Remodel Reveals a Colorful Mix of Wood Sourced From Dozens of
19th Century Homes
By Barbara Canetti | Photos by Carlos Antonio Rios
You know the old adage – if these walls could talk! Well, the walls in this little house we completely refurbished in Galveston are talking and telling quite a story.
The 1890 cottage, raised five feet after the 1900 storm and occupied until 2007, has been renovated and furnished as a short-term rental. But in the restoration process, glorious walls were uncovered and restored. Along the way it also earned a new moniker: Galveston’s Speakeasy Cottage (more on that later).
The work on this house had to conform to the city’s stringent landmark regulations because it is located in the San Jacinto neighborhood, one of the city’s three designated historical areas.
A variety of wood styles in a rainbow of colors and assorted sizes cover the walls of all the rooms, as well as the 12-foot-high ceilings. According to Dwayne Jones, executive director and chief executive officer of the Galveston Historical Foundation, early city dwellers were some of the first recyclers of building materials. Small houses were often put together using salvaged wood from piles created when older structures were torn down.
When sheetrock was pulled from the walls during this restoration, scraps of vintage wallpaper lingered, hanging on by threads and thousands of tacks. After that debris was taken down, the original planks of wood appeared. All of the rooms had this colorful mishmash of wood, which was marred, scarred and dirty.
Cleaning the walls took weeks, but what emerged was an interesting look back at the origins of the home.
Because of the different colors, textures and styles, it is quite possible the interiors for this cottage came from 20 or more other houses that were torn down before 1890. The wood is painted in muted tones of green, blue, brown, white, beige, pink and natural wood. Some of the planks are four-inches wide, some are five and some are three, as well as beadboard and tongue-in-groove wood. The historic materials give a nod to the character of the house and the period of time when it was built.
Once all the wood was exposed during our restoration project, it was lightly sanded to remove grime and then caulked to prevent airflow and dust. Then two coats of a glossy clear polyacrylic coating were applied to bring out the grain in the wood and finally a coat of matte polyacrylic was applied to tone down the shine.
With all the rich colors on the walls, the furnishings in the house needed to be rather subdued. A gray, off-white and black palette was used to decorate the rooms. The amount of art and artifacts is limited, allowing the walls to be the decoration.
Original transoms over the doors were refinished, and all the molding and chair rails have been restored and reconnected to the walls. Unusual beadboard lines each of the rooms, either in a variety of original wood tones or refurbished to showcase original paint colors.
Two bedrooms were created, each with a private bathroom, along with an open kitchen and dining room. The living room is spacious and adorned with a huge chandelier, bringing a whimsical tropical look to the casual and warm room.
The front entrance – original to the house – has a small peek-a-boo door, reminiscent of the Prohibition days when speakeasy doormen verified visitors before admitting them to these illicit establishments that sold alcohol. No secret password is needed at this house.
The oak floors, which also are original, have been refinished and are their natural wood color. All modern amenities have been added to the house, along with a back deck and garden that runs alongside the home.
“I think these walls, even with the scars and scrapes, add so much character to the house. It is timeless and durable and certainly rather different,” says Carlos Antonio Rios [Canetti’s husband, who partnered with her in the restoration this past year]. “The walls are the first thing people see when they come in and everyone comments on how unusual they are. I’m glad we were able to reclaim these walls and keep the architectural integrity of the house intact.”
9134 North Freeway
Ideal Lumber Company
6520 Stewart, Galveston