The Kenwick Bungalow Tour attracts people who come brimming with questions for the neighborhood homeowners, to get ideas and inspiration for work they want to do on their own house. Frequently, tour-goers have a pen and notepad in a pocket to jot down notes.
“They want to know, how did you do this? Why did you do that? Are the floors original? What’s the name of a particular paint color?” said Dawn Paluch, chairwoman of this year’s tour.
The neighborhood’s sixth bungalow tour will be 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. The near-downtown neighborhood off Richmond Road includes traditional homes with more modernized homes and gardens. The tour is a fundraiser for the Kenwick Neighborhood Association.
Many of this year’s houses are newly renovated. Jay and Amy Christian at 31 Richmond Avenue have expanded their kitchen and family room. A few doors down, at 4 Richmond Avenue, Deborah Holloway and Eric Engebretsen, remodeled their kitchen and a bathroom.
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Paluch and Joel Kohler moved from Boulder, Colo., to 324 Preston Avenue and are in the midst of an extensive renovation, including refinishing floors and replastering walls.
Oscar and Wendy Thornton have completed a top-to-bottom remodel of their house at 182 Bassett Avenue, which they bought early in 2015. The house had been vacant for four years and was in “extreme disrepair,” to put it kindly, Oscar said.
It turned out to be a big job, even for the Thorntons, who know a thing or two about rehabbing houses. They own 25 houses, mostly in Kenwick and the North Limestone area, that they have bought, fixed up and now rent out.
Oscar Thornton is his own general contractor, and he does a lot of the work himself.
“I grew up on a pig farm in New Jersey. My dad was a carpenter. I can do a little bit of everything,” he said. Wendy Thornton manages their rental properties.
The Bassett Avenue house is larger than most in the neighborhood, 3,000 square feet with a 1,700-square-foot guesthouse in the back and an in-ground swimming pool.
The Thortons were attracted to the property because of the pool, although when they first saw it, it was “a swamp,” Oscar said. The lining had been ripped out, and the pool was full trash.
A Thornton rule of thumb for all renovations is, “Anything that can be salvaged, we keep,” Wendy said.
In the Bassett Avenue house, wallpaper on one dining room wall and the crown molding, with a vine design cut in the wood, were saved. Someone had painstakingly painted the vine a shade of green to coordinate with the wallpaper.
The living room’s paneled walls were repaired and painted white.
The original wood floors were sanded and sealed with a coat of clear polyurethane to allow imperfections to show: There’s a section where the wood is discolored because it had been covered with a rug.
“Things like that speaks to the character of the house and when it was built,” Oscar said. Their house was built in 1920, about the same time as most of the houses in Kenwick.
The fireplaces in the living room and den look old, but they’re not. “There was an opening in the wall for a fireplace, just a hole with a mantle attached to the wall,” Wendy Thornton said.
Oscar Thornton designed the fireplaces to make them look old. The mantles are thick pieces of wood salvaged from a 200-year-old house. Woodworker John Hawkins made the mantles and the island countertop in the kitchen.
The dark, outdated kitchen was completely redone in shades of gray and white, with white cabinets, gray quartz counter tops with a texturized leather finish, gray subway tile on the backsplash and stainless steel appliances.
A large wagon wheel was propped against the wall, in preparation for being hung in time for the tour. “This is our forever house, so we’re decorating slowly,” Oscar Thornton said.
“And we’re only getting things we really, really like,” Wendy said.
The house has three bedrooms on the second floor; the attic was finished into a spacious guest suite.
Off the master bedroom is a sitting room with two sets of French doors that open onto a deck overlooking the pool, sparkling in the sunshine. Off that room is Oscar Thornton’s large walk-in closet, which they both say jokingly that it’s larger than his wife’s because he needs three sets of clothes for his various jobs.
“I work on houses in the morning, so I need work clothes,” he said. “I come back, shower, change and gamble all day.” Oscar Thornton is a professional gambler who bets on horse races and keeps an office at the Red Mile.
“If I have to go the bank, I come back and change into something nicer so I look presentable.”
The whole house is airy and bright. “We don’t do drapes,” Wendy Thornton said. “That’s how we get maximum light.”
Walls and woodwork are white. For walls, the color is Cozy White from Lowe’s. “We have 25 houses, and it’s the same Cozy White in all of them,” she said. High-white semi-gloss is used on the woodwork.
Immediately behind the pool is a two-story guesthouse with two bedrooms, two sitting areas and a kitchen — really another house unto itself.
“Between the guest house and the attic, we can sleep 14 people,” she said. “It makes it nice because we can have all our family at the same time, and nobody has to stay in a hotel.”
Beverly Fortune is a former Herald-Leader reporter. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go
What: Kenwick Bungalow Tour, seven houses and one garden
When: 1-5 p.m. Sunday
Tickets: $7. Tickets and tour booklet with map available on day of tour at Victory Christian Church parking lot at Owsley and Cramer avenues.
More information: For information about the tour and the Kenwick Neighborhood Association, go to Kenwick.org.
Open on the tour:
31 Richmond Avenue, Jay and Amy Christian
1008 Cramer Avenue, Vicki Robinson
182 Bassett Avenue, Oscar and Wendy Thornton
4 Richmond Avenue, Deborah Holloway and Eric Engebretsen
1205 Menifee Avenue, Kiptoo Tarus (garden)
324 Preston Avenue, Dawn Paluch and Joel Kohler
1105 Richmond Road, Nancy Barnett and Michael Potapov