Washington - In an old house, there are endless places to spend money. But for the Hoburg family, whose home is 117 years old, it’s never been about perfection.
In the 14 years the family of four have lived in the house, they have patiently carved out a sense of home - one exposed brick wall and second-hand chandelier at a time.
“Living in smaller, older spaces, you have to be creative,” said Meg Hoburg, 50, a designer whose speciality is budget-minded jobs.
“We did things in stages as we were able to afford them.”
Her husband, Glenn, 52, a pastor, said he used to dread the word “project”, but he’s continually mastering the skills needed to keep home improvements moving forward.
“I didn’t grow up learning how to fix anything, but Meg had a vision of what the space could become and wasn’t afraid to take risks,” he said.
“Now I can install wallpaper and tile and change our taps.”
The Hoburgs are one of many urban, space-challenged families who love their neighbourhoods and will make lifestyle compromises to stay in the city.
There’s not a bathroom adjoining each bedroom and no massive trophy kitchen in this home. There are no walk-in closets, though their teeny third upstairs bedroom is the size of one.
But by using every inch, doing much of the work themselves, continually coming up with new storage solutions and re-purposing furnishings, they found affordable ways to make the house functional and comfortable.
They put up hooks in the small entry vestibule and enlivened the space with a navy-and-white wallpaper inspired by Mexican folk art.
Limited kitchen cabinets? Because they have high ceilings, they looked for extra storage vertically and added a wall of open shelving and a pot rack.
Their daughters, Isabelle, 17, still at home, and Maddie, 20, who recently moved out, have contributed to the design of the house and developed their own DIY projects.
Isabelle’s art installations involve paper flowers of her own design. She embellished her bedroom chandelier by painting it bronze with touches of gold leaf and dangling her white-and-gold flowers from it.
She also created artwork using a piece of driftwood from which her handmade blooms are suspended. Maddie painted her cupboard doors bright aqua, and her own framed artworks hang throughout the house.
The house had its original pine floors, tall ceilings and claw-foot tub. Major improvements have included a new roof, air conditioning and built-ins.
The Hoburgs took down the walls between the dining room and kitchen, put in crown moulding and added two plaster columns to define the rooms. They exposed a brick wall to add character and added a built-in bookcase.
Upstairs, the tiniest bedroom is now Meg’s office and has a twin bed squeezed in for guests. Isabelle’s bedroom is awash in colour and texture.
Meg and Glenn were able to squeeze a queen-size black pencil-post bed into the master bedroom.
Meg loves vintage, but has also found a lot of great home accessories online. She discovered a way to add some patina to the newer pieces.
“It adds character and richness and makes details stand out,” Meg said. “In a small space, gold accents, different textures and anything with a sheen adds a lot to a room.”
Their house is a work in progress. On the list for the future: new kitchen cabinets and a new living-room sofa.
“We learnt to be content with each stage of this house over the years,” Meg said. “We learnt to be thankful. We know this house is a real gift.”