Now Open! This is What it’s All About!

helena outside now open resized
This is what it is all about.

We are thrilled that our new office in Helena is now open. After months of dreaming, sweating, inventing, painting, cleaning, and coming up with some crazy ideas, the historic Nunnally House in Old Town Helena has been rescued back to its rightful personality. The Ribbon Cutting, Grand Opening, Open Houses, and first few meetings are in the books, and we have been blown away with the warm reception from the local community, and the encouragement from colleagues and friends all over Birmingham. But the reception that has meant the most to us came from the most important source: the Nunnally family, themselves.

The night before the Ribbon Cutting, we were honored to host several descendants of Grace and Luther Nunnally, who came to gather, remember, and to see the renovations we’ve done on a house that was their family home for generations. As they were appreciating every detail, from the preserved barn wood, to the upcycled dresser, to the beams and the planks and the bricks, it dawned on us: this is why we are in this business. We do this to help match families with homes they can fill up with memories, just like the Nunnally family did here, for many decades.

When you come visit us at the Nunnally House, you will see a great deal of our heart on the walls; almost everything has a special story or meaning to us. Below are some of the before and after photos along with a explanations. This home was Greg’s idea, from the color scheme to the architectural details; he had a vision to start with the bones of the house, preserving everything possible and adding features with character and personality. He didn’t let the grime or termite rot cloud his excitement, he just plowed ahead! But Greg didn’t do this along; enormous thanks are due to many people: Bill Carroll, our great contractor; Tammy Taylor, our very own “JoJo Gaines”; Ron Bardo and Michael Hebert; Bill Garner, who turned nail-ridden planks into treasures; our son, Matt, for his sweat equity; and above all our families for giving us encouragement and the type of help that really counts.

Come see us! And don’t forget– when you need a Realtor to help you with buying or selling your home anywhere in the Birmingham metropolitan area, we are the team you want to call! We have figured out what the fuss is all about, and it’s worth it.

Before and After

“>Seeing the photos is rewarding; the home was crumbling and sad; it had suffered from being abandoned and under appreciated. Nothing a little TLC couldn’t fix!

helena office before and after side by side

Besides the improvements on the outside, we worked room by room to restore the home into a functional space for an office, but one that didn’t hide from its heritage as a family home.  One of the things we love most about the house is the big front porch, a throwback to the porches our grandparents enjoyed.  Already we have discovered that the porch beckons for many reasons; conversation with a neighbor, a breather from stress, a great place to take a phone call, a place to have a burger, even a place to hold a business meeting.  When we started, the porch was structurally sound, but mainly just very nasty; it also had large, faded puzzle pieces painted on the floor.  We painted the porch floor with Sherwin William’s Super Deck in gray, pressure washed the bricks and sidewalk with the help of Splash!, and Greg had our amazing contractor, Bill Carroll, add a few architecture touches, such as creating larger columns and adding corbels.

helena house after bathroom

We discovered along the way that everything you do when preserving an old house involves time and patience!  For example, the front door.  Who would think it would take so many day just to gain a proper door?

door before and after

What a pleasure it was to brighten up the inside.  Painting the paneling a light color, (Sherwin Williams Accessible Beige), gave a great palette to use dark gray for the beams and trim.

helena main room side by side before and after

With the more neutral palette, the decorator touches that have special meaning for us are able to stand out, such as the sliding barn door created from wood we rescued from a kitchen wall in the house, repurposed old windows from the house being use as frames for photos and specially chosen pieces that double as art and homages to our heritage. We named the conference room “Biggy’s Room” after Grace Nunnally’s pet name from her grandchildren, and within that room we tried to remember all the great things about Helena.

helena conference room before and after side by side

The one room Greg decided to “gut” was the bathroom.  Somehow, the ability to see daylight straight through from the kitchen, through the bathroom, and into the conference room didn’t bode well for this preservation minded team; so with all rules of engagement called off, Greg came up with a great design, and did the work himself! The bathroom counter was repurposed from the old floor joists we pulled out from under the house; we thought the room would be a great place to display the original photographs of the home’s aftermath in the 1933 tornado. After all, the bathroom is the safe spot in the Nunnally House, according to James Spann’s guidelines.

helena bathroom before and after side by side

What fun it was to transform the kitchen!  We tried to take it from a dark, dingy old mess into a cheery reminder of our grandmothers’ kitchens, yellow and white and waiting for a good meal to be cooked.  Thankfully, we are in no short supply of amazing restaurants nearby, but the kitchen is now a nicely restored break room.

helena kitchen before and after side by side

When you get a chance, come on by and say hello.  We would love to know what you think!

This Old House, Our New Office: Termites and Beyond

termite blog feature

What’s going on with that little brown house on 2nd Street in Old Town Helena? You know, the one that sat on the market for 1500 days, a little saggy, a lot crumbly, and almost forgotten… it has now been properly adopted and will soon be the home of our Real Estate office, Arcara Residential. We are having a wonderful adventure renovating it!

Here is a general update (our third blog entry) for those following our progress; but, first, a mystery we would love to have anyone from Helena help us solve.

