Christian and Courtney Lichty were traveling to Utah in October 2019 when a house in foreclosure popped up on the market in a town they loved. They snapped up the 1902 Colonial sight unseen. “We had been thinking about buying in [Pennsylvania’s] Poconos Mountains, where we both grew up,” says Courtney, Leanne Ford’s interior stylist. “We just knew based on the area and the exterior that it had decent bones. We figured that it was gonna be decent inside.” They sent Christian’s father to the auction, placed the highest bid, and got the keys the very same day.
When the couple finally set foot in the house, they were pleasantly surprised: the original mahogany staircase and hardwood floors were in good condition. “It was full of 1990s wallpaper and hideous light fixtures, but the cosmetic stuff was easy,” says Courtney. Traces of a squatter in the third-floor loft were nothing a quick cleanup couldn’t remedy, which meant the couple could shift their attention to the biggest eyesore: the kitchen.
Rolling Up Their Sleeves in the Kitchen
The Lichtys’ budget didn’t allow for new cabinets, so Courtney painted the dark wood doors in Sherwin Williams Black Magic instead. The uppers and dated countertops did get the boot, however, in favor of open shelving (to display her growing collection of ceramics) and affordable butcher block. “I love how it just gets prettier with age and shows water stains and all the scuffs that just add more character,” she explains. The beige floor and drab backsplash tiles were also gonners: Courtney sifted through multiple samples to find the closest match to the original hardwood in the rest of the house and turned to Etsy for glazed tan ceramic tile, which she stacked vertically (and used again in the main bathroom’s shower stall).
A vintage workbench (a lucky $40 Craigslist find) takes center stage in the middle of the kitchen. Courtney turned it into a makeshift island with a butcher block top and its original base, knicks, and all. “My husband wanted to paint it black to match the cabinets, but I was determined to keep it the wood grain because it made the space feel earthy and gave it a little bit of lightness,” she says. Christian, an engineer, did get his hands on the light fixture above, which he built using parts from Grand Brass Lamp Parts. (The dining room chandelier, which is similar to a $3K Restoration Hardware model, is another one of his creations he made at a fourth of the price.)
Creating a Blank Slate
Courtney, a lover of neutrals and textures, gave all the walls—and even the living room’s dated salmon pink fireplace tile surround—a coat of Sherwin-Williams Shoji White. An easel gifted by Ford was the perfect thing to fill up the bay window nook, while three big bookshelves from Burrow, one of the stylist’s clients, hold Courtney’s growing collection of thrifted pottery. “My friends call me the vessel Queen,” she says, laughing. “I have a whole basement full of them.”
Finding a Zen Zone
The house’s layout stayed mostly intact, save for a nursery adjacent to the main bedroom that was turned into an ensuite bath. “Because there wasn’t any existing plumbing, we had to really think through the floor plan,” says Courtney. One thing she knew she wanted: a view of the tub when she walked in through a closet they converted into a walk-in wardrobe. “I love drinking wine in the bath. It’s honestly my version of heaven.” The wooden ledge that runs along the back wall is a place to put down that glass of red.
Using Color on the Outside Only
Perhaps the most-used room was the one that required the least amount of work: “the sunroom was instantly my favorite because it was just pretty and white with these beautiful mahogany floors,” says Courtney. All she had to do was paint what used to be the exterior wall to match the rest and swap the light fixture for a rice paper pendant. The exterior also got a fresh coat: gone was the blah tan siding—the soft sage green (the only non-neutral the stylist used) now suits the surrounding mountains much better.
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