When Jeff and Connie Knapp bought their Mount Pleasant house eight years ago, it was a rooming house with four kitchens, three floors and a basement full of tiny, dark rooms separated by makeshift walls. Design details were covered up with plasterboard, french doors were missing, and plumbing and electrical wiring were showing their age.
Jeff was a just starting out as a lawyer and Connie as an interior designer when they decided it was time to buy a house. "To get a big house for the kind of money we wanted to spend, Mount Pleasant was probably the only neighborhood we could afford," says Connie. "And besides, we loved it here."
During the renovation the Knapps tried to restore the house to its original glory, but ultimately reached a limit. Connie Knapp recalls: "We filly said to ourselves, 'Look, we've bought a 70-year-old house . . . If there are a couple of cracks in the wall, it's okay, we'll paint over them.'
Some of the "shortcuts" the Knapps took -- painting all the walls a uniform off-white, repainting fireplaces rather than stripping off old paint and, again, choosing white paint over stripping for the master bedroom floor -- reflected the couple's clean design direction more than any time consideration.
The Knapps strayed from the house's original form with the kitchen, a modern but not-too-slick room that Connie redesigned 21 times before settling on a final version. They redid the kitchen cabinets by using dark gray Plexiglas inserts, and they put down durable red rubber commercial flooring.
Connie put aside a percentage of the otal renovation budget to buy furniture. "I just couldn't cope with having an unfurnished house," she says.
When it came time to tackle the master bathroom, Connie dipped into her early experience as a residential designer. The impressive marble and chrome standing sink was original to the bathroom, as was the claw-foot bathtub. The Knapps replaced the flooring with used black and white marble squares, had special wainscoting milled and added a stall shower. Then came "decorator" touches: an upholstered stool, an area rug, plants and a 1950s aluminum and brass chandelier bought at a neighbor's garage sale.
"This is where I come with my glass of wine and my radio," says Connie, referring to the master bathroom. "I close the door and tune everybody out."