookcases that they spied from the foyer, a beamed ceiling in a second floor sitting room and the stained glass windows they could see from the exterior. Every element a buyer would want in a historic Arts and Crafts home was waiting for them.
However, their new gem was in need of some polishing. There was one working bathroom in the entire house. The kitchen needed to be reconfigured to work for today’s kitchen-centric lives. All of the beautiful woodwork throughout the home would need to be refinished, and virtually every room needed to be redecorated. Fortunately, the house was structurally solid. “It wasn’t run down,” Nancy says. “It was just sitting and waiting. The previous owner was very kind to the house in that respect.”
The Woodcocks’ residence was built in 1910 for William Kendrick, who owned a local silversmith business. One of the home’s best features, a large built-in display cabinet in the dining room, may be there because of Kendrick, who presumably had silver pieces of his own to display. The house stayed in the Kendrick family until 1939. The Woodcocks, who bought the house in 2001, are the home’s fourth owners.
The Woodcocks jumped at the chance to embrace the restoration, and for them, it was a particularly convenient project. They kept their house next door while they supervised the restoration, which started with a new roof, new plumbing and new electrical wiring. They also tore down a badly decaying carriage house and replaced it with one in the same style as the old one but with updated systems and a guest suite that one of their sons calls home. After those large projects were complete, they could start creating the home they wanted their new house to be.
It was a switch in style for the Woodcocks. Their home next door was, as most of Old Louisville is, a high-style Victorian, and most of their décor and antiques were particular to that period. Their new home was decidedly Arts and Crafts. The Woodcocks turned to friend and interior designer Bob Smith, now deceased, who had lived across the street from the Woodcocks. He helped them choose fabrics, wallpaper and other items for the home that would keep it true to the period, and still make it comfortable for their entire family, which was the Woodcocks’ goal.
They didn’t want a house with that “newly restored” look, but instead a home that was a blend of new and old, so they relied on period-looking items and muted colors to achieve that effect. Even though their previous style had been Victorian, they carried over some of the simpler Victorian pieces, particularly Empire pieces from the 1850s, to their new home, as Empire pieces have similar lines as Arts and Crafts furnishings.
The foyer, living room and dining room are the home’s showcase rooms. All have Arts and Crafts style features that are original to the home, and the rooms were greatly enhanced with period wallpapers, fabrics, antiques and new furnishings in the Craftsman style. The Woodcocks chose a large-scale William Morris wallpaper in a quiet sand and cream color scheme for the foyer and accompanying front and back staircases. In the living room, built-in bookcases and a mantle date back to the home’s building. The Woodcocks greatly enhanced the look of the dining room with a mural created by a local artist. The mural, in sepia tones, appears as if it has always been there, which is exactly the look the Woodcocks wanted, Nancy Woodcock says. The dining room is home for an Empire chest inherited by Thomas in a nook, and an Empire-period main table and chairs are in perfect scale for the space.
The biggest changes to the home occurred in the home’s kitchen. The space that is now the kitchen once contained the butler pantry and kitchen. It was too cramped for modern life, so the Woodcocks removed the wall between them and created one large open space. Since one of their goals was to lighten the home, they chose wood cabinets with a pickled finish, and contrasted that with granite countertops for durability and beauty. The kitchen’s best feature, Nancy says, is its pantry, which is original to the home.
Upstairs, the Woodcocks chose to close off one door that leads to the landing. Making that one change helps the rooms flow better, Nancy Woodcock says. They left the doorway in place and installed bookshelves against the door, so it remains part of the home’s fabric. Also, the Woodcocks transformed several of the bathrooms, adding shower stalls so the bathrooms are more functional in daily life. In one bathroom, they installed a relaxing jetted tub, and also changed a plain window into a stained glass one to allow light in but keep the room private.
The Woodcocks used William Morris-style fabrics and wallpaper throughout, unifying the home. This is particularly evident in the master bedroom, which has a blue and green Morris-style wallpaper. The Woodcocks used a stained glass lamp on a bedside table, too, to further enhance the Arts and Crafts look. The room’s bed is modern, but it has an antique style that blends with the house.
Two upstairs sitting rooms are side-by-side, connected with a large doorway. One of the rooms has a beamed ceiling and unusual light fixture that is original to the home. Nancy chose furniture from The Craftsman Collection, a furniture store specializing in modern Craftsman-style furnishings, for the house.
The Woodcocks are now comfortably at home. The house’s extra space is welcome for them and their children. They anticipate filling up the home with grandchildren in the next few years, and are looking forward to introducing the next generation to an appreciation of historic properties. “We always knew this was a lovely house, just waiting for us,” Nancy Woodcock says.
Visiting Old Louisville
Louisville, Ky., is a city rich with historic architecture, including homes from the Arts and Crafts period.
Old Louisville, which is just south of downtown, has block upon block of historic homes. Many fall into the Victorian category, but the neighborhood is also dotted with wonderful examples of Arts and Crafts style homes.
Events abound in Old Louisville, year-round. The Kentucky Shakespeare Festival congregates in Central Park every summer (www.kyshakes.org, 502-637-4933). The St. James Court Art Show is held in the neighborhood every fall (http://stjamescourtartshow.com, or (502) 635-1842). Old Louisville hosts a homes tour each Christmas season, which includes private homes (www.holidayhousetour.com, (502) 635-5244).
Outside of Old Louisville, the city is home to plenty of attractions. The Kentucky Derby is held in Louisville every May at Churchill Downs race track (www.churchilldowns.com, (502) 636-4400), and the Kentucky Derby Museum is right next door to the track (www.derbymuseum.org, (502) 637-7097). The two-week-long Kentucky Derby Festival precedes the Derby (www.kdf.org, (502) 584-6383). For art aficionados, a visit to The Speed Art Museum, Kentucky’s oldest and largest art museum, is definitely in order (www.speedmuseum.org, (502) 634-2700).
For more information about visiting Louisville, see www.gotolouisville.com, or call 1-800-626-5646.