The History Mystery

One quick conversation with Helena historian Ken Penhale offered the first clue to finding the history of the little brown house; it was called “the Nunnally House” and had been owned for decades by Luther Nunnally, including when the tornado struck in 1933. As a genealogist, I went to ancestry.com to see whether Luther Nunnally was being chased by any descendants, and I hit the jackpot when I was able to contact his wonderful granddaughter, Dawn. Since making that connection, for us the house has come alive; we think of it as Grace and Luther’s house, and as we renovate, we are trying to be very respectful of the fact that our new office used to be a family home. In fact, the home as it stands today was built by the Nunnally family; whatever structure was there before the 1933 tornado had to be rebuilt using the salvaged old lumber from the original home, partially standing but roofless, and thankfully the Nunnallys boasted talented carpenters in their family. This is the Nunnally House.

fireplace and chimneyBut, still; we know there is more to the story of this old house and we are obsessed with going back further.  When we cut away a large area of paneling above the fireplace, we were struck by how very old the chimney looks to be; it evokes a history that surely predates the 20th century. With the house being on the National Registry of Historic Places, I am making it my mission to find out its deep history. And I need help; I have spent hours pouring over the old deed books and tax records in the dusty rooms at the Shelby County Courthouse and the Tax Assessor’s offices; I found some cool things! But I haven’t so far found anything that would tell us who first built the pre-tornado house or when. If you know of any Helena historians who like a good challenge, please refer them to my Nunnally House research and pass along my email address: donna@arcarahomes.com.  I want to know the rest of the story.

Renovation Update: Varmints

screwdriver in rotten beamTermites! Spiders! Wasps and hornets! Ants galore! Who wants to visit a business with those as the inhabitants?  Those little critters have wreaked havoc on the Nunnally House and they must be made to pay. The obvious worst enemy has been the termites; they are no longer active underneath the house, but their march of destruction was ridiculous. We knew we had trouble ahead the instant my brother was able to easily jab a screwdriver through one of the main support beams; bottom line is that everything had to come out.

all floors out

Thankfully we have a wonderful, talented (and patient) contractor helping us; (his name is Bill Carroll, Central Alabama Homecrafters, 205-312-8317). Bill and his crew were able to install new floor joists and a solid subfloor, so now we can safely claim that our clients won’t fall into the crawl space. Several cans of wasp spray, some heavy stomping, and we are making progress.

spider

If you suffer from Arachnaphobia, as I do, you will not enjoy seeing our largest inhabitant, Charlene, who had made her ancient nest on our ceiling and was planning Helena’s scariest Halloween Party. (Rest in Peace, Charlene).
Now, in the words of Tangeena, from Poltergeist: “This house is clean.”

The colorssherwin williams color palette

The ugly little brown termite-infested house will soon be no more. In fact, as we have test-painted a small section in our new colors, by contrast the original color looks almost pink! Being in the historic district, we had to stay within the approved palette of earth tones; we would love to know what you think about the exterior colors we will be using:
• Main color: (Sherwin Williams) Colonial Revival Green Stone
• Trim color: (Sherwin Williams) Alabaster
• Door color: (Sherwin Williams) Aurora Brown
• Porch Floor color: (Sherwin Williams) Urbane Bronze

The Wood

barn door

You may have heard screeches of mourning from the house; those would be from our loud realization that the original hardwood floors absolutely could NOT BE SAVED. Yes, a few splintered pieces will be repurposed; but for the most part, we have had to accept this fact and move on. The loss of the original floors hurt our feelings, but we are thrilled that most walls are the original planks, full of weathered stories.

As for those very old floor joists: a good bit of the wonderful heart of pine wood could be reclaimed and we have great plans to build a conference room table and a vanity top for the bathroom from them. Our miracle worker, Bill Carroll, has already built a beautiful barn door for our conference room from the wood. Take that, termites!

 

Looking Old

As much as we want everything to be reclaimed and authentic, we will also have to occasionally turn to new resources to blend in with the “old look” in keeping with the home. We decided to paint the 1960’s wood paneling in the big room (wrong decade). We are tweaking the baseboards and crown moulding, adding new where needed, so it will all be matching, simple 1”x6” trim throughout the entire house. And through the talents of Miracle Bill, we are adding several old-looking decorative beams to the ceilings. Before and after photos coming soon!

Here is a tip I learned for making new wood look old; from here, you could distress it, splatter it, paint it, and generally throw stuff at it to give it character.  To age new wood:  First, paint the wood with a very strong brew of tea and coffee, and let dry.  Second, go over that with a layer of the special brew described as follows: a big chunk of a steel wool pad, steeped in vinegar for at least 24 hours.  Within just a few minutes, you will be amazed at how much the new wood becomes old in appearance!

wood aging

To Be Continued…

There is much to be done and not many “after” photos to show yet, but we will get there soon. Having the delightful neighbors we have met, the wonderful food to enjoy right up the street, the sights of Buck Creek, and the nostalgic sounds of the trains coming down the track make this project a joy to take on. We love Helena!

 

All information on this website is deemed reliable, but not guaranteed, and may change without notice. Any square footage is approximate.

Property of Arcara Residential, LLC; 771 2nd Street; Helena, AL 35080