So, one of the things we loved about the Brady House when we walked inside was the “spectacularly in need of restoration” 1899 baby grand piano. After finding out the piano came with the purchase of the house, we researched its history, and discovered that it is a Wissner. The Wissner Piano Company was established by Otto Wissner in 1878. Their factories were located in Brooklyn, New York. Apparently, the pianos were some of the finest, most expensive pianos money could buy, but because of poor marketing, never achieved the world wide recognition they deserved. The company went out of business in about 1942 with the onset of World War 2.
While the piano isn’t original to the house, it was purchased by the previous owner, who just so happened to have rented the home to singer Carole King in 1979 when she was recording an album in Austin. I like to think that she sat there and played the piano while belting out “I feel the earth…move…” The piano is now undergoing restoration by Benke Piano, here in Austin, and we can’t wait until it comes back home!
1899 Wissner Baby Grand Piano
We are in the midst of that “messy part” of construction that seems like it goes on forever, but as soon as its over, the house starts to really come together. Electrical rough-in, plumbing rough-in, HVAC rough-in, insulation, etc…Nothing’s too pretty on the inside yet, but as soon as the sheetrock begins next week, the whole house transforms.
The exterior is a different story, though. We’ve got the stucco brightened up with a fresh coat of white paint, the new slate-style shingle roof is going on, and the landscape cleanup is just starting. The little things get us so excited. Today, it was the porch ceiling. One of the best parts of the Brady House is the 1,400+ sf of covered porches, and what’s a covered porch without a blue ceiling?! Ours was just painted Benjamin Moore’s Palladian Blue, and it is perfect! A light, airy blue-green that transports you straight to the spa. Now, we just need a couple of porch swings and we will be set!
Every time we watch “This Old House” and see the story of how one family discovered a historic treasure in the attic, basement, beneath the floorboards, etc…we get excited that the next one might be us 🙂 In our first home renovation, we discovered a treasure trove of photos and writing notebooks from the original owners and their 12 yr old daughter. In fact, we discovered all of her 6th grade English notebooks from the 1940s. But ever since then, nada….until now!
Actually, I’m not sure this a treasure find…but it sure is interesting. When we demo’d out the master bathroom, we found a secret room behind a hinged bookshelf…which was a VERY promising start. But then, we we examined the room, I sat perplexed at the sight of aluminum foil covering all of the walls. According to Jeff and his contractors, we had definitely stumbled on a “grow room” for marijuana. In the 1970s, the house was owned by an artists’ cooperative, so we’re just going to assume that’s when the room was created. Sorry artists- don’t get mad at our stereotyping!
Other than our grow room, we discovered a very un-PC newspaper clipping from World War II re: the UN and Chinese-Japanese relations and a beautiful fabric wallcovering upstairs that will be my inspiration for the master bedroom colors. If anyone knows what buildings are depicted in the wallcovering, I’d love to find out!
Can I call this a “historic” grow room?
WWII Newspaper Clipping
Second floor wallcovering
Beginning the Framing for Master
New Opening Between Dining and Kitchen
The new bathroom and walk-in closet for the guest suite
Clean slate for the kitchen
The construction has kicked off! In the past 10 days, we have completed some minor interior demolition (particularly on the 2nd floor), framed in all 3.5 baths (somehow this 3000 sf house only had 1 bath), completed minor framing throughout, and started the electrical and plumbing rough-ins. Red River Restorations, our favorite window restoration company, has also taken away the original windows and are in the process of meticulously restoring them to their original functionality. All of the fixtures and tile have been ordered, and that kind of shopping makes us more excited than shopping for clothes!
That’s not to say it’s looking pretty yet, but the flow of the home is definitely starting to come together.
Inspiration for a interior home design can come from a variety of sources: a unique object you want to feature from your travels, a beautiful piece of art, an exquisite fabric, etc… When you are dealing with a historic home, an additional layer of inspiration comes into play: the home’s history and existing interior features like architectural heritage, unique trim, fabric wallpaper, existing light fixtures, original stained glass, etc…For the Brady House, our design inspiration is a combination of the two. Avenue B Development’s slogan is “timeless, yet modern”, and I think that perfectly embodies the style we are aiming to create on Pearl St. While some historic restorations seek to exactly recreate the home’s original interiors, we like to use the historic to provide a springboard for the new.
Here’s an example of how we do that:
The original fabric wallpaper that is currently nailed to the shiplap walls in the living rooms is a busy floral pattern of silver, gray, pink , and purple ( you can see a bit in the before pictures.) That traditional color combination is absolutely dynamite and can be modernized with a different pattern and color depth. We plan on designing a gray, silver, and pink downstairs with a beautiful wallpapered foyer that respects history but brings the home into the 21st century. See some of our selections below.
Do you see it? The incredible crown moldings? The high ceilings? The antique flooring? That amazing piano? Yeah, yeah…so the walls are missing. That’s the simple stuff 🙂 We like to look past those kinds of things to really peer into the bones of a house. And the bones of this one are mighty strong. Do you remember that scene in “Titanic” when the decrepid oceanliner that’s been at the bottom of the sea for a hundred years slowly comes back to life, all shiny and glorious? The fireplace, the piano, the china, the hair comb, etc…? That’s what we picture when we see this image.