Name: Lynn Lee and Steve Skaggs
Location: Madison, Wisconsin
Years lived in: 2
It takes a certain fortitude to buy a 165-year-old house—especially one with a home inspection that scared off three previous bidders. If you’re on a budget, it also takes incredible amounts of work, plus creativity when sourcing materials for the renovation. Lynn and Steve were willing and able. (Being skilled and talented helped, too.) Their efforts in green renovation landed their home—once a carriage house, then a boardinghouse for Civil War soldiers, and then a duplex—on Madison’s first Sustainable Homes Tour.
The wood-frame house was literally caving in when the couple purchased it. Lynn, Steve, and Lynn’s father did all of the demolition and 90 percent of the construction on the project. The materials they couldn’t salvage were replaced with items from the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. In fact, the list of materials they got from ReStore was so long they became poster children of sorts for the organization. (See Resources for the full list.)
“Repurposing building materials keeps them from ending up in landfills,” says Lynn. “We saved tens of thousands of dollars by using ReStore. We could never have done this project if we hadn’t. And after the home was done, we were asked to talk about the possibilities of using reclaimed materials during the Sustainable Homes Tour.”
After fixing the structural issues, Lynn and Steve did a wonderful job of giving the house character. It is light and airy, with an elegant, artistic style befitting a historic home. They paid tribute to the building's history (note the numbers on the doors upstairs, reminiscent of a boardinghouse) and to the history they are building with their growing family.
“The real story behind this project was our daughter. We wanted her to grow up two blocks from her cousins, go to the same schools, and to live where alternative families are more accepted,” says Lynn. “As parents, our world revolves around her, and we wanted her world to be as beautiful as she has made ours.”
Our style: crazy antique/thrift-store eclectic
Inspiration: our previous homes in California and Florida
Favorite Element: the open floor plan
Biggest Challenges: Adding back the character that was stripped out when the house was converted to apartments . . . and doing the work ourselves. Also, the house is on the national and state historic registries, so we were restricted in what we could do the exterior.
What Friends Say: “We’re amazed” and “Let’s have the party at your house.”
Proudest DIY: the attic playroom
Biggest Indulgence: Wolf Appliances and the highest energy-rated furnace and air conditioner we could afford
Best Advice: Be realistic, ask questions, and do your research
Green Elements/Initiatives: insulation, wall wrapping, triple-pane windows, high-efficiency furnace/AC, and locally sourced new and recycled building materials.
From Habitat for Humanity ReStore of Dane County:
Reclaimed oak floor
Appliances: Kesseninch’s Ltd., a food-service equipment and supply company that also specializes in providing green alternatives to the restaurant industry. They are based in Madison and also have a catalog.
Furniture and accessories: A mix of antiques, family heirlooms, and thrift-store finds. Some furniture is from Saint Vincent De Paul’s.
Lighting: Habitat ReStore and Madison Lighting
Tiles and stone: Avcore Tile and Stone, Habitat ReStore
Window treatments: We made them ourselves.
Beds: We made them ourselves.
Artwork: Some pieces were painted by Lynn, whose artwork can be found at Hatch Art House. Other pieces are by artist friends.
Paint: Habitat ReStore. We were able to get several five-gallon buckets for $5 a gallon, and then we bought other specific colors to get exactly what we wanted.
Wall finishes in master bath: American Clay, done by Moda Earth Walls.
Flooring: Habitat ReStore
Design: Lynn Lee Properties and Design, LLC
Interested in sharing your home with Re-Nest? Contact our editors through our Green Tour Submission Form.
(Images: Therese Maring)