"Comfortably Spare" Style in a Spanish Colonial Fixer-Upper

"Comfortably Spare" Style in a Spanish Colonial Fixer-Upper

Tamara Gavin
Jul 22, 2016
(Image credit: Tamara Gavin)

Name: Sam and Heidi, and their two young sons
Location: Athens, Georgia
Size: 1,750 square feet
Years lived in: 1.5 years; owned

When it comes to fixer-uppers, it takes the right person with a vision to bring it back to life. For this darling 1936 Spanish Colonial in Athens, Georgia, it was destiny that brought her the befitting champion—someone who could see her potential beyond the old peeling paint, the water damage, and years of neglect. What once was a dark and worn-out house is now a youthful, bright, and cheery family home.

(Image credit: Tamara Gavin)

It was over eight years ago when Heidi first noticed the home while she was going to school for landscape architecture. As she would pass by its crumbling exterior, she would daydream about one day buying it and fixing it up. Years later, she was living in Brooklyn with husband Sam, an artist, and her two young boys, when she received a call from a friend informing her the house was available. From New York, she enlisted the help of her mom to make a five hour drive to look at the foreclosed house for her. Soon after, the house was hers.

Though it was the house of her dreams, it came with a long list of repairs and updating. Neighbors thought she was crazy to take on such a huge project—the "Taco Bell" house, as some would call it. It needed a new roof, updated mechanicals, refinished flooring, and lots (and lots) of paint. Sam and Heidi are slowly making improvements to it, and still have yet to finish the kitchen, but it's finally a livable home for the couple, their children, and their dog.

(Image credit: Tamara Gavin)

Heidi says that when they first bought the home, each room was painted a different and very saturated color. Purple in the living room, blue in the dining room, and pink in the bathroom. The trim was also very dark and ornate. After painting everything in lighter, brighter colors, the home was immediately different.

Their home is decorated with heirloom pieces from family, a blend of designer furnishings with some IKEA accessories, and lots of original artwork, some by Sam himself and others by friends. After updating the kitchen, Heidi and Sam want to add a second bathroom next, and then a separate studio space in the backyard, which is currently overgrown with bamboo. With years of projects still ahead, Heidi says that her and Sam like to come outside in the mornings, coffee mugs in hand, and kick down the 12" high bamboo shoots that had grown the night before—each stalk breaking with a satisfying snap—a quick fix to keep them satiated until they can tackle the next big undertaking.

(Image credit: Tamara Gavin)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Comfortably Spare

Inspiration: Heidi's mom. Axel Vervoordt and lots of other not-so-specific things…

Favorite Element: The large hallway. Somehow it makes our small house feel much larger. We're still trying to find the perfect piece of furniture to put along the short wall and the long wall provides a great space to put our friend's artwork on display. This is also the kid's go-to space for races and elaborate lego projects!

Biggest Challenge: Having the patience to wait for the perfect piece of furniture, rug, etc instead of filling the house all at once.

What Friends Say: I don't know…probably something about how slow moving we are with the renovations!!

(Image credit: Tamara Gavin)

Biggest Embarrassment: The backyard, the kitchen, the constant pile of debris waiting to be taken to the dump. The list goes on forever!

Proudest DIY: Convincing Sam to paint our bedroom dresser pink.

Biggest Indulgence: Honestly, probably the landscape. Everything else was done out of necessity, but the yard was totally frivolous. It's insane how addicting it is to buy plants.

Best Advice: Wait and live in the space for a while before making big decisions; you really get a sense for how you'll use the space and what aspects are most important.

Dream Sources: A well curated, under priced antique store. Tell me when you find it!

(Image credit: Tamara Gavin)

Thanks, Sam and Heidi!

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