A Martinez couple buys the house they’ve always wanted and makes it even better with their DIY improvements.
Martinez residents Kim and Bob Norland, who have lived in the area for almost 19 years, had always admired from afar the house they now call home. When it came on the market two years ago, they decided that they could at least take a look at it.
“We showed up in suits and everything. We were all dressed up,” says Bob. “It was pouring down rain, too.”
Nothing, however, was going to rain on their parade, and they bought the house they had always wanted. And no wonder the white brick home was so attractive to them.
From the formal living room to the open, airy sunroom, the house is the perfect mix of stateliness and charm. The Norlands, who bought the house from the late Bill Merry of Merry’s Trash and Treasures, have put a lot of work into the house to put their stamp on it as well. However, at least one task still remains.
“We want to name the house, but we haven’t decided on a name yet,” Bob says.
Even without a moniker, though, the house, built in 1985, is oozing with charisma.
Shades of Yesteryear
From the design details such as encased windows and built-in corner cabinets to the décor featuring antiques and vintage family photos, the house has the character of a majestic old home.
“The house needed work when we moved in, but we still wanted to leave some of the traits to the house,” says Bob, who works in automotive manufacturing. “Most of what you see, we did. We put in the wood floors and refinished them.”
The front door opens into a two-story foyer with slate tile flooring. A cozy, upholstered bench is tucked into a nook by the staircase, and a decorative “welcome” sign hangs on the wall above the bench. In another greeting to visitors, a brass pineapple (a Southern symbol of welcome) embellishes the staircase newel post. This pineapple is one of several in the house.
“I have a thing for pineapples now,” says Kim, a research assistant at Augusta University’s Georgia Prevention Institute.
The foyer leads to the formal living room, which features encased windows, white trim and oak flooring. A pair of arched openings on either side of the entryway to the dining room is one of many architectural details in the house.
The dining room features two built-in corner cupboards, where favorite accessories are displayed, and oak flooring. The china cabinet is filled with pieces of Rosalinde china by Haviland, which belonged to Bob’s grandmother. A trio of decorative plates, stacked vertically on one wall, were a gift to the Norlands from a German exchange student who lived with them.
An antique upright phonograph with a side crank stands in a corner of the room, and music books that Kim’s father (he once entertained the idea of singing opera) used in college are stored on a shelf.
While the formality of the living and dining rooms might harken back to yesteryear, the dining room leads to the parts of the house where the Norlands understandably spend most of their time.
Double doors from the dining room open onto a sunroom, which overlooks a swimming pool. The sunroom had once been a deck, which was an addition to the house by the original owner. The sunroom includes a slate tile floor, a stone fireplace and a flat screen TV. Two ceiling fans cool off the space, and groupings of white wicker furniture, accented by bright red and yellow cushions, provide ample seating. A pineapple-shaped candleholder sits atop a table. A pass-through window connects the sunroom with the kitchen, and sliding pocket doors lead to the adjoining family room.
Also offering a view of the pool, the family room includes a coffered ceiling, hardwood flooring, a built-in wet bar with glass-front cabinets and a fireplace.
“This house was built for entertaining,” says Kim. “It just flows well for parties.”
The coffered ceiling extends into the kitchen, which also features granite countertops, transom windows above a doorway, off-white cabinets, a breakfast bar and a walk-in storage pantry. Kim and Bob laid the planks and lightened the antique yellow pine flooring in the kitchen.
However, the connecting butler’s pantry was the first room that they redid in the house. The butler’s pantry includes built-in drawers on a wall and a tile backsplash above a sink. Kim did all of the grouting, and Bob made a wine rack, which hangs on a wall, from a square-notched beam that once supported a floor in an old schoolhouse. He cut round holes in the beam for the wine bottles.
Bob also has left his mark on the gentlemen’s room, which features a pool table, rich red walls, a chair rail, vaulted ceiling with beams, walnut flooring, chandelier and retro pictures of Hollywood’s “rat pack” playing pool. An icebox has been converted into a bar, and an entertainment center houses a large flat screen TV that slides up and down with the push of a button.
“This was Bill Merry’s favorite piece. He had it custom made,” Bob says of the entertainment center, which resembles a piece that the former homeowner saw in Egypt. “He left us a note that said, ‘You have to push the button.’”
Two golf pictures, which they found in an antique store in Washington, Georgia, hang at the top of the back staircase, and they plan to add more golf pictures to their collection. A 1930s-era cigar/cigarette tray in the gentlemen’s room was a Christmas gift from Kim to Bob. “I outbid someone for it on eBay,” she says. “I had never done that before.”
A guest bedroom is one of Kim’s favorite rooms in the house. The room includes pale blue walls, a four-poster bed and a chandelier with lights that are suspended from a crystal pineapple. The guest bedroom is one of two rooms in the house with carpeting.
The other carpeted room is the “fox room,” a bedroom that features fox hunting pictures on the walls and a four-poster bed. In addition, two fox stuffed animals, nattily attired in fox hunting finery, are perched side by side on a chest.
The Norlands have decorated the master bedroom with some of their favorite mementoes, including a quintet of decorative plates on the wall behind the canopy bed, two collages of photos of the house and photos from their wedding. A curio is filled with knick-knacks from New Mexico, where Kim’s mother retired and Bob spent summers with his grandparents as a youth.
“This is our New Mexico niche. The things didn’t really fit anywhere else in the house,” says Kim.
Merry left the furnishings in the master bedroom, which also features a trey ceiling and oak flooring. “We loved the bedroom furniture when we saw it,” Bob says. “We knew we wanted it, too, when we bought the house.”
When the Norlands aren’t working on their house or enjoying their sunroom, they like to relax by the pool in their backyard. Umbrella tables and a brick patio accent the space.
The landscaping includes rock gardens, plant containers and Yoshino cherry trees, while birdhouses and a brick fence with tall brick columns add to the outdoor décor. Two concrete pineapples top brick pillars by the steps that lead from the sunroom to the pool area.
“All that house, and this is where we always are – the sunroom and the pool,” says Bob.
The Norlands converted the pool house, which originally was a garage, into an apartment for Bob’s mother, Barbara Lee. (Their daughter and grandson live in their own quarters on the property as well.)
The pool house features a covered brick porch with a ceiling fan and a white wicker porch swing on each end. Double glass doors lead into the living room, which has a vaulted ceiling, sitting area and a mirrored wall. Kim and Bob laid the heart pine floor in the living room, and a small grand piano occupies a corner of the room. The adjoining kitchen includes tile flooring, and studded leather chairs line a long bar.
“The bar was original, but we changed everything else,” says Bob. “The bar was too nice not to keep.”
The office in the pool house includes a curio cabinet, a secretary and a depression chair. Games that span generations, including Whist, Trivial Pursuit and a Rubik’s cube, are stacked on the floor beside the secretary. Barbara also has her father’s desk in the office, and her mother did the needlepoint on the desk chair.
“It’s perfect for us,” Barbara says. “We’re here together, but everyone has their own space.”
The Norlands, who say the house keeps them busy, agree.
“It’s a lot of work, but it feels like a home,” Bob says. “We love it here.”
By Sarah James
Photography by Haley Lamb