Before & After: A 1920s Kit House Gets a Modern, Cali-Inspired Makeover
A stunning transformation in the heart of Tulsa's historic district.
By: Domino Staff
Published on August 8, 2017
Self-taught designer Emily Netz has a real passion for flipping houses, so naturally, when the opportunity to renovate her own home presented itself, she took on the challenge without a second thought. Situated in the historic district of Tulsa, Oklahoma, the three-story home was a Sears Roebuck Kit house, which dated back to the early 1920s—Netz and her growing family of four would become the third owners of the home in nearly 100 years. We caught up with Netz to get the complete lowdown on the unbelievable transformation that ensued, ushering the home into the 21st century. Take a look!
What was the driving force for the makeover?
The driving force was sheer necessity! The original hardwood floors were covered in completely worn out dirty yellow carpet straight from the ‘60s and the kitchen and upstairs bathroom were dysfunctional. When you turned on the kitchen sink, the washing machine hookups on the other side of the room would leak all over the floor! The knob and tube wiring was a fire hazard and the original plumbing irreparable.
We waited several months to move into the house while we completely gutted the kitchen and bathrooms – salvaging what few original features we could. The dark, worn out wood floors were sanded down and a simple clear poly was applied to preserve the wood. We painstakingly refinished the beautiful original wood trim downstairs ourselves and gave everything else a fresh coat of paint. The laundry room was conveniently relocated to a large hall closet upstairs.
As the general contractors, DIY handymen/women, and designers, all rolled into one, we tackled the complete restoration and renovation during the last half of 2016. (Did I mention that I was pregnant with our second son during all of this? It was a crazy time, but I am so glad we did it.) We wanted to keep the historical value in tact while giving it a modern touch and a splash of “us.” From the original windows to the original clawfoot tub and the glass doorknobs, we restored what we could and updated the rest.
What’s the inspiration behind the unique aesthetic you’ve garnered in this home?
My inspiration for our home was drawn from numerous places and designers, but the underlying theme I was going for was a mingle of relaxed, collected, kid-friendly, and vintage—with maybe a hint of that California casual vibe. I’m always changing things up and adding in fun pieces that I find at the flea market or even on Facebook marketplace.
We love the preservation of the wooden moldings of the rooms. How did you go about incorporating that in your decor? Did it influence the way you approached the design?
Because the trim work was so dark and beautiful, we definitely wanted to keep it that way. However, because there was so much of it, it made the space feel pretty dark. To help lighten things up, we chose to sand down the dark-stained wood floors to reveal the original bare red oak and simply seal it with a matte clear polyurethane. We opted to paint the walls a clean white, add strategically placed mirrors to reflect light, and bring in rugs and furnishings in lighter neutrals while still keeping the space kid-friendly.
How did you manage to meld your aesthetic with your husbands?
This is definitely an area that we have had to work on over the years. I think I’m pretty lucky because Jeffrey doesn’t put up too much of a fuss over my design decisions. He loves it when I can incorporate more masculine lines into a room (like that coffee table I found at our local flea market) and comfortable seating. He always wanted a “television-watching” leather sofa, but we could never agree on one. Thankfully, we found one via Article that made us both happy.
Were there any challenges involved in the redesign?
The kitchen and the bathroom were two of the biggest projects in the house and both of those spaces were completely gutted to the studs and reconfigured. From the design perspective, it was a challenge to keep these spaces feeling original to the house while still updating them with modern conveniences. That was one of the issues on the forefront of my mind throughout the entire project. I didn’t want the kitchen or the bathroom to feel like a completely different house when you walked in. The cohesive flow of the spaces was paramount.
For the kitchen, we had cabinetry custom-built to mimic the original cabinetry that couldn’t be salvaged. We chose flush inset shaker-style doors, plain-front drawers, and antiqued brass hardware. The whole space was designed to be purely simple and reminiscent of the 1920s while still providing all of the modern conveniences of today.
We salvaged and restored the original claw foot tub for the upstairs bathroom and added in a glassed-in shower. Since the footprint of the space was completely altered, we replicated the original tile as best as possible.
Netz’ husband reconfigured a 1960s dresser to function as the vanity.
There are so many corners of this house in which I enjoy spending time, but my favorite spot is probably our bedroom. It gets the best light throughout the day and I love being surrounded by my happy plants that hang out in the window seat nook.