Family Tackles a Historic Fixer-Upper

Homeowners work together to remodel a century-old home with bold colors and additional space.
Kelly-Green Craftsman Entryway With Dark Woodwork

Kelly-Green Craftsman Entryway With Dark Woodwork

Photography by Maria Alexandra Vettese; Styling by Hilary Horvath

Photography by Maria Alexandra Vettese; Styling by Hilary Horvath

By: Jen Jafarzadeh L'Italien

When Tim Krovel and Sarah Ketchum first saw their Portland, Maine, home, Sarah said "no way" and Tim saw the potential. After moving from Chicago, the couple was looking for a fixer-upper because Sarah's new job afforded Tim the opportunity to work full-time on the remodel. What they found was a house in need of an overhaul.

Every room, floor and fixture needed work. "It was loaded with so much character, though," says Tim. He convinced his wife to go for it after the city approved a two-story 16’x12’ addition that would include a new kitchen and master bedroom.

Through the remodel, Tim and Sarah hoped to gain space to entertain guests and room for a growing family with an urban lifestyle. Tim spent seven months working full-time on the remodel with a budget of $60,000. "I think we accomplished a $100,000 renovation for less, mostly on the back of my free labor, but also on the many, many choices we made throughout the project," says Tim.

Colorful and Historic Home Overhaul

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Historic Charm

When Tim Krovel and Sarah Ketchum purchased an 1887 Queen Anne house in Portland, Maine, they hoped to add livable space and bold color.

Thinking Big

Tim and Sarah planned a two-story addition to include a new kitchen and master bedroom upstairs. "We didn't need the extra space, but we really wanted a kitchen that was more social, hard-working and connected to the backyard," says Tim.

Hidden Character

"The best part of the original house was the antique woodwork," says Tim. The home came with ornate mantels, carved newel posts and wainscoting. “Unfortunately, this character was covered in mauve carpet, vinyl tile and purple-painted antique pine floors.”

Restoring the Floors

Tim restored the pine flooring underneath the purple wall-to-wall carpeting in the entry for a seamless hardwood floor throughout the home's main level.

Making a Bold Statement

The finished entryway was rewired and received new lighting to highlight the paint job. "The strong color really makes the dark woodwork pop," says Tim. "We love the color and think the original Victorian owners would approve."

Illuminating the Space

The couple splurged on an antique chandelier in the living room after choosing basic recessed light cans and track lighting throughout the house.

Master Addition

The kitchen/bedroom addition took two months to complete from framing to painting. Tim and Sarah converted two bedrooms plus the addition into a master suite that includes a laundry room, walk-in closet, bathroom and bedroom.

Starting From Scratch

Finishing the master bedroom addition was a fairly quick process. "Building new, in many ways, is easier," says Tim. "All of the walls are open for planning wiring and insulation. Plus, all of the walls and surfaces are straight and at right angles to each other which makes built-ins and other fixtures and furnishings so much easier to install."

DIY Dream Closet

"I cannot tell a lie — I cheated on the closet," says Tim. "Originally we were going to hire a large closet company to create a design and install shelves and racks, but we did not like their materials or the huge price of $2,800." Tim took their layout plan and built it himself, using high-quality maple plywood and solid fir beadboard for $600.

Clever Storage Solution

Tim built the shelving unit in his daughter Maren's room out of maple plywood nosed in solid maple. Maren's room and a guest bedroom on the third floor feature different shades of vibrant, ocean blue.

Cramped Kitchen Beginnings

The layout and space in the century-old kitchen did not function as the hub of the home.

Salvaged & Sourced Materials

Sarah was the designer of the kitchen remodel. They salvaged the pine floor from upstairs to use in the kitchen, and sourced all the fixtures online.

Comforts in the Kitchen

One of Sarah’s goals for the kitchen remodel was to maximize counter space and provide seating for their family. She chose built-in benches to save on space and to provide additional storage underneath. The couple decided to skip upper cabinets, except in the butler pantry, because the natural light was important to them.

Custom Cabinetry

Instead of using pre-assembled cabinets, Tim built each kitchen cabinet as a single piece on site.

The Scope of the Home Remodel

  • Stripped and refinished the antique pinewood floors
  • Replaced nearly all of the wiring
  • Replaced all of the plumbing
  • Built a new kitchen and master bedroom as part of the addition
  • Constructed custom cabinets on-site
  • Shored up the main beam in the basement to level the frame
  • Replaced old water tank heater with a small, on-demand unit
  • Switched to high-efficiency laundry units
  • Gutted the third floor/attic and added insulation
  • Added foam board to roof for insulation
  • Added 1.5 bathrooms, including a half bath on the main level
  • Painted every window, wall, door and radiator



Tim built a patio with salvaged bricks where the family enjoys a relaxing evening outdoors.

Tim built a patio with salvaged bricks where the family enjoys a relaxing evening outdoors.

Sarah, a physician by day, was behind the design and style of the remodel. "Once she got beyond the horror of the old kitchen, she crafted a plan of modern-meets-antique that I think would make the original owners very happy," says Tim. "The Victorians were obviously in love with color and exciting details, so we ran with that."

While Tim and Sarah didn't run into any big surprises during their remodel, they did learn a lesson about projects taking longer than expected. "So much of my day was setting up and cleaning up," says Tim. "Living in a renovation is a big challenge." They also learned the value of working together as a team. "The disagreements we had over design details, like the kitchen bench seating, turned out to produce some of our best collaborative work."

Tim hired an excavation crew to dig and pour the foundation walls and then had an electrician and plumber work with him to rough-in all the fixtures. "The wiring was a big project," says Tim. "We fished new wires into nearly every wall and ceiling. It's really slow and messy work, but having it done is a huge load off our minds." He also hired an insulation team to blow in dense-pack cellulose into the walls and roof. From there, Tim finished everything himself — including building a shed, planting trees and digging a garden out back. "It's our paradise," says Tim.

With the dust and construction behind them, Tim and Sarah say the hard work was well worth it. In fact, Tim's favorite part of the remodel was doing the work himself. "The next best part was making our home amazing for my wife," says Tim. "It was so fun completing little projects each day for her to come home to. Each day was a new treat."

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