transformation month

Before and After: A Dated 1889 Victorian Italianate Has Been Respectfully Brought Back to Life

transformation month

Before and After: A Dated 1889 Victorian Italianate Has Been Respectfully Brought Back to Life

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Name: Kevin Reid-Morris, Sarah Reid-Morris, and Henry Floyd Reid-Morris, a 4-year-old Bernedoodle
Location: Prince Edward County, Canada
Type of House: 1889 Victorian Italianate house
Size: 3000 square feet (main house), a carriage house (photos not included here) is about 800 square feet
Years lived in: 1 year, owned

Our home is an 1889 Victorian Italianate in Prince Edward County, Ontario. It’s a classic example of 1800s architecture in North America at the turn of the century. What’s funny is that when our search originally started, we were looking for a vacant lot in the country where we would build the modern Scandinavian barn of our dreams. The day we came to do a second walk-through of a lot, we drove down a street we hadn’t been on before, saw this house for sale, and Sarah said, “Whoa, that place is cool. We need to see it.” She had a feeling. I was hesitant, but an hour later we were in the house. Ten minutes later, we knew we had found the one. We fell in love with the big porch and veranda out front, the original details, the two staircases, and the fact that it had enough room for both of us to have dedicated workspaces and studios.

We became particularly passionate about researching the history of the house and the families who had lived before. Even in our rentals before this, we’ve loved designing ever place we’ve lived. But this 1880s Victorian was so far from anything we’d imagined, we were almost intimidated by its history and grandeur. We figured that if we had a better idea of what’s happened here over 150 years, we could respect its past but also bring our own signature modern and creative touch.

When our jobs went remote amidst COVID, we had been looking at buying our first home in Toronto, with a dream of ultimately living in Prince Edward County. We thought that was 15 or 20 years away for us, but remote work changed everything. We quickly changed gears to start looking in the County. By May 2020, we were making the trip each weekend to look at properties. By July 2020, we had found this house. And by the end of September, we had made the move. Six weeks later, we got married on our front porch during COVID, with about 10 family members socially distanced on the sidewalk. Neighbors, who we hadn’t even really met yet, came outside with sparklers to watch and celebrate. It was magical!

Credit: Cait Lavoie

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Our style is one that mixes modern and traditional together — the new and the old — and in every case introduces a sense of fun and whimsy. No space feels right to us until it’s got that mix of elements and we’re still working through that in a lot of the house!

Inspiration: We’re inspired by the huge and growing community of old house lovers out there — a new generation of homeowners making the decision to preserve and enhance old homes that need love. Designer-wise, our biggest inspirations are Nate Berkus, Justina Blakeney, Lauren Nelson, Jean Stoffer, and Leanne Ford.

Favorite Element: It’s got to be the original parlor room in the front of the house. For one, Kevin just loves saying the word “parlor” even though it’s really just a living room! But it has a few things we absolutely love: character-filled moulding, huge windows, a view to the detail on the veranda, sight lines to the original staircase, and lets you look right through to the back of the house through the kitchen. It’s the room we most looked forward to designing and the room we most enjoy unwinding and entertaining in!

Biggest Challenge / Proudest DIY: Our biggest challenge to-date was the fact that the primary bedroom didn’t have a closet, which isn’t uncommon for old homes. For a few months we lived with our clothes in cardboard boxes. We had received quotes for $15K and $20K to build custom wardrobes and just couldn’t stomach that kind of budget given all the other work we’re doing around the house. We decided to DIY a built-in wardrobe and set a budget of $2K to do it. We ended up using IKEA PAX as our base and used matching baseboards, crown, wall moulding, and antique brass hardware to make it look like it had always been here. Assembling a PAX unit is one thing — doing so to make it look original to an 1889 home, sloped floors and all — was a whole other challenge. We came in under budget and, after sharing it on Instagram and Pinterest, the interwebs kind of went crazy over it! So many people were asking us how we did it, so we ended up writing a really detailed how-to.

Biggest Indulgence: We are passionate about second-hand. First, we love the budget opportunities it affords us. Second, we love the sustainability aspects. In fact, in our house about 90 percent of our furniture and decor is from second-hand sources. Kevin is a big fan of a Facebook Marketplace hack — he has lists of keywords he uses, tracks data on prices across brands, and has kept a log of everything we’ve purchased to-date with prices and retail values. We estimate we’ve acquired about $70,000 of furniture and decor for about $6,000!

With that in mind, sometimes second-hand just won’t cut it. That was the case with our parlor sofa. We searched and searched for a second-hand option but couldn’t find that signature mix of classic, modern, fun, and in the right colors. We ultimately splurged — or at least a splurge for us — and bought a brand-new sofa from Crate and Barrel, the curved Josephine sofa. We absolutely love it.

Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? Because we moved here with the intention of both working from home, we’ve found ways to make the space work for that purpose. Sarah’s office sits on the second floor of an addition at the back of the house. It’s tucked away and quiet, meaning work and home life can still be separated at the end of the day. And Kevin has been converting what was a garage/art studio into his own office and studio. It was roughly finished when they bought the property, with no flooring and plywood walls. Each of us having a separate workspace is a game changer in a world of remote work. But meeting in the kitchen for a coffee break or to make lunch isn’t a bad thing either.

What’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? In a world of Pinterest and Instagram, pay attention to what you love and not what the internet loves. What you’ll find over time is that decisions become easier because you know what you value in your home. And that may change from home to home, which is all part of growing as a home designer.

The other piece of advice would be to take calculated risks! We have a tendency to think of everything as “permanent” but hardly anything is, really. Just a few weeks ago, we opted to paint a guest room ceiling gloss black. If we had debated it for weeks and weeks we would have talked ourselves out of it. But we just went for it, knowing we could easily reverse it, and absolutely love how it turned out. We want to do MORE of that!



  • All interior walls, trim, ceilings — Benjamin Moore “Chantilly Lace”








Thanks Kevin and Sarah!

This house tour’s responses were edited for length and clarity.