A Victorian House from the 1880s Is Now a Jewel-Toned Modern Gem

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(Image credit: Rachael Klieman)

Name: Rachael Klieman, husband (Nisar), Dogs (Red & Otis)
Location: Champaign, Illinois
Size: 2,800 square feet
Years lived in: 1.5 years, owned

When my husband, Nisar, and I first saw our house, we fell in love with the details from 1880. The carvings on the trim, the pattern of the oak floors, the original patinated brass hardware, the oversized windows. Nevermind that the kitchen, bathrooms, and mudroom were all a disaster. Who needs a working dishwasher when you have quarter-sawn oak trim!?

(Image credit: Rachael Klieman)

When we moved in, our goal was to elevate the original details and bring in our own style, which skewed slightly modern. The inspiration was the house itself. The exterior is a warm neutral accented with emerald and deep ruby; these are the colors we brought inside.

(Image credit: Rachael Klieman)

We also replaced all the lighting (and only got electrocuted once in the process). It’s amazing the impact a few coats of paint and a light fixture can have. After that it was time to get into the big renovation projects. A year and a half—and many “This Old House” how-to videos later—we’ve updated our kitchen, powder room, and mudroom.

(Image credit: Rachael Klieman)

This summer we’ll be spending our time landscaping. Our lab puppies Red and Otis have really done a real number on the backyard!

(Image credit: Rachael Klieman)

What is your favorite room and why? Our dining room. I had our table custom made and it’s LARGE—7×4 feet. Since we didn’t have a kitchen island, our table had to work extra hard to be the social center of our home. We wanted our dining table to be a comfortable space to work, eat, and hang out with friends. After looking endlessly for a table in our price range, I ended up having a local carpenter build the table. It was much more cost effective and I got to design it to my exact specifications—wood species, color, size, etc. The table sits on an antique rug (thanks eBay!) that brings color and life into the room. Throw in a few plants, a record player, and views of the kitchen and living room, and voila, we have the most pleasant room in the house.

(Image credit: Rachael Klieman)

One day, I suspect our third floor will be my favorite room. With vaulted ceilings, skylights, and tons of space, this room has so much potential. We just haven’t gotten there yet! [Not pictured.]

(Image credit: Rachael Klieman)

Any advice for creating a home you love? First, form has to follow function. No matter how beautiful a piece is, if it doesn’t meet your practical needs, it won’t be good in the long run. Between our two black labs and my clumsy nature, we’re not the kind of people that could handle a white couch, no matter how beautiful I think they are.

(Image credit: Rachael Klieman)

Second, once you realize that you will never be “done,” it makes the design process so much more relaxed. A home will always be a work in progress; it grows and changes as you and your family does. Enjoy the trip, not just the destination!

Thanks, Rachael!

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