Buying an older home takes long-term commitment. Darcie and Brian Roberts took up just that challenge for a chance to live on West Chestnut Avenue, in one of Yakima’s last historic neighborhoods. Today, their spring green 1934 Tudor home, with its delightful striped awnings and perfectly manicured yard, has stroll-stopping curb appeal in this Yakima neighborhood.
Twelve years ago, when Darcie, 45, and Brian, 54, bought the 3,400 square-foot home, its exterior was a dark brown, and that drab theme carried throughout the interior.
“Even the carpet in the kitchen was brown,” says Darcie, who teaches part-time at LaSalle High School. Fortunately, they could see past the somber motif and visualize the structure’s potential with its classic architectural details, hardwood floors and extensive built-ins, like the floor-to-ceiling china cupboard in a cozy breakfast nook. “We looked at it and bought it the first night,” says Brian, who is a partner at Argus Insurance. “I liked the home’s character.” As only the fifth owners, they were especially pleased that the former occupants had loved the house as much as they did.
Over the course of the home’s almost 80 years, American lifestyles changed drastically. Families in the 1930s and ’40s had larger families, but smaller houses. Children shared bedrooms, and bathrooms were at a premium. Families ate dinner in the dining room, kids played in the neighborhood and the basement often went unfinished. Darcie and Brian knew they would need to remodel to accommodate their two children, Lauren and Jack, but made a plan to make those changes over time.
Fortunately, the living and adjacent dining rooms only needed a light-colored coat of paint, a smattering of comfortable furniture and some interior design to make them perfect for the family. The original leaded glass bay window, shiny wood floors and glass-fronted shelves that bookend the white brick fireplace already lent an old-school charm to the front of the home. Now a round table with six upholstered chairs make the dining room look intimate, but the table can be expanded to accommodate 12 or more people for holiday dinners.
The couple quickly realized that what the original design lacked was a large family room on the main floor where friends could gather and relax. A master bedroom and an adjoining office, steps away from the kitchen and main floor bathroom, became the obvious choice for this new purpose and thus the couple embarked on their first major remodeling project. Today their large family room features lots of windows, including French doors leading to their backyard, cushy leather furniture, a big screen TV and an upright piano, which Darcie plays.
But they didn’t stop there. Upgrading the kitchen became another priority. Instead of making drastic structural changes, Darcie painted the cupboards a soothing sweet cream color to coordinate with the granite countertop tiles. New stainless steel appliances added another update. Having lived in Europe before she married Brian, Darcie incorporated Italian tiles above the cooktop to add a little cosmopolitan charm to the kitchen. “My dream would be opening up the kitchen,” Darcie admitted, but that project still looms in the future.
When asked which room they like the best, Brian professed his fondness for the remodeled basement, but Darcie declared a love for the master bedroom. When they repurposed the original master bedroom into a family room, the couple claimed the largest of the three upstairs bedrooms for their own. The only downside was the lack of closet space. They discovered that if they opened the walls under the eaves they would have sufficient room to create two large closets and deepen the drawers of the original built-in dresser. This extra space now gives plenty of room for shoes and clothes.
Conquering the unfinished basement made for another interesting project. The former owners left an “enchanted tiki room” of sorts, complete with bamboo shades covering the walls and an ancient water bed. After the wee bit of Polynesia sailed away and the old leaking bed left the building, walls and ceilings were finished, carpets were laid and a fireplace was installed. The finished basement now includes a guest bedroom and a “man cave” and TV room complete with a vintage pool table, formerly owned by Brian’s grandfather.
Both Darcie and Brian enjoy gardening, and the recent addition of a large stone deck with a dramatic grapevine-covered pergola makes for the ideal outdoor entertaining spot in their backyard. The space features a built-in grill, comfortable lawn chairs and a gracious wrought iron dining table and chairs. The beautifully manicured gardens complement the new hardscape. The couple also hired Gill Concrete and Masonry Design to create a fountain from Darcie’s design that adds the magical sound of water to this urban oasis. Fourteen koi and two turtles also swim about, making the fountain their home.
Although owning an older house comes with an increased amount of upkeep and hard work, the Roberts family has discovered that it also brings greater than usual reward. The love and perspiration they have poured into the physical structure appears to have been returned many times over as this home gives its blessing to the fifth family it has comfortably housed.