A welcoming new (old) house

By RENE’ DAY / Community Columnist

People who love old houses are a unique breed. Certainly, they are the only ones who immediately understand that pretty gingerbread doesn’t always mean a decorated cookie. And they like talking about things like shiplap, beadboard and wainscoting. Old house folks will notice dwellings that many simply ignore or never see – and they tend to keep a “check” on the condition of those dwellings over time. They mourn if one loses its battle with time and the elements – or becomes the victim of “progress.”

Such is a little house on Salem Road outside of Montevallo. Up until a few years ago, it looked like this one might lose its battle with the 21st century. Used for years as rental property, it definitely looked worse for the wear it experienced. Then, in 2014, Jimmy Lawley, grandson of the builder, gave Craig and Dana Wann the opportunity to purchase the property. Constructed by J.D. and Jessie Lawley in the 1930s, this two bedroom, two-bath house sits just down the hill from the one in which Jimmy and his wife, Linda, now live.

At first, the Wanns planned to build a new home and use the standing structure as a guesthouse. But after realizing what it would take to make sure “Aunt” Jessie’s place had a future, they decided to pour their hearts and souls – and money – into restoring and renovating. In the past three years, they have re-roofed, enclosed the porch, installed a new fireplace, added new siding and finished a bathroom and kitchen renovation. Such is the life of old-house people.

One of the most interesting interior features is the softly colored “ship-lap” that sheaths the walls. Originally, parts of old mining houses from nearby “company” towns were hauled in and used for wall construction. Once up, they were then covered with paper for added insulation. During renovation, the paper was removed, revealing the horizontal boards. The look is now a popular trend in decorating – what is old is new again.

The interior is decorated with beautiful antiques and mementoes from a variety of friends and relatives. A stroll through the house is a lesson on decorating with what you love without spending a fortune. The coffee table in the living room is one example. Bought for $3 years ago, the old wooden trunk with its square nails has been used in Dana’s home since before her children were born. A pretty painted side table was a more recent purchase – she snagged it for $7!

A colorful cutting garden is located mere steps from the door and is one of the Wanns’ favorite projects. “Everyone who knew Aunt Jessie recognized how much she loved her home,” Dana says. The couple enjoys working outside and the flowers they have planted are one way they help keep Aunt Jessie’s spirit alive. It is obvious that Craig and Dana love welcoming people to this beautiful new (old) home they call “Jessie’s Place.”